You know what happens when you assume, right? (Hint: ass-u-me.)

This is a post about how I made an ass of myself.

And nobody knew about it but me.

So no one would ever have had to know.

Except that I’m putting it on the internet.

Which might make me an even greater ass.

The jury’s probably still out on that one.

I considered drawing a picture of the other type of ass but thought better of it. This isn't that kind of blog. I think.

I considered drawing a picture of the other type of ass but thought better of it. This isn’t that kind of blog. I think.

So, I was driving, right? And I stopped at a light on Memorial Road and May Avenue in north OKC, and there was a man with a sign that read, “HUNGRY — GOD BLESS,” and I was at the front of the line of cars, and I thought, “Great.”

He wants me to give him money.

He’ll probably use it for alcohol.

I don’t want to give someone money for alcohol if they have a drinking problem.

I don’t have cash anyway.

Who carries cash nowadays?

Wait. I do have a couple of dollars.

But that’s my emergency money.

You know. Just in case.

(Of I don’t know what. But at least I have it.)

I’m not giving him my emergency stash.

I don’t have anything to give him.

Oh, look. There’s the guilt.

Because I’m supposed to help the poor.

And what kind of awful person am I, if

A. I automatically assume he’s an alcoholic, and
B. I don’t help someone who needs help?

I suck.

*sigh*

But also, I’m a woman, and I’m by myself.

What if he’s dangerous?

(Not because he’s apparently homeless. Just because he’s male.)

Okay, I really suck.

But I’m still not giving him any money.

Screw it.

That was my train of thought in the second it took for me to pull up at the light and for the man on the corner to make eye contact with me.

Eye contact.

Shiny.

He held his sign higher. And the words “HUNGRY — GOD BLESS” might as well have been divine fire from on high emblazoned across the sky, searing my retinas. But still, my retinas perceived the man, and my mind assessed him. About my age. Longish, dark curly hair. Bright blue eyes. Clean-shaven. (Clean-shaven?) Backpack. Old clothes. Pain.

He held his sign higher, and I held up my hands and mouthed, “I’m sorry.”

He moved on past my car, but not before he said something that I couldn’t hear but that was clearly — clearly — a derogatory response to my choice.

He probably just cursed me out.

He doesn’t know if I’m just refusing to give him what I have, or if I really don’t have anything.

At least he didn’t flip me off.

Dude, I’m sorry, okay?

I need my emergency money.

And then there’s the possible addiction thing.

Oh, God, I suck.

With both hands gripping the steering wheel and my eyes on the red stoplight, I sat there and looked at myself and didn’t like what I saw. The thing is, I’ve done this assessment in the same situation and with the same results countless times. It never changes, because I never come to an answer that makes sense to me.

Memory delivers me my old neighbor, Alex, who would come to my door asking for a couple of Euros to buy bread and cheese and meat so that he and his wife could have something to eat. Never mind that a couple of Euros isn’t enough to buy bread and cheese and meat, but it is enough to buy a beer, and if enough neighbors give him a couple of Euros, he’ll have enough to buy the number of beers it takes for him to get drunk enough (again) to beat his wife instead of fixing her a sandwich.

The specter of Alex and his wife haunts me at the traffic lights and the street corners and the mouths of alleys where men in disheveled clothing ask me for money and use God as their letter of reference. I do not know what to do with these men. I cannot know their hearts, and I cannot know the source of their pain.

I look into the bright blue eyes of the man at Memorial & May, and I don’t know what I can do for him that will allow both of us to leave this corner with guilt-free, satisfied smiles on our faces.

I’m thinking all of this as the man moves on past my car and I grip the steering wheel in miserable indecision and I look down and see a Walmart Great Value brand granola bar in the car’s center console.

I grabbed the granola bar and punched the window button, and I swear I leaned halfway out of that window, waving that white-wrapped granola bar like a white flag of surrender, with the Goodness of the universe as the enemy who opposes my bitter self.

“Sir?” I screeched out the window. “Sir! Hello!”

