Monday, December 31, 2012

saving me (negation)

Sometimes when everything is slipping away from you, you can hold onto the things you're not. I'm not poor. I'm not alone. I'm not unintelligent. I'm not untalented. I'm not living at home. The list could go on and on.

Friday, December 21, 2012

1 Peter 3-5, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Revelations 1-2

1 Peter 4:8
And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins."

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Earlier this year, there was a whole lot of hoopla about Hell. A bunch of people wrote a bunch of books and blogs posts and articles about how there might not really be a Hell. There's a Heaven, but there's no place of ultimate suffering and punishment for all eternity where God condemns people who died without ever hearing about Him or before they were old enough to become Christians or whatever.

I haven't read most of that stuff, because honestly? I don't care.

The Bible has plenty of stuff to back either argument. Hell is mentioned explicitly as a place where sinners spend eternity, but there are also lots of verses like the above that talk about second chances (and third, and fourth, and so on), and God's abundant mercy and boundless grace, and these verses seem to hint that even death isn't eternal, that maybe you can repent at any time.

But again, i don't really care.

I'm not in this because i want eternal life in Heaven, although i am hoping for a library that's a cross between the one in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" and the one in Neil Gaiman's "Sandman", where i can set up a bed and a pot of tea and spend a few millenia reading.

And i'm not in this because i'm scared of Hell, although if there is a place of fire and brimstone and eternal torture it would be nice to avoid it, especially if i can go to the aforementioned place of endless reading and tea and worship and whatnot instead.

I'm a Christian, i'm religious, i'm spiritual, i'm a person of faith, because i've met Jesus and have been irrevocably changed. I believe the things that i believe because i've seen them. I'm in a relationship with Someone who loves me unconditionally, who believes in me, who helps me become a better version of myself, who encourages me to show others the same unconditional love and faith and help. Everything in my life is better because of this relationship.

I don't know what happens when we die. I do believe in some kind of Heaven, but despite my flippant remarks above, i have no idea what it will be like (though i suspect there will be a lot more praise and worship and community and a lot less solitary reading than i'd like to believe). I don't know who gets in and who doesn't, and i don't know what happens to the people who don't get in. I do know that no Heaven could be better than seeing the face of my Savior and hearing Him tell me that He is proud of me, and no Hell could be worse than seeing disappointment in His eyes.

So i don't live in hope of Heaven, nor in fear of Hell. I live in relationship with Jesus, trying to make Him happy every day. That's all i got.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


In my apartment, birthdays are extravagant affairs. You can expect anywhere between 30 and 100 people to show up. The agenda is simple: get drunk, get drunker, play drinking games, drink. The more the merrier, since more people = more booze, which makes for more hilarity and crazy pictures and stories for the next day. Plus, you might get laid. Open invitations are issued, and friends-of-friends think nothing of showing up with three of their own friends. It's all a little overwhelming for an introvert, and i usually stay long enough to get a buzz before disappearing to my own bedroom, or my boyfriend's apartment, or a deserted corner of the porch.

I don't really do birthday parties for myself. When i was younger, my mom helped me organize and plan parties; i remember an American Girl Doll party complete with tea and games. She suggested people for me to invite, hoping both to make other girls feel included and, i think, to get me out of my shell a little. But as i grew older and more autonomous (and more socially anxious), i invited fewer and fewer people and became less and less enthusiastic about the prospect of a party with me as the main focus. My best friends and i got together for a party at least once a month, and there were never more than six people involved. Because the parties were regular and rotated in location, and because they were organized around the Orange and Blu Kidz Club (a whole series of blog posts there), no one person was ever the center of attention. These were fun, and made the transition to birthday time easy: i invited the same group of people, hosted everyone at my house, and the only difference between that and our normal monthly meetings was that everyone brought me a gift.

My last real party was when i was fifteen. I had expanded the group slightly, and although there were no guests that i hadn't known for at least five years, i was painfully anxious and uncomfortable for the whole evening. The planning and preparation was exhausting, even for such a simple party, and the things i wanted to do were drastically different from the things other girls my age enjoyed, leaving me with an awkward choice to make: please myself and bore everyone else, or turn my own birthday party into a party for other people and leave myself sad and bored and slightly resentful? I settled on a compromise that mostly worked, but that was the last time i had any enthusiasm for a birthday party, and the events of my 21st birthday cemented those feelings pretty firmly.

But this year, i decided i was ready for another party-type thing. My initial thought was to schedule it somewhere away from my house, so that when i was ready for everyone to go away i could just go home. So i picked a restaurant (Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage; visit if you're ever in Boston!), sketched out a preliminary guest list, and picked a date. Then i got ambitious.

We will be going to Bartley's, and then perhaps we will shop for books (the Harvard bookstore is right next to Bartley's; have i mentioned how much i love Boston?), and then back to my house for Cards Against Humanity. There are a few people that i invited out of obligation, but most of them are unable to come. I created a Facebook event for it and made it closed and invite only to keep it manageable, and then started sending out invites.

I was astonished to realize that there are now more than ten people that i really want to spend an evening with. In fact, there are more than fifteen people that i would like to invite, but some of them live too far away to attend. It is astonishing to me to realize that i like that many people enough to want to spend an evening with them in my home. I never anticipated being that sociable, even in high school, when i so desperately wanted to be different than i was. I never thought i could worry about finding enough seats for everyone in my apartment. I never imagined being sad that more than five people lived too far to invite, while simultaneously being glad that two-thirds of my best-loved ones would attend.

I guess what i'm saying is, this level of personal growth combined with the staggering number of good friends is such a wonderful gift already, and y'all damn well better give me something pretty anyway. It's my birthday, bitches.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Reason #16 Why I Should Live With My Boyfriend

Because he won't invite drunken strangers over to our apartment in the middle of the night without telling me, allow them to wander around into bedrooms where people are sleeping, and then refuse to apologize or even understand why it is an issue when confronted with it the next day.

saving me (love)

Love in all forms. Love from others. Love for others. Love of others for each other. Love for books. Love from my cat. Love for steak. Love from the earth. Promised love. Past love. The hope of future love. Making love. The love of others for one another. Ingrid Michaelson's songs about love. Love, love, love.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hebrews 7-13, James, 1 Peter 1-2

James 2:13
For judgement is without mercy to the one who shows no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgement.

