The Storm That Never Was

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On August 12, 2017, a few neighborhoods in Glen Burnie were hit by a severe storm. At least two power lines were knocked out by fallen trees, a garage was crushed, siding was ripped off houses, three trees were uprooted, and that was just on my street. BGE arrived very shortly after the storm ended, needing to tend to the wires sparking in the middle of the road, and it took them them several hours to restore electricity to our street. My house lost power around 6:15pm, and we didn’t regain it until a little after 3am the next morning.

Strangely enough, that Saturday didn’t seem like it was going to be anything special. My siblings came over for pizza and games, bringing four dogs to add to the three already living at my house. The temperatures were mild, but the humidity was atrocious! The dogs would take turns diving in our kiddie pool before chasing each other around the yard. Once they’d tired themselves out, we went inside for dinner. We didn’t notice when the rain started, but we couldn’t ignore the storm when the lightning and thunder began. Our bay window points out to the street, but we couldn’t even see the yard. It was raining so fiercely, the only thing we could see was a dripping wall of silver grey. Then the lights went out.

Our street doesn’t go black very often. There’s only a few times in my two decades living there that I can remember the lights even blinking. Even though it was a novelty in my youth, it still meant it was a serious storm. My siblings wisely decided to wait out the storm in the safety of our childhood home, and my brother moved away from the windows. The rain was propelled under our porch roofs and through the door. The carpet around our front door was soaked. Both sides of our back door were dripping wet. It was a few hours before the weather calmed down enough for my siblings to be able to leave.

My brother left as soon as he could, eager to go home and check on his wife. He called from his car to warn the others that the roads were trashed with debris and an electrical line was lying in the middle of the road. Everyone went outside to see the damage.

Even with our flashlights, it was hard to see, but the streets were covered with branches, tops of trees were twisted off, our electrical post was broken, and wires were being pulled from our house. My home was extremely lucky; the only damage we suffered was the loss of electricity and a branch took out our garden fence. One neighbors weren’t so lucky. Our neighbor’s tree crushed their fence and left a deep pit in their backyard. Another neighbor had a branch penetrate their roof. A nearby church had several trees fall, barely missing the actual building, but crushing their handicap ramp. A shed at another house was flattened. The next day, I took a walk around the neighborhood and took pictures of the damage, but clean up had already been in progress for several hours.

Several people in the neighborhood have speculated that a tornado touched down on our street, but I haven’t been able to find any news reports saying it was even a severe rainstorm. Because of the power outages, we couldn’t watch the news as it was happening, so we have no idea what hit us. There were gale force winds, heavy rain, thunderstorms, but I can’t find any record of what it was officially. The closest I’ve found is a history report from a nearby radar, but that lists the winds as only 37mph. I’m no meteorologist, so I could be wrong, but that doesn’t sound like strong enough winds to take down three healthy oak trees.

I know my neighborhood didn’t suffer any kind of special catastrophe. The local news reports are swamped with the riots in Charlottsville, and I agree that the tragedy needs to be covered. The KKK, Nazis, and white supremacist groups should be eradicated, because they’re no better than ISIS terrorists. But just because there was tragedy doesn’t mean other people don’t exist. I still hear chainsaws and beeping work trucks around my house. There are still some people with zero to partial electricity. Do they not exist because the KKK are feeling empowered? I just want to know what hit my home. Was it a tornado? Or was it just a freak severe storm? I might have been in the middle of it, but I couldn’t see it, and I want to know!

If you find anything about the storm that hit Glen Burnie, Maryland on August 12, 2017, please link the article or report in the comments down below. I sincerely can’t find anything, and I hate not knowing.

*** The KKK, Nazis, and White Supremacists are human trash. ***

Something Old, Something New

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In honor of Book Lover’s Day (which is apparently today), I’ve decided to recycle one of my old book blogs. I used to have a blog about book suggestions called “The Bookwyrm’s Bookshelf,” but I couldn’t keep up with it. Still, there were a few good books I was able to put out there. Here is one of my favorites, “Now You See It…” by Vivan van Velde.

This book has a special significance to me. After my grandfather died, I sought this book out, digging through the Barnes and Nobles online marketplace to find a gently used copy, since it’s apparently out of print. The book is about Wendy, a modern high school girl with glasses, and a grandmother with Alzheimer’s. Can you see where I find the appeal?

Now You See It… begins with Wendy’s mom, Jeanette, driving her home from her eye doctor’s appointment. Wendy stubbornly refused to wear the paper sunglasses the eye doctor gave her to help with her dilated pupils and is essentially stumbling around blind as she tries to peek out from under her lids to get indoors. That’s how she catches the glint of something in her lawn and finds a pair of mirrored sunglasses that fit her prescription exactly. Her mother packs the tacky glasses in Wendy’s school bag the next day, and it’s a good thing since Wendy’s bus gets caught in an accident-induced traffic jam that sends Wendy’s glasses flying under a boy’s Adidas.

Forced to wear the tacky glasses to school, Wendy begins seeing weird things, starting with dead people. She sees the woman from the accident get up and walk into the light, then sees the spirit of another accident who starts talking to her. Of course she doesn’t quite comprehend what’s going on at first, but the starts thinking that it’s some kind of government secret service gadget. Until she sees little blue people wreaking mischievous havoc at her high school and sees the head cheerleader, the most gorgeous girl at school, become a hideous hag. Then she thinks she’s just going crazy. She goes to the nurse’s office to catch a breath and ends up talking to Julian York, an average and kind student, suddenly realizing that he looks so much more attractive under the influence of the glasses. That’s when she sees his pointed ears. Things get worse when Tiffanie, the cheerleader crone, sees how she looks through the lenses, and Wendy sees her talking to Julian about it.

When Tiffanie and Julian try to get on Wendy’s bus, Wendy quickly ditches before they can follow her and joins her step-sister Gia on a different base. There she takes shelter at Westfall Nursing Home, lurking in the background as she and Gia visit their grandmother, Helen. Wendy gets caught reminiscing of when her grandmother was younger, unplagued by Alzheimer’s, and she can’t stand being in the same room with the old woman who stares blankly at the wall. She goes down to the lobby to recover from the pain and sees Julian enter, and she panics. She runs into the nursing home’s yard, followed closely by Julian, and she runs through a stone archway. She’s surprised to find herself suddenly in a thick wood and ducks off the path to hide. Julian is not too far behind her, but he gets ambushed by a group of elves. Wendy watches in quiet terror as the elves start dragging away a very badly beaten Julian, then trap/kill one of the tiny blue men that tried to mess with them.