He was three cars back, but he came running. I prayed that the light wouldn’t change and that the drivers behind me wouldn’t be too irate, because I wasn’t rolling up that window or letting go of that granola bar until I could place it in that blue-eyed man’s tan, possibly grimy, but also possibly clean, and who cares about their condition anyway? hands.

When he reached me, he was saying something about not being able to run. I met his eyes and said, “I found this.” And I offered him the granola bar, and he took it, and he asked, “Did you hear what I said?”

I swallowed. Hard. “No, I didn’t.”

He smiled. He was already turning away, moving back down the line of cars. But he locked eyes with me one more time.

“I said, ‘I love your hair.’ God bless!”

I swallowed again, harder this time. “You, too.” It was all I could manage.

And then he was gone, and the light turned green, and I drove away and thanked God that I don’t have to be a slave to my assumptions. I don’t have to be an ass. If I’m an ass, it’s by my own choice. And I always get another chance.

Sometimes, that chance is delivered via a blue-eyed homeless man who loves my hair. We both left the corner of Memorial & May with smiles on our faces, and that’s how this story can always end.

Depression and Creativity

The Depression Part

I’ve felt depressed lately.

Sad. Lethargic. Numb. Angry. Frustrated. Disinterested. Dark view of life. No hope. Blech.

I’ve blogged about depression before. And I’ve blogged about one of the main triggers of depression for me: not exercising my creativity.

When I realized that I was depressed, I said to several people who love me, “Hey, I’m depressed.” NOTE: Telling loving people that you’re depressed is helpful in starting the process of getting out of the depression.

Those several people who love me replied, “Hey, we’re not thrilled about this. Do you know why you’re depressed and/or how we can help?”

This was an excellent response for two reasons.

One, it let me know I’m not alone in this.

Two, it helped me figure out how to handle this.

You see, I had to answer them as follows: “There’s nothing that you can do, really. I have a baby whom I love dearly and deeply. I don’t resent her or begrudge her the time I spend with her. But the fact remains that when I’m taking care of her, I’m not writing. And when I do have time to write, I’m so exhausted that I fall asleep at the computer. There’s nothing anyone can do, really, to ‘fix’ this situation (which isn’t actually broken).

“However, having this conversation with you makes me focus on ways I can exercise my creativity in writing without sacrificing my daughter’s needs. So thank you for talking with me about this. That helped.”

The Creative Part, Pt. 1

And then I went and wrote a blog post, and I felt better. And then I invented a recipe for almond chicken, and while cooking doesn’t do a lot for me, it’s still a creative task, so I felt better after completing that, too. And then I reorganized two rooms and a closet, and the exercise in creativity required for that gargantuan task was a humdinger of a creative exercise, lemme tell ya. And then I made up a song about giraffes for my daughter and videoed myself singing it. After that, I was practically glowing.

So. I’ve felt depressed lately. But I’m on my way back up.

I still feel a ton of frustration that I nod off every time I sit down to continue my WIP (Elevator People). But at least I’m doing little creative things here and there. I think I just needed a reminder not to neglect that part of myself — and not to let exhaustion fool me into thinking I don’t have time for that part of myself.

After all…crippled, demented, or crushed: still, I will create.

The Creative Part, Pt. 2

And then, my friend J.T. posted the following on his Facebook status, and I thought it was utterly brilliant:

“Art is not about talent or skill. Art is about you. Spending time with you, getting to know you. Seeing parts of yourself that you love, some that you hate, but mostly parts that scare the very breath from your lungs. Art is not about technique or style. Art is learning who you are, and being brave enough to show the world. You can’t be bad at art, unless you are simply afraid to try. Art is a terrifying pursuit, because there is nothing more frightening than our own selves.”

~J.T. Hackett, artist

I’ll be blogging about J.T.’s ideas more in the near future. But for now, here’s how I’m relating his words to my depression:

I need to know who I am.

When I don’t know who I am, I get depressed.

When I am not creating, I am not spending time with me, not getting to know me.

When I am not creating, I am not seeing myself fully.

When I am not creating, I forget who I am.

When I forget who I am, I get depressed.