I had some things to say about this, but they have all been preempted by the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, CT. More than thirty people are dead, and most of them are children.

I am sick. I am sad. I am angry.

I read James 2:13 and i think, "Hell yes. This person shot small children in the face on purpose multiple times. Show him no mercy." And then i remember that anyone can love good people, but Christ has called us to love our enemies. I remember that if i do not show mercy to him, no one will show mercy to me. I remember that violence breeds violence, and that venting my anger on this sick, hurting, broken young man will not undo what he did, will not make me or anyone else feel better.

And then i think, "Fuck that. You can't kill people and have it be okay. I don't care what Jesus said; he also started whipping people for disrespecting the temple. You can't tell me that He would have wanted us to show this piece of shit mercy."

Then again, He's also the guy who prayed for people as they were beating Him.

I don't know what to think. I don't know what to say. I don't know what to feel.

Romans 8:26
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

shopping 12/10

  • half and half
  • Degree clinical strength deodorant (2 pack)
  • Frank's Red Hot wing sauce
  • white bra
  • nude bra
  • grey bra

Monday, December 10, 2012

saving me (knit)

I've been knitting for over half my life. It's nostalgic, it's simple, it's absorbing, it keeps me busy when i get twitchy, and it produces something beautiful.

Friday, December 7, 2012

2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews 1-6

1 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

When i was younger, i always wondered why some of the old testament books had made it into the canon. I mean, we get all of the laws in Exodus, right? And then we get Leviticus, and there are a couple of short stories, but mostly it's a detailed rehashing of the law. And then there's Numbers; once again, there are some stories, but it's mostly genealogies. And then we move on to Deuteronomy, and we go over the law. Again. Is all of this really necessary? Is my spiritual life really going to be enriched by reading the measurements for the first curtain in the temple a third time? The temple was entirely rebuilt by Solomon, anyway! And then it was destroyed and hasn't been rebuilt since! I mean, keep the blueprints on file if you must, but that stuff is all for the Jews, anyway. How can i, as a 21st century Christian, benefit from this stuff?

I've made my peace with a lot of it, and i'm sure we'll be revisiting that in a few months when i move on to the old testament. But for now, i'm in the new, and i'm once again wondering what the point of this is. 2 Timothy has some good stuff (For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love), but Titus is 46 verses long. It has some instruction about how to set up the elders of the church, but that's really it. The whole thing could be condensed into half a dozen bullet points and put in textbooks for religion majors. I feel like we only keep Titus so that we can point back to the Bible when someone asks us why our church is structured the way it is. And Philemon is even shorter, at 25 verses. Let me show you the section headings for this book: Greeting, Philemon's Love and Faith, The Plea for Onesimus, Philemon's Obedience Encouraged, Farewell. It's basically a text message saying, "You guys are awesome. It would be really sweet if you took Onesimus back. If you have issues with him, that's on me. I think I'm coming to visit soon. Peace." Why do we need this?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

process story

I know you've all been desperate to know what it's like to write a comic book. I can tell by the way that one of my dozens of posts about comic books got one comment.

Since i'm halfway through the first chapter of my first ever comic book, i clearly have a lot of expertise to share. I did read a few pages of one of Neil Gaiman's comic scripts once, and i know he writes a pretty full script, so basically i'm ready to teach a master's course in comic book writing.

Anyway, here's what i do: I already have a manuscript of straight prose, early drafts of the stories. I also have handwritten notes, maps, appendices, extra story outlines, and so forth. So i open the Word document, find the story i'm converting into comic script format, and draw a text box. This represents one page.

I then begin writing the first panel. Each page is a little different, and i have two different writing methods. For some pages, i know exactly what will happen in terms of the story, but i need to figure out how it will look. So i get my notebook, a Christmas present from my boyfriend, and start sketching.

It is important to note here that i am a terrible artist. If i were patient, and had all day to work with pencils and erasers and colored pencils and extra paper, i could produce one comics page that would look halfway decent. But i find it very difficult to draw the same person recognizably more than once. I also don't know a lot about things like shading, and i'm not very experienced or talented. So this is really just to help me figure out the action: who will be standing and who will be sitting? Will we see characters close up or from a distance? From what angle are they being viewed? How many panels will there be for this page, and what sizes and shapes will they be? Once i have the page sketched out, i write the page.

Other times, i start by filling in the text box with smaller text boxes, to represent the panels. I already know what i want it to look like visually. I do the writing in Word, and then i start doodling just to make sure that what i wrote makes sense visually.

Since i already have the story written, the conversion process is a fairly simple one. All i am doing is transferring the existing writing into panels. I need to decide how much of the story goes into each panel, and what else is happening at the same time, but it's really just a question of breaking the story into smaller chunks. There's a little bit of editing that happens at the same time, and here and there i'll write a note to change something later on, but mostly it's adaptation.

Each time i finish a page, i play a few rounds on FreeRice and read some webcomics, or walk over to the student center for coffee or a snack. I sit at a computer all day, so it's nice to get up and move when i can. And i need to let my brain breathe for a little while before tackling the next thing.

Maybe one day i will be a famous comics author and i can auction off my old notebooks for charity. And then when i'm dead, my estate will make t-shirts, postcards, and coffee mugs out of my shitty script sketches. Or maybe they'll just end up in a box in the attic, and the cat will pee on them, and then when i'm dead my kids will open up the box and immediately throw it away. Cat pee is gross, and the smell never goes away.

Well, that took an odd turn. Man, i can't wait to send part of the script to my potential artist so i can start actually posting updates about what's happening with this thing!

Monday, December 3, 2012

saving me (justice)

It's also important to have something outside of yourself to hold on to, something that you want to save. Get out of your own head and focus on someone else's needs. In my case, i'm holding on to things like the fight for civil rights and social justice.

Friday, November 30, 2012

1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy

1 Thessalonians 5:21
Test all things; hold fast what is good.

I think life verses are dumb. People pick one verse that's supposed to support them forever, no matter what, but life changes all the time, and we change with it. The things that encourage me today may be powerless to move me tomorrow. You can pick a verse for a particular year or season or event in your life, but a whole life verse is a little naive.

But if i had to pick a life verse, it would be this one. Because this is me. This is what i do.

I test everything.

