Tag Archives: books

Who Are You?

One day this past weekend I hung out with a twelve-year-old kid who lives on our street. He was playing in his driveway with his six-year-old brother and their five-year-old friend. I was going for a walk and I heard U2 playing. The two little kids left after a little while, and one thing led to another. The kid in question plays, as far as I know, four different instruments, and is a much better guitarist than I am. He also knows how to use protools, which is an audio engineering software that professionals use. I can’t decide if it’s laughable or annoying or scary or what. Anyway, we had fun. He’s a really polite, pretty mature kid, for his age. After the little kids left I actually scurried back to my house and got my guitar so we could mess around for a while. I have no rules about who I’ll hang out with, as long as they’re cool.

I didn’t used to be like that. When I was in high school especially, I hated kids. I don’t think that’s an understatement. Kids were annoying and stupid, and that was it. Of course, at that time, a “kid” was anyone under the age of eight. Now I refer to the high school freshmen I teach as “kids.” It’s kind of disturbing. I think I used to have a much higher view of myself. I used to think I was the queen of the universe. It was entirely undignified to associate with such plebeians as children.

I think I understand kids better now as a writer, too. Kids are much more willing to believe things, so long as their capacity to listen holds up. I think you have to be able to believe something in order to enjoy it. You have to be able to pretend, and be willing to enter into a different universe.

A friend of mine who is older with kids once asked me what I thought about allowing his kids to read the Harry Potter books. He’s Christian, and he wasn’t totally inclined to let them because magic is seen as the highest power, and the battle between good and evil is entirely up to human ability. There is no mention of any kind of God (though the Christian holidays are mentioned offhandedly), and though there is a general sense of morality, like in any fantasy story, it isn’t directly spelled out. For example, I’m re-reading the series now, and I’m actually surprised at just how much the characters lie. Ultimately I advised my friend to let his kids read the books because it’s simply another universe that isn’t governed by the same rules as this one.

As I reread the Harry Potter books, I find myself laughing a lot. I’ve seen the movies a thousand times, but they’re not nearly as good as the books, and I’m finding they cut out a lot of humor. Maybe my sense of humor has changed too, but I think the movies tried to make the story too dark in places where it didn’t need to be, and not dark enough where it’s really creepy. I’m excited because I’m almost halfway through the fourth one now, and it’s after this one that things get serious, and in my opinion, the series gets more cohesive from book to book.

I don’t want this to turn into an analysis of the Harry Potter series, so I’ll make my point. I like these books. They’re meant for a younger audience, but I don’t care. My dad taught me a rule when I was in high school, and I have faithfully lived by it: growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. I used to get thoroughly annoyed with myself when I did something embarrassing. I used to think I was so dignified. I have no idea why. I’ve gotten used to the fact that I’m clumsy and silly. I spell things wrong and say ridiculous things. I make dumb mistakes. My friends laugh at me about this stuff, and that’s okay.

Mistakes are part of life. Messing up is part of life. Silliness is part of life, and being wrong is part of life. I’m writing this down because kids used to annoy me for the same reasons that my friends laugh at me (not in a mean way). In the past several months my mom and I have been listening to audio books in the car. We started doing mostly contemporary realistic fiction and moved, really by accident, into science fiction. We went for a few weeks without a story because I know she’s not a huge fan of sci-fi, and we couldn’t think of what to listen to. Finally I suggested The Brothers Karamazov. We just started it yesterday.

My point is that it’s okay to love Dostoevski and Rowling. It’s okay that my favorite foods are fancy pasta dishes and fried buffalo chicken wraps (for the record, yes, I also eat healthy food). I’m getting comfortable joining in events at my church where most other people are at least in their fifties, and hanging out with kids on my street who are under ten. The teenagers I teach think I’m kind of weird, which is probably at least a little true, but that’s okay. Lately I’m becoming more comfortable in my own skin. Weird is more fun, anyway.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

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Because It Really Does Work

I was in a class that I hate last night, and there was a guest speaker. She was a retired preschool teacher and the wife of the minister at her church. She came to tell my class a story. She brought props. She came to tell us a story about how she and her family got through her husband’s cancer, her cancer, and her recent knee surgery. It got real really fast.