I could flesh this out a bit more, but I think it suffices for my current purposes. More than ever, I see the truth in my belief that I am created to create. To dig more deeply: I am created to get to know exactly who I am. If I am not doing art, I am not getting to know who I am.

If I am not doing art, I am neglecting a main purpose for which I was created.

No wonder that sets me adrift.

I am finding my anchor again.

Cures from the Past

"Castle in Her Coils" by Courtney Cantrell

“Castle in Her Coils” by Courtney Cantrell

"No More Room in Hell" by Courtney Cantrell

“No More Room in Hell” by Courtney Cantrell

"Sea Creature" by Courtney Cantrell

“Sea Creature” by Courtney Cantrell

"Redemption" by Courtney Cantrell

“Redemption” by Courtney Cantrell

Vampires and Batman

Me: Hey, what’re you thinking about?

Ed: Nothin’. I dozed off. What are you thinking about?

Me: Nothing. I dozed off, too.

Ed: …

Me (excitedly): And I dreamed about this girl who was wandering around naked at a party and getting attacked by vampires.

Ed: *sigh* That’s weird.

Me: Are you surprised?

Ed: No.

Me: Why not?

Ed: It’s what you do.

Me: Why is that what I do?

Ed: I don’t know. I don’t know why you do these things.

Me: It’s because I’m Batman.

vampirebatman

Video: The One Where I Sing a Song About Giraffes

Hile, lovely inklings!

Below, please find a video. In this video, please find Yours Writerly (i.e. me) singing a song that she (i.e. I) made up.

O_o

I was trying to get the child to eat her supper, and this song is just what happened. The husband says that my chord progression is logical and I used sequences.

Also, there are giraffes.

Enjoy.

Childhood Memory: Galaxy Express 999

Sometime during the last six months, I read a post about childhood memories on someone’s blog, somewhere out there in the blogosphere. I don’t remember the details. All I remember is that the blogger described revisiting a favorite something from childhood and being pleasantly surprised that reality lived up to the memory. The post inspired me to leave the following comment, which I preserved for blogging here:

Galaxy Express 999

My memory is an animated movie about a boy traveling through space on a locomotive. He’s trying to get to a planet where they give humans cyborg bodies. On the way, he has lots of adventures, including a run-in with something called a “Medusa Cloud.” I must’ve been 8 or 9 when I saw the movie, and it has always stuck with me in magical bits and pieces. I’m afraid that if I tried to watch it again nearly 30 years later, the magic would disappear.

I should perhaps add that I’ve been in love with my memory of this movie ever since I saw it. In the Medusa Cloud scene, the boy meets a young man who’s defending the statue of a girl against thieves. Turns out that the Medusa Cloud passes through the skies of planets and turns all the inhabitants to stone. The thieves come to this particular planet and steal the petrified forms of people in order to sell them to collectors. The young man who’s fighting them is actually protecting the petrified form of his wife.

That’s how I remember it, anyway. I remember thinking it was beautifully tragic and romantic. It probably played a great role in forming my personal concept of romance and is likely the reason I’m a sucker for good ol’ “Boy Rescues Girl” romantic drivel. ; )

galaxyexpress999I’ve never seen the movie again, and I’m not sure I ever want to see it again. I’m just afraid that viewing it with adult (and, let’s admit it, somewhat jaded) eyes would shatter the beauty, the romance, the thrill. The magic. I don’t want to lose the magic. Magic is hard enough to hold on to as it is; it doesn’t need me to go digging up the past so as to examine it in critical detail.

Yes, part of me is Peter Pan and always will be. : )

Do you remember Galaxy Express 999?

What’s a favorite childhood memory you’re reluctant to revisit in case it got ruined?

#Amwriting Your First Draft: The Editwock Will Steal Your Soul

NOTE: I wrote a version of the following post for JuNoWriMo 2013. Becca Campbell, one of the founders of JuNoWriMo, was kind enough to ask me to write a Pep Talk for this year’s event. I was only too happy to oblige. What follows is a version of that Pep Talk, altered to suit the needs not only of WriMos, but of first-draft novel-writers everywhere. Enjoy!