You can ask my boyfriend. I am incapable of leaving well enough alone. I always ask more questions, always want more information, always want explanations and progress reports and references. I want to see the annotated bibliography. I want to hear the director's commentary. I want to read all of the footnotes. I explore hypothetical situations. I answer rhetorical questions. I over-think everything. I don't like to take anything for granted. My default mode is cynical mistrust.

And none of that is necessarily bad. Some of it could maybe stand to be reined in a little (again, you can ask my boyfriend for confirmation of that; i'm sure he'd be happy to provide a whole list of ways i can rein myself in), but it's not inherently bad to be cautious.

Even (or maybe especially) when it comes to faith and religion, it's good to test things. The fact that your pastor said it does not make it true. The fact that your particular translation of the Bible (viewed through your own cultural, historical, personal, gender, etc. lenses) says it does not make it fact. It's okay to ask questions. It's okay to doubt. It's okay to try things out and put them to the test before making a commitment.

The key, however, is that you do commit. Test everything, and when you've found something good, attach yourself to that. Test the doctrines of your church. Test the teachings of your pastor. Test the different translations and commentaries carried by your local book store. Test your own experiences and feelings. Test the leading of the Holy Spirit. Never assume that you know everything. In fact, never assume that you know anything. Keep asking, seeking, knocking. Someone has defined fundamentalism as holding on to your beliefs so tightly that you leave fingernail marks on the palms of your hands. Don't injure yourself in your desperation to be right, to hold onto something right. Let yourself be wrong. Let yourself be uncertain. Let yourself test all things.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

shopping 11/27

  • silver, green, & red gift bags & tissue paper
  • cat carrier
  • pregnancy test
  • milk
  • half and half
  • sugar
  • brown sugar
  • laundry detergent

Monday, November 26, 2012

saving me (intelligence)

My own intellect has never failed me. It's important to find something inside of yourself to hold onto, something about yourself worth saving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

giving thanks

I am thankful that Adam is alive and well. He is traveling right now, visiting friends all over the country. He just bought a car. He is about to turn 21. He recognizes the people around him and no longer starts accidentally speaking Chinese or thinking that he is pregnant. He still has a lot of things to figure out and a lot of hard work ahead of him, but even the fact that we are able to say that is such a miracle.

I am thankful that i have discovered comic books. I can't believe i resisted them for so long, but i am so glad that i finally gave in.

On a related note, i am thankful that i have decided to write my book as a comic book, and that i may have already found an artist to work with.

I am thankful that there was nothing seriously wrong with my car. Rather than having to replace the entire transmission (which would hardly be worthwhile in a 12 year old Chevy Malibu with 180,000 miles on it), i only had to replace the transmission fluid gasket, the filter, and the 8 quarts of fluid that had leaked out.

I am thankful for my amazing boyfriend. He has brought such immeasurable joy to my life in the last year and a half, and i can't wait to see what the next year and a half will bring to us.

I am thankful for my family, even when they drive me to drink. Because mostly, they're pretty okay, and they are always willing to help me out with advice, money, food, or whatever else i might require.

I am thankful for my roommates, even when trying to live with them feels like going back to middle school. At least my rent is cheap. And most of my roommates/housemates are wonderful.

I am thankful for my health. I could always be healthier, but i have no major complaints right now, and certainly nothing that requires expensive medications or surgeries.

I am thankful to once again have the opportunity to workshop my writing.

I am thankful to be back to regular devotions and Bible studies.

I am thankful for cheap caramel flavored whiskey, especially when mixed with apple cider, Cards Against Humanity, and good friends.

I am thankful for a job to pay my bills, a roof over my head, a good grocery store, easy access to public transportation, proximity to Boston, my cat, a church family, friends and family near and far, Neil Gaiman, post-it notes, coffee, fall foliage, sweaters, the upcoming Hobbit movie, pumpkin pie, red nail polish, oatmeal, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, Jenny Lawson and Heather Armstrong and Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans and Kate Inglis, a second term for President Obama, bacon, chocolate, chocolate covered bacon, and a stack of empty notebooks in my room.

Monday, November 19, 2012

saving me (hope)

"Hope" is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I've heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.
--Emily Dickinson

Saturday, November 17, 2012

oh hey

So. Um.

Posting has been a little erratic lately. I do know that. Sorry.

All i can really say is that i've been so busy actually doing things that i have no time to write about them. I'll give you guys a quick synopsis of the past month and a half, and then we'll call it even, k?

So, in October, one of my best friends married her best friend, and i was a bridesmaid. So Boyfriend and i took a train, which arrived in Philly at 4:30 am, and then we waited for the rental car place to open. Then when it did, they apparently required a deposit (which they had not told us when we made the reservation and which he has never had to pay before when he has rented a car), and since he didn't have enough money in his account to cover the whole thing, his card was declined. So he made some angry phone calls, and i pulled out my iPad and transferred some money from my savings account and paid for the rental car. Then we went out to the parking lot, and our car was blocked in by three other cars. We called the office to ask them to move it, and then sat there for twenty minutes waiting. Finally, someone came out and walked around the three cars blocking us, looking confused, until Boyfriend got out and said, "Hey, can you move one of these cars so we can get out?" The guy looked more confused. Apparently, the office had told him to move a car, but not which car or why they needed it moved. Another ten minutes went by before we could leave. We slept at the hotel for a few hours, and then went to set up the church/rehearse/have the rehearsal dinner. Then the other bridesmaids and i stayed at the bride's parents' house. Then the wedding, and then the reception, and then Boyfriend and i went back to our hotel and passed out, exhausted. We checked out early the next morning, because our train left at 7:30. The rental car place wasn't open, and the gate to get into the rental lot wouldn't open, so we had to leave the car in the regular parking garage. A few hours later, when we were on the train, we got a rude phone call from the office, demanding to know where the car was. The story ends with Boyfriend writing an angry letter to the rental company.

The following weekend, we went to see Ingrid Michaelson on her acoustic tour with Katie Herzig. It was honestly one of the best shows i have ever seen. Both ladies were enormously talented, obviously, but they were also both very laid back and friendly and chatty. The whole thing felt like sitting in coffee shop, watching your friend perform. It was really lovely. Boyfriend and i had an amazing hotel room, and we spent some time cuddling, and antiquing, and exploring, and doing other things. On our way back home, we stopped at a state liquor store (we were in New Hampshire), and stocked up.

