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Flexing the Brain Muscle

Today I got off work around 2:30 in the afternoon for my break between shifts. As I waited at the bar for my cash out, I struck up a conversation with a guy sitting there. We ended up chatting for a half an hour about politics and religion (yes, in a bar!) — but not the way you think.

You see, we spent a half an hour discussing the ways people approach these things through their own respective biases. Our conversation rarely showed any red or blue, crosses or crescents, or any other indication of our own views. We discussed the way people think about politics based on their own religions. How the inherent irony in works like The Terminator and my current read Robopocalypse manifests itself — like how the technology we have all come to rely on so fully eventually turns against us and thinks for itself.

We discussed books, and how his favorite six-book collection of Winston Churchill’s recollections of the Second World War is loved in part because of the coffee stains on some of the pages. We discussed quantum physics and string theory and how physicists sometimes consult philosophers as they reach their arms toward the upper echelons of the universe’s mysteries.

I realized something profound as I left my restaurant to spend my couple hours at Starbucks blogging and reading.

I miss learning. I miss my brain.

I miss learning languages and struggling to meet each threshold of understanding. I miss conversations like the one I had today, where two or more minds just talk about life and history and science and evolution and faith and religion and all those subjects. I miss the stimulation of being surrounded by others who push my mind in new directions, who force me to analyze and evaluate instead of regurgitate and accept.

I don’t have any funny quips or bits of wisdom to offer. Only a yearning to find that kind of camaraderie again. I have so many interests, from microbiology to art to String Theory to philosophy. Language. Not just my own.

As I walked in the discordant warm December rain, I found my life wanting. I love my husband. I love our home. But I think if you were to ask him, he’d say something is missing as well. Neither of our careers are where we want them right now, and though I can usually get through a day or a week or a month chugging away paying my dues, today reared its head to show me that change is coming soon, and soon indeed.

This isn’t to say I’m foretelling my imminent success as an urban fantasist. This is not even to say I’m foretelling my imminent piddling attempt at urban fantasy. What I am saying is that no matter what my writing career holds in terms of the c-word (career), something must change soon.

Whether it means I go back to university and hire a Caterpillar to dig me into another mountain of debt to get my Ph.D or start building a freelance career in non-fiction isn’t the issue. One of those things will probably happen.

About the future I know three things:

1. I want to move to Scotland and raise a family with my husband.

2. I will write no matter what I do to pay the bills.

3. If I am to have a long-term career, it must be an intellectually stimulating one.

Those are evident in my every day life. While I have the occasional enlightening moment with my tables as I wait on them, it doesn’t change the fact that Sunday when a guest was looking for me to order dessert, she couldn’t so much as describe me by my fiery red hair. To most of the people I serve on a daily basis, I am faceless. Nameless as soon as they walk out the door. No amount of cooing over their babies will change that for many of them. As much as I love the regulars who do treat me like a worthwhile person, I know this isn’t my place forever.

And so I find myself today contemplating the future and what it might hold.  I know I’m getting close to something big, but I feel that it lies just around the bend in the mountainside. It’s coming, and I don’t know what it is.

If I were to be run off the road on the way home, what would I regret?

I would feel like I was being a bit wasted where I am. I can do more than waiting tables, I know I can. This is not to be down on people who do this for a living — I chose this job. It didn’t choose me. There are aspects I enjoy, but ultimately this job does not challenge me.

I would feel like I got stuck somewhere that wasn’t the end goal. I would wonder why I didn’t try just a little bit harder to do what I want to do with this life.

Could I die today and be content? No. I couldn’t. There would be that something missing.

In one area of my life I am fulfilled, and that is love. I could not ask for a better family, a better husband, or better and truer friends than the ones I have. In this one area, I know that I am content.

But the others need some work.

I will close with a quote from one of my all-time favorite authors, a man who helped me discover epic fantasy and showed me that it doesn’t have to be high prose full of doom and gloom — that you could build a fantastical world full of humor and laughter and real people who eat and sometimes discuss bathroom breaks. David Eddings passed away two and a half years ago, shamefully outside my notice. His passing did not make headlines that reached my eyes. I thought of him just the other day and wondered how he was getting on. The question got answered much by accident.

This man will not be forgotten, and I will ensure that his words endure, if only in a tiny library owned by a redhead writer.

This is what I was talking about earlier when I suggested most aspiring fantasists will lose heart fairly early on. I was in my mid-teens when I discovered that I was a writer. Notice that I didn’t say “wanted to be a writer.” “Want” has almost nothing to do with it. It’s either there or it isn’t. If you happen to be one, you’re stuck with it. You’ll write whether you get paid for it or not. You won’t be able to help yourself. When it’s going well, it’s like reaching up into heaven and pulling down fire. It’s better than any dope you can buy. When it’s not going well, it’s much like giving birth to a baby elephant.