Greetings, O Ye Warriors of the Mighty Pen!

Word documents. Word wars. Word mongering. Wordiness. WORD COUNTS!

If you’ve committed yourself to writing a novel (which is not unlike committing yourself, period), then you’ve committed to hammering out that first draft no matter what it takes. Some of you have done this before, some of you are doing this for the first time. But whether you’re an oldtimer or a newbie, you know that words are key to succeeding in this crazed endeavor we call noveling.

This could be an Editwock.

This could be an Editwock.

Well, duh. It’s kind of hard to write a novel without using words. I suppose you could try using music notes instead, but you’d probably end up with some kind of post-postmodern, Wagner-derivative opera suffering from an existential crisis, and I don’t think any of us want to hear that. And writing your novel using Morse code might be tedious. So, words it is.

But the thing about words is…they’re tricksy. They flit like pixies across your page or screen, all innocent-like with their serifs and curlicues…and then they just squat there. Brooding. Staring back at you from your work-in-progress and making you care about them. Making you want to change them. Daring you to change them.

If you change one, you’ll want to change others. You won’t be able to help it; editing when you’re not an editor is some kind of weird addiction. Once you start, you can’t stop. AND THE WORDS KNOW THIS, PEOPLE.

One minute, you’re writing merrily along, something about Our Heroine rescuing the doomed prophecy puppies and drinking the magic elixir in the nick of time. Next minute, you start editing, and before you know it, your Plot Point #3 has turned into Carrot Magnetic Demolition Force 7 and there’s really no turning back after that.

What I’m getting at here, y’all, is that while you’re first-draft-ing, you must avoid editing. The words will tempt you to edit. They will lift their lovely faces to the morning sun, open their lovely mouths, and give voice to lovely siren calls of editing bliss. Do not listen to them! “Beware the Editwock, my son! The affixes that bite, the compounds that catch!”

*ahem* Sorry. Slight Carrollian digression there. But you get the point. First drafts and editing don’t mix. If you let yourself edit, you’ll slow yourself down. Those chapters won’t write themselves, y’know. You gotta put in your butt-to-chair time, and if you take that time for editing instead of writing, you’re going to be hard-pressed to slog through the Middle-of-Story Blues or have the energy for the Finish Line Sprint.

Your best friend, dear writer, is the admonition emblazoned upon the JuNoWriMo homepage:

JUST WRITE.

Don’t worry about the “mistakes” (better known as “happy little accidents,” right?). Don’t worry about the typos, the synonyms, the passive voice, the dangling participles. After you’ve used the last of your strength to type “The End,” you can give in to the sweet seduction and edit all you like. But for now, resist. Don’t worry, and just write.

You have a novel to finish. And the great news is, you can finish it and you will finish it. You’re sacrificing sleep to get there. You’re sacrificing time with friends and family. You’re sacrificing the calm that comes from not over-caffeinating 24/7.

And yes, you’re sacrificing the luxury of poring over your own every word and tweaking each word to perfection.

But all this sacrifice is worth it. In the end, you’ll have a first draft in your hands — and editing it will be glorious. So just write, hon. That’s your only job right now, and you can do it.

Now stop reading this and get back to it. : )

__________________________
Other JuNoWriMo Pep Talks by Nina Post (contemporary fiction), Hugh Howey (WOOL series), and Rayne Hall (dark fantasy fiction).

Living in the Future, Singing in the Darkness

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about perception, perspective, stagnation of both, and changes in each. One image my thoughts return to is this:

“The Olympus Mons mountain on Mars is so tall and yet so gently sloped that, were you suited and supplied correctly, ascending it would allow you to walk most of the way to space. Mars has a big, puffy atmosphere, taller than ours, but there’s barely anything to it at that level. 30 Pascals of pressure, which is what we get in an industrial vacuum furnace here on Earth. You may as well be in space. Imagine that. Imagine a world where you could quite literally walk to space.”

