Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Mr. Lappy went in for surgery on his LCD and came back with the same LCD issue but now it is worse than before. It's like getting a cold bumped up to pneumonia. He has a shining new motherboard but there was nothing wrong with his old one. On top of that, his lovely casing is warped and cracked. What kind of abuse did they put you though?! Oh, poor Lappy! I should never have let you go!
All right, this has to be said. I can't get Heidi's comment about "inanimate object love" out of my head. (That conversation took place when I met with her in person. Post forthcoming on that!) I like my Lappy, he's useful, but please allow me to disabuse any notions of romantic love for said Lappy. Okay, moving along.
For now, The General has kindly allowed me to appropriate his Lappy for my computer needs. (I'd joke about feeling like I'm cheating on my Lappy but Heids might get the wrong idea...) I might not be returning to my regularly scheduled posts because of the adjustment but I'll do my best. I promise I'll get around to telling you all about Storymakers but not today. Suffice it to say, I met some amazing, awesome people and had a wonderful time. I promise I'll detail it better later.
For now, I'm going to argue with my "warranty" people and make sure that the Lappy gets back to his good ol' self ASAP! Wish me luck!
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Soon, I will regale you with my Storymaker's stories and blubber about how wonderful The General is (because he truly is!) I'll be back soon!!
Love to all,
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Yep. That one’s for you, General. =]
So, bad news my fellow friends. My lappy, my beautiful, wonderful lappy is going to the hospital.
Oh how I’ll miss you!!!! *sobbing, tearing hair*
All right, sorrow aside, what does this mean for you? It means that access to my blog/email/MS Word will be difficult to come by. (The loss of that last one is going to kill me!) The bottom line? I may not be blogging or able to read blogs. *cringe* I know! It’s just AWFUL!
My only relief in this situation is that I’m going to Storymakers this weekend and I’m hoping that the exposure to writing and the proximity to those with laptops will help me through. Cross your fingers for me.
The really bad news? My lappy will be hospitalized for at least 14 days. Business days.
So if you don’t hear from me for a while, just know that I’m out there playing the "My-Lappy-Got-Stole Sweepstakes!" Nobody gets it like StrongBad.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
When I was younger, I got engaged to a boy I hardly knew. The relationship wasn’t healthy on a variety of levels. Thanks to a mulishness of both age and personal character flaws, I refused to call it off even when warned by family members and friends. In about a year, I’d isolated myself from all of them (save the not-so-great fiancé.) Stubborn streak aside, I bear an enormous resemblance to a certain lion that trafficked with red-shoe-wearing gals, a walking hay bale, and a dude made of metal. Though I was a few decades late for that audition, I’m a shoe in when they produce a re-make.
Point being, I was too afraid to call it off. I’d gotten myself into this mess, pushed away life-long friends and my beloved family and wore the proof on my lil’ sausage finger. I didn’t know how to back out even though I desperately wanted to. I’d turned my back on my family, friends, religion, and way of life. How could I ask for help and bear the shame?
One day, I got a phone call—the first from my family in months. My grandfather was in the hospital. He’d gone to flip the light switch and couldn’t do it. A brain tumor; inoperable. Two weeks from the discovery of this terrible tumor, he was bedridden, his hands tied to the bedrails to keep from hurting himself. Not long after that, he fell into a coma. The doctors were warning us that he didn’t have much time. “Come to the hospital. Now.”
The fiancé refused to take me so I called up my best friend and hoped he’d take pity enough on me to grant me this favor, even though he’d been shunned in the great-fiancé-fallout. He agreed and I offered up one of the first prayers I’d uttered in weeks. The waiting room was small, packed with my cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles, and parents. Each family was being given a few solitary moments to speak to my grandfather while the rest of us waited our turn. I held my best friend’s hand, terrified to be in the same room with people I’d known for the whole of my life. No one spoke to me and I didn’t try to change that. My parents were busy dashing to and from my grandfather’s room, consoling grieving children and burying their own. I kept my distance.
Too soon, it was our family’s turn. My friend stayed behind, offering me a shaky smile. We crowded into a tiny darkened room. The monitors were silent, emerald pulses of light splaying over the floor and the cutting, pungent scent of disinfectant barely masking dying cells and fragility. There were perhaps four chairs, reserved for my mother and elder sisters. We barely fit. I stood alone in the far left corner, a place I’d chosen.
