Wednesday, December 29, 2010

retrospective christmas qualms.

Why, hello, there.

I french braided my hair today and it looks funny.  French braids really only work in twos, I think.  Skunk-style, straight down the back of my head, makes me look odd.  Not even a headband can really help.  Oh well.  No matter.  No one's going to see me today, anyway.

I wanted to write a Christmas post.  It was going to have a list of all the best Christmas things.  Movies, books, traditions.  But, seeing as how Joshua and I spent 40% of our holiday traveling, 10% of the time sleeping, and the other 50% seeing our families, it all got away from me.

So, here's the abbreviated version:
1.  The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
2.  It's a Wonderful Life.
3.  Oranges and walnuts on Christmas morning.
4.  Elf (the movie, and the one that sits in the Christmas tree).
5.  Mistletoe.
6.  "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."
7.  Meaningful gifts that don't require lots of money.

That's something I definitely learned this Christmas season.  Money is the root of all evil.  Feeling like you have to get everyone on your list something PERFECT and EXPENSIVE is an extension of it.  My favorite two gifts of Christmas 2010 were from my mother and my mother-in-law.  The former gave me a Peanuts block calendar for my eventual desk (I've been in love with Snoopy ever since I played him in the eighth grade), and the latter, a beautiful notebook with a girl wearing fairy wings on the cover.  Both were incredibly simple gifts, but they meant the world to me because they showed that the gift-givers truly understood things about me.  That's all I need.  [That's also not to say that we don't appreciate the bigger things, too.  It's just that the simple gifts tug at my heart the most.]  Gifts are accessories to love, not proof of love.  Bigger and better gifts don't equal bigger and better love.  If anything, they boil down to emptier and less secure love.  Like, I'm not sure you know how I feel about you, so I'm going to give you a diamond-studded BMW to prove something.  Or whatever.  Why don't you just have an honest relationship with that person?  I am so blessed to have honest relationships with my family.

Anyway, that's all I have to say about that.  For now.  It makes me think A LOT about what I want Christmas to be like for my own children.  Will we even bother with Santa Claus?  Author Kiersten White wrote this hysterical post about him.  I'm grateful that when I was a kid, my parents and grandparents told me that Santa was symbolic of the spirit of generosity.  That way, when I figured out that he wasn't actually squeezing down the chimney every year, I didn't get my feelings hurt or feel like I'd been lied to.  I can't explain it.  I know that "Santa," as we project him, is a commercial ploy masquerading as whimsy.  But the REAL spirit of Christmas?  Of tradition and family and celebrating the gift of Christ?  Not to sound pagan, but these are the things that encapsulate the "spirit of generosity" I was raised to identify with Santa.  The good things.  I wish we didn't call him "Santa," though.  I prefer St. Nick or Father Christmas, greatly.

I hate the commercial(s) where Santa/the elves are frantically putting together last-minute gifts.  I don't even think I need to explain why.

So, what's wrong with this world?  I don't think I ever want to tell my kids that Santa is "real," or that the Wise Men were there the night Jesus was born, or that December 25th was his actual birthday--because none of those things are true!  I was SHOCKED to find out that Jesus was born in the spring, and that the three Wise Men didn't get to Jesus until he was a toddler.  These things upset me more than the truth about Santa Claus!  I think it's important, as a Christian, to KNOW the history behind the holiday, to KNOW how it came to be held on December 25th, and to be okay with it.  I do definitely believe that it was all in the sovereignty of God that it ended up where it is, but it would be foolish and dangerous to put more faith in the traditions of the holiday than the purpose of the holiday.

So, I guess I just wrote a Christmas post.  An everything-that's-wrong-with-Christmas post.  Believe me, I could go on.  But I'll spare you.  Also, this is my only day off before the new year, so it's high time I moved onto something else.  I have every intention of posting again before 2011, but who knows if that will really happen?

To everyone going to the New Year's retreat at Loucon, I love you and I will miss you unbelievably.  But Loucon will still be there in 2011, and I will still be me in 2011, and even though I absolutely treasure ringing in the new year there, I know it's okay to let go and give you all a chance to treasure it, now, too.