I remember reading a book called “90 Minutes In Heaven.” It was about a preacher who got into a really bad car accident and had a near death experience. Actually, he technically did die. His heart stopped and he saw amazing things before he was resuscitated. He spent a long time in the hospital and had to go through a really arduous and painful recovery.

What these two stories had in common is this: the characters in them were not alone. The lady in class last night said that she and her family would not have got through two cancer diagnoses and recoveries if they hadn’t had people praying for them. They knew that they had people and God on their side, and it was tremendously helpful to them psychologically, but also, they–and I– believe spiritually, in that the prayer itself made a real, significant difference.

The preacher in the story I read had given up on life. Towards the beginning of his recovery, there was one night when he was lying there in the hospital and decided to stop living. This decision had a real, physiological effect. He started dying. His friend, who was also a preacher came and told him that he may have given up, but his friends were going to hold an all night prayer vigil and were not going to let him die. They did that, and miraculously, the preacher started getting better and completely recovered relatively quickly.

I know from experience that it sometimes feels like praying is futile. Sometimes prayers are answered, and sometimes they’re not, and we have no idea why. Sometimes our prayers are answered in ways we don’t understand; in ways that don’t really seem like answers at all. Sometimes we have to wait. Sometimes, even if our prayers are answered and we’re sure of it, we despair because of all the prayers (our own or not) that don’t get answered. Sometimes we despair because the world and its problems are very big and we are small.

I read a quote–by whom I forget–that said something along the lines of: hope and despair are not polar opposites. They are out of the same mold. The only difference is that hope holds on to something. Hope believes in some kind of future. Hope allows for love, while despair is weirdly narcissistic.

As individuals we are small, but together we are huge. Metaphysics suggest that all beings are interconnected in a mesh that is meant to work as one individual, or mechanism. Sociology suggests that humans are social animals that are happier and more productive when working and playing in groups. Religion suggests that we are meant to worship God together and work together to better the world.

So many times it seems that when people pray in groups, those prayers are answered. When people pray together, miracles happen. When people pray together, mountains get moved…. That’s not to say that individual prayers aren’t as powerful. God loves each individual person equally, and pays just as much attention to the lonely hiker lost in the mountains as he does to the mega churches on Sundays.

That being said, there seems to be some kind of power in numbers. I know that, for some reason, I find it easier to pray when I’m with other people. I also feel more genuine when I’m praying with other people. Sometimes when I’m praying by myself, I get distracted, or I don’t say what I really want or need to say. Sometimes I try to pray for something I know I should care about, but actually really sort of don’t.

A couple nights ago I had a dream. A knight was charged with the defense of the castle while the king was away. He was strong, and a good fighter, and fully capable of doing his job. However, he was not quite capable of dealing with a supernatural threat. At one point, a demon showed up in the castle and attacked the knight, nearly killing him. The knight said, “Please, have mercy on me.” The demon obliged, but said that the knight must leave the castle and that he would be forever shamed. The knight left and went to hide away in a dark place. Then he said, “Lord, let there be courage where there is fear; let there be strength where there is weakness; let there be love where love is lost; let there be faith where there is none.” I had not been a character in the dream up until that point, but then I came into the dream as kind of a spirit-thing, and gave him a hug. That was it.

I think his prayer was wicked good, and I’ve been using it when I can. I’m really not sure what my part meant. I guess I’ll leave you with that. That is my prayer for tonight; that there would be courage where there is fear; that there would be strength where there is weakness; that there would be love where love is lost; that there would be faith where there is none in this crazy world.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Falling In Love Again

Well, hello again. I’ve taken a bit of a break from blogging for a few reasons. I’ve mostly just been doing other things. I’ve spent a lot of time with my cousins and friends since I got out of school. Yesterday we went to our cousins’ house for Amber’s 22nd birthday party, and to visit the animals. They have three cats and a small dog. One of their cats was mine for a couple years until we figured out that my brother was very allergic to him. We had named him Hercules, but they renamed him Elvis. In my opinion Hercules was a better name, but that’s beside the point. That cat is 16 or 17 years old now, and much less of a jerk. I think he knew my brother was allergic because when he was a kitten, he would perch himself on the back of a couch, wait until my brother walked by, and then pounce. He wasn’t playful about it, either. He was aiming to kill. Now he mostly just sleeps in boxes that are obviously too small to be sleeping in.

