Building A Life or Two

Although I haven’t been posting, I’ve been writing quite a bit. A few days ago, I began a piece about movies adapted from or based on books, inspired by my excitement of watching the final installation of The Hobbit. My son and I went to see it yesterday, and we’re reading the book together as well. I hope every parent experiences the joy of having a literary conversation with an eight year old. It is both simplistic and mind-blowing, pure yet passionate. He and I both cried during “The Battle of Five Armies;” I imagine we’ll both be heartbroken for the same characters before finishing the book.

The piece I wrote was meant to be short, but it grew into several pages and included numerous examples. I’ve decided to turn it into a regular series in this blog. The subject is rich and a joy to explore.

I’ve used the word “joy” twice now just in the first two paragraphs. Some might twist that into saying I’ve finally found a bit of Christmas spirit. My response to that is still “bah humbug!” I am enjoying the holidays, but not because of the holidays themselves.

My son had a magical Christmas morning — the presents appeared at the foot of his bed just like it the Harry Potter series! — and we spent several hours putting together what we named a LEGO Clash of Worlds. At one point, there was a Godzilla-sized MineCraft creeper terrorizing the dwarves of Middle Earth who were up in a burning tree while watching Han Solo team up with Master Chief to try to rescue the baby creeper from Nindroid Kai.

It was pretty intense for a Thursday.

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This week hasn’t been all fantasy and science fiction (actually it has been for books and movies). Reality has creeped in as well. I’ve been making decisions — one might even say resolutions — about my life and my son’s: past, presents, and potential futures.

First of all, I’ve decided to stop hoarding my issues. They seem to keep piling up and overwhelming me. I have about ten examples off the top of my head, but they’re all personal, so let’s move on…

Presents: the spelling was intentional. In the spirit of The Giver, I’ve decided to get my son a bike (sans training wheels) for his ninth birthday this spring. If I can afford it, I might get myself one at the same time so we can go riding together. I can no longer run, due to a health problem, but pedaling would be all right.

As to the future, there are a lot of uncertainties, which is why it is so important that I stop allowing things to clutter. I’ve already gotten rid of the annoying and mostly useless presence of men (including that one from a few weeks ago), I’m allowing myself more time to enjoy myself and relax (by myself like I prefer), and I’m considering a change, professionally (more on that another time).

These really do sound like resolutions. I’m not a fan of those, but I’ll accept the label. I don’t consider the cross from December to January a new year. My beginnings and endings are not dependent on the calendar — they are fluid, constantly changing, with many smaller beginnings and more significant endings. If I have to assign a defining number to each year, then it cannot be the same one everyone else uses; it must be meaningful to me.

My year will be marked by my son’s birthday — my accomplishments measured by his continual growth.

Building A Life or Two

Although I haven’t been posting, I’ve been writing quite a bit. A few days ago, I began a piece about movies adapted from or based on books, inspired by my excitement of watching the final installation of The Hobbit. My son and I went to see it yesterday, and we’re reading the book together as well. I hope every parent experiences the joy of having a literary conversation with an eight year old. It is both simplistic and mind-blowing, pure yet passionate. He and I both cried during “The Battle of Five Armies;” I imagine we’ll both be heartbroken for the same characters before finishing the book.

The piece I wrote was meant to be short, but it grew into several pages and included numerous examples. I’ve decided to turn it into a regular series in this blog. The subject is rich and a joy to explore.

I’ve used the word “joy” twice now just in the first two paragraphs. Some might twist that into saying I’ve finally found a bit of Christmas spirit. My response to that is still “bah humbug!” I am enjoying the holidays, but not because of the holidays themselves.

My son had a magical Christmas morning — the presents appeared at the foot of his bed just like it the Harry Potter series! — and we spent several hours putting together what we named a LEGO Clash of Worlds. At one point, there was a Godzilla-sized MineCraft creeper terrorizing the dwarves of Middle Earth who were up in a burning tree while watching Han Solo team up with Master Chief to try to rescue the baby creeper from Nindroid Kai.