Once the elves drag Julian away, Wendy comes out of hiding to see if the little blue man had really been killed or just badly wounded. He turns out to be perfectly fine, if a little rude and crude, and he introduces himself as Larry the spreenie. He becomes the unwanted but useful companion, giving Wendy half-understood explanations of how the stone gateway works and half-heeded instructions on how to get back home. Wendy lets her mind wander as she crosses the threshold and ends up walking into a street in 1953. A beautiful, brave girl pulls her out of the way of an oncoming car, but the yank sends Wendy’s sunglasses flying into the path of the car and they break. The girl introduces herself as Eleni, the Greek form of Helen. Wendy is shocked when she realizes that Eleni is her grandmother as a teenager, but wisely decides to remain anonymous. Eleni is clever enough to guess that some kind of time-travel was involved in Wendy’s appearance, even guesses that Wendy is somehow related to her, and names Wendy “Jeanette” since Wendy refused to give her real name. Wendy tells Eleni as much as she can about the situation, and Eleni suggests that Wendy was wrong to abandon Julian, and that he may not have been the bad guy.

Upon hearing this, Larry, who is invisible without the sunglasses, uses a water fountain to signal Wendy of his presence. He returns the single surviving lens but becomes unfortunately infatuated with Eleni. Eleni and Larry convince Wendy to go back to rescue Julian, and they go back to the portal at the non-existent nursing home, attracting a particularly nasty German Shepherd. The dog chases the three through the portal, where they literally run into Tiffanie. Tiffanie freezes and lectures the dog, befriending him and convincing him not to eat any of them. Tiffanie freaks when Wendy tells her that Julian has been taken captive, and she becomes the moving force in rescuing him. Tiffanie quickly fills Wendy and Eleni in on the recent elf history of the royal house, revealing Julian to be the elf king’s son and heir. Larry tells them as much as he knows about Julian’s kidnapping, including that it was Julian’s cousin, Berrech, who kidnapped him, and how Berrech had set up shop in Dragon’s Cove. They unfortunately assume that that’s where Julian is being held captive, and they begin their journey to rescue the elf prince.

They travel through the fairy realm, which Larry tells them is called Kazaran Dahaani, disguised as three beautiful shepherdesses (Tiffanie being the most beautiful), a barking sheep (the dog, Brave Heart), and a wren. They make it without too much incident to Dragon’s Cove and quickly concoct a plan. Larry goes to spy on the elves, coming back to give the girls what they’re up against, which is six elves, including Berrech and his father Vediss, and an imprisoned dragon. Tiffanie disguises Wendy as a shadow and she sneaks into the cave to convince the dragon to help them as well as unlock the cage Julian is trapped in while the others separate the other elves using various decoy maneuvers. The dragon spots Wendy almost immediately, and he figures out her plan just as quickly. He silently proves that he is willing to cooperate with them, even covering for her when she accidentally draws the enemy elves’ attentions. Unfortunately, all their plans fall apart when Larry catches sight of Berrech using another pair of sunglasses to disguise himself as Julian. The spreenie gives the whole plan away, then, realizing his mistake, flees. The dragon flames at the elves to keep them away while Wendy finds the key, but before she can unlock either dragon or prince, one of the elves returns with a knife to Eleni’s throat. Brave Heart leaps in, giving Eleni the chance to break free from the elf’s grip. Wendy tosses Julian the key to his cell, and he tackles his cousin, wrestling for possession of a knife that was thrown at Wendy. The tussle ends when the dragon is finally freed and he offers to eat Berrech and Vediss as punishment for their traitorous crimes. Julian convinces Wendy to keep the dragon from feasting, and instead, the dragon takes the two elves to muck out the dragon’s caves.

They all go to return to their own times, Tiffanie escorting Eleni back to 1953 with the hopes of buying Brave Heart. Meanwhile, Julian escorts Wendy back to her time, and he goes with her to visit her grandmother, Helen. The ending of this book makes me cry, and I don’t want to ruin it for you, so go read it yourself.

This book is set in a modern high school mindset, so there are some minor sexual inferences (like old crone Tiffanie not wearing a bra) scattered throughout the tale. The d-expletive is also used twice, and the character Larry is rude and crude (but also very sarcastic and very funny). The story itself is sound and powerful. I first read it when I was 16, and it meant enough for me to hunt it down almost eight years later. If you’ve never read it, check it out!

Van Velde, Vivian. Now You See It… Orlando: Magic Carpet Books, 2005.

Author: Vivian Van Velde

Genre: Fantasy

Recommended Reading Age: 12+

Pages: 276

Favorite Character: Eleni/Helen

Favorite Scene: When Wendy is sneaking into the cave to talk to the dragon, and the dragon has already figured out the plan and is trying to convey his willingness to help without tipping off Berrech and Vediss.

Favorite Quote: “No,” Larry said, “baby dragons grow on baby dragon bushes and are plucked by storks, then delivered to happy dragon mommies and daddies. No dragons involved. Nuh-uh. Rated PG. Definitely.”

 

Great Aspirations

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These last few weeks I’ve been a little busy with the finishing touches on my book. I’ve been working on this book for ten years, and it’s just about ready to send to agents! I’m currently going through it line by line, catching any spelling errors I can find and tightening sentence syntax. Once that’s finished, I have a list of agents I plan to send it to. In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy a short story that directly pertains to the book I’m working on. “To Be a King” is pure backstory for one of the main characters, Prince Miaku (pronounced Me-ah-koo), and also contains another main character, Prince Karran (pronounced Kah-rahn). As soon as my book is agent ready, I’ll be back to writing my normal blogs.

TO BE A KING

 

 

 

“Hey! Give it back! I need to practice!”

Miaku, Crown Prince of Rafferty, watched as his brothers, the twins Mekrik and Ravin, tormented their cousin Karran. The twins had stolen Karran’s practice sword and were shoving it in the dirt, smacking it against rocks, and generally abusing it as Karran struggled to reclaim it. The twins started playing keep-away, tossing the sword to each other as they pranced around the courtyard. Karran kept trying to intercept the exchange, but he was always just too late. The twins laughed mockingly every time the boy missed, making their sport crueler.

Miaku looked away, feeling guilty for not intervening on Karran’s behalf. He didn’t blame his brothers for picking on him, but Karran didn’t deserve it either. The boy had enough tragedy in his life. Both of his parents had died before Karran was even an hour old. Miaku’s father, King Zesiro, had taken in the boy and raised him. Karran was only five when they discovered he was a prodigy swordsman, and he was immediately shipped off to an elite academy. Three years later, he was shipped back, having learned all they could teach him there. King Zesiro brought the best tutors in all of Oran to train Karran and had seen to his tutelage personally. The special attention Karran was receiving from the king had made several of his sons jealous. Their father didn’t have a lot of time to spare, and that he was spending most of it with his nephew infuriated them. Thankfully, only the twins had turned their bitterness into action. Miaku had no problem with the boy, but he didn’t feel a strong urge to protect him either.

King Zesiro walked into the courtyard. He gave his sons a hard look, causing the twins to stop tormenting Karran long enough to pretend that he was their best friend. The king shook his head despairingly and continued on his path toward his eldest.

Miaku bowed respectfully as his father approached him.

“Miaku,” the king said, “walk with me.”

“Yes sir.”

The two turned and walked toward the battlements as the king began to speak. “Miaku, tell me something: if a man sees that a younger, poorer man knows something that he does not, and doesn’t stop to learn it, is he a fool?”

