Category Archives: Literature

ISBN: 978-0-9571859-9-9

winter/windows by Shana Youngdahl & MIEL press

winter/windows by Shana Youngdahl & MIEL press

I always make fun of poets. First of all it’s easy. How dare those sentimental bastards walk around this world making us think about really deep stuff? Like this chick, Shana Youngdahl  and her chapbook winter/windows published by MIEL press.

Maybe I shouldn’t joke about poets because so very many of them know where I live. Sometimes I imagine them sneaking around my house in spy regalia, peering into windows, waiting like cats for the perfect moment to strike…

That’s when I know it’s time to get going on a new short story wherein I make fun of poets. I guess you could say my personal brand of humor always stems from a place of respect. They can say in less than ten words what it takes me to say in 140,000. They capture the smallest of moments that pierce your heart the way a photograph or song or painting can. Instantly.

Sometimes when I think of writers, I think of the stages we go through. First being that overly sentimental, overly wrought, angst driven, stage one where everything we write is heartfelt and dear. Second stage: experimentation. We get caught in the craft, the tinkering, upping the pen with new techniques and tricks. We cut and edit over half or more of the hard, close to our heart sentences and try to leave readers with a ghost of what we felt, so that it may haunt them as it haunts us. Third stage: releasing work into the wild. Here is where the heart and earnestness has a danger of getting edited out altogether, driven by a market that perhaps wants a faster paced novel or scandalous scenes or something more trendy and salable. If writers aren’t careful they can lose sight of their young unknowing self in this stage, that place where passion and need drove the work. Paying bills is not the same as emptying a heart.

In winter/windows, SY finds a perfect blend of each stage of the writer, paying homage to the beginning writer, balanced with technique, and getting it into a beautiful package by MIEL publishing.

As SY writes it best in an excerpt from the poem windows:

 

…..Please,

when you pass through the glass

 

and into the darkness beyond my sight

don’t forget the thumbprints

you left on me.”

 

Who wouldn’t be jealous of lines like that? She deserves to be made fun of in at least twelve stories. And it made it into the salable world, not by being compromised, but by being made even more beautiful in a limited edition hand-made book and a sweet talking editor at AWP.

I’m a fan of small presses because rarely do they change an artist’s vision. It seems like these houses always try their hardest to rally behind your work with as much love and enthusiasm as you had for it when it was a first draft. MIEL’s mission statement is a testament to this, “to publish difficult, interesting, intelligent, deeply felt work by writers and artists, with a focus on work by women.”

Can I get a hell yeah?

This book, and those damn poets in general, got me to thinking about the small things, the overlooked things. I’m in the nesting phase of pregnancy, already past my due date, scrambling around the house organizing cabinets, writing thank yous for all the love and support of friends and family, finishing the touches on the nursery, picking out going home outfits, and preparing ‘en general.’

Part of the preparations includes thinking about adult matters. Unfun matters none of us like to think of: healthcare, insurance, and wills.

First on my docket, was updating my Health Care Directive (HCD) should anything happen to me.

Everyone ought to have a HCD. They spare family members and friends from having to make those hard moral and ethical decisions in a time where all anyone wants is for you to get back to normal. Stress runs high in these critical times; it’s guaranteed the people in your life may not agree with decisions made upon your behalf.

During my first reality juncture, Husband had to fight extremely hard to convince doctors of a medication regimen that I would approve of if I were of a sound mind. He also had to face relatives that wanted notification of my condition sooner, but due to stigmas surrounding the topic, chose to wait for me to make that decision when I was of sound mind. He came through like a champ, thinking and acting exactly as I would have, and still took the sound advice of friends on when to admit I needed to go to the ER.

All of this was done on the fly, without my wishes in writing, and I thought, it’s bad enough for my family to go through reality junctures, why not take away as much of the problem as I can when I’m “sane.”

Even if you aren’t mentally ill, a HCD is a good idea. It covers the basics: when to pull the plug, how you’d want surgeries to go down if you were clean out of it. Anyone can get into a car wreck. Anyone can find themselves with cancer.

This is a link to the Minnesota Advanced Psychiatric Directive And Health Care Directive.

I recommend filling one out and updating it periodically. These legal documents are different depending on where you live. If you aren’t a Minnesota resident, a simple Google search (Advance Psychiatric Care Directive + residential state) can turn up the right form for you. In Minnesota, law requires that you + 2 witnesses sign the document. If you have the money, contacting a lawyer is an option to get it official and all legal like.

Maybe I’m an overachiever when it comes to this stuff, but I also like this form  (download from top left hand corner of page) by Mary Ellen Copland.

I don’t intend on this form being legal – I like it because it offers me the chance to task my personal support group (friends and family) with the little things, “can someone bring me a puzzle with kittens playing with string with jumbo sized pieces when I’m in recovery and can barely read or comprehend a sentence?” Or more importantly, signs to look for that can help me avoid getting into a crisis to begin with.

I E-mailed my support group the forms and then directed them to where I keep legal copies. As a writer, I made them as funny as possible, because well, they’re not fun to read. It’s important to me to give my supporters hope and remind them that I won’t always believe radio-active monkeys are coming to get me in my sleep.

Throughout the process, I kept thinking about how fortunate I am to have such a large support group. This is not always the case for those dealing with mental health issues. I kept thinking of someone like my mom, who has a kind partner to take care of her, but if she were on her own, she’d likely not have a huge group of friends or coworkers because she is on disability.

What if you’re a bit of a shut in? What if you’ve had a falling out with family or never had much family to begin with? What then?

Your doctor’s office may keep these forms for you on file. If you don’t have a regular doctor or are in-between doctors, (sometimes it happens) hopefully you’re still getting the medication you need. If you have a relationship with your pharmacist, it’s worth asking if they can keep it on hand for you. Be considerate to the person you’re asking to hold the form. Community pharmacists are busy – they’re the only health care professional you can see without an appointment. I think people often forget they hold a doctorate degree. Try to stop by during a non-rush hour time. Have a landlord? Tell them where you keep the document, should crisis arise. They likely go into your apartment for repairs from time to time. Maybe they wouldn’t mind retrieving the forms for you should you need them.

Perhaps part of your crisis plan is to stop in at your local police station to ask them to note somewhere in your file that you have a mental illness. I don’t know if they’d be interested in holding your form unless maybe you have a criminal record and you kindly explain you’re trying to get your life together. Letting them have the heads up on your situation if, unfortunately, they’re called to your residence, is a good thing. Mental illness symptoms can often be mistaken for substance abuse symptoms, and more and more officers are being trained to know how to respond to a mental health call. Perhaps they’d dispatch an officer with more experience for the situation.