-David Eddings, from The Rivan Codex

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Just Before Dawn

Oh, hello there. It’s been a while. Do forgive me. I’m afraid I’ve been pursuing hours in the day that do not exist for some time now, and it’s left me a wee bit…absent.

I’ve spent the last two months with my face buried in paper, up to my neck in ink, and just generally writing until my fingers fall off more days than not. This is a good thing, but it has left my other past times by the wayside. You know. By that side waaaaay over there. It’s just a little speck to me right now. Wave at them.

Words have ever been a giant central gear that my life revolves around. They propel me, fill me, spill out of me. They suck me into other worlds where planets spin through shining colorful galaxies filled with ultraviolet sparkles and dark grimy alleys where something really does want to eat you. They do it, and they do it often. I’ve occupied my imagination so fully lately that I haven’t had the chance to turn it to other things.

I want to sit under an oak tree and feel it live against my back. I want to watch the turning of fiery leaves and run my hands across velvet grass. I want to lay on my back and watch planets and stars appear in a cerulean sky. I want to look into the eyes of an elephant and have her reach out her trunk toward me. I want to soar above oceans again and smell peat and loam and heather. I want to climb up into the branches of a tree and read a book.

It is so easy to get caught up in things. I’m newly married. We both work and have passions and try to eat normal food at our abnormal times. We still haven’t gotten our thank you notes out.

As the world darkens and the sun stretches farther away for the winter months, I feel the return of a new year. I always sort of celebrate the Celtic new year, Samhain. It’s a day of the dead, yes, but it also marks rebirth. It marks the time of year when the earth slows to sleep, where all becomes still, and where hibernation occurs awaiting the return of the light and the burgeoning buds and blossoms. I can’t help but feel like something is…gestating in my life, for lack of a better word. Not in my body; no, there’s no life inside me forming. What I feel is that I’m frantically growing something. That these words I nurture every day are multiplying into something big, something that will soon be born to the world.

The leaves turn and fall to the ground, and the earth slumbers until spring. I will continue to create, to harbor the life of these words until they are ready to be shared. And I believe they will be shared. My husband believes in me. He brings me bright fall roses and dahlias and daisies to add cheer to our home and to comfort me while my body responds to the changing of the seasons. For every winter, there is a spring. So I will keep working, keep writing, keep hoping all through this long night of the earth.

I will write through the darkest hour.

The MacGuffin

In writing and film, a MacGuffin is a plot device that gives the characters a catalyst for action. It can be an object to quest after or a nebulous concept, but it makes them go. It’s like my gorse bush.

Right now what’s making me go is my writing. I feel good about my story and the people who have so graciously volunteered to help me edit my monstrosity of a manuscript and prepare it for submission. I’m coming to the end of draft two, and I’m excited to get it going with the polishing round.

Writing has been a dream of mine for so long, and now that I have a completed novel and another one almost done, I feel like I can move forward. It’s the career I want. I’ve been pretty deliberate about my steps, trying to make sure that I put the effort in on the front end to save some time and heartache later. I don’t know what to expect once my work starts spiraling around the ether, but we shall see.

That’s my MacGuffin right now. The wedding is in two weeks, and I’m starting a life with my fiance. We’re both the classic broke twenty-somethings. We’re both creative types. The driving force for me is getting my writing out there, because at the end of the day, I write for an audience. I want others to read my work.

The past month has been very busy. I’ve been writing in every spare minute. Sometimes in those minutes I can’t actually spare. I’ve been blogging and building, tweeting and grinding my teeth. I’m painstakingly digging a foundation for a career I hope will encompass my life. I want to show agents that I’m worth the risk of taking on a new author. That I’ll make us both money doing what we love: producing new books for people to cuddle up to.

A lot of the past month has been borne with frustration that I have to work fifty hours a week at another job. That’s fifty hours I can’t spend writing and honing my craft. That’s why I want to make writing my career — so that I can focus on getting better, push myself to creating more vivid language, sharper imagery, characters people long to read over and over again.

I remember how I felt when I discovered that by Jo Rowling’s timeline, Harry wouldn’t be the age of Dan Radcliffe — he’d be my age. That all of this took place parallel to my generation. It made it so much more powerful to me to think that Harry was my peer. I will love those books forever. I will never duplicate the Harry Potter phenomenon — nor do I want to — but I want to make that connection to readers. Make a place in their hearts where my characters will live as their friends.