I also spent 10 hours playing Portal over Christmas week. There’s not a whole lot to say about that except that it was very relaxing and very fun. GLaDOS is officially my favorite villain of all time. She’s hilarious. My brother had been trying to get me to play that game literally for years. Spoiler alert; the cake is a lie.

I’ve been open mic hopping, as well. Last week I did one on Monday and one on Tuesday, which was great fun. I’m featuring at my favorite open mic on the 14th. I’m actually missing my first 6:00-9:00 class to do so. I screwed that up, planning-wise, but it was the first slot they had open, so I took it. I keep falling in love with music over and over again. I’m in the honeymoon phase right now (again). I’ve written two new songs fairly recently. One I wrote right before my break started, and one I wrote just this past week. Falling in love with music again is great, because when I’m in love with music, I’m perfectly okay–actually better than okay–with being single. In all seriousness, though, I have to do music. Ideally, I would have it be a full-time job, but it’s gratifying singing to four people in a tiny bar for free. If I have to get a “real job” for a while to allow me to do that, so be it.

In other news, Christmas was great. Christmas mass was actually really nice, despite the fact that our priest’s homily was obnoxious. We’re ignoring that. The point is, I got to sing about Jesus with my family and my best friend who is agnostic. It was really nice of her to come anyway. After church (midnight mass) we exchanged gifts. I got her the first two Hunger Games books, and she got me How To Train Your Dragon 2, and a Toothless plushie, which just makes me so happy. I actually got kind of a weird array of gifts this year. I got a new headset for my computer and a bunch of Guitar Center monies, which were the only things I asked for, but my parents also got me a couple old video games, and a book of Seamus Heaney poems. I also got a few little things like guitar picks and such (I tend to lose them, accidentally give them away, or leave them places). Overall, it was an awesome Christmas. New Year’s was good, too. My little cousin who lives nearby came over, as well as a couple of my friends, and we hung around, watched movies and played video games.

So I’m in a much better mood than the last time I blogged. Happy New Year, everyone!

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

15 Years + 2 Girls = A Lot Of Weird

To be honest I didn’t think I was going to make it this far. I’m about 2/3 of the way done with my final project for my American Lit class, which is definitely going to be my hardest one. I’m almost done with my paper for Music in Worship and I already passed in my creative writing final. Other than that I just have to study for my Romanticism exam, which I don’t think will be too hard. I’m DONE on Wednesday.

I’m very excited because my friend is going to make me a cake and we’re going to watch “I Am Legend.” It was on TV on Friday, but my cousins were over and they don’t like scary end of the world movies. It’ll be sort of a birthday party as well since Julia turned 20 today. We’re both officially 2 decades old and we’ve been friends for 15 years. We’re practically sisters. I’ve always thought it would be weird to have a sister, but I don’t think it would be weird to live with Julia. She’s stayed over for entire weekends before. We hung out in the basement and played Spyro and probably listened to Green Day. Between the 2 of us we probably own every Green Day album. We went through a serious emo-punk phase in middle school.

I got Julia a book for her birthday. I read “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” in high school and I really liked it. I saw the movie a few weeks ago with my mom and I thought Julia would like it. A few days later she came over and we ended up talking about books. She said something along the lines of “Yeah, I don’t know why, but I’ve been into depressing books lately,” and I said, “Oh, good you’ll like what I got you for your birthday then.” “You got me a depressing book?” We laughed.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Words

Today I started reading a book called “Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies” by Marylin Chandler McEntyre. She talks about how words seem to have lost or are losing their worth in a culture where everything is based around exaggeration, propaganda and marketing. She laments the misuse of words such as when young people use the words “like” and “whatever” far too frequently and in the wrong places. I am entirely guilty of this misuse in my speech. I know proper grammatical constructs, and I think I have a larger than average vocabulary, but I speak like a buffoon (awesome word).

