Tag Archives: School

Don’t Be A Hero

I have certain times when I habitually pray throughout the day. It’s usually when I wake up, whenever I eat, while I’m in the shower, and when I go to bed. I often pray before I start work, or when I get writer’s block, but sometimes I forget. Otherwise, my prayers throughout the day are pretty random. I tell God when I notice the sky is pretty and things like that. I’m rather simple sometimes.

I realized something while I was praying in the shower this evening, though. I find myself apologizing to God a lot, and it’s not because I’m a sinner. I know I’m a sinner. I know I need to work on stuff, and I know he’s forgiven me, and I know he’ll always forgive me. What I apologize about is actually stupid. I apologize for things I don’t need to be sorry for. I apologize because I’m not a hero.

I realized that I still have a hero complex that I thought I left behind a long time ago. It drives me completely insane that I can’t have my own apartment so I can give homeless strangers a place to stay. It drives me crazy that I’m not “able-bodied” so I can get a well-paid job and adopt a troubled kid who really needs a good mom. The fact that I can’t go be a missionary in a third-world country makes me want to tear my hair out. It sucks that I know and believe that prayer is super powerful and works, but I don’t feel it.

I apologize that I’m not a hero, when I’m physically incapable of being a hero. That’s just it, though. This is my idea of a hero. Heroes do grande, noticeable things. I lurk in my bedroom and write weird stories, and I pray because that’s all I can do. I pray for the people doing the things I can’t do, and I pray for the people who need their help, but I want to be there.

I recently came across Saint Faustina, who is completely awesome. She had mystical encounters with Jesus, and this is what he said to her:

“I want you to be very little, because when you are little, I carry you close to My Heart. Because you are weak, I take you in My arms and carry you to the home of My Father.”

He also said,

“My child, know that the greatest obstacles to holiness are discouragement and exaggerated anxiety.”

 

Another mystic by the name of Sister Consolata Betrone received this message from Jesus:

“You only worry about loving me, and I will take care of everything else to the smallest detail.”

This is hard for me. I like to be independent. I don’t mind being told what to do or following directions or even working on a team, but I like to have an objective and, if possible, I like to have the freedom to be a little creative. I like to be able to complete the task I’ve been given and have that sense of accomplishment after. I think I was able to ignore my hero complex more when I was in high school and college because I had objectives and tasks I could complete and I got that sense of accomplishment when I passed a difficult test or got an “A” on a paper. Those were my duties. Come to class and participate. Pass the test. Write the paper. Do the homework. Get the degree. Graduate.

Now I’m in this weird position where I don’t feel as much like I have objectives. My mom told me to write a book. She didn’t give me a deadline. She didn’t tell me what it should be about. She didn’t give me work hours. She’s never complained when I’ve taken unnecessary time off. I feel like I’m floating around with no anchor. I know I can finish my mythology, and finishing each individual story does give me a small sense of accomplishment, but it’s certainly not a huge thrill. I have a list of stories that I need to write, and others may be added later, if need be. Once all my stories are written, I need to research and find an editor and either self-publish, or find publishers to submit to. What will come after that, I have no idea, but I hope I can be philanthropic.

Originally I was writing for two reasons. The first was because my mom told me to. The second was because my medical issues make it nearly, if not entirely impossible to get a “real” job. I want to go big, and I want to be a hero. Jesus says to get small, to love him, and to pray. He says to let him take care of everything. A while ago I realized I had only one real reason for writing my book. God is helping me write it. It’s his, and I want him to use it. Earlier I prayed that he would help me to lose the hero complex. I’m not a hero, and never can be in the way I think of a hero. I have to let Jesus be the hero.

 

Advertisements

Holy Week (Wednesday)

I saw something on Facebook that said today is the day Judas decided to sneak off and agreed to give away Jesus’ location; a decision that sent history and spirituality in a drastically new direction. Tomorrow is the night of the Last Supper, and the beginning of the Passion where Jesus stays up all night and prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. He’s not afraid of dying. God can’t die. He is afraid of the horrible pain that the human part of his nature is going to have to endure, though.