The dream is there. The drive is there. The will and determination are there. Even with the wedding coming up a mere two weeks from now, writing is the pulse of my life.

Perhaps this entry belongs more on my other blog, but perhaps not. It applies to my life. It’s a shift that has occurred subtly over the past few years, and it’s starting to materialize. I’ve gone from sheer terror to hopelessness to confidence to resolve when it comes to my career — now that resolve is moving my feet forward into a new world.

Make it Happen

The more I think about life in all its complexity, the more I realize that it’s all a matter of making it happen. There are things that ebb and flow through its tides, but if you sit around waiting for something to wash up on your shore, you’ll be wading through a lot of driftwood and abandoned toilet seats before you find that message in a bottle. If you ever find it.

If there’s something you want to do, do it. No excuses. If you want to write, be a writer for god’s sake. If you want to paint, go get a brush and an easel and do it. If you want to travel, get your passport. If you want to go back to school and get your MBA, enroll. Make it work. Make it happen. No one is going to do any of those things for you. If you want to learn to play the violin, do it. Try. You don’t know how much time you have here, and why on earth would you want to waste it doing something that doesn’t fulfill you? Why would you stay in a stagnant swamp when you can be floating down a river toward your destination?

I’m not saying it’s not complicated. What I’m saying is this: people find a way to buy new clothes or new shoes. They’ll spend hundreds on a new computer because they’re sick of their old one, even if it works fine. They’ll spend hundreds on a new bike. Or a new car. They’ll keep upgrading their lifestyles instead of saving and living below their means. And when you ask them why they haven’t taken that trip to Spain or Greece or Mumbai or Antarctica, they’ll say they can’t afford it. Of course they can’t — they orchestrated their lives so that they can’t. Make choices now that will get you where you want to be five years from now, ten years from now.

I’ve seen people with nothing manage to build lives so spectacular, so rich and fulfilling, that it brings tears to my eyes. I don’t mean financial success, though sometimes that’s the case. What I mean is personal joy because they followed their bliss. Ask anyone who retires after thirty years of a job they hated. They’ll always have regrets. Always. Never be that person with a wistful glimmer in their eyes saying, “I wish I’d done that.”

I always ask myself if I will regret something more for doing it or not doing it. The answer is almost always the latter. If you try and fail, at least you tried. At least you went for it. And “failure” doesn’t mean you can’t make it work for you.

Your life is an earthen vessel on a potter’s wheel. You are that potter. You shape it, mold it, touch it as it spins. If you let it go of its own accord, it’ll spin into a misshapen lump that looks nothing like you imagined. If you grab hold of it and firmly direct the curves and flows, you’ll always know that you had a hand in it. You made your life what it is.

Take the clay and give it form. Make it happen.

Why I Don’t Really Enjoy Chick Flicks

I honestly can’t remember a time where I ever truly enjoyed “chick flicks.” I suppose I watched them…in high school I can recall watching She’s All That and Never Been Kissed and 10 Things I Hate About You (which really isn’t much of a chick flick at all; it’s just awesome) (awwww…Heath Ledger…waaaaaah).  Those are the only ones I really remember, though.  Even then, the movies I got excited about were the Lord of the Rings movies, X-Men (I about peed myself), and horror movies/thrillers.  Even the occasional sci-fi movie, though I was never a die-hard sci-fi girl. But I digress before I even started. Alas. I blame NyQuil.

Anyway, tonight something happened that I just couldn’t ignore. First of all, I decided to watch Sleepless in Seattle.  It’d been forever since I saw it (if I ever saw it before tonight), and I decided, “What the hell?”

I fell asleep 40 minutes in, to my own chagrin. So I started it over. I like Meg Ryan.  I also like Tom Hanks. I was enjoying the movie after I conquered my sleepiness. And then, BAM. It was over. The camera zoomed out on that giant red heart on the side of the Empire State Building, and I was supremely confused. After a beat, I thought, “That’s it?” I was beyond confused. I was bewildered. “Really? That’s it? But…what happens next?”

I won’t deny that I could relate to bits of the film; perhaps it’s that I’m in love with a wonderful man myself, but I definitely had some warm fuzzies. However, when it ended, I was left utterly unsatisfied. I wanted to know what happened later, that evening, the next morning, a week or a year later. I don’t want the ride off into the sunset endings — I want to know what’s on the other side of that sunset. It really bothered me that the movie just…truncated like an obnoxious fraction.