All of these things are suggestions. It’s important to keep in mind that community members are busy, busy folk. Restrictions might keep them from holding records or making notes due to bizarre policies in your area. Don’t get discouraged. The point is you are in control of your health care, and more often than not, people want to help you with that.

Writing the HCD got me thinking about what would happen to my creative work should I happen to expire. It’s a realistic thought, seeing how depression can be a fatal disease and the world, heck your body, is full of ways to end you.

No one wants to think this stuff. No one except, Neil Gaiman. He posted a compelling article on his blog why a writer or any creative type may want to have a will made with special attentions going to their work. This article is found here.

And the downloadable sample will here .

I don’t have hundreds of books (yet), but what I did create is important to me. I want it taken care of properly when I’m gone. This way there’ll be no squabbling over who gets to sell the rights to my epic life movie! (We all know I’ll be famous someday…)

Okay, okay. Enough with all this Debbie Downer adult business. Now on to something more uplifting: I finally have an ISBN to call my own.

That’s right.

I published with Red Bird Chapbooks.

It’s titled, Tree In Winter, and was a visual collaboration with an amazing painter and friend of mine, Susan Solomon. One fine summer afternoon, she and I had lunch and the topic of her painting some of my stories came up. I love her work, so it was a no brainer to collaborate with her. She suggested Red Bird Chapbooks as a possible home for the book and knowing their objective: “to showcase the art and writing of as many people as possible,” I was down. I took a month and pounded out a story for her with Red Bird in mind. Soon into the first draft, it became clear to me that the story was more than just another story: it was a gift.

All proceeds go to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Purchased the book here.

Even if you don’t want to buy my super-amazing-most-fantastic-creation made for a worthy cause, spin around their website. There’s plenty of other super-amazing-most-fantastic writers on there. Plus, they sell pretty broadsides and pamphlets by more sentimental bastards.

So, like any good bird, I’m off to do more nesting. The next time I’m back I’ll have hatched a mechanical human of my own.

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Filed under Bipolar Disorder, Books, Life, Literature, Mental Disorders, Non Fiction, Parenting, Poetry, pregnancy, Writing

PART IV OF V ISBN: 0-7611-2132-3

What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg & Sandee Hathaway

What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg & Sandee Hathaway

THE PREGNANCY DIET

 

Oddly enough my world tends to revolve around food in pregnancy. I wouldn’t say I went on a diet when I first found out about the fetus, but I did make a conscious effort to eliminate sugar and fast food if I could help it. Getting the correct servings of vegetables and fruit when possible became important to me, and I stopped skipping meals. My mom shipped me a Nutri-Bullet juicer for Christmas. Although I think kitchen gadgets are total crap, I love this one. I use it every day.

One of the first questions people ask me is, do you have any cravings?

Oranges. Couldn’t get enough of them. Orange juice. Tangerines. I swear I could eat a whole box of Cuties in one sitting. One time I really wanted a Little Debbie Cosmic Brownie, but I attribute that to me just wanting a brownie because it was nothing like the oranges fiasco. And water. I couldn’t hold it down. Unless it was from a bottle or filtered, I gagged on it. Solution? Add limes and lemons and oranges. Voilà. Two birds one stone. These days I’m guzzling lemonade.

I don’t take well to being told no, and the dietary restrictions that came with pregnancy were no exception. First, you’re not supposed to eat any unpasteurized products, soft cheeses, hot dogs, or lunch meat as they are all known to possibly carry Listeria, a bacteria that can cause premature birth and illness in fetuses. I wanted to know more about the risks of getting Listeria so I did a little Google research. Yes, that’s right, Google research, so take the following few paragraphs, as you will.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, about 1,700 people contract Listeria annually. Of these, 260 cases are fatal, and pregnant woman are 20 times more likely to contract it than a healthy adult. America’s population is 318.9 million. So, the average Joe has a 17 in 3,189,000 chance of getting Listeria. Twenty times that is what, 340 in 3,189, 000? I’m not good at math. I write for a living.

According to the National Safety Council*, 1 out of 112  people will die of a car accident annually. Why don’t doctors advise pregnant women not to drive in cars?

Before people jump down my throat about my logic, the American Pregnancy Association also says that 17% of pregnant women contract Listeria. I’ve never, ever heard of someone getting it, so to me, that number seems inflated. But what would I know? It’s avoidable, why risk it?

Then I found out Listeria contamination also occurred in caramel apples, cantaloupe, etcetera. Really? Apples and cantaloupe? Should I avoid them, too?

Ooooohhhhhh scandal. I occasionally eat blue cheese on a salad and don’t beat myself up over it. I don’t drink caffeine and avoid artificial sweeteners. I still eat sushi—in moderation. Only recently I should avoid herbal teas. And I was like seriously? Seriously? What can a pregnant woman eat???

More recently I wanted steak. When I get steak, I order it black and blue. Or as a friend once said, “so rare that a good veterinarian could bring it back to life.” Since steak is not a thing I regularly eat, I compromised: medium-rare.

Over Christmas Husband’s family made homemade ice cream, which included one or two raw eggs.

HUSBAND’S FAMILY: (Holding the bowl particularly close to my face…) Oh, this has raw eggs. You probably shouldn’t eat it…

ME: The HELL I shouldn’t. What’s in there?? Like two eggs split up in three gallons? GIVE ME SECONDS.

RANDOM MEMBER OF HUSBAND’S FAMILY DURING ANOTHER EATING ENCOUNTER WHEN I MENTIONED I STILL EAT SUSHI: (Pained disapproving look) I guess this stuff is easier to give up when you’re excited about the pregnancy.

ME: (In my head: This is why I set boundaries.)

But people don’t always respect boundaries, which is what I found out the hard way when I went back to Chicago earlier this month. Before going out for dinner on one of the first nights, I texted a friend and asked her to take down a Facebook post that referred to my pregnancy. I also asked her not to bring the pregnancy up at dinner. The response?

EMOTIONLESS TEXT MESSAGE: I took it down, but I just don’t understand why someone who sends out baby announcements doesn’t want to talk about pregnancy.

MY EMOTIONLESS TEXT MESSAGE: Thank you for being a kind and understanding friend.

Well, in short, I didn’t want to talk about itchy nipples over mahimahi. And another, very understanding, pregnant friend happened to come to dinner that night, too. Making the meal a little awkward, because I knew she absolutely would have loved to talk about her pregnancy. While I didn’t want to begrudge her that, I still wasn’t ready to cry over my asparagus. I paid a two-dollar up charge for it.

I was starting to feel like a giant Russian nesting doll, like any minute I’d be unscrewed and this small version of me would come out. It would have been nice to talk about that, but I genuinely wanted to hear about my friends’ vacations and love stories and horoscopes. I wanted to be me. Happy.