Death is a very weird part of life. My dad and I listened to a story on NPR a few weeks ago about a woman who trains forest rangers on what to do when they find a dead body in the woods. She talked about how people generally want to see the body and say goodbye. For some reason, this wasn’t the case for me when my dad’s father died several years ago. I never saw his body. I chose not to. I’m not sure why that was.

I’m really comfortable with the idea of an afterlife. I never knew my mom’s dad. He died when I was only about a year old. I just figure I’ll have a lot of annoying questions for them both when I get to heaven. The thing is, it’s fun to think about heaven or eternity or paradise, or whatever one wants to call it, but nonetheless, death is weird. It’s weird for the people who are left behind.

My dad’s father was seriously sick and stuck in a nursing home for two years. By the end, though it felt wrong, or strange, or both, I found myself praying that God would take him. Then I found that I didn’t feel as sad about his death as I thought I should. It was, what I would call, an unfortunate relief.

The other night my epilepsy was acting up, and I found myself praying nearly the same thing that Jesus did on the first Holy Thursday: God, if there’s a way that you can get rid of this, please make it go away, but if it’s meant to be for whatever reason, I pray that your will is done. Shortly after that I fell asleep. There is nothing better than sleep when dealing with epilepsy. I am hardly exaggerating when I say it feels like dying and coming back to life. It’s strange and scary, but it induces the deepest sleep.

I try to envision myself as one of Jesus’ friends, and I wonder what they must have been thinking this week, and particularly over the next few days. Beyond the question of whether or not he was or wasn’t the Messiah they had been waiting for, their friend was in a terrible emotional state to begin with, but then he had to be tortured and executed. Just reading or hearing the story makes me angry and sad, and I can’t imagine what they must have been feeling.

I imagine that Saturday was the worst, though. The initial shock was over. Everyone was hiding and waiting. Probably some of the Apostles had forgotten about what was supposed to happen on Sunday. They were probably thinking more about what on earth they were going to do next. Their leader was gone, and with that, they probably felt like their purpose truly was, or may have been lost. On top of all of that, all but one of them had abandoned Jesus, and they now had to deal with the self-incriminating emotions connected with that.

What I do know is that they had hope. Jesus told them that they were going to mess up, but that they were also going to turn back. They didn’t initially know what they were doing, but once they did, they had something to hold onto. And still, death is a weird thing. I may have hope that I’m going to see my grandfathers in heaven, but for years now they’ve been in a place I can’t get to. When I was in middle school, I remember being vaguely familiar with a girl who had cancer, though I didn’t know it for a long time. I was not particularly religious at the time, and all I can remember thinking when she passed was, “Now what?”

Whether we’re talking about the wait for heaven, or the Easter Triduum, there is always this feeling of “Now what?” It’s this strange, irreconcilable jolt of separation that even the most hopeful have to deal with.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

 

 

 

Life Stuff

I haven’t posted in just about a month. I really haven’t been up to very much, but at the same time, it kind of feels like I’ve been making subtle changes. I recently joined a Catholic writer’s group. We might go to a conference in April. I was in a writer’s group last year, but I was the only member under the age of forty, and we ended up talking about other peoples’ work more than our own. It just wasn’t a good fit. The members of this new group are all my age, and it’s much more focused on sharing original work. I think it’ll be a good motivator. I’ve felt kind of less motivated to work on my mythology lately, but I have still realistically been getting a decent amount finished.

My dad and I have also decided we’re going to start making mosaics. When I made my first one for my friend’s Christmas present I thought it would be tedious, but it was really just relaxing. I’m going to make a bigger one to put in our basement, unless my mom vetoes it. Otherwise I’ll just put it in my room. It’s hard to explain in words, but it’s going to be Big Bang image from a loving and intentional creation standpoint. When it’s finished I’ll post a picture.

