Friday, July 13, 2012


I really really really really cannot stand the thought of not being able to move my elbows. The thought of being stuck in a pipe or something, or somehow having my arms pinned, makes me mentally panic.

Now do understand that this is more than just discomfort. The first two minutes on an elliptical are a little uncomfortable, at least until I'm good and warmed up. I can't sleep at night if I'm too hot. I probably will never again make the mistake of ordering a bubble tea with whole milk.

But if I were caught with my elbows pinned to my sides and unable to move, I'd probably just start screaming. Even when I don't feel like doing much at all, my body still craves the option of moving.

There's only one other feeling in the world like it.

That feeling is always when I'm trying to work on my book. Recently, I've spent more energy blogging than actually working on my novel, and it does frustrate me. Being a little unsure of where to go next always feels a little untidy, but that's okay. I usually whip out my teeny little notebook for those moments, or run ideas by my fiance. It's a method of talking things out, and it usually really helps a ton.

I'm talking about those moments when my job is a little quiet and I have a moment I could use to focus. I sit in front of my screen and re-read the scene I just wrote. Then I place the cursor where I want to begin...

And usually that's when something makes noise. For no reason. Or my favorite times, when little kids scream. In short bursts.

Over and over again.

That's when I panic, because the noises don't stop. Door alarms sound, or UPS delivers something, or the phone rings and rings and rings, sometimes three callers at once. And I can't figure out, in earnest, where to go after getting five seconds to my mental self, and I start to hate the scene and I remember it being so much better when I wrote it down in the notebook five days ago, because I was listening to music I like and was therefore able to provide myself with a mental sanctuary. Then I sort of start to hate this character that's just visually there but said a whole lot more and her brother's important, and I like him but without her, there's no connection. And then I think "Oh crap, this character might be ripped off of Simon Tam" even though he's really honestly not. And then I wonder if I should just get rid of this character because she's been around since literally 2002, only back then she was twelve inches tall and now she's all emo, but I really love the attitude there. Oh my word, I could transfer that to another character and make her awesome, but the brother thing is a problem but I really really love that character and oh hey, they could have muskets and tricorner hats or maybe I can just say True Grit plus Lord of the Rings plus Twilight plus The Hunger Games plus the 1980s and nukes! OMG GUYS GUNS ARE COOL.

Not that any of this discussion actually occurs in words.

My brain doesn't have the attention span for words.

Well, now I feel better.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

For Reals?

A few weeks ago, and I really don't know how long it was, a link to an article showed up in my Facebook feed. The article was a story on how a Washington state (I think?) school principal had gone into some rather, well, unnecessary and far too mature details during a sex ed class for fifth graders. The person who posted the link, who was a friend of mine, commented that it was a great reason to home school your kids. My comment was that the situation was disheartening and didn't bode well for those of us who didn't want to deal with stupid people and who probably would not be able to afford private education or home school. (NC schools are really bad. Suckishly bad. Like kids can't read bad.) Much later, after I'd forgotten about the article, some older lady replied to my comment that oh yes, I could afford home schooling and blah blah blah. I then decided to divulge the whole truth, because I'm an idiot, and just say that I had chosen, for many reasons, not to home school my future children, and that my reasons were personal. The woman who had originally posted the article said, "I can't think of any good reasons not to home-school." I kindly said my reasons were personal, and someone I don't even know backed me up (probably sensing the "righteous" rage building in the original poster), saying that as fellow Christians, we should all support each other in the faith, regardless of what method of schooling we choose. My friend decided that the conversation "sucked" (presumably because we were not in 100% agreement with her views) deleted most of it, and then, I learned later, proceeded to block me. I did do some vaguebooking, granted, only to say, basically, that my children, my choice, and I was a frequenter of the Do Right BJU Facebook page. This person was actually a good friend of mine in college, a fellow Christian, and someone who held roughly the same political beliefs.

I typed this whole occurrence so you could see how stupid some humans can be.

Now you've often read the phrase "that really pissed/pisses me off" if you've ever read one of my rants, though not always in so many words. This situation didn't do that. I mean, I was a little mad, but mostly it made me very, very sad. I have now lost a friend basically because I don't 100% agree with everything she says. I didn't see it coming, but another part of me isn't shocked. This individual is a staunch fundamental Baptist, which wouldn't normally be of any interest, except she was an exceptionally angry fundy with a lot of pride and a lot of dislike for others and seemingly, very little empathy, especially if there was disagreement at all.

Cutting off a friend so immaturely, especially if they share your faith, supposes many things. Perhaps she assumes that only home schoolers go to heaven, and that my decision to send my kids to public school (or private, if I can afford it) is somehow a mortal sin, so don't worry about it. I am pro-life, just like her family. Perhaps supporting Do Right BJU (which formed to support victims of abuse in fundamentalist churches) is just the first step on the path to much worse things. I don't know or understand the mental process behind why a good friend decided to cut me out of her life. Let us suppose for a moment that our beliefs hadn't been similar.