When did I get so old?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

adventures with lu, my pesky internal editor. also, david mead! who, unlike lu, is an actual person.

Back to posting from the library = back to normal.
Somewhat normal.
At least, back to feeling like I could easily play normal.

And with this thought comes an entirely unrelated confession:  I let my mom read the giant spider story.  
It was a moment of weakness and confusion, riding in the car with my parents to Cocoa Beach, still reeling from all the people I'd met and the stories I'd heard.  I opened my computer and wanted to write so badly, but felt too mentally and emotionally spent to do anything about it.  I could have just put the computer away and gone on listening to whatever was on the iPod.  Instead I said, "Here, Mommy, do you want to read my story?" and passed her the laptop before I could stop myself.

I don't know why it's any different.  I'd let my friend Becca read it, without the slightest second thought.  Then again, Becca is 16, and I wrote the story with her age group in mind.  My mom is almost 60, and the second after I put it in her hands, I wished I hadn't.  My mom HATES spiders.  My mom does not do scary or sad or creepy.  I usually don't, either, which is another reason I was afraid to let her read it.

What if she thinks I'm unstable?  What if she says, "Where did this come from?" Or, worse, "What's wrong with you?"  I mean, that's what I would have said.  Giant spiders?  Really?  A), that's lame, and B), disgusting.  You can do better than that.

Those are the things I would have said to myself.  All leftovers from how I felt in creative writing classes at Union.  "There's no such thing as [insert whatever I had made up here]."  I know.  I know there's no such thing.  So... why am I writing about it?  Am I... Am I not fit to write about grown-up things?  Non-pretend things?

It was all food for my internal editor.  I've only recently learned to turn her off, usually by saying:  "No one else is going to read it, Lu, so chill out."  Lu was okay with this.  Lu has let me get a lot of writing done in the past four months, all under the conjecture that it was for our eyes only.  And Joshua's, but he counts as one of us, too.

You can imagine Lu's tirade against my peace of mind while my mom read the story.
"She hates it she hates it.  She thinks you're insane.  It's bad enough her son has problems, now her daughter is writing stories about monsters eating people."  
You can, therefore, also imagine my surprise when my mom turned around and said, "I really like it!"

Naturally, I tried to squeeze from her that she was only saying that, that it was actually really twisted, that it embarrassed her that I had written it, but NO.  She genuinely enjoyed it.  

I said, "But you hate spiders!"
She said, "I know, but I liked the story."
I said, "Becca liked it, but she's 16.  I didn't think someone your age would like it."
She said that was silly.  She said that it was just like hearing me telling a story out loud, which isn't something I had thought of.  She said that was a good thing.

Now, don't go taking this the wrong way.  Regardless of the warm feelings flying around here, the story is not where I want it.  And I strongly feel that anyone who is not my teenage friend or my own mother (or my husband) would sort of laugh at it.  And that's okay, because it's goofy.  And it's not a priority, which is incredibly liberating.  I'm in no rush AT ALL.  I'm only enjoying the ride.  And I'm learning that maybe Lu is crazy.  Lu needs a hot bath and some chocolate chip cookies.  Lu needs to take up some other hobbies.  Something meticulous, like cross-stitch, so she'll leave me alone.

Funny how letting my mother read my writing brought about such a break-through for me.  Remember my whole, "It's all fun and games until someone I know reads what I wrote," debacle?  Well, maybe it's not that bad.  If my mom can read my story, a wacky blob that came out of my own head, and not run away screaming... then what's to stop me?

It's like graduating from writers' kindergarten.  Let's all go get some ice cream.  Actually, no, it's too cold for that*.  Let's go for a peppermint mocha.  Yum.

*commences celebration*

Speaking of Yum, has anyone here listened to David Mead?  Yes, the David Mead from the title.  Go do that, if you don't mind.  His album Almost And Always is my Current Favorite Music On Earth.  Every time I listen to it, I can't help but say, "Soooo pretty!" over and over again.  "Twenty Girls Ago" is my favorite song, thought it's difficult to choose just one.  
And check out the cool (if slightly creepy) cover!  

I like it.  I think.
Well, gang, that's all from me today.  I like this blogging thing.  I should do more of it.  Over and out.