“Yes sir. Knowledge is important, and anyone who rejects the chance to learn is a fool.”

“So why haven’t you asked Karran to teach you the Kavin Disbarment maneuver?”

“Sir?”

The king smiled knowingly. “I’ve seen you watching him practice. You’ve been trying to figure out his technique, but you haven’t been able to, have you?”

Miaku shook his head silently.

“You’d master it if you’d have Karran teach you. After all, he developed that maneuver himself.”

Miaku stared at his father in shock. “Karran’s just a kid! There’s no way he’s developed his own techniques, no matter how good he is!”

“Why do you think it’s named after his father?” King Zesiro continued  as Miaku looked away sullenly, “When the whole world is against you, you have to be a fast learner. He didn’t have any friends at the academy. The children there resented him as much as my own children do.”

“I don’t resent him.”

“Then why do you torment him?”

Miaku jerked away from his father indignantly. “It’s not me! It’s Mekrik and Ravin!”

“But you let them.” Miaku looked down guiltily, and the king put a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Not stopping an injustice is the same as doing it.”

“They’re just kids,” Miaku muttered. “It’s not like it means anything.”

“It doesn’t? Karran will never forget what they did to him. He’ll never forget that no one defended him, either.”

“Then why don’t you do something? The twins will listen to you.”

The king looked at his son sadly. “If I punish the twins for tormenting Karran, they’ll just blame him and make him pay for their punishment. There’s nothing I can do for him.”

Miaku frowned stubbornly as he avoided his father’s gaze.

The king sighed and took a step away, signaling that he was about to leave. “I won’t force you to do anything, but think about this: the greatest friends are made when one puts himself in harm’s way for the other.” As he turned to go, he added, “Be thankful for your friends, Miaku. Karran doesn’t have any.”

The king left his son on the battlements to think. Miaku stared out at the kingdom around him. He knew that his responsibilities started at home. If he could be a good king to his family, he could be a good king to his people. He wanted to be a good king like his father.

Shouts came from the courtyard. Miaku turned to see that the twins had pinned Karran to the ground and were beating him. For the first time, Miaku understood that Karran really had no friends. Suddenly furious, he stormed down the battlements and into the courtyard. He grabbed his brothers by their collars and pulled them off their cousin. Karran sat up and watched in surprise as Miaku threw them back. Mekrik and Ravin glared at Miaku, and he glared back.

“What, are you protecting the brat now?” Mekrik snapped irritably.

“Yes, I am.” Miaku folded his arms over his chest.

“You can’t protect him all the time!” Ravin pointed out.

“I don’t need to, because you’re going to stop messing with him.”

“Who says? Future King Miaku?” Mekrik asked.

“What are you going to do?” Ravin added with a derisive laugh. “Lock us in the tower?”

Miaku shrugged casually. “I just thought I’d tell Mother how a dead frog ended up in her dragonberry pie.”

“You can’t prove that we did that!” Mekrik sputtered.

“You think they won’t believe me?” Miaku smiled knowingly when they didn’t answer. “If I ever hear of you picking on Karran again, I’ll tell the entire staff how an army of frogs got into the kitchens.”

The twins didn’t need to be warned twice. They scurried away, casting suspicious glances at their brother over their shoulders. Miaku nodded in satisfaction and turned to Karran. Karran had retrieved his sword, and was cleaning it with a cloth from his pouch.

The boy looked up at his cousin, his black hair falling across his pained blue eyes. “Did Uncle Zesiro make you help me?”

Miaku thought about denying it, but he didn’t see the point. “He suggested it, but I wanted to help.”

“Why? You never have before.”

“No, but I think I just realized that I needed to.”

Karran grunted and checked his sword. It glinted in the bright sunlight. He nodded in satisfaction as he sheathed it. “Well, thanks. I’ll go find somewhere else to practice.”

Miaku suddenly had a hard time believing that the little kid in front of him was only eight. He smiled dryly. “I was actually hoping you’d teach me that Kavin Disbarment maneuver you developed.”

Karran glanced at him skeptically. “Really? You want to learn from me, your ‘brat’ cousin? Is this some kind of joke”

“No. It’s a good maneuver. I couldn’t figure it out on my own, so I thought I’d go to the only person who could teach me.”

The boy hesitated.

“You teach me that maneuver, and I’ll give you some wrestling pointers. Maybe then you won’t end up at the bottom of a dog pile.”

Karran smiled, and drew his sword. “Deal.”

As if on cue, Miaku drew his own sword, and the lesson began.

“Until You Can Say…”

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It comes when I’m tired or when I’ve talked too much or too fast. It comes during competitions when I’m nervous and when I’m trying to make a point. Sometimes it comes while I’m with my friends and family and I’m just trying to have a good time. Most people don’t notice it, but it’s there waiting to come out. I try to control it, keep it caged, but it escapes. It is my tongue. It is my teeth. It is my lisp.

My first word was “shoo,” but now I wonder if baby me was trying to say “chew” instead because I couldn’t pronounce the ch sound as a child. Whenever I tried, it would come out sh. I couldn’t pronounce s’s properly, either. My tongue refused to stay behind my teeth and would snake out between them to create a th sound.

Thankfully, my Mom didn’t let me live with my lisp and took me to a speech therapist when I was five years old. Even though the therapist didn’t think it was serious enough to bother with, Mom decided that she’d be my therapist. I remember driving home with her in our van and asking for some gum, my favorite candy.

“You can’t have any gum until you can say ‘peach,’ ‘church,’ and ‘chewing gum,’” she told me.

“But I can say ‘peash,’ ‘shursh,’ and ‘shewing gum’!” I protested.

She looked at me and smiled knowingly. “Keep practicing.”

I sank down into the brown van seat and sulked. “Peash-ch,shursh-ch, ch-shewing gum.”

“Pea-ch, ch-ur-ch, ch-ewing gum.” Mom enunciated the ch pointedly.

“Peash-ch, ch-shursh-ch, ch-shewing gum,” I repeated.

It took a few months, but I eventually mastered the ch sound and got my gum. Unfortunately, my s’s continued to come out sounding like th. By concentrating really hard, I could force my tongue to stay behind my teeth, but then would end up hissing like a snake.
Still, I managed to subdue my lisp significantly so that I could pronounce s’s followed by hard consonants such as k’s and t’s and liquid consonants such as l’s and d’s. But when there was an s pressed against a vowel, I struggled.

I would have stopped bothering with my lisp if it hadn’t been for speech competitions with 4-H, a youth organization where I met kids my age and learned to do things like act, cook, sew, and make crafts. At first, I did my best to avoid s’s in my speeches, but after a while, I gave up. There were just too many s’s in the English language. To win any prizes, I had to work on my lisp and became a frequent champion on county and regional levels. The lisp was my downfall at the state levels, and I walked away with only a reserve champion. But I didn’t let losing bother me and I learned to enjoy performing in front of crowds. People only knew I had a lisp if I told them.