Tongues were clicking behind my back. Some friends were genuinely concerned: What will we talk to her about?

This is what I’m talking about. Once you’re pregnant, you ARE pregnant. Everything else in your life is null. What can we talk about? Maybe that long saga I’ve been working on for five years and just started editing? The agents I’m researching? The books I’m reading? The concerts I’ve been to? The movies I’ve seen? The upcoming publication of a chapbook I’m working on? Hell I’ve got three cats…time travel?

It’s like people haven’t known me for the last twenty years.

Did my Sassy-Chain-Smoking-Polish-Best-Friend understand it any better?

SCSPBF: What do you expect from people? This is a joyous occasion in the lives of normal people. They want to talk about it. Just like you have feelings that you want people to respect you need to respect theirs. And you can’t be mad at them for feeling the way they feel. By not giving people any explanation of what is going on, you’re expecting way too much of them.

It wasn’t like I didn’t know boundary setting was hard. Telling someone, “No,” is extremely difficult. I realized this from the great Nutty Bar encounter of Christmas 2014, when I saw a four-year old have a wicked melt down over being told they couldn’t have the chocolate covered peanut butter deliciousness. Punches were thrown. Nap time ensued only to be fought against by a little one running out the bedroom and screaming. I mean talk about birth control. Was this what I was in for?

My New Age aunts sure as hell weren’t going to respect boundaries. No, they were going to talk about their pregnancies over lunch and tell me how there was a life growing inside of me that needed nurturing and love. Because I had never thought of that. Oh my God! You are so right! This is the very first time I even considered that I ought to love this fetus!!

Again. The voice of depression. When you set boundaries, you’ll find that you have to firmly and continually keep setting them. You have to interrupt people and get real blunt, “I said I don’t want to talk about this.” You have to have the courage to get up, to walk out, and be willing for that relationship to end, if you are that bound to the new boundary you are setting. For me? I didn’t remind the aunts of my boundaries. I just ignored it, ate cookies, and tried nervously not to look at the security camera of the restaurant. They’re recording me.

In the past, I’ve been railroaded by a lack of boundaries. I did what maybe seventy percent of the population does: I lied. If I got pushed into talking about something I didn’t want to answer, I made something up. On bad days, I’d give in and tell the truth and then end up feeling bad, like I had shared too much or left myself too vulnerable to people who didn’t respect that vulnerability.

SCSBF had a point. I was burning my friends out. I knew my frequent texts and phone calls about depression and suicide over the last two months had been hard on them. My hormones were out of control, and I wasn’t doing anything productive about it, like getting in to see my psychologist. My friends deserved to know where I was coming from. But I didn’t even know where I was coming from. They were distancing themselves. Not sharing as much about their lives as they used to. They shielded me from their problems.

The conversation with SCSBF did not end there. She had a lot more to say about the subject, particularly when I brought up the idea of having a baby shower. Just as when you’re insane and have to do things others tell you to do because that’s what it means to live in their reality, like taking multivitamins or going for ultrasounds, I desperately felt like I had to do everything I could to be normal.

What she had to say got really hard to listen to. It was stuff that I particularly wanted to avoid when I was working on happiness, the stuff that I had already destroyed myself thinking about. But it was I who brought up the topic of boundaries and baby showers.

SCSBF: Did you or did you not let him impregnate you?

ME: Yeah, I went off of birth control, but it wasn’t planned. There was supposed to be more time. I didn’t think…

SCSBF: You’re acting like a victim. This was your choice. Your child does not have a choice in the matter.

ME: (crying) You seem to treat our other friend and her pregnancy so much differently. You seem to understand and not judge her or her choices.

SCSBF: Because she sucked it up. She didn’t complain about it or feel sorry for herself. Do you think she wanted to be pregnant at that moment in her life? She was just dumped, living at home, and jobless. But she committed to her choice and didn’t turn back. She loves her child. People don’t have sympathy for those who don’t.

ME: (crying) I don’t want sympathy. I just don’t know what I want to do.

SCSBF: It’s exhausting. You won’t do anything. You’ll just stay where you are with the life you have and not leave your Husband and keep the child. In the meantime, you’ll choose to stay miserable instead of appreciate the good things you have in life.

ME: (crying, as if none of this hasn’t occurred to me, as if I hadn’t already labeled myself a feminist’s nightmare.)

SCSBF: One minute you’re sending out baby announcements and talking about a baby shower and the next wondering if you’ll keep it. I can’t just stand by and watch you pretend to want this or go through the motions. A baby shower is a celebration. You shouldn’t have one. I just think someone needs to tell you this. I love you, but I can’t talk about this anymore.

ME: Okay.

Even though I had so much more to say and ask, the ended conversation there. I respected her boundary. I understood where she was coming from. What I felt, but couldn’t say, was that even if I decided not to keep the child, I still felt it had the right to a stroller or a pack of onesies. It deserved that page in its baby book. And just because it was clear to her what my life choices were going to be, didn’t mean it was easy or clear to me.

When you watch a horror movie unfold and the protagonist goes into the room where the killer is lurking, instead of say, calling the cops or fleeing, you instinctively shout at the screen, “NO BITCH DON’T DO IT.” But always, always, you have more information and insight and distance with the scenario than the protagonist. You know the killer is there. You think, in that situation you’d make a different choice. You think you’d be better. And maybe you would be. But a killer is not chasing you. You’re safe on your couch.

I had to talk to my therapist about the disagreement. The fight shook me. It was why I incited my boundaries to begin with. Personally, I’m no saint. I’ve said my fair share of brutally honest things at inappropriate times, but with this situation, I needed direction.

ME: I just don’t understand the where the anger comes from. I wasn’t prepared for it. I didn’t think what I was asking was unreasonable. My friends could talk about the pregnancy all they wanted among themselves. They were entitled to their feelings. I had a lot of the same feelings. I still struggle with all those thoughts myself. I was just asking them to not share them with me at the moment. I know boundaries are hard. I don’t like them myself. They have burned me, but always—I always respect them. If someone asks me to leave their house or never talk to them again, I do it. I don’t ask the person why. I don’t contact them again. I respect that they set that in place and it is their responsibility to come to me when they are ready.

THERAPIST: Your friends aren’t used to you having boundaries. They may not have boundaries of their own. Why do you think your friend said you were acting like a victim?

ME: I don’t know. I genuinely don’t know. Because I was crying? So I looked weak? I didn’t want sympathy. I wasn’t complaining; I set boundaries not to talk about it. Victims don’t have choices. I realize that. I’m past the choice I ultimately made to get pregnant. What I’m concerned with are the upcoming repercussions of that choice. What I’m upset over are my choices moving forward.