–Warren Ellis,
How To See the Future

Walk into space. The closest I can get to imagining this is the descriptions of “the Wall” in Robert Silverberg’s Kingdoms of the Wall (a fantasy/sci-fi I highly recommend). And even those wouldn’t come close to what I’m sure must be the awesome reality of Mars’s Olympus Mons.

Unfortunately, as Ellis goes on to say, “manufactured normalcy would suggest that, if we were the Martians, we would find this completely dull within ten years and bitch about not being able to simply fart our way into space.”

There’s a lot of cynicism and snarkiness floating around nowadays. I can’t tell if it’s more intense than it used to be, or if we’re just more aware of it because we can dip into the negativity of a fellow human on the other side of the planet within 5 seconds of their posting their vitriolic rant on their blog. Ah well, at least it’s not a GeoCities page.

But with pessimism and sarcasm just a mouseclick away, I feel as though the negativity is ubiquitous. And it’s addictive. Sunshine unicorns glitter rainbows kittens cotton candy might be just as readily available for consumption as doom and gloom, but we humans tend to down the doom long before we reach for the rainbows.

I’ve written about this before, delving in to the creepy origins of the word “sarcasm.” So I won’t repeat myself here, not about that. But I’m still thinking all of those same thoughts about negativity and cynicism, and I’m thinking specifically of how they affect our perspective on the incredible world we live in today with all its amazing advances and advantages.

Just yesterday, I was reading an article on how women and men all over the world are using the internet and social media to fight back against rape culture. It’s tempting to gnash one’s teeth over the fact that rape culture ever existed and still exists. But instead of gnashing over that, what if we rejoiced at the brilliant and powerful ways in which right-minded people are combating it? If we didn’t live in such fabulous times, all of those beautiful, ringing, truth-filled voices would be silent and silenced.

In his article, Ellis points out a dozen? dozens of? advances in science and technology that most of us tend to take for granted and find boring — even though these things were beyond imagination not many years ago. Not many years ago, these things would’ve been considered “magic.” Not many years ago, the “magic” of uniting voices worldwide for a single would’ve been impossible.

Let’s open our eyes, is what I’m getting at. Let’s open our eyes and our hearts to see all the beauty and the brilliance and the boldness that awaken hope. It’s there for the seeing, and it’s there for the claiming if we want it.

My daughter is almost 9 months old. Sometimes, when we’re out somewhere, I catch her examining her feet. Her eyes are huge, and her mouth is wide open, and she gives me this look as if to say, “Mama! These feet aren’t just at home. These feet are HERE, too! Aren’t they amazing?!”

Yes, my love, they are amazing. And I am amazed to see the world with fresh, unjaded, untainted eyes, through you.

Dream. Think. Do. Marvel like a child at the intricacy and the mind-blowing beauty of this place we live in. And let your heart sing through every darkness. Other hearts will answer.

soapbubble

yellow flower

BringItClose

In the Zombie Apocalypse, I Won’t Be Wearing Makeup

Me: Hey, see those truck trailers on that train?

Ed: Yes.

Me: How would I break into one of those?

Ed: You wouldn’t. They’re loaded so close together that the doors won’t open. Besides, see that giant metal bar across the back?

Me: Yes, but I have to break into one. How would I do that?

Ed: You could try cutting through the side with tin snips. Or a blowtorch.

In the zombie apocalypse, this will be a blowtorch and I won't be wearing makeup.

In the zombie apocalypse, this will be a blowtorch and I won’t be wearing makeup.

[Notice he doesn’t even question the “I have to” part.]

Me: Where would I find tin snips?

Ed: At the hardware store.

Me: Where would I find a blowtorch?

Ed: Same place.

Me: Where would I find the butane to run the blowtorch?

Ed: Not butane. Oxygen-acetylene. In tanks. And probably at a specialty store. Or ask the hardware store people where to get it.

Me: There aren’t any people to ask.

Ed: Then you’re outta luck.

Me: But I have to break into the truck trailer. So I need the blowtorch and the fuel.

Ed: …

Me: I also need a wagon to haul the tanks.

Ed: …

Me: Wanna know why I’m asking?

Ed: …

Me: After the apocalypse, I need to scavenge whatever is in those trailers.