Next month my family is meeting my godparents’ family and a family friend/honorary aunt for a few days in Florida. I think most of the trip is going to be spent hanging out by a pool, which I’m really okay with. It’s been cold here. I’m sick of cold. As far as I know we’ll also go to Universal for a couple of days and we’re doing an escape room at some point. I’ve never done an escape room before. Since we have eight people with us, we’re going to do two different rooms. I wanted my brother on my team, but my mom claimed him. I guess she can do that. I’m going to have my godparents and my dad on my team, though, and they’re very smart. I’m just nervous because I’m not always great at puzzles.

Eons ago I wrote about how I felt God was calling me to formally dedicate myself to him in the Catholic Church. I avoided it for a long time because the idea was freaking me out, but I’ve started really feeling this weird pull that I can’t exactly describe, but I know it has to do with that, and I’m not afraid anymore. I know I said before that I wasn’t afraid, but this time I won’t chicken out. I’m forcing myself not to chicken out. Otherwise this feeling will drive me crazy. Plus, if it’s from God, it can only be good, anyway.

Anyway, this post is admittedly a means of procrastination, at least partly. At the same time, this, along with my more personal journal, is a means of emptying my brain so I can be more focused on my fantasy work. I’m twenty three and I still feel like I have to make excuses for not doing my homework or something. High school scarred me for life.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

To My Ten-Year-Old Self

I saw a post on Facebook by an acquaintance who was going to be speaking at a fifth grade “graduation”. He asked for people to comment on what they would have liked to know when they were ten. I think there are quite a few things I would like to tell my ten-year-old self. I don’t remember a whole lot about that year in particular, but I know things now that would have been helpful to me then.

I didn’t feel very confident in myself back then. I allowed people to make bad decisions for me, mostly regarding my education. Granted, I was ten, but I think even then I knew that these decisions were wrong. I didn’t protest. I didn’t complain. I just assumed that everything would turn out the way it was supposed to. It wasn’t until I was fourteen that I learned to say “No” on my own. Part of the problem was that I was lazy, and this perpetuated the problem. I could have, and should have complained much sooner. I would tell my ten-year-old self not to be lazy, and to protest loudly.

I don’t know if I would have re-done my eight years from middle to high school. I like the way I’ve turned out. If I had to re-do it, though, I would probably tell myself to try and be more outgoing. The fact of the matter is, I’m shy, and back then, I was downright anti-social. I probably would tell myself to be more forgiving, too. I had fairly good reasons for it, but I tended to be a bit of an angry kid sometimes. This contributed to my anti-social tendencies. People didn’t often directly pick on me, but they did pick on my friends, and I took it as a personal offense. I would tell myself to try and be a peacemaker.

I also would tell myself not to care what other people thought of me. I would tell myself to be as weird and imaginative as I wanted, and I would tell myself to write my crazy ideas down. I would tell myself to keep a journal. I had a journal in my computer through middle school, but for some reason, I never wrote down anything happy. I only wrote miserable stuff, so I would tell myself to focus on the good. I also would tell myself to read more, even though it felt tedious at the time, because stories are soul candy.

Along with that, I would tell myself to read the Gospels, and I would tell myself to ask questions about God. I would try to explain to myself that Jesus is alive, and that he’d always be my friend. If I had known that back then, I would have been a lot happier, especially through high school. I would try to tell myself that the Gospel isn’t just another story. That’s how my church made it sound. CCD was just extra school, and the Gospel was just another myth. I would have liked to hear about Jesus’ human relationships; his interactions with other people; his friends; his parents. He was always distant. Sure, he was God, but I never really grasped that he was and is a man, and a friend. I don’t know how I would explain that to a ten-year-old, but it’s definitely something I wish I had known.

I would like to tell my ten-year-old self that she’s a nerd, and that it’s totally okay to be a nerd.

I would tell my ten-year-old self that being a girl doesn’t mean you have to be “girly” by default (I wanted to be a boy when I was a kid).

I would tell her that miracles are totally a thing, but they don’t always look like what you’d expect.

I might also tell her that God has a plan for her, but it most likely doesn’t involve getting married. I wasn’t even thinking about boys when I was ten, but it would save me a lot of pain later.

I might tell her that her brother was going to like metal, and that no matter how hard she tried, she would never like metal–ever.