*I say "It's too cold for that," because I feel that's what I ought to say.  Truth is, I had gelato last week when there was snow on the ground, and I do not regret it at all.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

life stuff. brother stuff.

For once, I am not writing this from the library.

I am actually in quite an opposite sort of place.  Well, it's a hotel.  I don't know why a hotel is the opposite of a library, but it's certainly at least not the same thing.

I'm in a hotel in Florida with my parents, and we're watching White Christmas on TV.

There's a thing about blogging that confuses me.  ANOTHER thing.  You're supposed to be fun and interesting and... you know, within you readers' comfort zone.  No one really WANTS to read about life stuff.  You have your own life stuff to deal with.  But I feel like if I don't come clean about some of my life stuff, I'll be wary of blogging anymore at all.  And we all know how much of a loss that would be.  *self-depricating smirk*

Without getting into it too much (especially since a few of you won't be hearing this for the first time), my brother is an addict.  To... well, it doesn't matter what to.  He is an addict, and that's all anyone needs to know.  My parents hit their rock bottom with him a few months ago, and sent him to his last chance, an incredible facility called Caron Renaissance, here in Boca Raton.

Yes, the same Boca Raton where we've vacationed my whole life.
Yes, the same Boca Raton where Brother tried to kill himself a year and a half ago.
That one.

And that's where we are now, for his Family Week.  I know I can't share any details, but I did want to put it out there and say how much I'm learning, and how COOL it is to meet all these other families.  We've even met another family from the same part of Louisville as my parents.  The same part!  And Louisville's not a small city!

More than anything, I love watching people interact with each other in group therapy settings.  It really reminds me of sharing times at Loucon-- you know, the really deep, important ones, from back in high school.  Not to belittle sharing times on staff, but that was different.  I was the helper then, not the helped, so much (though there were always surprises).

And it really makes me want to go to therapy more often.  Since I need it so much.  (?)  You know how I love to talk.  To go deep.  All these family group sessions have been both exhausting and exhilarating to me.  We're not alone!  Everybody has feelings!  IT'S OKAY FOR MEN TO CRY!  IT'S OKAY TO GIVE STRANGERS HUGS AND TELL THEM YOU LOVE THEM!  Is it proof of the fall that human beings do not behave so lovingly and openly with one another in "normal" situations?  I don't know.  Probably.

My parents and I were joking earlier that I'm going to need therapy for wanting too much therapy.

Needless to say, I've been pleasantly surprised this week.  Maybe not with Brother, himself, but with the place.  The way it works.  The people around him.  HE still needs a lot of help.

But I'm not worried, because he is in a safe place, with help lingering over his shoulders everywhere he goes.  It's a good thing.

I do not know how to close this post, for some reason.  White Christmas is still on.  I've never really watched it all the way through before.  It seems that tonight is the night.

Joshua, I miss you.  See you on Saturday, which can't come too soon.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

that christmas thing.

The last two mornings, I woke up to find snow on the ground.  Today I'm wearing flip-flops.  I know I just made that sound like it's gotten warmer, but really, I just wanted to wear the flip-flops.  So, my toes are cold.

I'm at the library, which is an excellent thing.  I'm looking forward to a long day of writing and thinking and maybe sending a few emails.  What I keep forgetting is that it's December, and that means that after today, I will pretty much be a psycho busy bee until Christmas.

Christmas in retail world is not at all like Christmas in everyone else's world.  Christmas in retail world means that your part-time job just turned into your full-time job.

But, you know what?  I'm actually enjoying it.  I guess I could do without the cranky I-must-complete-my-Christmas-list-NOW people (not that I've really encountered very many yet).  And I know I'm going to be completely exhausted by the end of it, but Mast is a really fun, pleasant place to be.  Even on bad days.  If any of my co-workers read this, they'll get a good laugh, I'm sure.  I get a lot of "You still like it because you're new," comments, and that's okay.

[[SUDDEN SIDE RANT:  I come to the library for quiet, so I can think and write in peace.  WHY IS IT THAT EVERY TIME I'VE BEEN HERE IN THE LAST MONTH, THERE'S BEEN A STINKING CONCERT GOING ON?  Even today, I thought I could avoid it by coming earlier than usual, but they're having one at 12 dang 30 in the afternoon!  Are you kidding me?  HOW IS THAT CONDUCIVE TO WORK?!?!?!  HOW?  HOW?  WHO PLANNED THESE STUPID THINGS?!  Okay, rant over.]]