Then there was a hurricane. I was making myself dinner and drinking a rum and coke, when my roommates invited me to hang out. So i grabbed a bottle of wine and went downstairs, where we played Cards Against Humanity and i drank nearly the whole bottle of wine on my own. Then we took a break, and i went upstairs and got my special Black Velvet Toasted Caramel whiskey. We mixed it with apple cider and the rest of the evening is kind of a blur. I know i ate some pizza at one point. The next day, i took a sick day. Partly because i wanted to do laundry and never take any sick time and was out of vacation and personal time, and partly because i was too hung over to go into work.

Then i was proofreading and editing a paper for a guy in an MBA program. English was not his first language, and business is not my thing, so it was a lot of work. But it's the kind of work i love, so it was awesome.

Then Boyfriend and i had some serious discussions, and then i wrote him a whole bunch of love letters. Like, pen to paper, envelope, send through snail mail love letters that our grandchildren will read over one day. I know. How cute are we?

And then we organized our Thanksgiving trip down to Maryland to see my family and eat pie.

And finally, i and one of my downstairs neighbors have started an informal writing workshop group. So far, it's just the two of us, but we're hoping to expand soon. So i was revising old things, and realizing that everything i write should just be a sonnet and i should stop pretending that it isn't, and that i've missed this, and then i sent him two poems and he sent me a one-act play and we will meet this weekend to workshop them.

Oh! And i've also started going to the gym 3ish times a week. I do mountain climbing on the treadmill to a 90's pop music playlist, except for when i forget my iPod, in which case i watch Frasier instead. And then i drink a lot of water and eat some almonds or cashews and then go home and order a calzone or some Chinese food and eat it all in one sitting while watching The Office. It feels so great to be healthy.

Friday, November 16, 2012

2 Corinthians 8-13, Galatians 1-6, Ephesians 1

Galatians 3:28
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

This is a theme we see a lot in the New Testament, and one we've seen hinted at even in the Old. Regardless of whatever barriers we have put up between ourselves, regardless of what God may have told one group or another about their status in the world, we are all the same. Everything else is superficial and ultimately meaningless.

Friday, November 9, 2012

1 Corinthians 10-16, 2 Corinthians 1-7

The Pauline epistles are tricky. On the one hand, you have heaps of brilliant theology and whole long passages of stunning poetry. On the other hand, you have twisty, legalistic arguments about theology and statements that, taken out of context, are cripplingly misogynistic. And even in context, some of the things he says are not exactly uplifting to the "weaker vessels".

1 Corinthians 11:3-12
But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of ever woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as the woman was from the man, even so the man also is through the woman; but all things are from God.

Passages like this one used to make me livid. And then i remembered something: Paul is a man. He is not God. He is not Jesus. He was not even one of the original twelve apostles. He is brilliant and wise and many good and Christ-like things, yes, but he is not the ultimate authority in all things Christian. Not by a long shot. He is fallible, and is prone to his own prejudices and deficits of experience and knowledge.

Paul was never married. He was a life-long celibate. And he thought that everyone should be celibate, to give them more time and energy to focus on God. And i am reminded of the misogyny of C. S. Lewis' early writings, which soon gave way to a wholly egalitarian point of view once he was married. Perhaps if Paul had ever married, he might have softened the edges of some of these verses.

Furthermore, check out the ending: "Neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of Man, in the Lord. For as the woman was from the man, even so the man also is through the woman . . ." There is not a single man alive today who did not arrive here because of a woman. No man can ever live without a woman being involved at some point. We all need one another.

1 Corinthians 13
I've written about this one before, and it remains one of my favorite passages of scripture. It is so simple, so beautiful, so powerful and important. Let me just highlight a few key verses:

"And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


For those of you whose chosen candidate won last night, be proud, but do not gloat. Remember that this is only the beginning of the work, that we still have many years of fighting ahead of us. Remember that your candidate is, at the end of the day, only a man or a woman: only human. They will make mistakes. They will leave things unfinished. They will fail you in some small way. Furthermore, those who lost last night are still here (if they haven't moved to Canada in protest). You still need to work with them if you want to get anything done. Gloating is unattractive, and pride goes before a fall.

For those whose chosen candidate lost, accept your defeat with grace and humility. Instead of wasting your breath in complaints about how Candidate X is going to ruin this country, start working now to make sure that they won't. Learn all you can about lobbying, about protests, about how a bill becomes a law. Write letters. Make phone calls. Create a website. Start mobilizing a team to help this person make YOUR choices. Be respectful. Be gentle. Be smart. Read more than one opinion. Listen to more than one voice. And don't panic. Elected officials have way less power than you think. One bad seed can't ruin the whole country in only four years, or even in eight years, or ten. The country is resilient. The country is strong. We can come back from a lot of things, like colonial imperialistic oppression, and civil war, and disease, and economic depression, and world wars. So don't despair. There will be more than enough time to right whatever wrongs happen between now and the next election cycle.

Finally, drink a glass of wine (or a cup of hot cocoa or whatever you like to drink) in celebration that you live in a country where you are first of all allowed to vote, and secondly allowed to express displeasure at the outcome of an election. Not everyone gets to do these things. And commit to the next four years of hard work, because the battle is only just beginning.

Monday, November 5, 2012

saving me (fear)

Fear saves me. If you're afraid, you have something to lose. Explore that fear. Embrace it. Define it. What is it that scares you? What are you afraid to lose? Hold on to whatever that is; it is your salvation.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Romans 16, 1 Corinthians 1-10

1 Corinthians 10:23
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful; all things are lawful for me, but all things do not edify.

This, i think, is what a lot of religion should come down to in the end. Rather than a mere list of do's and don't's whose purpose is to provide a yardstick of righteousness, concentrate on the things that are helpful to you. And keep in mind that this list will not be the same for everyone. Some people (like myself) can have a couple of beers with dinner, or a glass of wine after work, and suffer no ill effects. Some people (like myself) can even get really drunk once in a while (so far, i've been drunk three times in five years), and suffer no long-term ill effects. However, i do have a lot of alcoholics in my family, so i appreciate that not everyone can do this. And while i could get really really drunk more frequently than i do (say once a month) without necessarily becoming an alcoholic and ruining my life, is it a good idea for me to do this? No. I don't want to have large chunks of my life blurry around the edges or missing entirely because i was too drunk to know what was happening. I don't want to spend long weekends hung over and miserable. I don't want to make bad decisions that i have to atone for in the morning. I don't want to damage my brain, liver, esophagus (from the stomach acid of vomit), waistline, teeth, and so forth. Having a few drinks now and then can help take the edge off of a stressful day, can help me loosen up and socialize with others, can help me warm up on a cold day, can open me up to new experiences. Plus, alcohol is delicious (seriously, Black Label toasted caramel flavored whiskey in apple cider is THE SHIT). All of these are good things. But getting drunk is not helpful and provides no edification. At least, not for me.