That’s all I can think of for now.

 

I Have An Ending!

Yesterday I figured out how to finish my book. I’m rather excited about that. I’m not actually very close to the end, but I’ve felt like I have no idea where I’m going, and if I have a “destination,” I’ll be more productive because I’m writing more with a purpose. I’ve had several ideas for an ending vaguely bouncing around in my head for a while, but I didn’t really love any of them. Part of my problem was that I needed an ending that would allow my story to be a stand-alone thimg, while still allowing for potential sequels, and yesterday I figured it out. It’s hard for me to write about this because I can’t give the ending away before I’m even done writing it.

I actually didn’t get to write a lot yesterday, but I got a lot of scheming done, and I’ve realized that I’m a rather violent author. I keep doing mean things to the nicest characters. It’s not necessarily because I want to. They just happen to be the most vulnerable. I find them to be the most interesting, too, though. One of them also happens to be one of the most powerful psychics in the story, but she’s a little messed up in the head. The guy I’m presently being mean to is going to have his share of vengeance, but it probably won’t come about until the next book. I’m really hoping I get a chance to write at least one or two sequels. I kind of have a love-hate relationship with this story. It’s hard to write, but I love the characters.

I also still don’t have a title. Titles for songs are easy, but nothing seems to fit for this book. It’s still saved in my computer as “Fantasy Story,” and it ended up being science fiction. I feel like a title is the one last conclusive thing I have to figure out for this book. Now that I know how to finish it, I feel like I know, at least a little better, how to fill in the details. The title doesn’t really mater until it’s done, but I just want to be able to call it something other than “my story.” This whole process feels surreal to me. My dad and I were eating lunch two days ago, and I was talking about my most recent additions, and he started talking about making this into a movie. I haven’t even finished it yet. My dad says I’m too cautious with my art. He says I just have to run with it and assume I’m going to be the next great sci-fi writer. Yesterday, while I was eating lunch with my mom, she said “When this gets published you’ll be at book signings in Tennessee and all over the place.” Evidently, my parents have more confidence in my book than I do.

I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve written so far in just over two hundred pages. There are a few specific scenes that I think probably need work, but I mostly feel like I know what I’m doing at this point. I’ve given up on trying to predict how long it will be. I’m just really excited because I feel like I have real direction now. One thing I seem to have the most trouble with is timing, particularly when I’m trying to write intense, fast-paced scenes. It’s almost like my mind can’t keep up with the story. It’s hard for me to visualize large scale battles, in particular. I’ve only had to write one so far, and I think it turned out okay, but it’s definitely one of the things that need work. It had to happen the way it did in order to further the plot. I’m just not sure I love the style.

I think I’m going to have to get my friend to read this and tell me what needs fixin’ before I send it to any publisher. I’ve talked about my story to basically everyone, but I want to get a reader’s perspective. Something I learned in various classes, both about music and any other form of writing is that you have to figure out who your audience is and write for that audience. I found out by accident that most of the people who like my music are old… or at least my parents’ age… so old. From the beginning I decided that I wanted the audience for my story to be people like me. I wanted to write a story that I would read. This is partly because I took every creative writing class my school offered, and the closest I got to sci-fi was a (realistic) fiction class. I’ve come to understand that science fiction and fantasy are seen as illegitimate or unartful genres in the hoity-toity literary world, and I intend to change that. I will write a darn good, interesting, thought provoking story, and everyone will have to read it (evil laugh ensues).

The Language Of Love

Words are very powerful. They can change our entire outlook on life. They can inspire us. They can make us feel good. They can change the world. Words spoken with authority make things happen. Words spoken with love can make you fall apart. Words can move us even if we don’t understand them initially. Still, sometimes words cannot express the beauty or tragedy of certain situations or artistic expressions.

I spent four years of my life essentially studying words. I learned how to write poetry and stories. I learned about the difference between heard and read language, and its emotional impacts, as well as its artistic value. I learned that words really can make someone immortal. I discovered my love for Seamus Heaney the year he died. His poetry is perfectly put together, even when its subject matter is ugly. It isn’t always fluid, but even when it seems stylistically cold or even rude, there’s some kind of life in it. I still find it beautiful.