One day at band practice, while in the practice room putting my flute together, I told my friend Cadence about the 4-H speech competitions and my frustration at never making state champion.

“Why don’t you think you can get champion?” Cadence asked.

“Because of my lisp.”

“You have a lisp?” I frowned at her sudden interest and excitement. She had a look in her eyes that reminded me of the look my siblings got whenever they found something new to tease people about. I chose my next word carefully, avoiding all s’s. “Yeah.”

“Say something with an s!”

“No.”

“Come on, Debi! I want to hear your lisp! Say something with an s!”

“No!” I grabbed my flute and music stand and started to leave.

She followed me, grabbing my long, brown ponytail and tugging it. “Come on, Debi! Just one word!”

“No.”

She tugged my hair again. “Please? Please? Please? Please?” Each “please” was accompanied by another tug.

My head was starting to ache; I grabbed my pony tail and yanked it away. “Cut it out!”

“Please?” She grabbed my hair and pulled it again, hard.

“Cadenthe! Thtop it!”

She released my hair, laughed, and clapped her hands in delight. “Say another s-word!”

“No!” I dropped my stand and dashed into the bathroom, bolting the door behind me. I sat on the floor, holding my aching head, and waited for Cadence to stop pounding on the door. She stopped after a few minutes, but I waited a little longer just to make sure. I slipped out, retrieved my stand, and hurried down into the band room where I would be protected by the teacher. Cadence hadn’t hurt my feelings that day; she’d only annoyed me—and given me a headache. But I didn’t let the teasing bother me even when a fateful incident made my lisp the brunt of a family joke.

My grandfather had treated our family to dinner at Texas Roadhouse, shoving us six Overstreets into the raised wooden booth. I ordered my normal eight-ounce steak, medium rare with onions; a loaded baked potato; and my favorite side Caesar salad.  After the waiter left with our orders, my mother noticed my siblings, Beckie and Simeon, were snickering behind their menus.

“What are you two laughing about?” Mom asked suspiciously.

“Thide thaethar thalad!” Beckie said. Then she and Simeon burst out laughing like only an Overstreet could.

I frowned. “I said ‘thide thaethar thalad,’ not ‘thide thaethar thalad.’”

They laughed louder.

I realized what I had said and tried again. “Thide thaethar thalad!”

They were red in the face by now, and Beckie started to turn purple.

I huffed in exasperation and didn’t try again. “Thide thaethar thalad” was stuck in my mouth now, and I probably wouldn’t be able to say it correctly until we got home—and by then it would be pointless. Folding my arms across my chest, I glared at them.

Mom leaned over to me. “You can smack them if you want to.”

I won’t lie, it was a tempting proposition. But—mother’s permission or no—if you smack a sibling, be prepared to get smacked back and harder. Since I didn’t feel like adding a stinging arm to my stinging ego, I said very purposefully, “Thut up!”

If they had died then, they would have deserved it. Now it doesn’t matter if I say “side Caesar salad” or “thide thaethar thalad,” they laugh just as hard either way. I just tell them to “thut up” and move on with whatever I’m doing.

Sometimes people refer to my lisp as a speech impediment to keep from hurting my feelings. My lisp doesn’t impede me; it just gives me one more mountain to conquer. I realized this one Friday dinner during my senior year at college.

Sitting at a table to my left, another student I had never met caught my attention and pointed to his friend. “This guy can’t pronounce his r’s. They come out like w’s, like ‘sowwy.’ Do you feel sorry for him?”

I wondered if this was a joke, but instead of lying and saying “yes” to spare his feelings, I told them the truth. “No.”

He was taken back. “Why not?”

I knew I’d sounded like a jerk and my reasons probably wouldn’t help, but I explained anyway. “I have a lisp, and I’ve never wanted to be pitied. I’ve never pitied anyone with any kind of handicap. I admire them. They have to work to get past their handicap, and by doing so, become better than those without a handicap.”

“Oh. I’m sorry about your lisp.”

It was then that I realized I actually feel sorry for those without one. I admire those with severe handicaps who, in trying to keep up with the normal world, surpass “normal” people. In trying to be Clark Kent, they become Superman. The difference for some people is how they react to the handicap. People need to wait until they can say “chewing gum” before they can have their chewing gum.

By Any Other Name

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I have had a social profile on Facebook for eight years, listing myself under my self-given pen name of Dragonness Wyverna. It was harmless fun. My friends and family knew who I was, and those that didn’t had no idea who to look for. My intent was to avoid people I knew but didn’t want snooping around in my personal life. It worked well, keeping those who were put off by my ecccentricity away while still welcoming those who weren’t afraid of my oddities. Then, last week, Facebook let me know that they had been alerted that my name was unsuitable and insisted I either prove it was actually my legal name or change it. When I wasn’t able to provide proper validation, they locked me out of my account until I submitted a more acceptable name. I did try to just re-enter “Dragonness Wyverna,” but they threatened to lock me out of my account permanently if I continued to insist upon my false name. I was forced to bite the bullet and submit my birth name.

It’s a bit ridiculous on both sides when you step back from the situation. I wasn’t causing any emotional, physical, or monetary harm by operating under the name “Dragonness Wyverna,” so there was no need for Facebook to insist on my changing it. If I was a terrorist, pedophile, hacker, or some other felon with a grand plan, eight years would have been more than enough time for me to cause whatever trouble I had planned. On the flip side, it was just a screen name, a pseudonym, so there was no reason for me not to change it. There are plenty of dumb technical reasons for Facebook to insist I use my real name, and it would make me easier to found by lost childhood friends. The problem only comes when you take into account how attached I am to “Dragonness Wyverna.”

When it comes to names, “Dragonness Wyverna” is about as dumb as they come. I created it when I was thirteen as my screenname for the dragon oriented art website dragnix.net by feminizing “dragon” and  the dragon-cousin “wyvern.” I made “dragoness” more of a name by adding an extra “n,” and “Dragonness Wyverna” was born! Naturally, I had a dragon avatar to go with the name, and I spent several years on dragnix befriending several other dragon-loving teen artists. I grew attached to the name because of the friends I had made with it, and I decided that I was going to publish my future books under the name “Dragonness Wyverna.” When I joined Facebook, I went ahead and made it my official name, then carried it over to my Instagram and Twitter profiles. As the years went on, it became my name more than my actual name. It better represented my eccentric personality and passions. When I went through college, I earned the name thrice over, being called “Dragonness,” “Dragon Lady,” and “Dragon Girl” by random students who noticed my extreme personality. I loved it! I loved being Dragonness. It was a badge of weirdness I was so proud to bear, aand my friends shook their heads and laughed fondly at my peculiarity. 