No one spoke. Tears rolled down drawn faces, sniffles interspersing small hiccoughing sobs from men and women alike. I don’t remember if I shed tears, though I knew they danced in my vision.
For the first time in months I was in the same room with siblings and parents I loved. I was with them but not a part of them. They clung to one another, heads bowed in united grief, fingers gripping each other’s like mini-talons and just as fierce. My youngest siblings cried loudly and were scooped up in the embrace of the older children or my mother. My older brother stood behind the closed door, now and then reaching out to stroke my mother’s back; whether to offer comfort or be reassured by it, I do not know.
I wrapped my arms around myself and stood alone.
It was then that I remember a scorching wetness blazing over my cheek. I stared at the prone form of my grandfather, a man a hardly knew because of some difficult family dynamics. I should have been grieving for his dwindling life, should have grieved for the lost chance to know him--but I wasn’t. I was grieving for the life I’d thrown away. I could not seek the comfort of my sisters’ arms, nor lean against my brother while he stifled sound. I dared not. I had done this. What right had I to ask?
And then my father crossed the room and wrapped an arm around my shoulders. Wordless, he tucked me against his side. I felt the heat from his body and breathed in that fragrance that spells, “D-a-d.” He and I hadn’t spoken for almost two years unless it was to shout at one another yet…he was the first and only one to cross that room and pull me close. I was selfishly grateful for my ailing grandfather just so that I could be held by my dad.
While my family sobbed for a diminishing life, I sobbed for the rebirth of one.
I believe that while my grandfather was suspended between this world and the next, he orchestrated that moment. I believe that he took the hand of a broken lost girl, clasped the hand of a son he loved dearly, and brought the two together. I learned later that my mom watched me standing alone and guided my dad.
Did my grandfather whisper to her? I don’t know but I believe that without words, he guided my parents across the room to me and saturated that embrace with love and forgiveness. He gave that gift to me as one of the last gifts he could give and it saved my life.
What happened after that? I reconciled with my family, broke it off with the fiancé, and married the best friend.
I’ve learned much of my grandfather since then and I know he was a great man. I know he lived a full and satisfying life in which he helped many and loved even more. He raised my father to be a rare sort of man—the best kind of man. My grandfather was an exemplary human being who left the world a better place than when he arrived in it. It doesn’t surprise me that in his last moments on earth, he still worked to change and save lives…
Not the least of which was mine.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
“A feeling of sadness and longing that is not akin to pain,
and resembles sorrow only as the mist resembles the rain.”
--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
There is something very elemental about rain.
I don’t mean elemental in the sense of the elements and the molecular construction of water but rather elemental as the meaning of something intrinsic. Built-in. Essential.
One of my favorite movie lines is “God is in the rain.” In movies, we often see rain used as a symbol. A girl follows her beloved into the storm, calling out to him as the rain sluices over her skin. Her hair is a tangled, sodden mass obscuring her vision. Beaded droplets of water shimmer like translucent tears over her cheeks and lips, dripping off of her chin. He turns, sees her standing in the rain—just staring at him with mouth agape as water pours over her. He returns and they embrace.
Or another…An injured man staggers from the wreckage of some tragic incident. He emerges into the fury of a sky unleashed just to stumble and fall to his knees. His bowed and tortured form is battered by an onslaught of rain. As the clouds pour out their sorrow, shoulders that were hunched in defeat relax and straighten. The man tips his head back, offering his face to the sky as he closes his eyes and drinks in the freedom that comes from feeling the rain.
There are dozens of other scenarios. Funerals. Escape. Romantic endings. Why is this method of portrayal often used? It’s elemental.
I was seventeen years old when I first learned the word Catharsis. Merriam Webster defines it as: “to cleanse or purge; purification or purgation of the emotions primarily through art; bringing about spiritual renewal or release from tension.”
For me, someone had finally described that tightness of skin, the swelling behind my breastbone that became unbearable until it was assuaged by exposure to the elemental. I have never forgotten the word and have returned to it many times through my life.
Now and then, a pressure builds inside of me. Undetected, it slithers up my veins, coils around my lungs, and multiplies. It is gradual, like a pot of water brought to boil in small increments. Just when I become aware of it, the water bubbles over in a rush of steam and heat.“The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.”
-–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Sometimes, when I need it most and can’t have rain, I stand under the deluge of my shower and suck in air as though it’s my last. Wet ribbons bathe my skin and wrap around me, giving me my own personal storm. I stand beneath the force and breathe, letting everything else swirl and vanish down the drain. Catharsis.