It was pretty intense for a Thursday.

image

This week hasn’t been all fantasy and science fiction (actually it has been for books and movies). Reality has creeped in as well. I’ve been making decisions — one might even say resolutions — about my life and my son’s: past, presents, and potential futures.

First of all, I’ve decided to stop hoarding my issues. They seem to keep piling up and overwhelming me. I have about ten examples off the top of my head, but they’re all personal, so let’s move on…

Presents: the spelling was intentional. In the spirit of The Giver, I’ve decided to get my son a bike (sans training wheels) for his ninth birthday this spring. If I can afford it, I might get myself one at the same time so we can go riding together. I can no longer run, due to a health problem, but pedaling would be all right.

As to the future, there are a lot of uncertainties, which is why it is so important that I stop allowing things to clutter. I’ve already gotten rid of the annoying and mostly useless presence of men (including that one from a few weeks ago), I’m allowing myself more time to enjoy myself and relax (by myself like I prefer), and I’m considering a change, professionally (more on that another time).

These really do sound like resolutions. I’m not a fan of those, but I’ll accept the label. I don’t consider the cross from December to January a new year. My beginnings and endings are not dependent on the calendar — they are fluid, constantly changing, with many smaller beginnings and more significant endings. If I have to assign a defining number to each year, then it cannot be the same one everyone else uses; it must be meaningful to me.

My year will be marked by my son’s birthday — my accomplishments measured by his continual growth.

The Wisdom of Frank Herbert

I read to find myself — to understand my deepest emotions — and to establish direction within my own chaos.

In the multiverse, there are infinite choices and outcomes of those choices. The me in this reality is unlike any other me. I wonder if I could love myself in one of those other worlds or if any me is even worthy of being loved.

“If certainty is knowing absolutely an absolute future, then that’s only death disguised.” – The Preacher

The Preacher in Children of Dune is one of the only likeable zealots I’ve encountered (in fiction or life), perhaps because he appears to be destabilizing the most powerful religion in the history of the universe. At the halfway point in the book, I can’t know his end game. He could just be employing a Bene Gesserit trick — “a feint within a feint within a feint” — yet even if I learn that his true motive was to strengthen the Maud’dib faith, I’ll still admire him for his methods; in order to reestablish truth, truth must first be destroyed.

Frank Herbert wrote an incredible series. I say that because I’m reading it now, at the time in my life when I needed to experience it. I am not shaped by what I read; what I read evolves through me.

The Preacher of Dune has two purposes: to either mold a pliant mind or reaffirm one’s own principles. Here are some of his words that mirror my way of thinking:

“…I realize that humans cannot bear very much reality […] Most lives are a flight from selfhood. Most prefer the truths of the stable. You stick your heads into the stanchions and munch contentedly until you die. Others use you for their purposes. Not once do you live outside the stable to lift your head and be your own creature…”

“Is your religion real when it costs you nothing and carries no risk? Is your religion real when you fatten upon it? Is your religion real when you commit atrocities in its name?”

“Irony often masks the inability to think beyond one’s own assumptions.”

Steve Jobs: The Next Generation

My son Hugo is a handful. Within the first month of his life, I started referring to him as Hurricane Hugo because of the swirl of strawberry blonde hair on top of his head: it looked like the eye of a storm on Doppler. The moniker became permanent once I realized his personality matched.

He was always advanced [a lot o moms think their babies are super smart (they’re usually correct)], and for the first four years, I was overjoyed that he was such a little genius. He talked early — with complete sentences by his first birthday — and clearly; strangers could understand every word and probably thought he was just a midget three-year-old. Since he skipped crawling and started walking one week before eight months, anyone with achondroplasiaphobia undoubtedly ran in the opposite direction. At nine months, however, he would have caught up.

Preschool: that is where my vicarious happiness died. It took only a few weeks for the behavior reports to appear, and then the phone calls and suspensions. K-4 is not a requirement where I’m from (not sure if it is anywhere), so after a few parent-teacher-principal meetings, the school just went ahead and expelled my son.