THERAPIST: What do you want?

ME: Understanding. Maybe I can’t talk about this with anyone but you? Maybe I should keep all this inside?

THERAPIST: It doesn’t feel good when you’re vulnerable and trust someone and they hurt you does it? I think it’s good to talk about this with friends you know will able to talk about it. I don’t think this means you cut out people out of your life who love you just because they don’t understand the situation. In life, friends help us when they can, and sometimes different friends step up and others fall back. That doesn’t mean they can’t come back into your life later and the relationship can’t be good again.

ME: I know. I know and I’ve done a lot of understanding and forgiving over the past year. Not just with others, but with myself, too. And it’s been a long tough process.

THERAPIST: You are getting better.

Am I?

Victim [vik-tim] noun

  1. a person who suffers from a destructive or injurious action or agency: a victim of an automobile accident.
  2. a person who is deceived or cheated, as by his or her own emotions or ignorance, by the dishonesty of others, or by some impersonal agency: a victim of misplaced confidence; the victim of a swindler; a victim of an optical illusion.
  3. a person or animal sacrificed or regarded as sacrificed: war victims.
  4. a living creature sacrificed in religious rites.

 

The thing I love most about SCSBF is she is honest. That’s why she’s my best friend, she tells it exactly like it is. And she was right—I did need to let people know what was going on with me. That conversation is what solidified me creating this string of blog posts.

But victim? No.

Fear [feer] noun

  1. a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.
  1. a specific instance of or propensity for such a feeling: an abnormal fear of heights.
  1. concern or anxiety; solicitude: a fear for someone’s safety.
  2. reverential awe, especially toward God: the fear of God.
  1. something that causes feelings of dread or apprehension; something a person is afraid of: Cancer is a common fear.
  2. anticipation of the possibility that something unpleasant will occur: Having grown up during the Great Depression, he had a constant fear of running out of money.

 

Afraid? Scared? Yes.

Parent [pair-uh nt, par-] noun

  1. a father or a mother.
  2. an ancestor, precursor, or progenitor.
  3. a source, origin, or cause.
  4. a protector or guardian.
  5. Biology. any organism that produces or generates another.
  6. Physics. the first nuclide in a radioactive series. adjective
  7. being the original source: a parent organization.
  8. Biology. pertaining to an organism, cell, or complex molecular structure that generates or produces another: parent cell; parent DNA.

 

Can I do this? Again. Can I do this right? Again. Can I do this and keep my shit together? Again. Can I handle loss if loss comes? Nothing is guaranteed. Again. Can I change? Again. I still eat blue cheese. Again. I still eat homemade ice cream with raw eggs. Again. I still eat sushi. Again. I eat my steak medium rare. Again. I drink herbal tea. Again. Will this child hate me? Again. What will it think when it reads these blogs? Again. Again. Again. Again. Again.

 

(I will post the last installment of this five-part conversation tomorrow.)

 

 

*Maybe best death chart I’ve read all year. Aside from this one: http://www.besthealthdegrees.com/health-risks/

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Filed under Bipolar Disorder, Books, Children, Life, Literature, Love, Marriage, Memoir, Mental Disorders, Parenting, Writing

ISBN-13: 978-0544003415

Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

There’re a few things I have to talk about before I launch into a digressive blog about Lord Of The Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. The first is to address my online absence. I’ve been away from the blogging sphere over the holidays, but fear not, for I’ve still been reading, writing, thinking, and traveling. In fact, I’m in Chicago now, at the Common Cup in Rogers Park, forcing myself to write this blog when I’d much rather write a new short story.

Can I say that I love Rogers Park? The rent here is dirt cheap, which may explain my cousin’s toilet—it is literally hobbit sized. I have aptly dubbed it Rumplestiltskin’s throne. And yeah, her apartment got broken into once, and uh, it is a four-story walk up, and nocturnal critters live in the walls and freak me out when I’m trying to sleep on the futon, but the place has a faux fireplace and is steps away from the lake! Public art is everywhere. I passed a sculpture of a Monarch butterfly erected from four bike frames on the way to this coffee shop. And okay, so every other storefront along the Red Line is vacant, but amazing smells (pizza anyone?) and interesting people (DANCERS!) fill the windows of the small business that are here. This neighborhood is ripe for artists and students. Just carry mace and be sure to write in your Aldermen’s name on the election ballot…

Second, I’ve utterly failed at my original goal of the blog, which was to read all the books I own without buying or renting anything new, unless it was for research. Just how bad off am I? Well, on Thursday I checked out four library books, and yesterday, I bought another. Technically all five of these books fall under research, but I still harbor a small bit of guilt about them. Key word being small. On the other hand, I recently sold a whole mess of books I’d either read or realized I would never have time to read, at least not in this decade. I can’t explain how hard it was to stand in the bookstore while they checked over my order and not buy something else with my thirty dollar refund.

Now, without a smooth transition or further delay—Lord of the Rings: one of the worst reading experiences I have ever had in my life. Allow me to explain.

It’s one of Husband’s books, but being how it was in the household and I am writing a fantasy saga I thought it would be an important read. A lot of famous writers, people I trust and respect, rave about the trilogy. It can be career altering. There’s top-notch characterization and imagery. Varied sentences. Epic battle scenes. Normally I make it a point to never say anything bad about books. But.

 

But.

But.

But.

 

To be honest, reading this book was equivalent to striking my head on the wall seventeen hundred times and then being locked in an elevator with Michael Bolton blaring uncomfortably loud on the Muzak and a two-year old that hasn’t napped…all week.  One day I spent seven hours—seven hours—reading forty pages.

This was me reading LOTR

This was me reading LOTR

I can’t find any reason for that much exposition. It took everything in me not to take a pen to the thing and start cutting and chopping all the unnecessary. Why does almost every character have to have a confusing name? I mean, honestly, dude why do your two antagonists have like, practically the same name? Ask me if I care what land this tribe of people are from or what absurd lineage they have or what allies they had seven thousand years ago. Husband told me to just skim or read ahead, but I’m not that type of reader. I had to make myself go over every single sentence in that book. In order. No glossing. No skimming. Except for the songs and poems. I seriously just skipped those. Italics? I think not.

Give me more elves.

And Lord please, why are there only three women in the book? Two are strong, so that’s a plus. But. But. But. One of the strong female leads only goes into battle because she’s in love with a dude, and then she throws down her sword to get married. I mean, WTF. And the other strong female lead just gives the heroes gifts to help in battle. What’s the point of that? It’s like, you set up this bad ass chick only to make her give the male leads like a bottle of star dust, excuse me, starlight and a bag of seeds. Really? Really? Because she could have put the wreck to that Sauron.