What if Meg and Tom decide they can’t stand each other? And if they do really end up in love, how does that happen? Do they ever take each other for granted? Does Jonah end up resentful and sullen again?

I realize that this is exactly why I don’t really like chick flicks. For one thing, they usually break up some couples. For another, they all end this way, this happily ever after shite. I guess it’s not really shite, persay, but it’s so unrealistic I want to bop them on the heads with a mallet. I think that’s why I love Love Actually — yeah, some of them end up quite happy, but not all of them. And the love they show isn’t always the romantic kind, either. There’s some anguish, there’s some pictures of good love gone bad, and there are some pictures of nice, healthy love as well.

Sigh. Maybe Hollywood has lost a bit of its magic for me, but I don’t know. What I do know is that life isn’t full of happy endings. It’s the journey that matters, every step along the way. It doesn’t end when we meet the one we love or even when we marry them. It keeps on going, marching up and down, back and forth. And that’s what I like about it. I don’t want the end credits to roll till my eyes shut for the last time.

 

 

Changes and the Familiarly Unfamiliar

I’m in Scotland.

I’m again confronted with the ever-familiar waves of knowing and not-knowing.  I know the fresh, washed scent of rain cleaned air, of chill breezes and the golden honey warmth  of sun.  I know the hill that holds Stirling Castle, and the Black Isle that peeks through the window from across the Moray Firth.  I know this building, but the view out the window has changed, and the flags that hang of St. Andrew’s cross, the lion rampant, the jolly roger, and St. George’s cross seem oddly disparate, though they grace walls which still hold familiar photographs.  Lone Tree on Rannoch Moor.  Buachaille Etive Mor.  Pap of Glen Coe,  Eilean Donan.  Inchkeith Sunset.  Familiar names.

The people here are now alien.  No Jordan or Julia or Nicole or Keith.  Instead there is Andres, Sandra, Howe.  Unfamiliar but kind.  As a former hostelite, they welcomed me with warmth and shared food and even tucked me in when I fell asleep on the familiar cushion of one of these black leather sofas, covering me with a fluffy duvet as I slept in a group of strangers.

The maps are well known, from John O’Groats to Skye to Aberdeen.  The voices are unfamiliar.  No Polish  do I hear, but French and English accents.  It has been…a long time.  The giant gulls call out their thoughts of the town and the surf.  Cars rumble across the Firth bridge.  The sun hides his face behind an oddly stagnant sky.

A whisper flits through me, a startling revelation.  Inverness feels like home no more. Perhaps it is the lack of sleep.  Perhaps it is the staggering mix of old and new.  It could be either of those things, but I think what it really is goes much deeper than a superficial makeover.  I’ve got a home.  Not even a physical home;  that’s in flux.  But there is someone rather than somewhere I need.  And he is very far away.  He has become my family, and where family is, so home is too.

More than anything, I wish he was here to share this place with.  Even shrouded in clouds, she has a glory and a cleanness that surpasses anything I have ever known.  There is wisdom in her aged glens, peace in her silver-smooth lochs, strength in her heather-clad mountains, and humility in the rushing of her surrounding sea.  I think if she could speak, she would tell me that she will always hold a place for me here.  And that the next time I return to her, not to come alone.

follow your bliss

This morning, I asked my student to reflect on the following:

“The privilege of a lifetime is to be who you are…follow your bliss.   The heroic life is the individual adventure.   There is no security in following the call to adventure.”  (Joseph Campbell)

I figured that since I am trying to keep up my average of words per day, I would complete my own assignment. (I already hit 1,000 working on my novel today, but a bit more never hurt anyone.)

I’m going to break this down sentence by sentence and see what comes pouring out through the cracks.

The privilege of a lifetime is to be who you are…follow your bliss.

I heard once that up until about puberty and a few years after, you spend your life trying to fit in, blend with others, be like everyone else.  In high school and the years after is when people become desperate to delineate what separates them from the rest of the world, to be an individual.  But how far do people really go to do that?  So many people spend their lives doing things that make them unhappy or at the very least, bored.  They spend their lives with people who make them unhappy.  They follow the status quo because they feel some sort of obligation to do so or need security in some way.

It took me a long time in my life to come to terms with who I am, and in a lot of ways, I’m still on that path.  It has taken a lot of failings in order for me to get to where I am now.  I wrote not long ago in a letter to someone that I feel like years ago, I was perched on the edge of a chasm.  I could see where I wanted to be on the other side of it, but I had to make choices to decide how to get there.  The first route was the tried and true slow descent down one side and up the other, maybe on a burro.  I could plod doggedly down and up and eventually get to the other side, but I knew that if I took that route, I might end up miles down from where I was aiming.