K-5 was no different. The teacher didn’t like Hugo, possibly because he had called her fat the year before (in his defense, she did have a strong resemblance to Tweedle-dee’s brother). She made it clear she had no patience for a “troubled child” and fought to have him removed from her class. And she succeeded; by his sixth birthday, he was in an isolated classroom with three other special needs children: a girl in a wheelchair whose physical limitations prevented her from being in a regular class, an autistic boy who couldn’t say more than a few words, and another boy who had “violent tendencies” just like mine.

At some point, the school also decided that there must be a specific cause for Hugo’s behavior and that that cause must be his home life. There must be something wrong with his mother, since she’s the only parent he has. If not for my family, the school would’ve had him taken away, all on the assumption that I was unfit as a single mom. Although I was going through a difficult time, that boy was always taken care of.

Needless to say, we got the hell away from that place and found a school better suited to his needs. At least, I thought we had. We’re in the middle of a diagnosis war: the school says ADHD, his doctor (five failed medications later) says Opposition/Defiance…I say genetic Depression/Anxiety, but I’m just the mom, so what the frosty do I know! When the medication choices run out, maybe someone will finally say “hey! Maybe mom is on to something!” Until then, everyone gets to deal with my anger and frustration about the phone calls, suspensions, violent outbursts, and hysterical crying (his and mine on that last one).

My son is my life. Most of my hope in this world is gone; however, I know that he and I will get through this rough (five-year) patch, and he will become an incredible man.

Hugo is crazy about Steve Jobs. My son loves to build and create; he wants to be an inventor and an engineer…and possibly a hotel owner. Just last week, he surprised a librarian by approaching her and asking for help locating the engineering books. I didn’t tell him to ask; he took the initiative and ended up with several books on aviation and car mechanics. Although they were written for a teenage audience, he’s already devoured them.

I’d be very surprised if he didn’t have at least a ninth grade reading level, since he’s been racing through Percy Jackson, Eragon, and any other SF&F he can find in the library’s teen room. He was recently tested at 99-percent recall, and he reads faster than I do — faster than my mom, who can kill The Hobbit and the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy in less than a week — and, as a devoted book nerd, I couldn’t be prouder.

One day (hopefully twenty-plus years from now when he’s all rich and famous…and mature), he’ll find himself a girl who reads (something other than romance), and I will have the coolest daughter-in-law ever! It’ll be especially helpful for us to have a common interest when he puts me up in that nice hotel he’s planning to buy.

The Clockwork Penis

It’s been a long time since a guy had the audacity to send me a penis picture. One of the first things I say to a man, whether friend or casual encounter, is don’t do that!

Last night, I was talking to the guy I’m accidentally seeing. He wants a picture of me — he has it in his head that I’m beautiful and must be displayed on his phone — but I’ve been refusing. Even on my prettiest days, I am not photogenic; the camera catches me mid sentence, so I often look like a stroke victim. Not to mention the whole camera adding ten pounds excuse.

Because of the relationship I was in two years ago, I don’t send images of myself to anyone. That guy made me take inappropriate pictures for him, and I’m still having to take the occasional social media stroll to check for false profiles with my…face. Even if that had never happened, I would say no to selfies on principle.

So…this current guy asks for my picture. I say — no (giggle) I’m not photogenic! — and then I’m staring at his penis. Ugh!

Let me be clear: I like his penis. I’ve been there, and it’s a very nice ride, but I do not get the urge to strip and jump on that whenever I see it. My Blog is My Boyfriend has already posted a hilarious piece about Penis Selfies, so I’ll only say one more thing about this horrorshow: my phone has amazing resolution. When that popped up on my screen, I literally ducked. I was afraid it was going to explode in my face, which, interestingly enough, is one of my dealbreakers.

And this was NOT the most upsetting part of the conversation…

I let the penis faux pas slide. Last night, I was tired from a long, stressful week and didn’t want to fall asleep angry. He asked me what I was doing tomorrow. I told him I’m going to the library because I ran out of things to read and only have three books left for my goal. He doesn’t read, but he loves that I do. The guy is smart in a lot of other ways, so as long as he doesn’t try to come between me and my books, I won’t count his aversion to reading against him.