Instead of being built around the things that divide us, maybe religions and denominations should be built around the things that unite us. Like, instead of a church splitting over angry debates about whether or not it's okay to get tattoos, maybe they can peacefully say, "Hey, we all love Jesus, right? Okay! See you in heaven!" and then gently separate into two factions: one who believes that tattoos are not helpful or edifying, and one who believes that they can be sometimes. Or better yet, maybe they can agree to disagree, keeping in mind that all things are lawful. What is helpful for me may not be helpful for you, but that's really between me and God, isn't it?

Monday, October 29, 2012

saving me (endless)

Neil Gaiman's Sandman series has been saving me. I've fallen in love with the Endless, with their family and their adventures, and if my brother ever returns my copy of Preludes and Nocturnes, i'm going to read them all over again.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Romans 6-15

I missed posting last week because i was in a wedding, and i nearly missed posting this week because John and i are on vacation together in New Hampshire to see an Ingrid Michaelson concert and to actually spend time together where we're not lesson planning or decorating a church for a wedding or sleeping.


Romans 8:38-39
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Got that? Nothing. We can decide of our own volition to walk away from God, but no outside thing can come between us.

Romans 9:15-33
This is a long one, so let's just highlight the key verses (for me) and you can read the rest on your own.
vs. 16 -- So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

Mercy is entirely up to God. It's not up to you, or to me, or to your minister, or to your mom. That is simultaneously terrifying and freeing to me: no one else gets to dictate the terms of my salvation, but there's also not a lot i can do about it but surrender.

vs. 30-32 -- What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.

Your connections, your heritage, your background, your history, your family, your checklist of right and wrong: none of it is enough. It will never be possible for you to do enough to be saved. It requires faith.

Romans 12:9, 18
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. . . . If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves one another has fulfilled the law.
14:10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ.
So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.

I think all of that pretty much speaks for itself.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012




So for this comic book i'm writing? It will span about a thousand years. I'm roughly following the timeline of human history, at least in terms of clothing styles, technology, cultural activities (jousting tournament vs. football game), and architecture. I won't be including real things like civil rights (they've always existed in this world) or WWI or II. It's not set in a real country. I won't be worrying about vocabulary, except when it's fun (S'blood! Look at that swanky tomato! Groovy!)

However, the thing about comic books is that they provide something of a shortcut. You don't have to spend pages and pages setting up the plot and explaining that this takes place two months before Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. You don't have to give background or describe the demographics of the hometown. You can just show a couple of panels of people wearing particular clothing and having brief conversations about MLK while engaging in particular activities, and everyone knows exactly what you're talking about. You've cut to the heart of the story without wasting time.

So regardless of the actual country that my story is set in, and regardless of the actual events discussed within it, if i have men in powdered wigs and knee-breeches, or women in flapper dresses with shingle haircuts, everyone is going to feel like they already know something about the story. There will be certain feelings and expectations brought up by the visual cues, which is the whole point of having visual cues.

I know. The title of this post is "question", and so far all i've done is lecture you on comic book visuals. I'm getting there, i promise.

The last issue will take place somewhere in the 20th or 21st century. I've thought a lot about the visual cues (bell-bottom jeans vs. pencil skirts, top hats vs. backwards baseball caps), and i've thought a lot about the subtler nuances of culture conveyed by those visual cues (Civil Rights movement, suffrage for women, Great Depression, Space Race).

I have narrowed it down to three decades: the 1920s (flapper princess?! What's not to love?), 1950s (suits and cigarettes and bright red lipstick), and 2010s (a princess with skinny jeans and tattoos?). I'm asking everyone for an opinion on this, because when someone hears the bare bones of this story, there are certain feelings and thoughts evoked, and certain visuals begin to swim around their heads. Readers tend to make up their minds about certain things and to know what makes sense and what doesn't, and i'm trusting those instincts.

The overarching narrative of this whole series is two-fold: the fairy world is in conflict with the human one, and two fairies are struggling to rule one another. The two fairies are half-siblings, and the older one is of mixed race. They therefore have equal claim to the throne, and after many centuries of fighting they have decided that one of them will keep Faerie while one gets the human world. Of course, each is secretly planning to kill their sibling and take over both worlds.

In this final issue, they have decided to each marry one human, so as to gain a foothold in the human world to help jumpstart their conquest. But Rhynesh falls for the princess and kills his sister, putting an end to the plan. He then cuts all ties between the two worlds, ensuring that fairies won't be able to harass humans any longer.

So what decade? 1920s, 1950s, or 2010s? If you have an idea for another decade, feel free to make your case.

Monday, October 22, 2012

saving me (defiance)

One of my most defining personality traits is pigheadedness. This is both a virtue and a flaw. When it comes to depression, it's a virtue: i refuse to be beaten by anything. If you can still fight, you can still breathe.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Acts 22-28, Romans 1-4

Romans 2:12-16

For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things contained in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

Rambling parentheticals and semicolons aside (Paul, originally a Pharisee, writes like a lawyer; does he remind you of anyone?), what this passage says is really powerful and deep. Let's break it down:

"For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law" = If you do something wrong without knowing, you're off the hook. You can't be punished for not knowing any better.

"And as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law" = Conversely, if you know full well that what you're doing is wrong, you will be held accountable for that.

"for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified" = It's not enough to say, 'I go to church, my family are all Christians'. Salvation does not work by osmosis.

"for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things contained in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them" = Gentiles don't know the law, yet they still do a lot of the things they are supposed to do. Like when atheists volunteer at soup kitchens, or help build orphanages, or do pro bono health care work. They don't know what we know, yet their own hearts and consciences direct them to the right actions, the right feelings.

"in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel." = Finally we come to the end of the parenthetical! Let's take out the parentheses for a moment and look at this sentence: "For as many as have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my Gospel."