The other route was the most direct geometrically.  And it stretched out directly in front of me, a rickety rope bridge with punky boards full of dry rot and tattered ropes holding it together.  I gritted my teeth and stepped out onto the bridge, with nothing but those flimsy boards between me and a long drop with a sudden stop.  Looking down at the well-trodden safer path below, I could see people’s mouths agape as they watched me take my fumbling steps out on that bridge.  Some even yelled up at me, “You’re crazy!  You’re going to fall!”

I haven’t fallen yet.  Granted, there have been a few close calls.  A couple of those boards were rotted through and disintegrated beneath my feet like crumbling clay.  Occasionally, circling vultures would swoop down and attack, seeing I was vulnerable.  But each time, I clung to the most solid things I could find and held on tight.  I’ve made a large number of big decisions in the last few years, and they have all propelled me forward.  And the farther forward I go, the closer I get to the other side.  I can’t see the other side from where I am; I have to focus too much on putting one foot in front of the other and staying alive to get there, but I know it’s there.  I can sense solid ground in the distance, getting closer every day.  I don’t know how many steps remain before I get there, but I know there is even more adventure awaiting me after my feet touch the earth again.  And the only way I’ll get there is if I keep following my bliss.  This journey truly has been amazing, and making the choices I have made really are the privilege of my lifetime.

The heroic life is living the individual adventure.

I feel like it would be way too arrogant to call my life heroic.  I could say resilient or bold and maybe go as far as intrepid, but regardless, I feel that my life has been full of adventure.  In spite of all the moves (or maybe because of them), I’ve managed to hold onto some semblance of cohesion within myself.  Sometimes I feel stuck within the confines of what society deems normal, namely the need for money (ew), but I have still managed to get where I needed to go, regardless of how rough the road got.  For that I am both proud and thankful.  Proud that I haven’t completely had a nervous breakdown yet (although I’ve gotten close this year…sorry, John) and thankful for the people who have been there along the way to hold out their hands and help me along.  I wouldn’t be here without them.

I’m certainly not done with this adventure yet.  In fact, I might be setting out on another leg of it shortly, depending on what I decide in the next 24 hours.  There is a big wide world out there, and I haven’t seen enough of it yet.

When I think about it, I often tell my friends that they are heroic for following their bliss and doing their thing, so perhaps I ought to do myself the same courtesy and bestow the label upon myself as well.  I do have a tendency to be much harder on myself than others are.   I should be more mindful of that and stop Emmie-bashing.

There is no security in following the call to adventure.

This one rings so true — I think about the people I know who are pursuing the things they truly love, and very few are actually making any money.  Of course, money isn’t the only way to measure security, but I think that is sort of what Joseph Campbell was referring to.  That and the fact that the term “starving artist” did not evolve without some sort of precedent.  I’m okay with being poor.  I’ve never really had any money, so I actually tend to just give it away when I do have it.

Anyway, all in all, I think it’s clear that I have to do some things for myself. Dolly Parton said to find out who you are and do it on purpose.  I’m not one who usually looks to Dollywood for wisdom, but I won’t turn it away when I come across it.  I know a lot about who I am, but I need to make some purposeful strides into really letting that person shine through.

On that note, kiddies, sleep tight.  Bite the bedbugs and smile at your neighbor.

we are beggars all.

Today I have been listening to and thinking about this song, the lyrics of which will be interspersed through this post.  The song is called “The Weight,” and it’s by the band Thrice.  My boyfriend brought it up the night he gave me my magic wand, and though I couldn’t think of how it went right then, I had heard it before and was taken in by it.  I honestly think I have never heard a truer expression of what true love is, and I am deeply touched thinking about it.

There’s many who’ll tell you they’ll give you their love,
But when they say “give” they mean “take”.
They hang ‘round just like vultures ’til push comes to shove
And take flight when the earth starts to shake.

Someone may say that they’ll always be true
Then slip out the door ‘fore the dawn,
But I won’t leave you hanging on.

Another may stay ’til they find someone new
Then before you know they’ll be gone,
But I won’t leave you hanging on.

No, I won’t won’t be that someone.

This will likely be a very candid blog — not that I am ever anything else, but you know.  Just a disclaimer.  I have often felt like a beggar.  In many ways, my life has been that of a vagabond or a drifter.  I’ve moved 33 times in 25 years.  I have gotten where I am today because of intensely hard work and because of the help and charity of others.  I use the word charity not to imply a sense of pity, but in the almost spiritual sense of giving out of the need to pass on the blessings one has been given.  More about the act of giving than the perception of need implicit in the receiving end of such a gift.