And, yeah, if you’re gonna write an evil villain and basically give him no screen time, what’s the point? He’s just a vague puppet master. I read over a thousand pages in itty-bitty font and still had no real clue about the guy. He was just there. And bad. One-dimensional bad.

But whatever. It’s a hero’s journey story. I get it. Back to my Joseph Campbell notes, I guess.

Making matters worse, all the books were bound into one big hardcover copy. Lugging that thing around gave me a backache, and I had to be real careful with it since it was one of Husband’s most prized possessions. That meant no dog earing, no eating while reading, no picking my nose and wiping the buggers on the cover, being careful with the spine, no tea drinking near it. No leaving it open on the coffee table without being scolded to use a bookmark.

You may be underestimating Husband’s love of the tale at this point. Please don’t do that. He has an exact replica of Gandolf’s sword hanging on his bedroom wall at his parent’s house. It was his favorite Christmas gift of all time. He told me he went to see the movies in the theater like twelve times or something; I wasn’t really listening. I made the mistake of watching one of the movies with him. This led to a nonstop quoting marathon on his end and a “it didn’t happen that way in the book” whine fest from me. Also,he paused the movie several times to explain bonus features—

Aragorn’s scream sound realistic? That’s because Viggeo Mortensen broke his foot kicking that helmet! It was real metal. See that banner over there? The one that just flew off? That really happened and Peter Jackson just went with it! It was a windy filming day.

Well, I hate to tell you, but no banner flew off in the book. I remain unimpressed. No offense but can we get some collaboration with Guillermo del Toro on some of these monsters? Orks and Uruk-hai sort of look the same to me. But, you know, the casting was spot on for the whole. So there’s that. I dug Gollum.

He was a book highlight. Wins the most interesting character award. Not gonna say anything about how a supporting / secondary character has more depth than the antagonist. No, I won’t talk about that here.

Nor will I mention, you know, that action chapter that takes place after the climax. That’s not misplaced or anything. I bet JRRT was like, ha, these fools have already suffered through a thousand pages of my writing, why wrap things up efficiently after the climax? Why not roll on for another few thousand words and add in another battle, just ‘cuz. I been to war! I don’t care about the rules of commercialism!

I wanted to full on like this book. I wanted to love it. I wanted to place it proudly on my shelf next to the other really influential books I’ve read, and maybe I still should if only to remind myself not to go on for thousands of pages about stuff that isn’t important to the story. I feel criminal for writing a blog post like this. But, I mean, when I had to pretend that Aragorn was Amazon, king of the booksellers, and fantasize he was ravaging small businesses instead of small towns, there’s something wrong with the book. I won’t tell you all the nicknames I made up for the characters and the more amusing plot lines I devised for them. Clearly there were multiple reasons for me taking seven hours to read forty pages…

And in fairness I liked the setting descriptions. I felt comfortable in the worlds, was never confused, and felt like JRRT knew a lot more than he was letting on. I took notes on Shadowfax.

 

But.

But.

But.

 

I just didn’t get it. A thousand something pages is too much for me to handle in one long read, if only for the fact that my bird like wrists simply cannot hold half a tree for several hours at a time. Which is why the next book I am reading is slim at 96 pages and that includes the preface, forward, notes, and glossary. Plus, I own it, so butt scratching and page turning can occur consecutively without worry.

 

*Being that I am traveling, this is not the ISBN number or book cover that I used. These are generic stand-ins taken from the internet.

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Filed under Books, Fiction, Funny, humor, Life, Literature, Non Fiction, Writing

ISBN: 978-1-61219-194-2

I Await The Devil's Coming by Mary MacLane

I Await The Devil’s Coming by Mary MacLane

This post is part of a blog hop, which must be part of an E-version of a chain letter. Sarah Turner, author of Sarah In Small Doses, asked me to take part in a writing process blog tour. I agreed, but decided not to ask anyone else to do it. A part of me fears that by breaking the blog hop I may inadvertently bring nine years bad luck upon myself, suffer a broken leg, a case of hives, a love lost—or gasp—spill barbecue sauce on my favorite summer dress. Not to tempt fate or anything, but I like to live dangerously. Plus, I’m too lazy to E-mail someone else.

I Await The Devil’s Coming by Mary MacLane has a rather dangerous-looking cover doesn’t it? That’s why I bought it. I originally passed it up, reminding myself that I already had hundreds of books at home that I hadn’t yet read. Several weeks later, the striking portrait of that Lizzy Borden looking woman was still stuck in my head, so I returned and purchased the paperback.

Back to the blog hop. According to the chain letter, I’m supposed to answer four questions. So here goes.

1)    What am I working on?

Thanks for asking. I’m currently working on a young adult novel series that has one of the most badass female protagonists ever, only she doesn’t know that, at least not right away. There’s nothing like an epic story line to help build confidence and chase a way a severe case of modesty.

2)    How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I love this question because I think it’s really, really, important that artists continually ask ourselves this as we work. I have to separate my answer into two parts. The part first is about my growth as a writer.

When I started working on the last draft of my novel, I had  the great stories in my head—The Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, etcetera. I kept asking myself, what made those stories so good? Why did they work? Why did I care, and why did they stand the test of time? The answer was that they were unique. They were totally newly imagined concepts.

This idea hit me literally the week I came across, “The 22 Rules of Storytelling, According to Pixar.” Number twelve on the list struck me the most:Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself. When these two ideas clicked for me, it was like I finally gave myself permission to do whatever I wanted on the page, and no, ordinary solutions and ordinary predicaments that protagonists find themselves in weren’t going to work for my story. The things that had already been done before were holding me back. So I cut them and went into “me” mode.

And for the second part of the answer, as far as I can tell, love stories and dystopian fiction are hot now and there’s a war train rumbling right through the middle schools as we speak. Our generation is pushing anti-war fiction pretty hard, and I’m in agreement with that.

My book is a bit of a spin on the anti-war / love themes, but I draw most of the material from my experiences with mental illness. It’s set in modern times, with some, well, minor otherworldly adjustments. But you won’t find ghosts, or vampires, aliens, or magic in this book. What I’m creating is something entirely new.

I don’t want to give too much away—I’m saving the juicy bits for my query letters next fall. Those otherworldly adjustments, the unique meat of my story, layer in with reality to create this world that possibly could exist…

3)    Why do I write what I do?