I’ve been trying to make sure I work on my novel every day now, and I’m getting a lot done. I like what I’ve been coming up with, both in terms of where the plot is going, and in terms of style. There are parts of my novel that are intentionally very technical. Admittedly, I like sounding smart, but these very technical explanations are also simply necessary for the potential audience to understand what’s going on in the world and how things like psychic abilities work. I’m very grateful for what I learned at school, through practice, and for all the great writer’s I’ve been introduced to. Not all of them are well known. These include fantasy writers, movie script writers, and songwriters, as well as some of the “greats” I was exposed to at school. As a science-fiction writer, some of my greatest influences have been amazing, underrated movies.

As a songwriter, poet and composer, I’ve also come to realize that sometimes words have the most meaning in their absence. In my latest musical composition, there’s a lot of silence, but it’s certainly not dead space. The meaning is in the silences. Truthfully I haven’t thought a whole lot about it, but I think it’s evocative of the idea that we don’t realize how much value something has until it’s gone. The leading part of it is the violin. There is a part of this piece that is meant to be uncomfortable. All other instruments cut out and the violin part seems almost faulty, like a flickering light that could go out at any moment. The point is that the light doesn’t go out. The piece is called “Love For You.” True love doesn’t die. True love is immortal.

Over the past year I read the Bible cover to cover. From an artistic standpoint, it’s not pretty. From an artistic standpoint, it seems downright chaotic. If one were to put it into musical terms, it might turn out to be something like free form Jazz with lots of augmented and diminished chords. It would probably sound rather jarring. This is according to a strictly aesthetic reading. Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God. This is particularly important for someone who calls herself an artist and a writer. Quite frankly, I can’t stand Jazz, particularly free form. I don’t read the Bible from a strictly aesthetic standpoint. If I do, it sounds like free form Jazz. However, the Word of God isn’t simply what’s written in a book.

A lot of things about God, and quite frankly, about life in general are paradoxical. For one thing, spirituality is both objective and subjective. It is an individual striving for objective Truth and Beauty. In a Christian context, we believe that Jesus is alive and that he is the Word of God, and we believe that the Bible is the Word of God. We also believe in the Holy Spirit who works in us individually and collectively. God is one nature in three people: Father, Son, and Spirit. The Church is the body of Christ, so ideally, it’s one nature in a heck of a lot of people.

What does all this mean for an artist, particularly one whose main medium of artistic expression is written word? What does it mean in a broader context? Language matters. There’s no way around it. We can’t relate to the world outside of language. We can’t really even think outside of language. I’ve noticed that Saint Paul emphasizes the impact our use of language has when relating to other people. We’re meant to speak wisely and not offensively. At the same time, we’re meant to relate to other people in order to teach by example who Jesus is. This presents an odd dilemma when it comes to writing my novel. Most of my language when I speak is pretty mild, depending on who I’m with. I hardly ever swear, and when I do, it’s because I’m making a joke and I know the person I’m with will find it funny. On the other hand, some of my characters have very dirty mouths.

In some ways I find myself in my characters. It’s probably impossible not to. In fact, I initially intended to model Kithryd, my first character, very much after myself. However, I think she had absolutely no intention of being me. At some point, probably even earlier than I could identify, she took on her own identity. She’s very assertive and vocally bitter about things, but she is like me in that she’s introverted. I find myself more in another character I had not even entirely intended to create. Iris has a great love for her friends and her little brother, and she greatly desires to work for the greater good. However, she deals with a lot of mental illness, which simply isn’t a problem for me. I find myself least in Tabby. Tabby has no real love for the world as it is, but does keep the greater good in mind. However, she’s a generally angry, pessimistic person. She’s also very impulsive and does not care who she offends. For some reason I find her to be one of the easiest characters to write.