Basically, you won't be penalized for doing wrong if you don't know any better, but you will be rewarded for doing right even if you haven't been told what is right. And if you do wrong when you do know better, that's obviously going to cost you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

the things i carry

I read "The Things They Carried", Tim O'Brien's brilliant work of metafiction, in my sophomore year of college.

This book changed. my. life.

I could write a whole post about that, but i'm not going to. Just read it.

What i will do is say that when we read it, we did a free-writing activity where we dug into our own backpacks and purses and talked about the things we carried, and what those things said about us. I'm notorious for finding strange things in my purse and being unable to explain how they got there (a fork, glittery sunblock, rope, broken pieces of glass, a Joker card from a deck i did not own), so the piece i wrote was probably nine kinds of fascinating. I don't really remember.

Today, however, this is what i carry:

  • a white, Precious Moments Bible, NKJV, with about a million blue post-it notes to keep track of my reading schedule. My parents gave this Bible to me when i was three, for an Easter present. I've carried a lot of Bibles over the years, and this one is my current one for two reasons: i like the translation and it fits in my purse.
  • a composition notebook nearly filled with poems, post-it love letters from my boyfriend, dried leaves and flowers, homework assignments, recipes, travel itineraries, shopping lists, and Bible study notes. I always have something to write with. ALWAYS. If i'm going to a wedding and can only carry a tiny little delicate clutch purse, i fill it with a miniature composition notebook, or with old receipts, or a handful of cocktail napkins.
  • a composition notebook half-filled with a story rewrite. I love composition notebooks. Every July/August, when back-to-school sales start up, i have to stop shopping at Walmart or i will come home with another three composition notebooks that i don't need. I have about twenty notebooks that are completely or mostly empty, waiting to be used, and i keep buying notebooks anyway, just in case Mead ever goes out of business and i need to keep a stash hidden away.
  • printed pages of another story, ready to be storyboarded/scripted. I keep getting so exited about this book i'm writing that i leap ahead to the next part before i've totally finished the part i'm on. You know when you're reading a book and you're totally into it and your heart is racing and you've forgotten to eat or pee in the last seven hours and you are approaching the denouement and you're reading SO FAST to find out what happens next that you can't even totally take in what you just read? It's like that.
  • printed poems to be edited. Despite the excitement, however, i'm starting to get a little restless. I really really really want this book to be done, already. It's been seven years. I want to start something new. I'm excited, and breathless, and can't wait to get it into shape and start scripting and storyboarding and finding artists and agents and publishers, but i also want to do other things. And i very badly want to publish some poems.
  • phone and iPad chargers. I stayed at my boyfriend's apartment last night (scandal!) and there are no plugs on my side of the bed. So i have to charge things at work.
  • phone and iPad. There are games to be played and text messages to be sent!
  • The Truth, by Terry Pratchett, and the third volume of the Batman Chronicles. Because they're what i'm reading right now.
  • wallet, keys, pens, gum. Because secretly i'm a soccer mom.
  • a gum wrapper. Which is weird, because i'm rarely more than two feet away from a trashcan. Also, there's only one.
  • three Dunkin Donuts napkins. Because i spill things on myself all. the. time.
  • three different church bulletin-y things. Because the guy who hands them out is persistent, and i never remember to toss them in the recycling bin when i leave. However, i do use them to write hasty notes to myself, like "I am Asher Lev", which i think may be a book title or something. Somebody Google it and let me know.
  • a coupon for Dove soap. Because my boyfriend is 97 and likes clipping coupons and wants me to shower. (Full disclosure: my boyfriend is not 97. He is 23. And precious. And you can't have him. And i shower more or less regularly.)
  • three receipts. In case i need scrap paper for writing and run out of composition notebooks, church bulletins, and Dunkin Donuts napkins.
  • shopping list on an index card for the things i accidentally left at Walmart and had to re-purchase. Should be self-explanatory. Plus i used it to practice writing with my new fountain pen, which is really cool-looking.
  • two pay stubs. Because i'm bad at filing.
  • two thank-you notes (from other people, to me). Because i am utterly and uncontainably wonderful, and my wonderfulness is constantly sloshing out and spilling all over people whenever they get near me, and they can't help but express their appreciation with notes and baked goods. Plus, envelopes = scrap paper. Just in case.
  • deli menu. I ate there once. It was okay. But i saw that they offered free delivery, and sometimes you really want mediocre deli food brought to your door.
  • Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair, by Pablo Neruda. I like to carry a book of poems around with me, like a security blanket. Plus i always think i'm going to use spare moments to memorize poems, instead of reading blog archives or making sarcastic comments in my head. I am always mistaken in this delusion, but Neruda doesn't judge me. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

saving me (changeableness)

Nothing lasts forever. Life is unstable and unpredictable, which is what makes it worth living. You're never going to be stuck anywhere forever.

And here's the really crazy thing: you can change, too. If there are things you don't like about yourself, you can change them. You can become a different person. You can change your routine, or learn to be more patient, or take time to smell the roses, or become more motivated and driven, or be more forgiving of others, or go vegan, or learn French, or even just learn French cooking. Nothing is certain except death and taxes, and even there you have room to cheat.

Nothing is forever.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Acts 14-21

You know what's awesome about Acts? Besides all the miracles and shit? The women.

We did see a few women involved in Jesus' ministry: prostitutes, his mother, Peter's mother-in-law, Mary and Martha. And women were the first to see the empty tomb and the resurrected Christ, the first to preach the good news that He was risen. Jesus brought about a new order wherein women were a vital part of the ministry, and the disciples continued that trend after he was gone.

Granted, women are not nearly as prominent as men. Fewer of them are mentioned by name, or mentioned at all, but tucked in here and there are stories of women serving the Lord, and kicking ass and taking names.

In Acts 16:14-15, we see Lydia. The text calls her a "seller of purple", and without going into the historical and cultural details, we know that this means that she was pretty wealthy. Her husband is not mentioned; she may have been a widow, or she may have been married and her husband was simply inconsequential to her business success or her conversion.

We know that she was wealthy and independent. We know that her name was Lydia. And we know that she and her whole household were baptized, and that she opened her home to all the disciples of the Lord, whenever they were in the area.