First, I can’t not. Second, most of the reasons for my themes of love and war are too personal to get into in a blog post now. But the main answer is that I volunteer with youth who struggle with major issues like abuse, homelessness, and mental illness. As we all know from this blog, I also struggled with several of those issues when I was younger, too. I wanted to create something that could inspire kids who maybe don’t have the best situation at home. I wanted to create something that say someone struggling with depression or mania or anxiety could read and truly feel like they aren’t alone in that war.

4) How does your writing process work?

It varies depending on what I’m working on. For short stories, I keep a running log of jokes or things that make me laugh and when I get enough jokes I’ll sit down for a weekend and write a draft of a story using as many of those as possible. Then I let it sit in my computer forever before I decide to read it again and tweak it. The time I wrote a screenplay I went online and wrote a treatment of it first. Working from the treatment, I wrote the first draft in a little more than a month and a half.

What I try to do is create a schedule with weekly deadlines that I have to meet. I don’t get down to how much time I’ll work each day, but I make sure I meet my goals and reward myself when I hit big ones.

So there it is. Blog hop. It occurs to me this is the paragraph where I somehow tie all of this in with MacLane. I have nothing on this. Literally there is no way I can think to tie these things together. I would just like to say this, MM really judged her readers, and she lived under the pressure of their imagined constant judgment. On every page I was like, “girl I ‘ain’t judging you. Not judging at all.” And I want to point it out how that is a really paralyzing way to live a life, nineteen years old or not. At least she knew she was genius in this not so modest memoir. It’s interesting to think that if MM were alive today she technically would be part of my target audience…

 

 

 

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Filed under Fiction, Life, Literature, Memoir, Non Fiction, Random, Writing

ISBN-10: 0-486-41586-4

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

 

“…the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea; and that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Pip.”

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Writing in flannel.

Writing in flannel.

 

I went home this past week for an early Christmas. I don’t know how I managed it, but I was able to see just about everyone I love. I even squeezed in a trip to Hubbard, my high school, and bought sweat pants and a sweatshirt. If someone told me fifteen years ago I’d voluntarily wear the uniform, I would have laughed in his or her face. Fifteen years can really change a person.

I haven’t posted in a while. Don’t fret. I’ve been writing and reading, just not blogs. Today I was called to the desk to write for my dad.

Last Monday was the first time I saw him since I was sixteen.

Fifteen years ago, we parted on less than good terms. It doesn’t matter why we parted that way, only that we had. Six years ago, I heard that he was beaten and left for dead in Marquette Park. The phone call caught me off guard. I was in a place where my life had finally started to make sense. I had just started my MFA, was newly engaged, and happy. I answered the phone thinking my brother, J, was calling to congratulate me.

J told me that my father had been homeless and lived in the park. He was drunk and antagonized a group of youth, gang members, with racial slurs. My father was not expected to make it. I should come home and see him. The phone call left me angry. I told J my father was dead to me, and had been for years. J called me a bitch and we hung up.

I wished those kids had talked to my father and explained why some words were so hurtful or how many people had died over them in the past. I wished they asked him not to use such words, and he instantly rid his vocabulary of them. I know how hard it is to do the right thing in a highly charged emotional moment. I don’t always do the right thing. I’m still learning, too.

A few weeks ago, I told Husband I wanted to see my father again. Husband wondered why after fifteen years I wanted to resume a relationship. Understandably, he was protective of me. The last time I went home I had a small relapse when I was caught off guard by another piece of my past.

ME: I just don’t want that to be the end of the story. When I have children, I want them to know their grandpa. I don’t want to tell them this terrible story of how we parted. I want it to be different.

I was prepared for the worst. My father had suffered severe brain trauma. He was a known alcoholic and drug user. There was something with a long technical term that chronic alcoholics can suffer from in which they have no short-term memory. It’s like a blackout, explained my therapist, T; he may have no recollection of meeting you. There’s a possibility he may not know you.

I called my sister-cousin, D, and asked her if she knew anyone from the old neighborhood who could find my father. She called M. M called a family friend, “born-again” L. He contacted some of the beat police in the area where he thought my father lived. After three days, L learned that my father lived in a shady house, essentially a crack house. L said the house was rough; he once lived in it at his lowest point before he turned himself around. It was in a less than great part of town. L said he could bring my father to a safer meeting place.

Monday came, and L couldn’t make it. I still wanted to see my dad, so I asked D if she would take the train with me. After an hour and a half of travel on the CTA, it turned out my father wasn’t staying in the worst part of town. He lived in my old neighborhood. We knocked on a door to a house that didn’t look shady from the outside other than a foreclosure sticker on the front door. No one answered. We called the landlord for the building. She hadn’t heard of the person we were asking for. We called L one more time. The landlord called back and said my dad was at a bus stop across from Walgreens.

Everyone told me to be prepared, to know what it was I wanted to say to my dad, to know what I wanted to get from this meeting. When I saw him, I said the only thing I could think to say.

ME: Hey old man.

I hugged him. Glad he was still alive.

We both cried until we laughed.

We went to a small restaurant. I had tacos. He had a burrito. I don’t remember what D had. I did my best to catch him up on my life. He did the same. He said when he got the call from L he stayed sober for our meeting. He didn’t do hard drugs anymore. He didn’t drink hard liquor, only beer, at night to help him fall asleep. He was waiting on his social security so he could put a down payment on a house or maybe an apartment. He spent the days helping others when he could, shoveling snow and whatnot. The folks in the elderly home had given him a chair to sit on at the bus stop. He fed the sparrows. He tried to keep busy. He could only listen to music and watch TV so much before he got bored.

He told me he wasn’t jumped in the park. He said he went to help a man push his car out of the snow behind Walgreens, and when he went to help him, he was smashed in the head with a bottle and beaten. His assailants got thirty dollars.

I wish they had just asked for his thirty dollars. Sometimes when I see people pan handling on the street I give them money. I can’t help it. They’re asking. If they spend the money on bus fare or drugs, that’s a problem as society we have to fix together. They’re still asking, not mugging, not robbing.

My father showed me a thin line that extended ear to ear on the back of his neck. It was his scar from brain surgery.

The things I wanted to say were slow coming. I was nervous and anxious to get back to a normal relationship with him. We went to a thrift store in search of an ugly Christmas sweater. We wandered through the isles.

ME: Should I get this withered Nome that looks remarkably similar to Wizzo and contains the soul of a wealthy Egyptian Pharos waiting for a body? It probably was accidently lost to the family sworn to protect it…

Dad: Sure. Everyone needs a souvenir.

I put Wizzo back on the shelf. I had already gotten a T-shirt with thirteen hidden horses as a souvenir earlier in the trip. I asked him if he wanted any clothes. He said he had a whole box full. People gave them to him. He still collected flannels.