Is rudeness, pride, anger, and just plain meanness really the way to convince someone that you're right?

The saddest thing is, I was going to invite this friend, her husband, and their two kids to my wedding. Her oldest is only a few months younger than my cousin's little girl, and they might have had fun. Plus, any chance to see old friends is awesome, as being Twentysomethings has us all busy paying the bills and such, and I don't often get to just hang out.

Oh well. They probably would have been disgusted by the drum set at my church anyway.

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's Been One Year

"Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry." - Mark Twain

I haven't written about last summer much at all, beyond the usual frovolity. Looking back, I see that I didn't even bother to post anything for all of July 2011, and now that I'm about to write about it, my heart is racing a little and my stomach feels sort of sick. I can compartmentalize easily enough, recognize events as facts and not feel anything, as long as I don't open the door and let it all in again.

Sometime after midnight on July 9, 2011, I finally went to bed after a long and late conversation with my fiance. It had to be after 1:00 in the morning. It was such a normal Friday for then. I usually would sleep in until around 10:00 before getting up and taking Minnie to the bathroom.

I feel sick reliving this.

A few minutes after five that morning, someone pounded on my door. I woke up instantly and yelled out an answer, and my mom told me to come to my parents' room now. My brother was there too.

I got to the bedroom and my dad was crying. He said that our cousin Emily had been killed in a car accident at the beach that night. He didn't know the details, but they were headed to my aunt's house then.

I went back to bed with my dog. I didn't even want to believe that had happened. I prayed that it was a mistake, or that some resurrection would come. Maybe that none of what I'd just heard was real.

I got up around 11 again, and my parents were back and the horrors of the early morning had happened. After breakfast, we spent the rest of the day at my aunt's house, all my family. 

The funeral was a few days later, on a Tuesday night. They're doing those differently now. It was at night. There was a viewing before the service. It was open casket, and I hated that. The person in the casket never looks like they were ever once human. The breath of life has departed from the body, and the dirt shell is all that's left.

I hate open casket.

The man who owns the funeral home said it was the hardest one he'd ever done. I think there was probably a thousand people there. My cousin had a lot of friends, and was loved by so many people.

The next day was the grave-side service. I remember it being so so hot, just like it is this summer.

At some point during the service, a breeze found its way through the mausoleum to cool us all off. I can only describe it as a beach breeze, and exactly that, the kind that only ever comes off the ocean. I know those breezes well.

I live two hours away from any beach.

I don't understand everything that's happened in the past year. The car accident was truly something far worse: my cousin was struck by a vehicle while crossing an empty, well-lit five lane road. The guy who hit her kept going for a while and then turned around and came back. It happened sometime after one in the morning, and the trooper on the scene never checked his blood alcohol levels, nor was there any drug tests. We think they might have been buddies. I'm a firm believer in justice, and so far there hasn't been any, not from other human beings. I have to keep knowing that God is just when we are not.

No one, not myself, not my dad, not anyone, can answer the question that so permeates every moment that I think about this happening: Why?

I refuse to example trite, precious little answers like "well, God needed her more" or "it was just God's will" or the lovely implied one my dad got from a church lady, "well, if y'all had just been in church..." Lady, I don't think we know the same God.

The day it happened, my cousin's nephew (her older brother's little boy) came over with his other grandparents to see my aunt. The little guy is remarkable perceptive. His MeMa and dad were so upset that he just went and stood under a tree, and he wouldn't come out because he was scared.

I wish I had the luxury of being three years old.

Every time I let my brain process that my cousin will never walk through the door again on this earth, I feel like I've been punched in the gut, and then the panic starts. I have to shut that door quickly.

Before it happened, I was going to have a couple of candles lit in memory of my mom's brother, who died in 2010, and my dog Buster. I was thinking about it one night, and I suddenly got this fear that there would be another candle to light, but I didn't know why. I don't know where that came from.

But it happened. It is one thing to lose someone to a disease, however sudden, or a chronic illness that wastes their body until you think death might be merciful for them, if not for you.

To have someone in your family be so unjustly snatched away, in such a season as's almost cruel.

But the times you need it most are when the comfort comes. It's always bittersweet.

My aunt has gotten texts, sent from my cousin's number, long after she passed. They said things like "love you mom" and "hey, I'm okay, love you."

I don't know how that could have happened. I know that it's possible the messages were floating around in the air, on the system, accidentally resent.

But why?

I know that was logically no beach breeze that day at the cemetery. There's no ocean nearby, just a collection of stagnant ponds, man-made lakes, and squelching marshland.