I’ll admit, filling out the neccessary paperwork to legally change my name to “Dragonness Wyverna” crossed my mind more than once. Unfortunately, I’m not so far removed from reality to think that it is an appropriate name in the normal world; Princess Consuela Bananahamock would be more appropriate. Any profession outside of entertainment would not hire a “Dragonness Wyverna.” I could see how such a name would effect my current position as a K3 teaching aide. If I were a parent, I would admittedly think twice before entrusting my child to any weirdo calling herself “Miss Wyverna” or “Miss Dragonness.” Professions aside, I think my parents would be hurt if I discarded the name they gave me. It might sound strange for a twenty-six-year-old to care what her parents think about her name, but I respect them. They’ve done an excellent job raising me, though I make no claims of being perfect. And while I don’t care for my first name, I appreciate where it came from. I’m also quite proud of my family name; we have a strong reputation for hard work, which has earned me more than one job. I also don’t actually see anyone other than my best friend calling me “Dragonness Wyverna” in real life.

When Facebook made me change my name, I was lost in a depressed funk for two days. It felt as though I had been stripped of my identity, as if who I was wasn’t good enough. However, after dwelling on the problem, looking at it from all angles, and seeing how my friends loved me no matter what name I was forced to bear, I came to accept the truth. Who I am is more than a name. I could be named Regina Filange, and it wouldn’t change my dreams, my passions, or my beliefs. It’s just a name, and there are people with worse names out there. When I am finally published, and my books are being as well read as Harry Potter, I can have whatever name I want, no matter how ridiculous. 

Dragonness Wyverna is me.

No Good Deed

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I was waiting patiently behind a sedan to get gas, listening to my tunes as the driver got out of her car and hooked the nozzle back in its holster before getting back into her car. I noticed that her gas cap was still dangling down and the glap was open, so I honked at her to get her attention, pointing to the problem. The man at the next station came over when he saw the problem and quickly fixed her gas cap for her, accepting her embarressed thanks. When I pulled up to the nozzle, that man leaned over and said with a friendly grin, “You can go home now. You’ve done your good deed for the day!” I chuckled with him, but his words, though kind, bothered me.

What good deed had I done? I had merely pointed out a mistake. The man was the one who had hurried over to fix it. If honking at a woman to point out she had messed up was a deed deamed good enough to “go home,” then what did that say about our society? I don’t know how many people would consider what I did a “good deed.” To me, it was simply instinctual courtesy. To think that such courtesy, which is supposed to be common, would be considered something special is a tad ludicrous. However, after sharing my experience with a few people, I heard another side of the story.

One of my friends confessed that he wouldn’t have honked at the woman or otherwise alerted her to her mistake. Apparently, the times he’s been courteous he’s been flipped off. He didn’t see the point in being kind when his kindness would be returned with crude ingratitude. I could understand his point of view, especially knowing that he’s an introverted and speaking to strangers at all is difficult. If people are going to be jerks to those just trying to help, we, as a society, are going to drive courtesy to extinction.

Personally, I don’t like the idea of “good deed.” I like the idea of being kind and helping those less fortunate–or even those more fortunate who still need help. I just don’t like this concept of doing something good for someone else with a mindset that it makes you a better human being. Charity and kindness doesn’t make anyone better than anyone else, it just makes you decent. I don’t believe in helping others for your own benefit, whether its making donations to get tax breaks or giving food to the homeless to boost your own reputation. Why can’t we just help people to help them?

On the flip side, is it too much to ask to return courtesy with courtesy? Why do we automatically assume people are on the attack or are judging us? I am more than guilty of this. I have a tendency not to trust anyone, and I do jump when a stranger speaks to me. I guess, I too, assume the worst of the people around me. It’s something I need to work on. If we all work on treating people better (because, let’s face it, no matter how well we treat people we can always do better), someday we won’t expect the worst. 

That would be a day to look forward to.

I Know My Purpose

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When I was eight years old, I showed my mother the “book” I had written and illustrated with the enthusiasm of your standard child. At the time, my dream was to become a veterinarian and save the lives of all the puppies, but my mother knew I wouldn’t be able to emotionally handle that job. So, she pointed out how much I loved creating stories and told me I was really good at writing. I realized then that writing was my real dream, and since then I’ve been honing those skills and working to become a Tolkien-level writer.

I wrote several stories as I was growing, all fantasy based with characters based on my friends. The older I got, the more I understood the amount of work that was needed to reach the level of my hero, J.R.R. Tolkien. I read his works (The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) many times before graduating high school, studying the characters he’d developed and the world he’d created. I read essays from other fantasy writers, Madeleine L’Engle, Lloyd Alexander, and Jane Yolen, and I wrote to Bruce Coville (Into the Land of the Unicorns, Goblins in the Castle) and Brian Jacques (Redwall, Lord Brocktree). Bruce Coville wrote back, even handwriting his third letter and including the prologue to his not-yet-published Dark Whispers, encouraging me in my developing craft.

When J.K. Rowling published Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, reading became cool again, and, despite my father’s disapproval of the story, I began to read the Harry Potter series with the same fervor as I read The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien and Legolas would always hold my heart, but Harry, Hermione, and Ron had taken the world by storm, and I needed to know how to create a storm of my own. The same happened with Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga (though I couldn’t stomach more than the first book). I knew I needed to study what the populace wanted to read, even if I had no interest in writing about sparkling vampires.

I graduated high school a year early and took a correspondence writing course while working to pay for college. I also worked through college, stacking boxes of pamphlets and test booklets for the Abeka Printshop. I studied at Pensacola Christian College for four ears, earning my B.A. in commercial writing with a minor in general history. I wrote two short stories (“OPERATION: CINDERELLA,” “Quest for the Moat Monster”) based on college experiences and published them on Amazon.com for the kindle, though they have not sold well. I was paid to write twenty-seven literary pieces for Learning Through Sports (LTS) to help start their summer learning program, and one of my pieces was featured as an example text when they sought final approval from their board.

Since then, I’ve focused on perfecting the first book in a trilogy I’ve been working on since I was sixteen. Currently titled Forged, it’s the story of two sisters who fall into a fantastical world ruled by a murderous tyrant. They meet a princess and a pair of princes, survivors of the tyrant’s coup, and they push the royals into starting a war aimed at putting the true heir, the eldest prince, on the throne. They must unite with elves, faeries, and dwarves to fight the tyrant’s army of werewolves, vampires, and half-cat creatures called Zív. I had sent this story out to six different literary agents two years ago, but all six replied with almost the exact same response: “The beginning is too slow.” Of course, rewriting the beginning became rewriting the entire book, but now I think it’s just about ready to be sent out again.

My plan is to send it out to more agents and hopefully score a traditional publishing house such as Scholastic or Disney Hyperion. I know that traditional publishing houses don’t pay well and that they keep the majority of the copyrights, but I’m okay with that. The relative failure of my two short stories shows that I am not very good at marketing; I need help to sell my work. I know Forged will be excellent, and that people will want to read it, but I need help getting it into my reader’s hands. A traditional publishing house has the power and reach to cover global marketing. Once the readers know who to look for, marketing will be easy for all the other books I plan to write. This trilogy (The Oathbreaker Trilogy) is just the beginning. I have plans for a ten-book series about a dragon girl, a series about an academy with access to multiple worlds, a five-book series about a world that hinges on the number five, and a single book about a world overrun with werewolves and vampires. The Oathbreaker Trilogy is just my way of breaking the ice with my readers.