I didn’t want our meeting to end. I dragged him to a dollar store and demanded he purchase some beef jerky and books, another small Christmas present to go along with what I had originally brought him: a copy of his father’s manuscript and a story I wrote for him.

He threw in a chocolate bar that donated money to literacy. What the hell. It was Christmas after all. I pulled him into the post office where we got some Ray Charles stamps, so he could write me.

ME: That’ll give you something to do when you’re bored.

I stumbled through his world until I got back on the bus with a hurried Merry Christmas thrown over my shoulder. There were so many other words I wanted to say, but did not know how. It wasn’t until the plane ride home that I started to untangle what had happened. What I truly wanted to say.

Dad,

Your story does not begin with the reason you were jumped. It starts when a stranger found you on the ground, near dead.

I ask myself, who that stranger was. Did she happen to own a small restaurant, make tacos and burritos and keep a ton of plants? Did I throw a thank you over my shoulder as we walked out because whatever I felt inside I did not know how to say? It could have been anyone who called for you. Could have been a bus driver. Could have been an employee at Walgreens. Could have been someone old. Could have been someone young.

Who was the emergency dispatcher that took that call?

Who drove the ambulance that took you to the hospital?

Who were the first cops on the scene?

Who was the brain surgeon that performed your operations?

Did they know they’d probably never get paid monetarily for their work?

Did they know if the person on their operating table had insurance?

I bet they didn’t even question it.

Who was the first person you saw when you opened your eyes?

Who really sat by your bed for four months?

Who helped you learn to walk and talk again?

Who told you to keep going when I’m sure you may not have wanted to?

Who gave you the clothes that kept you warm?

Who ran the food pantries that now fed you?

Do these people know I wanted to thank you for all you did for me when I was growing up? You let me paint my room green and built floor to ceiling bookshelves in there for your paperbacks. I remember your paperbacks, covers with Conan the Barbarian and scantily clad women cowering behind sword wielding men with way too much dragon in the background. I look back and think in your own way you were trying to surround me with the things you loved. You should see my bookshelves now. I bought forty-seven books only yesterday from the thrift store. Seven cents each. Three rooms in my house are painted green.

Did you know I still remember the Christmas Eve you walked a mile in the snow to the only place open, Walgreens, to get me an alarm clock?

Who worked that Christmas Eve shift when they could have been home with their own families?

Do all these people know that they kept you alive so I could thank you?

Do all these people know we are connected?

Do all these people know how grateful I am?

Do they know that I don’t only think about it when I’m on buses or airplanes?

Dad, did you know I saw you in a stranger’s eyes a few months ago? I told myself that stranger wasn’t you—I only wanted to see you.

Because of all those people I was able to.

Dad, do you know life is not about the past or the future but the moment in which we live?

I think you do.

I may throw “Thank you” and “Merry Christmas” over my shoulder, but I’m not too busy to know what they really mean. Dad, I know how hard it was for you to see me. If we had fought during our meeting, it could have led to a relapse on your part, too.

Do the people that brought us back together know that I have a good story to tell your grandchildren someday?

I hope they do.

I love you. Thank you.

It reads "thanks"

We as a society are doing our best to address the problem of homelessness in America. I was once told if one person in the world loves you don’t give up, you have a reason not to be homeless. Below is a list of resources supported by thousands of people that love and care for those in rough situations. There is no choice so bad that one can’t recover from it.

 

 

This is a giant heart I tracked in the hill next to my house.

This is a giant heart I tracked in the hill next to my house.

 

Homeless Shelters Directory

http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/

Street Wise

http://streetwise.org/

SAMSHA

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

US Department of Health and Human Services

http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/

Alcoholics Anonymous

http://www.aa.org/lang/en/subpage.cfm?page=28

Narcotics Anonymous

http://www.na.org/

NAMI

National Alliance on Mental Illness

www.nami.org

United States Department of Labor

http://www.dol.gov/dol/audience/aud-homeless.htm

If you or someone you know would like to donate items, money, or time, thousands of shelters across America are in need.

I found this list on Sojourner’s* website  as an example of items that may be needed in local shelters near you.

Monetary donations:

 

$35.00

Helps offset costs of children’s activity groups

$55.00

Helps to feed shelter residents for one day

$250.00

Supports time required to obtain an Order for Protection

 

Goods:

-Diapers and Pull-Ups

-Clothing: Contact for specific needs

-African-American Hair Products. Recommended brands include: Ultra Sheen, Pink Lotion, Motions, Cream of Nature, Do Grow, Super Grow, Olive Oil. We’ve found that Walgreens carries the following at very good prices: Organica Hair Food, Shea Butter, Africa’s Best and Coconut Hair Oil.

-Baby wipes (Sensitive Skin)

-Cleaning Supplies (especially bleach, dish soap, floor cleaner and multi-purpose cleaning liquid)

-Paper Products: Paper towels, plates, bowls, etc.

-Twin Sized Plastic Mattress Covers

-Tampons

-Women’s Socks and underwear

-Bulk sized non-perishable healthy snacks (fruit snacks, granola bars, juice boxes, etc)

-Office Supply Gift Cards

-Target Gift Cards

*Sojourner is a local woman and children’s shelter in MN. For specific donations to Sojourner, please call the Program Support Coordinator at 952-351-4062.

**Whenever I go on trips I stock up on all the free lotions, shampoos, etc. By the end of the year I bring them in to the shelter. I heard you can drop off these items at REI and they will pass the donations on for you.

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Filed under Books, Growing up, Holidays, Homelessness, Life, Literature, Love, Memoir, Mental Disorders, Non Fiction, Politics, Random, Snow, Writing

ISBN: 978-0-399-15901-5

Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson

 

I had the great idea to discuss Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson via text message with D.

 

1

 

2

 

Apparently we did this stuff when D came to visit:

 

3

Yeah, that's shotgun shells.

Yeah, that’s shotgun shells.

 

This plays music.

This plays music.

 

Back to the book:

4

You know what? Let’s not talk about the book. Let’s talk about my life instead.

It’s my birthday week, and I can’t go hiking today as planned. Does it matter that I’ve already gone to see Cirque Du Soleil’s Almaluna?

No.

But one may say, there were peacock feathers, light up nunchucks, the god and goddess of the wind, a lady with a cello that came down from the ceiling, a male pole dancer, a reptile juggling fire, an all women rock band. I had a stale pretzel and bought the CD, commemorative tote, and program with delightful photographs.

So.

Does it count that I went to a thrift store that sold items by the pound and nearly got knocked over by a crowd of professional thrift shoppers that swarmed the bins like angry box elder bugs? Or that I bought a hideous green floral coat with a faux fur collar missing a belt and button that is slightly soiled and two sizes too big out of sheer excitement that I could buy clothing by the pound? The type of coat any pimpess would be proud to flaunt? And what about the worn leather purse I got for only $1.50?