I believe that the reason we seek out rain for those defining moments (both in fiction and reality) is because we confront nature and are comforted in the encompassing power. I am swallowed beneath the downpour and scoured clean by the flood. There is more in the storm than the strength, more than the crash of thunder and torrential cascade. There is the divine.
God is in the rain.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
I’d like to share a story from the screen adaptation of North & South, a BBC presentation based on the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell.
In the story, the family has a servant named Dixon who has a bit of an attitude. She’s been with the family so long that she forgets her place and calls it how she sees it. She is fiercely protective of Mrs. Hale, the mother. Margaret Hale (the daughter and Heroine of the story) learns of her mother’s illness and is wounded by the knowledge that Dixon has long known about it and both of them hid it from her. Dixon then relates this story:
“I’ve known for a long time time how ill she is. And, though I don’t pretend to love her as you do, I’ve loved her better than anyone else in the whole world.
“I’ll never forget the first time I saw her. The young Miss Beresford. I broke a needle into my finger, I was so nervous…and she bound my hand with her own handkerchief.
“And then…when she returned from the ball….she remembered to look in on me. She changed the handkerchief for another one. She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen…or seen since.”
During this revelation, Dixon is both teary eyed and solemn but her speech is interspersed with watery smiles. I relate this because it doesn’t have much relevance to the story as a whole (thus making it relatively spoiler-free since that’s what I’m all about) but because to me it had significant relevance for life.
We see a servant, a character we don’t like much and who is sort of obnoxious…and yet, we learn something about her that makes her lovely. This tiny insight into her past defined this woman’s entire life. She forsook family and personal freedom to follow and serve a woman who showed her one moment’s kindness.
Whether you use this principle in your writing or not, I hope you use it in your life. One moment’s kindness truly takes up so little time and yet its effect can be eternal.
All it takes is a moment.
All my best,
Thursday, April 2, 2009
“What I say is that, if a fellow really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.”
Have you ever peeled a potato?
If you have, you may have noticed that under the skin, you’ll find dark blemishes. The otherwise creamy flesh has been speckled by round black spots, like ink splatters that sunk beneath the surface. Sometimes, with a flick of the wrist those little blemishes can be removed with a few thin layers of skin, leaving an edible, ready-to-cook potato.
Now and then, it takes some hearty swipes with your peeler before the blemish is gone. Worse yet, you may have to pull out your paring knife and dig it out. What happens when the blemish becomes a rot and cannot be dispelled with a good stroke or jab of the knife? You can lob off a section of potato and it might do. In a potato-worst-case-scenario, you might lose the entire potato. Bye-bye, Spud. I knew you well.
I was standing over the sink, swiping away at my starchy-love, and found myself thinking of writing. (Yeah. When am I NOT thinking about writing?) Many characters are like potatoes. Some of them have superficial flaws that are done away with by a quick insight into their true selves. Some of them have some deeper, harder to reach pits of darkness. It takes a little work to see past the “rot” to the smooth, unblemished skin of their souls. Some villains are rotten to the core yet even then, there are patches of “clean” skin.
Every character is like this. Just as there are many spots on a potato (good luck finding just one!) there are many different character flaws in the people we write. Clint Johnson said during his class on Conflict & the Mechanism of Story (a great class btw,) “We admire people for their strengths but we love them for their flaws.”
I suggest that when developing our characters, don’t rush to “clean their potatoes” too fast. Understand and examine the depths of their “spots.” Concentrate on the method of removal for those spots. Is it easy? Is it painful for the character? How far is that flaw rotted through and will it need to be cut out? Just as people do, I believe characters have “rot spots” in varying degrees. It’s the discovery and treatment of these blemishes that bring characters to life.
However, unlike fiction, I believe rotten potatoes are rare. There are some. Mostly though, we haven’t peeled away enough layers. Often, we meet someone or think we know a person and see the “rot.” We don’t focus on the rest of the potato. We haven’t plumbed the depths of the rot spot. It might only be a layer deep. It might be deeper than that but rarely is the entire potato rotten.
Just like I can use most of my potatoes, people have more to offer beneath. We’re all spotted and blemished, some of us more than others, but if we take the time to look under the skin we find a pure core, a soul worth loving.
As for me, the next time I come up against a rot spot in someone else’s potato, I’m going to try and remember that they’re not all bad. There’s plenty of tato left for the mashing. Hopefully, someone else will see the same in me. =]
All my best,