It’s interesting that I speak one way and write another way. When I am writing less formal pieces, people will often say that I “sound” like myself, but when I speak I use so many erroneous words and phrases that I often have to take considerable time and think things through very carefully before I say them. This is partly why I dislike giving oral presentations. I know that I can sound far more thoughtful and convincing in writing rather than speech.

I dislike arguing very much for this reason. In writing I can look things up and present my point of view in a well informed and logical way, but I am not good at responding to arguments from others “off the top of my head.” In speech I think I also tend to repeat myself sometimes. When I run out of ideas I just hold on to whatever happened to be my strongest one and try to hold it up like a shield as best I can.

McEntyre’s book was not entirely a rant about the misuse of language. She also talks about how people should step back and enjoy words for what they are. She mentions that people often say to her, “I like the word, ‘pie,'” for example, for no other reason than it sounds nice.

Some of my personal favorite words are:

ErroneousShenanigans
Comandeer
Eclectic
Bulbus
Absurd
Bucket
Idiosyncratic
Nice
Loiter
Ketchup
Flippant
Totalitarian
Megalomaniac
Tortoise
Snarky
Quirky

Most of these I like for the way they sound. I know what they mean, and some of them are not good, but they are fun to say, which is why I can put “bucket” and “totalitarian” in the same list.

Well, I should get back to work. I’ll have another tangent for another time.

Back In Business

I’ve been crazy this week. Last Wednesday I had a bit of a medical issue that put me out for a few days. I was basically back to normal on Friday, but I haven’t really been writing because I was busy this weekend. I wrote for a while today. I did some editing and wrote a new scene. I’ve hit a bit of a weird spot. I know what the next major thing in the novel will be, but I’m not quite sure how to get there. I have a few ideas sort of floating around in my head. I think what I might do is just keep writing and see which one ends up flowing the best.

I’ve been practicing guitar a little more than usual. By “practicing” I mean learning covers. I’ve been musically prolific lately but after I write a particularly good song I tend to get writer’s block for a while. It’s fun learning new covers.

I start classes on Wednesday, so I’m going to get my books tomorrow. Last semester I ended up getting enough money from my research gig to pay for all my books. That was nice. I recently got a decent pile of money from that, so I can probably pay for at least some of them. I have enough money saved up to pay for them anyway, but it would have been nice to get them basically free again. Alas… We don’t live in a perfect world.

Playing God

As a writer, I’m basically playing God. Spoiler Alert! My story starts out by me basically abusing one of my main characters. While I was writing about it, I felt awfully bad. I said to myself, “Self, this has to happen for the rest of the story to work out.” I wonder if this is how God feels when He lets bad things happen.

I’m a weirdo, so I read a bunch of stuff about the Biblical apocalypse online last night. People make it sound awfully scary. I guess it is sort of scary. I’ve had this weird interest in the end of the world lately. I guess it’s like being part of a story and wanting to know the end. Maybe knowing the end of a story before it happens isn’t such a good thing–unless you’re writing it, that is. Maybe knowing that you or your friend are going to die ahead of time isn’t such a good thing.

If you could know the time, place and cause of your death, would you want to? What if you spent the rest of your days trying to avoid it and in doing so, you made it happen? I don’t think I would want to know. At the same time though, if you knew, maybe you could bring yourself to peace with it and it wouldn’t be as bad or scary when it actually happened.

I’m a very present-oriented person. The past irritates me and the future scares me a little. I like to have a routine and I like my stuff the way it is. I don’t like change. When my mom said she was going to buy me an iPhone 5, I was thoroughly annoyed with her. I already had a working phone! I’ve since got used to it, though.

I do like learning new things, which is why I find photography fun. I need to get better at it though. Some of my pictures are blurry. I’ve been teaching myself a few new covers on guitar. I have a set list that’s comfortably 40 minutes long. If I practice a bunch I can probably play for 2 hours or so. I want to go work in the studio some more, but my friend has been ignoring his phone! I actually need to update the set list a bit. I’m going to do that now and then I’m going to write!