Ed: *sigh* I was afraid of this.

Me: If it’s a zombie apocalypse, I’m going to have to work quickly. So I’ll need that blowtorch.

Ed: Those particular trailers don’t have food in them.

Me: That’s okay, I’m not looking for food. I’m looking for weapons or goods to barter.

Ed: Or you could try a reefer.

Me: Honey. There are zombies. I’m not gonna just sit there and smoke a joint so they can walk up and tear my guts out.

Ed: *sigh* Reefer as in, refrigerated truck. It would have food in it.

Me: How long would it keep?

Ed: Maybe a few days.

Me: No, no, this is months and months after the apocalypse. I’ve already established my base of operations. It’s time to start going after the big stuff.

Ed: Then don’t try a reefer. You’ll just end up with a ton of rotted food.

Me: You know I’m going to blog this, right?

Ed: Yes. *sigh*

I am the Samson of the Sock World

So, the husband got himself a bad ankle sprain at work last Thursday. Two nights later, after he was already half-asleep, I crawled into bed and kicked his sore ankle.

Ed (muted whisper so as not to wake the baby): OW!

Me (muted whisper so as not to wake the baby): Oh no! I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to!

Ed (still whispering): It’s okay.

Me (still whispering): I’m really sorry. I’m wearing socks, so I don’t know my own strength.

Ed (whispering): What are you, the Samson of the Sock World?

(Imagine we whisper the rest of the conversation, because I’m already tired of typing the word “whisper.”)

Me: Yes. Yes, I am the Samson of the Sock World.

Ed: So, if we shave your head, you’ll lose your ankle-kicking sock-powers?

Me: You’ve uncovered my secret. Shave my head, and I’m just like any other mortal.

Ed (whisper-singing a parody of the spiritual “Witness”**): Shave your head with a Bic in my hand and your strength will come like a natural…woman?

Me (whisper-singing): ‘Cause you make me feel, you make me feel, you make me feel like a natural woman!

Ed: Stop that, you’re gonna wake the baby.

Me: You’re the one who started singing.

Ed: Only because you kicked me!

Me: I can’t help it! It was the socks!

Ed: I’m going to sleep now.

Me: If you come at me with a Bic, I’m going to scream.

Later….

Ed: *snoorrrre*

Me: Stop snoring! *kick*

____________

“Witness”, relevant lines at 1:37 – 1:48.

Schadenfreude Unicorns and Dropping Acid

So, when you’re a writer, you get together with other writers.

When you get together with other writers, you talk about writerly things together.

When you talk about writerly things together, someone mentions the genre “dystopian.”

When someone mentions the genre “dystopian,” conversation concerning the various types of dystopia ensues.

When conversation concerning the various types of dystopia ensues, “dystopian fantasy” comes up.

When “dystopian fantasy” comes up, the consensus is that it should contain unicorns who are happy about everyone’s sadness.

When the consensus is that “dystopian fantasy” should contain unicorns who are happy about everyone’s sadness, you say, “They would be Schadenfreude unicorns.”

When you say, “They would be Schadenfreude unicorns,” the whole tribe of writers starts plotting a novel entitled The Unicorns of Schadenfreude.

When the whole tribe of writers starts plotting a novel entitled The Unicorns of Schadenfreude, the protagonist of the novel is a little girl who brings pain and misery to her world so that the Schadenfreude unicorns will come back to it.

When the protagonist of the novel is a little girl who brings pain and misery to her world so that the Schadenfreude unicorns will come back to it, the novel ends with the little girl ripping open a portal and the Schadenfreude unicorns prancing happily through the portal into a world filled with death and destruction.

When the novel ends with the little girl ripping open a portal and the Schadenfreude unicorns prancing happily through the portal into a world filled with death and destruction, the writers decide that they could only write The Unicorns of Schadenfreude if they were on acid.

When the writers decide that they could only write The Unicorns of Schadenfreude if they were on acid, you realize it’s time for a blog post.

NOW I NEED ONE OF YOU TO DRAW A PICTURE OF A SCHADENFREUDE UNICORN.

GO.