I created Tabby. I created an angry, offensive woman. She came from me somehow. She is somehow part of my soul. All of my characters, in one way or another, represent some part of my soul. They’ve all lost someone or something very important to them. They’ve all been shunned for one reason or another. Some of them are angry. Some of them are scared. Some of them, like Aven, are peaceful and unafraid. My novel as a whole presents the world as a dark, scary, Godless place. I don’t view the world in this way, but I know a lot of people do. I’m writing this for a few different reasons. I’m writing because I can and because my parents told me to. I’m also writing because I think God wants me to, though why he wants me to write this particular novel I don’t know. “Why” isn’t a question he often answers. In some ways it’s a thought experiment.

I don’t know if we become our words or our words become us. Maybe it’s both. The same could be said for any art form. Jesus is the Word of God in the most literal sense. This means a lot. For the record, I’m stealing several of my next points from Bishop Robert Barron because he’s smarter than me. Jesus is alive. In other words, he is active in the world. What does it mean for the Word to be active? It means he is causal. He is authoritative. He’s making stuff happen. Two points that Bishop Barron brings up are that God’s Word is active by nature. God creates simply by speaking things into being. He also emphasizes the opening lines of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” This means that whatever Jesus does and says is necessarily true in an active sense.

Words, like music are significant and often causal in their absence. The absence evokes ideas and emotions. In fact, we can’t have language without the absence of words. The Word of God is living language. It is the Language of love. What is significant about this is that a language can only be “alive” if it is shared, i.e. spoken among living people. Jesus said that after he went up into heaven he would send his Spirit. Bishop Barron suggests that the best way to understand the Holy Spirit is that it is the love of God, both between the Father and the Son, and between God and humans. This love can never die because it is shared in the Trinity. We don’t have to participate for this language to live. Jesus allows us to participate when he introduces the Eucharist. John 6:56 says, “If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you are one with me and I am one with you.”

Just before this, he talks about how one has to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. God is eternal and infinite. Jesus is God. If we share in the Eucharist we are one with him. We become one with him in the way that a family can be seen as a single unit, for example. If we are one with him, we have eternal life. If Jesus is the Word of God, i.e. the Language of Love, then by extension, the Eucharist is the Language of Love. I said that words can make a person immortal. The words of Shakespeare endure to this day. The difference is that Shakespeare’s words are not truly “alive” in the sense that they do anything other than entertain and perhaps inspire good writing. However, Jesus invites us to speak his language.

Language is not simply expressed in what we say or what we write. Ideas are conveyed through body language and actions. A principal I learned at school is that in good writing, less is often more. In order to convey an idea, we should show, not tell what a character is feeling or what’s going on in a particular situation. We know that certain facial expressions, for example, can be understood and translated into actual words, but they are not needed. Love is like this. A feeling or a spiritual prompting turns into an art piece or an act of charity. Love has no reason. It just is. Because of its nature it cannot simply be expressed in words. Love in words alone is empty. It isn’t love at all. True love entails action, and on some level, it always entails sacrifice. To truly love someone one must give one’s self to the other. This always means different things to different people at different times. John 15:13 says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Jesus is referring to his very literal sacrifice of love for all of us. However, because God’s Word is eternal, he is also telling us what we must do as his friends for the rest of humanity. Love entails some kind of sacrifice. Maybe it means sacrificing some comfort. Maybe it means sacrificing some excess money. Maybe it means sacrificing time we could be spending having fun. Maybe it means sacrificing our pride. As I said, it means something different for every person.

Love and life are synonymous. Without love, life is not worth living. The fact of the matter is that everyone is loved, and this is why it’s so important that people know Jesus. It’s not about where we end up when we die. It’s not about judgment. It’s not about religion or where we’re supposed to be on Sunday morning. That stuff is secondary. It’s about knowing that we are loved. When Pope Francis was visiting the U.S. a little kid asked him, “What did God do before he created the world?” He answered, “Before God created anything, he loved.” God created the world because he loved the world. He created each of us because he loved us first. That’s the message Jesus wants us to tell the whole world. That is the most important thing in the Christian faith. Without love, nothing else matters.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