And come what may, I won’t abandon you or leave you behind,
Because love is a loyalty sworn, not a burning for a moment.
Come what may, I will be standing right here by your side,
I won’t run away, though the storm’s getting worse and there’s no end in sight.

Some talk of destiny, others of fate,
But soon they’ll be saying goodbye,
But I won’t leave you high and dry.

‘Cause a ring don’t mean nothing if you can’t haul the weight
And some of them won’t even try,
But I won’t leave you high and dry.

I won’t leave you wondering why.

In love as well I have often felt the beggar.  I have often felt myself unworthy of real love — I have been tossed aside often enough that I am supremely unused to having anyone stand by me.  I have always been at the whim of others’ convenience — there when it suited them and cast off when it stopped being convenient for them.  I think because of this, I don’t understand why anyone would want me when I am the mess that I am.

And come what may, I won’t abandon you or leave you behind,
Because love is a loyalty sworn, not a burning for a moment.
Come what may, I will be standing right here by your side,
I won’t run away, though the storm’s getting worse and there’s no end in sight.

And storms will surely come,
But true love is a choice you must make and you are the one.
That I have set my heart to choose
As long as I live, I swear I’ll see this through.

I spent quite a long time waiting for my current boyfriend.  We knew each other for a year and a half before we started our official relationship, and I won’t pretend that some of that time wasn’t incredibly difficult for me.  I still wrestle with the idea that I’m either not enough or too much or both at the same time.  I think everyone feels that way sometimes, but I have it honed to a fine art.  Which is why I think that this Thrice song is such a resonant depiction for me.  I’m not used to a love like this.  As one of my favorite gods said in one of my favorite books (by David Eddings), “Thou wilt warily give love, but you must also learn to accept it.”  I’ve never known a love like this, but come what may, I will see it through.  In the words of another, newer favorite song, I’ve got nothing left to lose.

Come what may, I won’t abandon you or leave you behind,
Because love is a loyalty sworn, not a burning for a moment.
Come what may, I will be standing right here by your side,
I won’t run away, though the storm’s getting worse and I see no end.

Come what may, I won’t abandon you or leave you behind,
Because love is a loyalty sworn, not a burning for a moment.
Come what may, I will be standing right here by your side,
I won’t run away, though the storm’s getting worse and there’s no end in sight.

In other news, my beloved city of Nashville, Tennessee is under water.  If you haven’t heard about it, the Cumberland and Harpeth rivers that both run through and around Nashville gained about 26+ feet over the weekend, causing catastrophic flooding and billions of dollars of damage to homes and businesses.  I-24 became a raging river, and the water was forceful and deep enough to detach homes from foundations and even sent a modular school building floating down the interstate.

One of my closest friends had to be emergency evacuated from her apartment — she’s very lucky, and it turns out the water only got ankle deep and her car even still works, but thousands of others were not so lucky.  My old boss had to sit and watch from his home as a man was stranded up a tree in his Forest Hills neighborhood — Tom couldn’t get to him as there was fast moving water that was far too dangerous to move through, and I’m told the man was stranded there for at least 20 hours in the pouring rain.  There are thousands of other stories like these.  I’m dismayed and disappointed that the national media is paying only cursory attention to this disaster.  Almost 30 people have died so far, and countless others are without power, clean water, and homes.  If you are at all able, please text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to the relief efforts.

I only lived in Nashville for a year, but it is a truly lovely city full of warm and inviting people.  To see loved ones and colleagues entrapped in this disaster and also being nationally ignored is heartbreaking, and I wish I could do more to help.  I don’t get a ton of views on this blog, but hopefully enough people will read this and be moved enough to spare $10.  If enough people do it, it really does make a difference.

Please help.  We are beggars all.

❤  Emmie

Magic Happens.

I can’t help but smile.  And I also can’t help that even 24 hours later, when I smile about this, a couple of tears spring to my eyes as well.  Something happened to me yesterday that I had been waiting twenty years for.  There really aren’t many of those things;  I’ve only been alive for twenty-five.  And yet this is one of the few, and indeed one of the least likely to have transpired.  But it did.

This is a story of magic and love.  One that, like the smile and the prickling tears, I can’t help but share.

Last night, I was driving home from my boyfriend’s band’s show with him in my little blue Civic.  We chatted briefly about mundane things — plans for the next day which included a bro-down for him and a ladies brunch for me.  About halfway home, he told me that he’d gotten me something.  I thought, Huh.  Good thing I got him something too. He informed me that it was something I had mentioned in the previous couple weeks and that he had resolved to get it for me.