In Acts 17:4, no one is mentioned by name. But as Paul and Silas preached in Greece, we are told that "a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas." (emphasis mine)

Now, they were Greek, so the culture was different. But the women are still mentioned apart from the men, and are still called "leading women". Their authority was recognized by the author of Acts, despite the different culture, and their conversion was considered significant. In those days, you worshiped whatever god or gods your husband worshiped. If he converted, so did you. If you came from a different country where different gods were followed, you left them behind. Granted, many women kept small idols or shrines or rites or other scraps of their home religions, worshiping in secret as they could, but it was assumed that their devotion was to their husband first, and their god or gods second. This is an idea that unfortunately has won some ground in certain "Christian" circles. I actually read a book that explained (with helpful diagrams to assist the comprehension of the poor little ladies who were struggling to read anything longer than a cupcake recipe) how a woman is able to serve and worship God through her husband. Man was made for God, the book said (and illustrated with diagrams), and woman was made for man.

Bull. Shit.

These women converted on their own. They didn't go home and talk to their husbands, they didn't follow the practices of their husbands, some of them may even have been unmarried or widowed. They converted because they believed. They came before the throne of God of their own volition, and they surrendered their own wills to Him, and not to anyone else.

This is the kingdom of God on earth. This is the new order. This is what Christianity should look like. Tell your friends.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

first second birthday

You know, Monday was the one-year anniversary of my brother getting blown up. It's been a long year of miracles and setbacks. The doctors said he'd never wake up from the coma and (after a long period of hallucinations and semi-consciousness) he did. They said he'd never regain control of his bladder bowels and he (mostly) has. They said he'd never walk and (after the amputation of his left leg) he did.

He's still in the hospital. They're still monitoring and treating his nerve pain. They're still testing his reflexes, vision, and cognitive function. They're still helping him learn to walk again, in the hopes that he'll be able to run again. He's still testing his limits, still hitting brick walls, still sorting through the shards of the possibilities before him. He'll be in the hospital for a long time.

He's started his own blog. He's buying a car and looking at colleges. He's climbing rock walls. He's sending me mocking text messages.

Last year, he celebrated his twentieth birthday in the hospital, still in a state of fuzzy semi-consciousness. This year, he'll be able to come home for Thanksgiving and birthday festivities. And this year, i'll get to travel down there to be with him.

On Monday, the first anniversary of his life, both of my sisters wrote Facebook notes about their feelings. My mom traveled to be with him in the hospital barracks. I stayed in bed and tried to sleep off this flu. I thought of Adam periodically throughout the day, though. It was all sort of anti-climactic. Because that's what you never see in inspirational movies about wounded Marines overcoming great odds: the time. It takes a hell of a lot of time to recover from something like this. A year later and he's still in the hospital, and now they're talking about more surgeries and procedures to help relieve the nerve pain. He's been upgraded to a more permanent prosthetic socket, but he's still working on finding a leg he can run on. He's put a down payment on a car, but he hasn't yet been totally cleared to drive. And he hasn't received his discharge from the Marines yet. He's still technically in active service. Granted, at the rate he's going, it's possible that he'll complete his term of service in the hospital barracks, but i have to assume that he's owed an honorable discharge.

He's met the President. Twice. He's received medals. He's been taken on guided tours of the White House and Pentagon. He's been promoted.

And he's still in the damn hospital.

Here's hoping that his second second birthday will take place after his full and complete discharge from everything.

I meant i wanted to make out with Daniel Radcliffe and put hexes on people.

I know i've said that i wish Harry Potter was real. I know i've talked about the profound effect it had on my childhood, my teenhood, and my young adulthood. I know some part of me still believes that if i lean on the barrier between platforms 9 and 10 at King's Cross Station, i'll fall through to platform 9 3/4 just in time to board the scarlet train to Hogwarts.

Fortunately, the universe has decided to grant my request and bring elements of Harry Potter's world into my own. Unfortunately, it's only bringing the parts that suck.

Fifteen years ago, when my parents were building a new house, we went to visit the construction site. And you know those yellow and black garden spiders? The ones that usually grow to about the size of a half-dollar?
These fuckers.

They're already on the large size for American spiders, but as it turns out, most spiders don't really have a maximum size. They just grow until they die. And most of the time, a bird (one of God's angels in disguise) or a right-thinking human (led by the Holy Spirit) will smash the spider into jelly as soon as it's large enough to be visible. Because they are the descendants of Satan, and allowing them to survive is the Original Sin.

But some spiders manage to escape the just wrath of the Lord, and they grow to truly terrifying sizes. The yellow garden spider on the side of our half-finished house was not the size of a half-dollar. It was not the size of my hand. It was not the size of a basketball player's hand. It was the size of a dinner plate.

In Maryland. In a residential area. There was a spider the size of a dinner plate. Alive. Not in a museum or lab. Naturally and out in the open. That is not only sinful, it is un-American.

Another family might have made some calls to National Geographic or the Guinness Book of World Records and made themselves some cash. But with my mother hyperventilating in the passenger seat of the van, my dad had no choice but to find a brick and smash the shit out of that motherfucker.

That was in 1994. In 2003, we moved to a new house about eight miles from the first one. This one was not surrounded by soybean fields and despair. This one was surrounded by 3.25 acres of trees and bushes and poison oak and stones and a creek and neighbors. And yellow garden spiders. We never saw any plate-sized ones, but these averaged 4 or 5 inches long, and they would build huge webs on the sides of the house and garage, so there would be anywhere between 4 and 10 of them clustered together on a given day, creating a barrier of nightmares around our home.

That's not all. When we first moved in and were storing things in the basement, we found a six foot snake skin. Which means that at some point, our house in Maryland was also home to a six-foot snake. A year or so later, my mom noticed that the birds outside were making an unusual racket. When she looked at the birdhouse outside of our kitchen window, she saw two huge black snakes twining themselves around the birdhouse, slithering in and out. We're guessing they were eating the eggs. And possibly the birds.

And last night, my dad sent me a picture of a baby snake. In his toilet. Because apparently, his bathroom is the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets.

When i said i wanted to live in Harry Potter's world, i did not mean that i wanted to hang out with Aragog and Nagini.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

good thing i'm already hell-bound

My former pastor posted an article on my Facebook today about how reading fiction can deepen spiritual (specifically Christian) practices and experiences. I commented that it was an interesting piece, and that i had had a recent discussion with a friend about the one book (besides the Bible) that has had the biggest impact on my spiritual life. That one book was The Things They Carried.