What Can And Can’t Be Done

Saturday was a rather musical day for me. We got home late from Maine on Friday, accompanied by my new friend, Ivan (Romanian violin). I didn’t have much time to play with him that night, so after lunch on Saturday I spent a while experimenting with different ways of holding the instrument and fingering the neck. As I’ve mentioned before, I can  play it sort of like one would play a cello. I hold the neck of the instrument up near my neck and reach down with the bow to play the strings. I was having to worry too much about it sliding, so yesterday my dad built me a little metal brace that holds it steady. As it is, I can almost kinda sorta play a major scale. I initially thought the lack of frets was going to be more of an issue, but my ear is good enough by now that it doesn’t seem like it’s going to matter that much. Yesterday I played for several hours because I can’t really even go outside at the moment. I’m allergic to something that’s in bloom right now, and it’s killing me. I figured out how to play a very squeaky version of Ode To Joy, as well as some improvised melodies. I quite glad with the progress I’ve made so far.

Nobody thought this was going to be a good idea. A lot of people thought I was going to waste a bunch of money on an instrument I wasn’t going to be able to play. I will most definitely be able to play it and make pretty things happen, so eat it, doubters! I love proving people wrong. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I’ve been able to figure out how to do just about everything I’ve wanted to–with the exception of skateboarding. That one would probably be a little tricky.

The guy who made my violin was super helpful and encouraging. He had a whole bunch of suggestions and was completely open to me finding an alternative way of playing. We need more people like him in the world. Picking out a violin and doing some experimenting at the shop reminded me of my first guitar lesson almost eight years ago. In short my teacher’s approach was: Well, this is how you’re supposed to do it, but it looks like we’re gonna have to do things your way, so let’s get down to business.

That’s the point. I don’t do things “the normal way.” I do things Katie style, but the fact of the matter is, I do things. There isn’t just one way of doing anything. I open doors with my feet more than half the time. My bird has learned to climb up my wheelchair to get off the floor. The more people are convinced that I won’t be able to do something, the harder I will try to get it done.

I find that people, especially people in the school system, are way too quick to assume that people are incapable. The special education department at my school practically controlled my life until I went to high school when, in fact, they simply wouldn’t listen to me. They thought I was incapable of focusing or getting anything done, so they assigned me an aid and hovered over me for eight years when the truth was I was bored. I was a normal kid who would have figured it out eventually. I would have got some bad grades, my parents would have nagged me, and that would have been the end of it. Instead I coasted and school took care of itself. For many years I didn’t care because I was a lazy kid who thought she was getting a free ride. You start to care about what other people think of you in middle school, though, and I realized that people were seeing me as broken. In my freshman year of high school, I wrote a strongly worded letter, using the best English I could possibly muster at age fourteen, and I fired them. After the first few weeks of my freshman year, I was free.

Don’t underestimate people, but more importantly, don’t crush their will. I’m a stubborn, outspoken person. My “issues” are only physical. Things can be harder and more intimidating when people have intellectual issues. This isn’t always the case, but it seems to be at least somewhat true from what I’ve seen as a mentor. Don’t tell anyone what they can and can’t do. Don’t talk to their parents about them while they’re standing right there. Don’t assume anyone can’t do something just because it looks difficult or even impossible. Especially don’t do things for people without even letting them try. Be encouraging. Be annoying even. Make people step outside their comfort zone. Make them try things. They’ll surprise themselves and they’ll surprise you.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Time And Truth

Sometimes I go to bed at night feeling like I failed. I didn’t accomplish what I wanted to, or I didn’t do anything or I didn’t do enough that was productive or helpful to others. Sometimes I feel like I’ve wasted a day. It is a luxury I can afford, but it isn’t one that I feel I deserve. It certainly isn’t something I’ve merited. I have no right or reason to waste time. Time is a person’s most valuable resource. We are only given a set amount of time to begin with, and all we can do is lose it. We can never get it back like we can money or possessions or even love.