My purpose is to write. If I have to sacrifice the rights to a single trilogy to fulfill that purpose, I will. I know what I have to offer is good; I just need the rest of the world to know it, too.

The Abyss

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While I was in college, I struggled a lot with self-worth. All of my close friends were dating and/or engaged, and I hadn’t been so much as asked out. I had been rejected several times, and most of my crushes actively avoided me after I made my feelings known. Meanwhile, my friends were wrapped up in their own romances, busy ditching me to gaze lovingly in each other’s eyes. Our college stresses dating and marriage as much as good grades, and my home church compounded the issue by all the elder women asking me “Do you have a boyfriend yet?” In hindsight, it’s actually amusing how they never asked me about my grades. It was a lot of stress to deal with.

I have since come to terms with my perpetual singleness, but during those dark days in college, I tried to cope with this depression the only way I knew how: putting it in a story. I tried to show what I was dealing with mentally by telling the story with a lot of symbolism, which probably makes it hard to understand. I also wanted to warn readers that the following story cites scripture from the King James translation of the Bible. If that offends you, feel free to go to another blog site. Otherwise, enjoy the story!

“The Abyss”

Where am I? Everything is so dark. Is this a forest? Only a bitter blue light glows through the trees, barely making it across the empty branches of dying trees. It is so sad! The sadness rolls on me with a cold fog. The chill and damp seeps through my thin clothes, and I rub my scrawny arms with tiny hands, trying to gain some semblance of warmth. I’m so cold! Am I all alone here in this awful place? No—no, I’m not alone. There are voices.

You’re like one of those crazy old ladies with a thousand cats!

The voice is derisive, and familiar. A friend? I stumble back and trip over a protruding root. Something slimy is on the ground, and it quickly oozes around my fingers, burying itself under my fingernails.

One of my friends came up to me yesterday and asked if I knew you. When I said ‘Yeah, I know her,’ she said, ‘She’s really creepy.’

Laughter was heavy in my other “friend’s” voice. I put my hand back, and wince as my hand lands in a pile of dead holly leaves. The filthy ooze coats them, though they are dried and brown, and their leaves still bite into my flesh. I pick up my hand and look at it. The spiny leaves are imbedded in my palm. It hurts.

It takes courage to be friends with her. She’s so weird!

An angry hornet flies out of the leaf pile and sees me. It flies right to my arm and plunges its stinger not once, but three times into my skin. I cry out and squish the vengeful bug, feeling the crunch of its body and the congealed mass of bug guts on my hand and arm. The hornet’s body pricks at my skin, taking its revenge after death. The stings are burning. I climb to my feet and pull the prickly leaves from my palm.

I’ll sit anywhere you want, except with her. The only reason her “friends” sit with her is because they feel sorry for her.

I stub my toe hard on the rough bark of a hickory root. I fall back down and look at my throbbing appendage. My toe starts bleeding, and the nail falls off. I grab a piece of my sleeve and tear it from my shirt. I wrap the dirty cloth around my toe. It’s tender to the touch, and I groan at the pain.

Do you think you’re a cow?

That’s my sister’s voice. It’s filled with the kind of scorn that only she can throw at me. I close my eyes, shutting out what little light there is. I can’t help thinking, Does no one like me? An ant crawls out of a nearby tree and bites at me experimentally. I barely notice the many insignificant stings. Then it starts to rain.

Someone would have to love you because of your personality. You’re really not pretty enough for someone to love you otherwise.

Now my brother’s voice; it’s compassionate and apologetic, which almost makes it worse than my sister’s. The ground beneath me sags, becoming a pit of quicksand in the pouring rain.

Look, uh, I don’t feel the same way about you as you do for me.

I have sunk into the ground up to my calf.

Why don’t you go sit over there with them?

I feel the mud crawl up my thighs. The cold seeps into the marrow of my bones, and I know that I will never be warm again.

You stupid pig!

I grab onto the roots of the tree, feeling its sharp bark biting into my flesh. The mud is quickly rising up past my stomach. The rain is coming down harder and faster now. My hair is plastered to my face, the water pulls the dirt from my hair into my eyes and mouth. The mud is past my chest now.

Why am I talking about something intelligent with you?

I close my eyes and let go of the root. The mud crawls up my neck and across my cheeks. My last thought before the mud completely envelopes me is: Whatever is down there will be better than what’s up here. I’m wrong.

I am falling, falling free of the slime and mud and filth. I am falling into a void. There is no light. There is no warmth. There are no voices. There is nothing but nothingness itself. I land, but the landing is painless. Everything is painless. I’m not cold, and I’m not warm. I just am. No feeling can live in the abyss that I have fallen into, and no one cares enough to pull me out. I curl into a tight ball, trying to take some comfort in my own life. There is no comfort to be had. I am alone with the sinking stomach that comes with dejection, and I can’t even cry. I am tired, oh so tired! I close my eyes again, but the world is so dark that I can’t tell that I have.

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.[1]

Another voice? I don’t recognize this one. It’s kind and genuinely concerned. I open my eyes, but the world is still dark.

The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses.[2]

I sit up and look around. “Who’s there?”

A light flashes in the darkness, and a small, glowing ball flies in front of me. I think I can feel warmth emanating from it, and I hear the echoes of laughter, of love. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.[3] Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.[4] The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee.[5]

I press myself into the corner. I know this voice now, and I feel ashamed. “Why should you care about me? It’s been so long since I’ve cared about you.”

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.[6]

I bury my face in my hands. “I’m not worth it. I’m ugly, and creepy, and nobody likes me.”

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?  Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? [7]

“But I don’t deserve it. I don’t do anything for you like I should.”

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us.[8]

I pull my head out of my hands and look at the light. It is beautiful and peaceful. There is happiness inside it, waiting for me, just for me. I want to be happy again. I want to feel and be loved. I barely dare to hope that He will take me back. “Can I come back? Can I be happy again?”

The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.[9]

I reach out and touch the light. Its warmth envelopes me and chases the cold from my bones. I blink and look around. I’m not in the abyss anymore! I’m standing in a green field, filled with wildflowers of all colors. The sunlight kisses my forehead, and the warm breeze caresses my cheeks. My clothes are clean, white, thick and warm. I feel strength in my arms again. There are voices here, too, but they’re full of friendship and love.

You look awesome today!

It is a friend’s voice, serious and cheerful. A flower grows at my feet, opening to release the fresh scent of spring.

You probably get this a lot, but you have beautiful eyes.

That is the forgotten words of a stranger. A pair of bluebirds fly toward me, circling me, all the time singing a happy tune.

How could anyone hate you?

Another friend, his voice filled with disbelief. A beautiful luna moth flutters over to me and lands on my nose. It tickles, and I have to laugh. The moth floats off my nose and flits away.

You’re the best friend I’ve ever had!

Her voice is a contented sigh, without any hidden motives or pity. A rainbow arcs through the sky, without the aid of any rain. The colors fairly sparkle.