Try again.

What about the sushi?

I eat sushi for breakfast.

Does it matter that I went to the Soap Factory haunted house  and they made me wear headgear and a jump suit because I would jack up my clothes and possibly hurt my face because the haunted house is that intense? Or that I cried the safe word after getting through only two rooms because the actors could touch you and I was separated from the herd only to be told to go into a dark room when I am terrified of the dark? TERRIFIED OF THE DARK.

Not really.

Even though I was taken to Insidious 2 immediately after to make up for the fact that I was only in the haunted house for 7 minutes?

Nope.

Or that tomorrow I will go to a small town where I plan to hit up every antique store and try not to purchase any books, even though the books will smell like old books which is really mildew, and if I don’t buy the books I can still stand there in the store and huff the books until someone drags me away? And that very same night I’m going to stay in the supposedly most haunted hotel in all of Minnesota?

Not even close.

Okay, how about the fact that I plan on spending the ENTIRE day of my actual birthday writing so I can finish a draft of a short story I’ve been working on for a month that I thought I could bang out in a weekend? There will be ice cream cake . . .

Pssssssshhhhttttt.

The George Saunders reading on Thursday?

No! No! No!

I have to use up the parks pass that I bought for $25. This means I need to hit up a park at least five times this year. I only went once and it’s already October. I want to feel the “WOW” of fall! I want changing leaves! I want to go hiking!

I want to go hiking for ten minutes and then piss and moan that it’s raining and freezing cold. After which, I buy post cards from the gift shop because, yes, parks in Minnesota have gift shops. Sometimes people forget to bring their pocket knifes. Or those little metal sticks for roasting marshmallows. If you forget the marshmallow sticks, you’re up ship’s creek without a paddle.

Now I can’t do that because the government, which I thought was essentially open all the time like a 7 eleven, is closed. As the Colbert Report pointed out this morning, Smokey the Bear is out of a job. Only I can prevent forest fires people! How can I prevent forest fires if I’m not in the forest today?

You’re lame government. Not only are you ruining my birthday week, but you’re messing up other people’s lives, too. Don’t worry government. As pointed out on JL’s blog—

WE GOT THIS.

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Filed under Art, Bipolar Disorder, Books, humor, Life, Literature, Memoir, Non Fiction, Politics, Random, Writing

REVELATIONS

 

The Bible In 90 Days New International Version

The Bible In 90 Days New International Version

SPOILER ALERT! There’s a dragon! This post is about the end of a book. If you haven’t read it and want to be surprised, see ya next week. Also, none of my Bibles have an ISBN number, and I’m learning the proper capitalization of G/god so by all means correct me in the comments.

I first read some of the Bible at the tender age of five in Catechism classes. Between cutting out animals for the great flood gluing them to straws to perform a mini puppet show and being told that I was preparing to “marry” God at my First Communion, I distinctly remember being cast out of class for asking logical questions. What does God eat for breakfast? If God made us in His likeness and I’m a girl, then why is God a boy and not a girl? Why would God give me the ability to ask questions if He didn’t want me to ask questions? Who is God’s God? Does God wear underwear? Adults never had answers. LAME.

Twenty years later, I thought it would be a good idea to finish the book. I bought The Bible In 90 Days, New International Version. Ninety days?! I assumed it would take me three years to read such a thick book with such little font. Four months later, I was knee deep in Deuteronomy with some new questions. Why haven’t I seen Jesus, yet? He’s like the main character, shouldn’t he have been introduced in the first chapter? Who wrote this? It’s pretty ambitious… Surely there must be a History Channel special that covers this in one hour.

Five years, several Ancient Aliens programs, and one MFA later, I decided to pick up the good book once more beginning with the end.

The first reason I started with Revelations: It’s a good contrast to the last post. I’m not sure if anyone around here has noticed, but I suffer from Catholic guilt. There’s this creepy underlying theme of my ‘given’ (not chosen) religion that if you sin you must seek forgiveness IMMEDIATELY. YOU WILL BURN IN THE ETERNAL FLAMES OF HELL if you veer from His Plan. Also, His Plan may or may not equal your ETERNAL BURNING from the jump. Those who claim the book is only about love obviously haven’t read the end. That joke will cost me ten Hail Marys. I feel bad for thinking it. Even worse for writing it. Can I get some sunscreen over here?

The second reason I started with the end: I felt it would be a good reference for my big project. I wondered what the epic battle/end was to the number one best selling book of all time. As a non-judgmental person, I wanted to know more about the ultimate judgment. Plus, the project has me attempting to create two imaginary worlds, each with their own imaginary creatures. My guess was that there were bound to be one or two imaginary creatures somewhere in there.

I was not disappointed. Let me just say that the four horsemen are just the tip of the iceberg. There are four creatures covered in eyes with six wings that chant day and night! There’s a zombie Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes! Locusts with man faces, woman hair, lion teeth, and the ability to sting like a scorpion! Horses with lion heads, fire breath, and snake tails! A sea beast with ten horns, seven heads, that look kinda like a leopard but have bear paws and a lion mouth! Did I mention the DRAGON?!

If I were work shopping it, this would be my critique: On the whole this is a pretty solid piece. I liked your use of the first person, third may have given it too much distance. You know, for me, I’m thinking the story really starts after the notes to the seven churches, so you could probably cut them out. The part I found least believable, aside from a wrathful God destroying nonbelievers, was that future people would leave two dead bodies in the street for days. Have we learned nothing from the Bubonic Plague? That’s just giving pestilence the green light. Also, the only woman you have in the story is a drunken adulterous blood-drinking prostitute. Sometimes less is better. I mean this is fine, she’s definitely an interesting character, but consider giving her even more depth by adding a few positive traits. I like that you kept the ending upbeat, giving those in Hades a second chance. The city made of gold was the perfect way to symbolize the greed of humanity and how we changed, but not really. Classic. With a few more drafts and a bit of trimming, I could totally see this getting published in the New Yorker. Totally!

Wait. What? This is nonfiction? John was your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great a whole lot of greats grandfather? Are you enacting creative license with the use of the first person or did you find his stone tablet diary in a cave? It was a scroll in some pottery? Okay, well this changes things. Yeah, I mean forget what I said about the female character. If she honestly was a drunken adulterous blood-drinking prostitute, then yeah, I mean you’re bound to the limits of what really happened. Otherwise this would be fiction, which, obviously it is not. You know what? You got a good story here. You don’t need to sensationalize it.

THE END

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Filed under Books, humor, Life, Literature, Memoir, Non Fiction, Random, Writing