I was intrigued; I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it could be.  The only thing I remembered mentioning that I wanted was pie, and I rather doubted he had gotten me a pie.

He went on to tell me that he would surprise me with it.  I might not get it tonight, but maybe in the morning.  Or next week.  Whenever the moment seemed right.  And no, it wasn’t sex.  This made me even more confused, and more firmly ruled out pie, since he already had it, and I don’t think he would give me a week old pie.

I was thoroughly curious by this point.  I told him I had something for him, as well.  But that it was a small thing I’d picked up at the Dollar Store, and no, my gift wasn’t sex either, nor anything remotely sexual.  We came to the conclusion that anything sexual from the Dollar Store most likely was not to be trusted.  Luckily, I’d just gotten him a basting brush.  My boyfriend happens to make some damn fine bruschetta, and each time we shop for ingredients, he always pauses at the basting brushes and then never gets one because they’re about $8.  So when I saw a red Betty Crocker silicone basting brush for a dollar, I had to get it.

An hour or so later, we were in bed.  We had a long conversation about my previous blog about dating musicians, including the thoughts that I’d had about what that meant about priorities.  He kissed me very gently on the forehead, and as always, I could not help but smile into his shoulder.

I rolled over and put one arm under my pillow.  It encountered something there.  It felt like plastic, cool to the touch.  Like a tube of some kind.  I exclaimed that there was something under my pillow, thinking it was just something that had gotten thrown there accidentally before we made the bed.  I wondered aloud what it was, and he turned on the light so I could see.

Rewind twenty years.

A five-year-old girl humbly asks Santa for something extra special for Christmas.  Beyond the Care Bears, her heart’s desire was set.  This little girl was convinced that magic was out there, that it was real, and that one day, it would find her.  So she did what anyone would do in that position:  she asked the most magical person she could think of for something magical.  A magic wand.  With real magic.

Christmas came and went — the Care Bears arrived, but the wand did not.  The small girl lifted her voice and with it, she made a deal.  “Santa,” she said, “I know you’re very busy.  You had to get to all the little kids in the world, and so I understand that you probably didn’t have time to bring it.  But…I really do want it more than anything.  I won’t try to see you — just leave it under my bed when you get the chance.”

She looked under her bed every morning for over a year.  And even when she finally stopped, she knew magic still existed.  Even when the time came two years later for her to stop believing in the Santa that rode in his sleigh delivering gifts and exchanged that image for the picture of a box from a stranger, wrapped in brown paper.  A stranger who heard her letter on the news asking for Santa to fix the leak in the roof above her bed and paid for it himself, along with everything else that she had mentioned in her letter — every jewel Polly Pocket and the crown of all, the princess castle.  In fact, she was even more sure magic existed.  She knew that she would never be surprised when she found it.

When the light came on, I found myself holding a black stick, silver at both ends.  My jaw fell open.  “It’s a magic wand,” my boyfriend said.  Dumbfounded, I stared at him.  “And you already have the magic for it.”

“You got me my wand.”  I couldn’t think of anything else to say.  In that moment, I was five years old again, looking under my bed, expecting a miracle.  Tears fell. I had told him the story over brunch at our new favorite restaurant, sipping delicious strawberry lemonade and eating sandwiches made with waffles and sweet potato fries.

As I hold it now, I’m sure.  I can feel it in my hands, in my blood, in the air.  There is magic in this wand, real magic.

I always knew I’d find it.

blog 2.0

i realized last night that i desperately need to write.  i also succumbed to the very first glimmering flash of inspiration to grace my mind within the past several months.  i thought my bulb had burnt out for good.

whenever i’ve gone for a good long while without allowing myself to write, or being too exhausted to even tap my little paws on keys, it always just sort of bubbles over into a badly written, stream-of-consciousness sort of protobabble.  sound familiar?  see current reading material for an example.

however, it is often the prelude to something else.  last night for the most fleeting of moments, i had that flash of light.  actually, that’s not right.  for me, it’s not necessarily the lightbulb experience…if you will allow me to mix my metaphors up for a bit.  for me, it tends to be a voice.  before you call me a schizophrenic, try to remember that all artists are a wee bit on the loony side of things, and the voices in my head don’t really hurt anyone but each other.  so fear not; they’re contained.

i have a pet story i have been working on for a year or so now.  i love it–it’s fun, snarky, and occasionally campy.  the best thing about it for me is that it has a truly distinct voice in my mind.  sort of like a bulldozer might sound if it trundled happily over a field of broken dreams.  that.  that’s what it sounds like.  rumbledy rumbledy, tra la la, crunch.