I told her that you’re the sweetest person she’d ever meet!

My friend is laughing at another’s misconception as she relates how she defended me. I laugh and dance among the flowers. I like it here. Here there is happiness and warmth and light. Here there is love. This place is good.

“Thank you!” I call to the skies, as I twirl in the warm sunlight. “You are a great and mighty God! I will never leave you again!”

 

Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Psalm 16:11

[1] Psalm 42:11

[2] Psalm 25:17

[3] Revelation 1:8

[4] John 14:1

[5] Deuteronomy 7:7, 13

[6] Psalm 34:18

[7] Romans 9:20, 21

[8] Ephesians 2:2,4

[9] Psalm 34:22

The End

Thoughts on a Graveyard

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Belmont Manor recently had an open house that my family took advantage of, my brother and I accompanying our parents to see the gardens our father designed and landscaped. After walking around the extensive gardens, my father took me to the old family cemetary tucked in the back of the property. My father intended to show off the giant tulip tree just outside the cemetary fence, but I was more interested in the tomb stones.

There were many things I found fascinating about this particular graveyard, and the first thing I noticed was the was it was arranged. There were three perfectly aligned rows at the very front of the fenced off area, but then there were several tombstones just behind that were set in rows that would intersect with the front rows. Then at the very back of the graveyard were three more tombstones, spaced as if “pariah” that was contagious even after death. Two of those tombstones were short, coming only to mid-shin and jagged as if they had been broken decades before. The third tombstone stood tall, coming to my elbow. I found this headstone to be the most intriguing, because while I could tell that the traditional inscriptions had been inscribed, it had faded to obscurity.

Belmont Gardens (118)Belmont Gardens (115)I stared at this tombstone for several minutes, letting my mind wander to the life of the man or  woman who lay beneath my feet. This headstone was just a marker, but it also symbolized the person’s life. Its isolation within the graveyard, its unwritten obituary whispered of a possibly tragic life. What kind of life could this person have led to both warrant a tall tombstone set alone and let to lose its marking? Of course, its position and tragic loss  of markings could have nothing to do with the life the deceased had lived; s/he could have been cherished by all s/he knew, and had been set apart as a mark of honor. Or, perhaps, it wasn’t alone at all, and was just a lone survivor of many unmarked graves I may have been tramping over.

No matter the reason, I found the tombstone to be quite tragic. It was alone, and no one would know who was buried beneath. They may have been once-loved, but now there was no one to maintain its identity, no one who remembered him/her. The only thing left of a life once-lived was a worn down stone.

Girl Power

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With the theatrical release of DC’s Wonder Woman, I’ve heard a lot of renewed talk about strong female role models. I see posts about them all the time on Facebook and Instagram, and even Twitter, but when I look at the characters featured in the accompanying photos, I tend to sneer. They consider THAT character to be a strong female role model? It’s made me stop to think, “What makes a female character strong?”

When I think of a strong female role model, my mind tends to turn to Joss Whedon characters such as Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Zoe from Firefly. I also tend to think of Eowyn from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and Luna Lovegood from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter. On the flip side, when I think of weak or pathetic female characters, I think of Bella Swan from Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series and Tauriel from Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy. What’s the difference between them? Why is Eowyn strong and Tauriel weak?

Buffy was blessed with exceptional instincts and strength; she uses those abilities to slay the hellbeasts of Sunnydale, California, protecting its oblivious citizens. She has friends, she has several boyfriends throughout the series, but she frequently puts aside her frivolous desires for the better of others, even for those she doesn’t like. She’s respectful of her mother, she’s respectful of her watcher, Giles. She knows when to obey, and when to disobey. Zoe is a war veteran turned mercenary on the ship Firefly, and she is married to its pilot, Wash. Despite being a better fighter than her husband, she still loves and respects him, even putting him above her captain, a fellow veteran and long-time friend. She helps care for and protect the mentally unstable River, and she’s a calm and steady anchor amidst the crew. Eowyn was trained to fight alongside her brother, Eomer, but stayed to defend Edoras while her family went to fight Saruman’s orcs at Helm’s Deep. She later disguised herself as a man to follow the Rohirrim to the Pelennor Fields, bringing with her the hobbit, Merry, who had been told he would be a burden by the other soldiers. On the battlefield, Eowyn stayed beside her uncle, King Theoden, and fought the unkillable Witch King of Angmar to protect his broken body, killing both winged beast and Nazgul at the cost of her own life. Luna was picked on because of her oddities, earning the nickname “Looney Lovegood” from the other students, yet she never treated any of them with any malice or resentment. Instead, she firmly believed what she believed, supporting and encouraging her father, as well as Harry Potter. She was sweet and kind to everyone despite the fact that they didn’t understand her, and she didn’t hesitate to come when she was called upon to help fight for their world.

Bella barely did anything but put herself in situations where she’d need to be saved. She manipulated Jacob Black’s feelings for her own purposes, selfishly holding onto him while she threw herself at Edward Cullen. She was selfish and did what she wanted, putting herself and others in danger. Tauriel, while a fearsome warrior, was also driven by “love.” When told she couldn’t have Legolas, the elf immediately went down to flirt with the one dwarf who’d made an innuendo, deciding, quite suddenly, that she now loved him. She didn’t move to help the dwarf’s quest until after she’d learned that Kili had been poisoned and was slowly dying, and then used Legolas’s feelings for her to convince him to follow along. Then she let Legolas chase the orcs she’d convinced him to hunt, leaving the elf prince alone against multiple enemies, to heal a dwarf she barely knew that was destined to die anyway. Tauriel was constantly ditching the cause she “believed in” for the sake of “love,” only following through with her claimed motives when pressed by others.

It’s more than the ability to fight. A woman who possesses fighting prowess in a story is just an easy way for a writer to say, “We have a strong female character, look at how she fights in the battlefield!” That kind of writing is a cheap shortcut. Show me how that strong female character behaves OFF the battlefield. Is she kind? Does she lift up those who others put down? Does she treat others with respect? Does she stand up for what’s right? But most the most important question for me is: does she have an identity outside of romance and battle? 

The modern girl will not experience a battle of epic proportions between the forces of good and evil. If she decides to join the army and fight for her nation, the battlefield won’t look like the Pelennor Fields. Encouraging a girl to learn how to fight and protect herself is good, but she needs to be more. She needs to know how to treat others respectfully, how to not beat down someone just because she disagrees with them. She needs to stand up for what she believes is right, even if everyone around her is telling her she’s wrong. A strong woman doesn’t break under peer pressure. A strong woman has an identity of her own, outside of her circle of friends and loved ones. A strong woman can still be sensitive and loving, she can still obey the leading of others when it is right. A strong woman can be more than a warrior on the battlefield.

A strong woman can be a business woman.

A strong woman can be an artist.

A strong woman can be a doctor.

A strong woman can be a boxer.

A strong woman can be a stay at home mom.

A strong woman can be a pastor’s wife.