In response, he told me that he thinks we’re going to have a very happy relationship.

What the left field!

Relationship? I don’t have those. Where was I when things became serious? I never agreed to be anyone’s girlfriend!

He admitted we never discussed it, yet he thinks of me as being his girl…after three days.

That is terrifying.

I have only bad experiences with men who refer to me as one of their treasured possessions. I don’t want to be a pirate’s hoard or the pot of gold at the end of a nightmare rainbow. The last time I checked, sex is not an unspoken contract, and a condom is not a promise ring. Plus, there’s a reason I don’t take dating past the realm of casual: things get dangerous when emotions become involved.

I have a habit of keeping a mental list of positive and negative attributes from the first encounter with someone (man or woman). I don’t forget easily, and, even if there are fifty positives, I find it difficult to forgive one negative. A man would have to be perfection personified to win me over to the serious side. No. Scratch that. I would find a way to twist that perfection into a flaw: I’m not good enough for perfect — he must be a really good liar, and I hate liars — no one is perfect, so he’s a figment of my imagination — etc.

Th current non-boyfriend has already racked up a handful of flaws ranging from horrible grammar to substance abuse. I do like a lot of things about him; however, I already know that we can never be more than friends because of those unforgivable negatives. The biggest one: he cheated on his last girlfriend, and he has a tendency to go back to her even after he says he’s done with her for good.

Literary

Words are beautiful. They have unique purpose and flow before being arranged and rearranged in sentences or lines, paragraphs or stanzas. A word doesn’t need to be in a poem in order to be poetic; a word just needs to be in the right place at the right time.

Only a really bad writer could mess up something so inherently perfect and simple.

I’ve read 54 books so far this year (I’ve yet to tally the pages). In the last ten-plus months, I’ve started at least a dozen books that I’ve placed in the book drop after only a few chapters. Either first impressions mean more to me than I’ll admit or those dozen books were poorly written.

For me, the art is in the writing style; the plot is secondary.

If I had a printout of what I’ve borrowed from the library this year, I’d be able to tell you what books I gave up on…and what books I should have given up on. Those aren’t worth remembering, and I prefer to focus on the ones that have made a positive impact. Oddly enough, those two are the ones I finished most recently: Crooked River by Valerie Geary and Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville.

I checked out Crooked River on Monday and took it back Wednesday morning. Gretel and the Dark went back Thursday. I read fast, but I usually take my time. These two made reading exciting for me again. It’s been a dry few months. Stephen King’s latest (Mr. Mercedes) was a bit disappointing past the first few chapters, and, since then, my reading has been sporadic. Only six more books until I reach my goal, yet I’ve been on autopilot for months; I’m not sure how I got through the last twenty. Now that I’ve finally read something decent, in month 11 of 12, perhaps I can regain a little enthusiasm for the written word.

It takes a lot for me to stop reading once I’ve started. If there’s such a thing as Literary OCD, I have it. (This is actually good news for many writers as the second book in a longer series is usually weak.) Maybe it was my two-month illness or my upsurge of social interaction that caused me to lose interest in the books that would normally make me geek out. Maybe it was just the usual relapse of depression. Or maybe there really was a scarcity of decent literature, at least in my local library.

The library was my favorite place when I was a kid. We lived on top of a hill between one society and another – the literal fringes – so every trip into town was an excursion. The children’s section had puzzles, puppets, games, toys, and more books than I could ever hope to read (although I tried). First, I would find at least eight books: Amelia Bedelia, Where’s Waldo, Little Critters, and (because it freaked my mom out) Madeline. I’d get a puppet or two. Set my books on the bench next to me and play with puzzles. Con my brother into playing a game and then get mad when he won. In all those trips to the library – and we’re talking weekly trips – either I skipped over the books that were not only dedicated to buttons but could be unbuttoned or I just skipped that reading phase altogether.