Anyway, back to "You still like it because you're new."  I guess that in some ways, that's very true.  Everyone gets burnt out and jaded.  But while I'm still neither of those things, I'm going to enjoy this Christmas season as much as I can.  At least I don't work in a mall or department store.

It's even more fun on the inside.

Addendum:  That concert just started.  Here's a very weird thing.  I JUST added the label "Holly Jolly Christmas" to this post, because, you know, it's Christmas.  And THE FIRST SONG out of the children's mouths... is "Holly Jolly Christmas."  I am clairvoyant, after all.

UPDATE:  Two hours later:  Another concert?  Really, library?  What do you think people come here for? 

Monday, December 6, 2010

why i got into a play, and then left said play.

I made out a list of pros and cons for accepting the part of Philomena in Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You.  

-I get to be in a play again!
-Friends will come to see me!
-Sense of accomplishment!
-I miss it I miss it I miss it!
-I get to be half a camel, which is hilarious!

-I feel squidgy about the subject matter.
-I hate the way this portrays not only religious people, but Christianity in general.
-I would never want my in-laws to see this.
-I would never want my camp friends to see this.
-I would never want my family to see this.
-I would never want them to associate me with this.
-My schedule is already booked solid for the next month.
-I'm going out of town for a week in the middle of rehearsals.
-My free time needs to be spent on other things.
-What about writing?  That's been so fun lately, and this would compromise that greatly.  It's already distracted me for three days.
-I cannot participate in a mocking of the death of Christ, no matter how the director spins it.
-What about the painting I was going to make for my brother?  I'll barely be able to finish that while pretty-much-working-full-time, let alone if I'm rehearsing for a play, too (regardless of its subject matter).

I could go on.  You get the gist.  The schedule prospect stresses me out.  But, most of all, I would not be able to participate on stage with a clear conscience.  I'll get over the camel thing.

In the middle of my two-day OhmygoshwhatamIgoingtodoaboutthis episode, Joshua found a video of some community college's production of Sister Mary.  After watching it with me, he made an excellent point.  He said that if someone with existing negative views of Christianity were to see this play, those views would only be reinforced.  Something like that.  And I agree.

Thank you to all the friends I confided in about this.  I feel like it was a tough call for me, since I miss acting so much.  But, really, as several of you have implied, I think I knew the whole time.  I still feel a little guilty, like I'm missing both an acting and a witnessing opportunity, but at church yesterday the pastor mentioned doing all things as an act of glory toward God, and I was immediately convicted.  Hrm.  I know I just made that sound like being in the play WOULD have glorified God, but the very strong feeling I got upon hearing it was the opposite.  That there would be NO WAY I could do this show and all my actions glorify God at the same time.  It just wouldn't mix.

And, you know, with me, God should always win.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


To all interested parties:

I know.  It's hard to believe.  I thought I'd lost my touch.  That is, I thought I'd forgotten how to act, or whatever.  Be on stage.  I had an actual "Oh holy crap I think I forgot how to project my voice" moment at the auditions the other night.  Truth.

But, the director must be desperate, or a fan of argyle and plaid (both of which I wore, unintentionally), because he let me in anyway.

I get to rehearse for a play all through the busy/crazy Christmas season now.  Yay?




Wednesday, December 1, 2010

hobble off to dreamland.

You know how I was never going to be one of those writers who used their own dreams as fodder for fiction?  Well, you might not have known that, but it used to be true.

Not because I have moral reservations about taking the inspiration in whatever form it greets you... I just usually don't have very interesting dreams.  I mean, I have some WACKY ones, as evidenced here and here, but not really any story-centric or inspirational ones.

I guess the dream I had last night about a kid getting attacked by a giant spider wasn't really story-centric or inspirational, either, but it woke me up and wouldn't let me go to sleep again.  Some of us call that a nightmare.

So I started writing it down and it turned into a story.  Kind of fun.

Thanks for listening.  Also, happy December!