i like it.

and the kicker?  it’s not the novel i finished.  in fact, i’m barely two chapters into it.  non sequitous chapters even.  but it’s there, and it’s vibrant, and it is going to come out, whether i like it or not.  which is quite a lovely feeling for a writer, especially a somewhat stunted one such as i.

we’ll see where it goes.

apart from that, i think my fingers and the thoughts they try to hammer out have been shackled by this mountain of stress.  or not shackled; smashed.  at the end of the day, all i want is to shed my skin, crawl into my soft, warm bed, cuddle up to my modal pillows, and snuggle with nothingness, toes wiggling outside the cocoon in the breeze of my fan.  hardly a good vein of creative pursuit.  i’ve found it exceedingly difficult to accomplish anything in that state of being, heavenly though it may be.

i’m trying to figure out what has breathed a little spark of life back into me.  it’s certainly not my job–no, that is the wet blanket continuously determined to slosh and slop its way right over this little light of mine.  so not that.  i have a sneaking little suspicion that the responsible party is none other than my sewing class.

“whamph?” asks the sewing class through the pins in its teeth.  “meh?”

yes, my friend.  you.

you see, sewing is something i have always wanted to do.  i used to make my grandma teach me little bits and pieces on those rare visits to florida in the summers of my youth.  the only project i ever made was the tiniest little quilt with a lion in a jungle.  i wonder whatever happened to that.  so this year, i decided to fulfill that, along with my long-term desire to purchase a decent camera.  check and check.  as i drove home from my class last night pondering the intricacies of the olive green assless chaps i had managed to create with little to no guidance, i heard the familiar happy bulldozer in the distance.  the moment i could open my catalog of ideas, i jotted down what it had mumbled in my ear and pondered what i had there.  it was a missing piece in a story that already was pretty awesome.  and i can’t wait to take it out for a spin.

to go back to a point i didn’t cover as well as i wanted, by doing something i genuinely enjoy (something no one–NO ONE!!!–is making me do) purely for the pleasure of doing it, it reminded me that there was more to me than i have been living.  this little 6 week class is quite expensive…i can safely say this is the most pricey bag and pants combo i have ever before spent money on.  however, in spite of the expense, i have learned a very valuable lesson:  do what makes you happy.

for the love of pete–life is way too short to do anything else.  i may have to work my ass off day in and day out at a thankless job that seems constantly poised with a microscope to point out my pitfalls.  i may be in dubious health.  i may be slightly schizophrenic.  but by golly, i’m going to try and be happy while i’m here.  i maybe have 60-70 years left on this rock, and i really don’t want to look back after 50 of them and wonder what i did with my youth, why i was killing myself for money.

so i may be broke for the next few years.  i have a lot of bills, and hobbies, quite frankly, are incredibly expensive.  the irish dance class i want to take next year?  about $630.  hello, good use of grad school loans (not kidding).  that covers september through may, but still.  that’s a lot.  my sewing class ran about $300, all supplies included.  at least for the next one, i will know to shop at joann for fabric (g-street, not so cheap), and i will already have the staples, like the $20 pair of shears i bought.  (lessons, lessons, expensive little life lessons)

anyway, the bottom line is, i need to get back into the things i enjoy:  writing, sewing, photography, dance, music.  those are things that are near and dear to the ole ticker, and i think that if i am able to do them, i will have a better handle on this stressful commitment i signed up for.  thankfully, most of these hobbies are “front end loaders,” which just goes to say that if you put money in on the front end, it will taper off later…unless i upgrade my camera to a flashy flashy bang bang sort of deal, which won’t happen for at least several years.  writing, i’ve got my laptop, macasaurus rex.  sewing has no machine yet, but this will come.  photography, got me a nice camera that takes awesome pictures…as soon as i get a good low light lens with a solid aperture, i will be happy for a while.  dance, i have my gillies, and when i get back into irish dance, i won’t have to get hardshoes for a while, though the class payments are a bit steep.  music…i have my bodhran.  so really, i am pretty much set for the time being.

i also realized that though it’s good to have some money put aside, i honestly don’t think it’s always the best thing to do.  maybe it’s the fact that i’ve never had the sense that money would be there later, so i’ve always felt it’s good to spend on what makes you happy as long as your necessities are covered.  i’m not sayin go buy ten thousand things you can’t afford, or even to go buy ten thousand things period.  but if you have a hobby, i consider that somewhat as an investment.  it may not have a monetary return, but peace of mind and a sense of accomplishment are worth more than money to me.