Why would an ocean wind visit us so far away, at the funeral of someone who loved the beach, who spent her last days of life there?

If life is a collection of rooms with doors and windows, there are many I keep locked, that I have no desire on earth to open again. As for this room, I don't even like to look through the window. For anyone who may have thought I was making too big a deal about losing a dog, well, now you know why.

There are other rooms, though. Ones with improptu performances of Christmas songs and "this little stool is mine" in front of Granny's fireplace. Ones where leaves, torn from a pear tree, are stashed in the tree's fork, our money that we discover has been "stolen" later, and two indignant seven year olds talking smack about the unseen thief of our wealth. Being nine years old and dancing to MoTown at Mel's Diner at Universal Studios, and a little spit on the E.T. ride, and getting wet on purpose under that gutter at the Magic Kingdom, and then begging for ponchos after.

When I look through these windows, I am able to feel the sting of death ease a little, and I know, even though I can't see it yet, that the grave has no real victory, and I hear the cry of its end.

God hasn't wiped the tears from our eyes yet. That will come later, in some time after time. For right now, there is a little door in the darkness, holding in a bad memory, placing a landmark we never expected and never wanted.

But darkness flees from light, and the delight of two fourth-graders who are decorating the front porch with badly faded Christmas lights shines so brightly that the dark must flee before it because the laughter is a rebuke to the shadows, a reminder that they must, and will, end.


Monday, July 2, 2012

How to Pray Poker at Bob Jones University

No, that's not a typo. When I was at Bob Jones University, I learned how to pray poker.

In January, my fiance taught me how to play a simple game of poker. Just recently, my brain realized how similar a game was to the nightly prayer groups at BJU.

BJU is a fundamentalist university where giving prayer requests is the way to get the best gossip. Each night, except for Saturdays, the students gathered at 10:30 (and yes, there were two bells to tell you when it was and when you were late) to pray together. There's really nothing wrong with that, except for the whole bell thing, and it was a really good way to get to know people on your residence hall, because there would always be a lot of socialization. It was also a good way of uplifting your fellow students.

But, especially in a place like BJU, human nature prevails hard. People love to hear themselves talk, even the shy little missionary kid from Brazil (who speaks no Portuguese, oddly.) And we, as the human race, are fascinated with gruesome stories.

Here's how it starts.

Imagine you're hanging out with your friends, and you start telling them a story about this massive papercut you got from a book jacket once. (That actually happened to me when I worked at BAM. It hurts more than you'd think.) For some reason, the papercut story seems to give others both permission and fuel to share their numerous injury stories. It will escalate, usually with "well, I sawed my finger open while peeling a mango." (That happened to me too. By the way, I also used to play Monopoly alone.) Then a third friend will share the time he was running and tripped and gashed his knee open on a rock and needed like 58 stitches. Eventually it comes to a point where someone gets distracted and the conversation turns to other things that don't belong in any of the Saw films.

The same thing happens in prayer group at BJU, and I am not kidding. It's tweaked a little, though.

Let's just say I had, like five papers due in a week. (It was actually possible during my studies, as one semester I took 20 hours.) In prayer group, I'd say something like "I'm feeling kinda tired this week and I have a ton of projects coming due, so just I'd appreciate some prayer." Simple, right?

So the next prayer request would be a little worse. "My allergies are really acting up, and I can't see and it's driving me crazy, and I have projects due too."

And that's where the poker part came in.

Because the next one would be something along the lines of "I see your allergies, and I raise you the flu, plus my gramma has a cold."

And the next one. "Flu? Yeah, I've been really struggling with accepting God's will in my bronchitis this week. It's hard..."

Each prayer group averaged about 12 people, so you can imagine how long this would go on, and people would really stretch, with things like my best friend's down the street neighbor might have skin cancer, because cancer wins points in the contest. Eventually, it'll get to "my dad's fifth cousin had his face chewed off in Miami, so just pray for him."

I finally figured out this game in the spring semester of 2009. It was my return to school after taking a semester off and working at BAM. One night, I was in prayer group after a phone conversation with my mom. Some friends of my brother had been in a pretty bad car accident, and one of them was airlifted to a trauma center with, among other injuries, a fractured skull and a ruptured spleen. My brother was pretty upset, according to my mom. The guys in the accident did end up okay, but that night, it was a major thing.

So after the obligatory requests about projects and allergies and struggling with stuff, it was my turn.

I mentioned the guy who'd been badly injured, making note of the ruptured spleen, because it is a serious, very traumatic injury.

Everyone in the room, seriously, went "Ewwwww."

You really would think I'd just eaten a booger in front of them.

But I was the last to give a prayer request.

I won the game with the mention of a ruptured spleen.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you pray poker at Bob Jones University.