A strong woman can be anything she wants to be. Her job or role in life isn’t what makes her strong. A woman is strong when she can stand for herself. A woman is strong when she can protect and help those in need. A woman is strong when she knows what she wants and goes after it with a passion. A woman is strong when she does every task she sets her hand to, no matter how menial or demeaning, to the best of her ability. A woman is strong when she knows who she is.

And any woman can be strong.

Only Human

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I had a terrible nightmare the other night. I dreamed that a group of people didn’t agree with the racial equality subtext in the books I published and surrounded my house. They jumped over my fence, broke my windows, and threw torches into my house, setting it on fire. When I escaped the blaze with my dog, they surrounded us and began throwing rocks, shouting so I couldn’t understand individual words. When I took them to court, seeking justice for the destruction of my home, the judge and jury took the side of my attackers, calling me a racist and a bigot and telling me that I deserved the horror I suffered. Then, my previous attackers dragged my dog into the courtroom, hacked off his head, and threw it at me. They surrounded me as I cradled my dead dog’s head in my arms, screaming at me for being a terrible person while I cried.

I woke to the sound of my dog crying from a nightmare he was having, and I didn’t sleep the rest of that night.

I am not a racist. I think the concept of racism is stupid because we’re all apart of the human race, and it shouldn’t matter what color anyone’s skin is. Unfortunately, I know that not all people believe that. I know that there are people out there who judge people by their color; white people condemn black people for being black, and black people condemn white people for being white. It’s ridiculous to blame others for something they can’t control. I would much rather blame them for something they can control: how they treat others.

Evergreen State College recently made news because Professor Brett Weinstein suggested that new hires shouldn’t be determined by diversity but by qualifications, and his stance on the change to their Day of Absence, and the students did not like that. They cornered him, surrounded him, the president, and other teachers, and began yelling at them and refusing to let them respond. Honestly, the videos I’ve seen of their “interaction” terrified me, and showed me a glimpse of a future of America without the freedom of speech.

What scares me more is I don’t think Professor Weinstein was wrong. I don’t think color should be a deciding factor when it comes to hiring for any job, because how does the color of anyone’s skin help them perform their duties? How does being black make someone a better teacher? How does being white make someone a better farmer? How does being hispanic make someone a better baseball coach? How does being asain make someone a better cop? How does ethnicity factor into those jobs? I could see how ethnicity could play a vital role for negotiators or ambassadors to foreign countries, but I don’t see how it’s important to have a certain color skin to operate a cash register or bag groceries. When I go to the Geek Squad for help, I don’t care what they look like. I only that they’re polite and know how to fix my stupid broken computer.

I know why diversity is important in the workplace; I do. It’s because there are jerks out there who think skin tone matters, and they will discriminate against all the colors they don’t like. They will decide not to hire someone just because they’re black or just because they’re arab. Those are horrible people, and people need to be protected from their hate. I guess that I just really hate that it matters to some people.

And I hate that it matters to the point where “tolerant”people will terrorize those they feel are being intolerant. I hate that people become so blind to the fact that we’re all human that they will attack each other at the slightest hint of discrimination. They won’t even stop to listen to the other side’s reasoning. Yes, they may be wrong, but they still have a right to be heard. The moment you start taking away people’s freedom is the moment you become the oppressor, and that is not right. Equality is not about the oppressor becoming the oppressed, but about no one being oppressed. It’s “treat others as you would want to be treated,” not “treat others as they treat you.” All that philosophy does is create a civilization where everyone stabs each other in the back.

It’s so strange to see a world screaming for tolerance while beating down anyone who disagrees with them. Strange and terrifying, because no one will ever agree with anyone else. You may agree on many important positions, but you’ll disagree somewhere else. You may agree that the LGBTQ community should be allowed to marry, but you might disagree on the quality of Justin Beiber’s music. Every human is different; we will have different beliefs, different tastes in food, different prefences for music and movie genres. Humans will never agree 100% on everything. I really enjoy listening to certain My Little Pony songs, but my best friend thinks I’m a little crazy. 

A person’s worth shouldn’t be decided on what color they are; a person’s worth is decided by the fact that we are all human and worth exactly the same. Donald Trump is worth the same as Barak Obama is worth the same as Ronald Reagan is worth the same as Abraham Lincoln, and the only president in that list I liked was Reagan. We’re all human, and because we’re all human, we’ve all made a crap ton of mistakes. We might think that some mistakes are bigger and worse than others, but they were all mistakes! We’re all messed up in some way, and I’m sure that we’ve all messed somebody else up. We’re all equal, even if we don’t treat each other like it.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe world peace is possible. The human race is trash and we’re going to keep treating each other like trash, because no matter what anyone says, it is next to impossible to change someone’s mind once it’s set. I just wish the stupid “color” thing wasn’t an issue, because it’s not something we can help. If personality was the issue, however, I think world peace would stand more of a chance.

Summer Goals

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I had worked the same summer job since I was sixteen years old. It was an okay job, and it took me from high school to college to career life, though it was not my career. Seven weeks of the summer (not counting the many training dates before hand) I worked with elementary age children, originally as junior counselor but eventually working up to assistant director. I planned crafts, drew pictures for them to color, played gym games with them, drew the summer calendar, and so much more for nine years and got paid enough to just barely scrape by the summer. It wasn’t worth it, so this year I decided that I wasn’t going to be returning. I was going to stay home and finish writing my book.

Ironically, I had started the book the same year I started working that summer job. Two years ago, I submitted it to six agents knowing that it’d would probably take more than six attempts to get a bite. When all six agents sent back the exact same response, “The beginning is too slow,” I realized the book wasn’t ready to be published yet. I printed out the four hundred page manuscript, opened my purple pen, and began working through the story line by line. I decided to scrap the first chapter, a chapter that had survived seven previous drafts, condense its information to a single page at the beginning of the second (now first) chapter, and the rest of the book was essentially rewritten. All that I have left to do is go back, correct any grammatical errors or minor plot holes, and it will be ready to be sent out again.

It doesn’t sound like much work, until I break it down like this: sixty-three chapters, three hundred twenty seven pages, two hundred thirty two thousand nine hundred eighty four words. As if that isn’t overwhelming enough, this is only book one. I have two more books that are still in the rough draft of the writing phase. I will be busy.

To help myself get in the groove and accomplish my goals, I created a writing challenge for June. Since I have several writing friends and am part of a writing group, I decided to share this challenge with the hashtag #WriteAwayJune and I invite all writers, aspiring and published, to join me.

WriteAwayJune Challenge

 

I am going to be following the challenge on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and I am going to do my best to follow the hashtag as it is used. I’m hoping that this challenge will encourage writers, possibly help break a writing block or two, and help build positive writing goals. I also hope that this challenge will create some sense of community and unity amongst the writers of social media. It might a grand, impossible hope, but I think it’s worth sharing.

If you are a writer, no matter what stage of the writing game you’re on, please feel free to join this challenge. Save the provided image, share it on whatever media you would like, and join the challenge!