In the nineties, I was obsessed with V.C. Andrews, Lifetime Television, and number of bleach blonde boy bands. (Sidenote: as a game one day, begin every conversation with “I saw this movie on Lifetime once…” and count how many people stop you right there.) I was still in love with the library, but I mostly went that one Saturday each year when I could buy a huge bag of cast-offs for just one dollar.

In college, I had to read books I absolutely hated because they were “classics.” Although I discovered some of my favorite authors this way (Hawthorne, Dickens, Whitman), I also discovered why book burning isn’t always a bad thing.

My son also loves the library. The one where we live doesn’t have an elaborate children’s wing; there are two puzzles missing half their pieces, no puppets, toys or games, and I can count the number of book shelves using only my two hands. Still, he loves it. Besides, he’s been spending more time in the teen room lately anyway. He still reads children’s books (so do I), but I’m happy that he’s growing up and closing the gap between our reading levels.

A couple years ago, he was obsessed with Scooby Doo chapter books. After surviving those, my resistance to bad prose is fairly high. He’s been getting into jokes lately; however, so I’m anticipating another literary dry spell.

Philes and Phobias

The first post is important – as important as any other first for those who find extra meaning in the number one. I am not such a person; however, I can play along. The first page of the first chapter is not the place for revelations; the end of my story should not be my beginning here. There are things I need to say that cannot be said to anyone who knows me, yet I cannot continue being silent. In time, I will tell you everything about me except my true name, for names can become powerful when stolen.

To begin: my first name is not Jane, but it describes me fairly well. Errs is misspelled, which is kind of funny if you think about it. I tell nosy people that I’m six years older than I am because I look six years younger. Although I’ve been engaged 1.5 times, I’ve never been married and plan to remain a single mom until Hell freezes over. (Also, I don’t believe in Hell.)

The only person I trust often tells me that he’s on to me: he says that I like people to think I’m odd when I’m actually “kind of all right.” In truth, I am odd, but no more so than anyone else; I’m just more honest about it. His opinion means everything to me, but he doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does. He has a mental list of my discovered attributes and quirks, likes and aversions, fears and favorites. The list is incomplete until he learns the worst of me.

Let us begin with the best of me:

The written word is my greatest addiction. I have a Bachelor’s of Science in…wait for it…English, but I went one step further and achieved a minor in Creative Writing because there just wasn’t enough English in my English degree. Of course, this did create a problem with my having to take an extra semester of courses in any other topic because I had too many credits for my major, but that is another story and shall be told another time.

In my world, reading is a sport. Each January 1st, I start with a fresh goal: the number of books and the number of pages to be read by December 31st. This is not a New Year’s resolution – those are rarely kept and usually have more to do with waistline subtraction. This is training. Pretty much every library in the known universe has a reading competition. And, yes, I compete. Last year, I won. That may have been because I was the only one in Munchkinland to actually meet the library’s quota…but I digress. In 2013, I read 50 books and over 16,000 pages; for 2014, I’m aiming for 60 and 20,000.

I believe that Bibliophiles are born not made; my love of reading is in my DNA. My grandfather could not go through a day without a paperback and two packs of unfiltered; he was a chain-smoking book hoarder who made sideways comments about my excessive reading. My mother is a librarian and a lifelong book enthusiast. She has been known to read books to rags, replace them, and then read the replacements to shreds. For a good portion of my life, I have only been recognized when carrying a book. My life can be defined by my love of reading – my personality analyzed by my eclectic taste in genres.

Just to add another generation to the genetic argument, let me tell you about my son: he’s still in elementary school, and he makes all who have read before him appear illiterate. I am convinced that if anyone can engineer the technology that will allow people to be scanned into stories and play out the action, it will be my kid. I’ve already volunteered to be the guinea pig.

Reading is not the only aspect of my love affair with English. I also like to write the books. If not for this pesky fear of success and happiness (not failure), perhaps someone outside my alma mater would be familiar with my work. As it is, I’ve not even tried to be published since senior year, this post being the exception. The trauma behind this publishing block started in 2010. I’m supposed to be over it, but I’ve never been one to forgive or forget. This quality was quite handy when taking five English and Writing courses at once; not so handy for moving on already.