That is not to say that we can’t or even shouldn’t spend time doing pointless things. Time is a free gift. So is place and circumstance. To some degree, I believe it would be ungrateful not to take advantage of the luxuries we are given or can afford. I am grateful that I can afford to waste a day if I want to from time to time. I am grateful that I can sleep in a comfortable bed and not have to worry that something bad will happen while I’m asleep. I am grateful that I live within driving distance of an excellent school and within walking distance of my weird, ugly church that has become a home. I am grateful that I can afford modern technology to research and work and write.

I am grateful that, even though I am currently unemployed and really don’t have that much money to my name, I can afford to give a little to fellow musicians when they feature at open mic nights. I am grateful that I have time to give to my church and to blog and write, learn and play music.

Sometimes I wake up in the morning (or afternoon) and smile and think to myself: “Lord, thank you for this day. Thank you that the sun has come up and that we have another day to become better humans and to love more and do more and be more.” Each day is a miracle. Each day is a gift. So many things we take for granted are truly miraculous. The universe could have been completely random and chaotic and arbitrary, but it’s not. It is ordered and good, and to some degree, predictable. It is a miracle that the earth is just close enough, and just far enough from the sun to allow for life. It is a miracle that there is water and edible things. It is a miracle that people can speak and think and use language. It is a miracle that, through the use of language and science, we can begin to understand our Creator.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

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!

Snow Day Stuff

We’re having a blizzard today! It’s super fun ’cause I don’t have to clean it up. The downside of that is I can’t really play in it either, but that’s okay. It’s still fun to watch. I wanted to drive around in it, but there’s a travel ban still in effect, which in it’s own way is kind of fun.

I felt bad for the birds on our bird feeder. I love to watch the cardinals in weather like this because they’re so pretty against the white snow. I wouldn’t want to be one of them, though. “Blustery” would be an understatement for what the wind is like out there.

I’ve been waiting for this blizzard. I don’t like winter, but my philosophy is that if it has to be cold, it might as well snow. My brother and my mom weren’t super excited about it, but my dad was just as excited as I was. I woke up around 11:00 this morning and looked out my window, and I couldn’t see across the street. There’s a pile of snow on our deck that’s about three feet high.

It’s really nice that our house is super warm and cozy. We have the wood stove cranking in our basement, and I have my little space heater blowing on my feet in my bedroom. I didn’t have school today, which was nice, but it’s crazy because I only have three classes this week, and that’s if tomorrow’s class doesn’t get canceled. It’s not looking like it will, though.

I have some more homework to do because I have a presentation on Thursday, but for the most part I’ve been lazing around today. I was playing Minecraft with my brother and my little cousin. They both got today and tomorrow off, which I’m a little jealous about, but oh well.

I was slightly productive today in that I got in touch with one of the priests at my church about an idea I had for a prayer group. He’s been in charge of the confirmation program there and I’m one of the teachers, so we’ve got to know each other a bit. My idea was that we’d get a group of people together to meet after mass on Saturday afternoons (that’s usually when I go) to pray for issues of injustice in the world. I got the idea because I’m taking a class called “Literature and Human Rights,” and I’m reading this terribly depressing book about what our role is, as Christians, when it comes to injustice and oppression. The author’s argument was that we need to actually go out into the world and do something because that’s what Jesus did. My problem is that I am both broke and physically incapable of being very helpful, but I can pray. I wanted to get this group together because it will be my way of making a commitment, and my way of helping. Plus I’m better at praying with people than by myself.

This book has me thinking, though. It has me asking all kinds of unanswerable questions like:

Why is there still suffering in the world?

Why has it been 2,000 years since Jesus promised he’d come back?

Why doesn’t God just fix stuff?

Why does he insist on using people when it would be faster and easier just to miraculously fix things?

The fact of the matter is that these questions don’t have answers, and I can either get mad or upset about them, or I can just do something. He insists on using people, so I want him to use me. I can at least organize some peeps and make sure I’m there once a week to pray about stuff with them. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing.

One thing the author did say is that, no matter how small our action is, we can bring our little something, and God can make it huge.

So how we got from snow day to existential social justice what-not, I have no idea, but here we are. Somehow I feel like I always end up here: whether I want to or not. I’m weird that way.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!