Well, Pastor got really excited and decided he had to check it out. He recommended another book to me (one about the Gospels), and then told me he had added The Things They Carried to his Amazon wish list.

Now, here's the thing: Those of you who haven't read The Things They Carried, shame on you. Read it now. In the meantime, i should tell you that it is not, explicitly, a spiritual book. It's a work of metafiction, focused on one man's experiences in the Vietnam War. And it is not delicate in its handling of the life of a soldier.

There is a lot of foul language, is what i'm saying. There is also a lot of violence, anger, depression, frank discussion of wounds and diseases and what would lead a man to shoot his own toe off just to escape the horror of it all.

This is not a beautiful redemption tale. Nor is it a metaphor for finding God everywhere, even in a (quite literal) field full of shit. It is not something that most people would see a whole lot of spirituality in, of any religion.

But i wasn't kidding when i talked about the huge spiritual impact this book has had on me. I've mentioned it before in reference to interpreting Scriptures. It really did help me approach the Bible in a whole new way. The Things They Carried, more than any other book except the Bible, has changed my life.

Here's where the "going-to-hell" part comes in: i didn't talk to my former pastor about any of this. I briefly considered warning him about the language, the coarseness, the vulgarity and grittiness and darkness and indelicacy and horror. I thought about letting him know that this is not like C. S. Lewis or Dietrich Bonhoeffer or Joni Erickson Tada.

But then i imagined this very conservative, fairly uptight, appearances-oriented middle-aged pastor settling down in Starbucks with his coffee and his sermon notes and a shiny new copy of The Things They Carried, and i pictured his face somewhere around the sixth F-bomb.

And i said nothing.

Monday, October 8, 2012

saving me (book)

This one pretty much goes without saying, right? Books have been saving me for over twenty years now.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Acts 6-13

All of chapter 10, but especially verses 15, 34-35, and 44-48.

15: And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God has cleaned you must not call common."
34-35: Then Peter opened his mouth and said: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him."
44-48: While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.

Last week, my pastor preached on this text. Then i read it in my personal devotions. Next week, we're covering it in Bible study. That's how it goes sometimes.

The early Church had a problem: were they another sect of Judaism, or were they a new religion? Jesus was Jewish, and He was the Messiah they'd been waiting for. So maybe they were still Jews, but they had just recognized a truth that no one else had seen yet? This meant that a Gentile could convert here and there, but they would have to be circumcised and stop eating bacon-wrapped shrimp and observe their holy days and ritual washings. But then the Jews said, "No, you guys are not one of us. The Messiah hasn't come yet. If you want to worship Jesus, you're worshiping another god and we want nothing to do with you."

So do new converts have to be circumcised? Do they have to observe Passover? Do they have to observe the Sabbath?

Much of Acts deals with these questions -- the book is half Three Stooges/James Bond miracles and prison escapes, and half church meeting reports -- so we'll spend a lot of time talking and thinking about this stuff. What does it mean to be Christian? What are the rules? What do you have to do to be saved? And, having been saved, what do you have to do to stay that way?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Sometimes, my daily interactions with human beings leave me soul-crushingly annoyed and exasperated. My favorites are the ones who have clearly never been to the campus before, and come to me expecting me to be the Ultimate Authority on All Things Campus Related (which i basically am). They ask me where a particular office is, where they can find a particular person in that office, who they can talk to about a particular issue, and they expect me to be able to provide an immediate, correct, helpful response. And 999 times out of a thousand, they are justified in this expectation. After all, i was a student here for 4 years, i spent two years as a student worker in the Admissions office, and i have been working here full-time for just over a year, while simultaneously taking graduate courses here. I know this place pretty well, and i am a receptionist/administrative assistant. By definition, people with that job title know very nearly everything worth knowing about their workplace.

So i am not annoyed by the confused people who come to me, seeking wisdom and guidance. That's what i'm here for. What i am annoyed by, what makes my blood boil, what makes me want to slap the mustache off of the face of the gentleman who was just in here, are the people who come in confused, and try to somehow transfer their confusion to me, as if they know everything about what they are doing and i am trying to distract them from their ultimate goal by giving them campus maps, direct extensions, and a guided tour of the building.

The gentleman who was just in here asked for a particular person (we'll call her Susie). Susie works in the Facilities department, the offices of which are located in the student center. He had come to the main administrative building, which most people do, since it is the first building you see when you enter the front of the campus. It also has big white pillars and huge front steps, and looks all official and important, like a capitol building or a library.

I told him that Susie worked in Facilities, and that her office was in the student center. I was about to offer him a map or directions, when he mentioned Human Resources, and said that Susie had asked him to meet her in the HR office.

"Oh! Okay. Well, she doesn't work in HR, but that office is in this building. Susie works in Facilities, like I said--"
"She directed me to meet her in HR," he snapped.

Let's review what happened here: he came into my office, gave me no information about who he was or what he was doing here, and asked for Susie in HR. When i (gently and enthusiastically and immediately) explained that Susie worked for Facilities, he became irritated and insisted that Susie had directed him to HR. Which she may well have done; maybe he's a new hire and needs to meet with HR for paperwork. However, he asked to meet with Susie in HR, which is highly unusual (Susie rarely takes meetings, and doesn't work in HR), so i tried to clear up his confusion. But he continued to insist on his own rightness, as if certain that if he said enough times that he was meeting with Susie in HR, i would remember that that was the secret code and would give him Oreos and take him to the meeting. When i began directing him to the various offices and people he was looking for (all two of them), he continued to insist on meeting Susie in HR. When i began (again) directing him to HR, he started interrupting irritably, asking questions that i hadn't yet had the chance to answer. "It's on the second floor. You take the elevator--"
"Where is it?"
"If you take the elevator, it's on your left--"
"As soon as you exit the elevator, turn left and you'll be there."

He left irritated, and probably still confused. I stayed behind, secure in the knowledge that Susie works for Facilities, that the HR office is on the second floor to the left of the elevator, and that his mustache looked stupid.

Monday, October 1, 2012

saving me (absurdity)

The top of my desk is decorated with entries from my thesaurus. I wanted to find one item for each letter of the alphabet that has been saving me as i've been in another free fall. Because i'm obsessive and list-y that way.

A is for Absurdity. Because nothing distracts you from inner turmoil like a phone call from a confused person or overhearing a conversation between two of your dumb coworkers.

When you're down the rabbit hole, nonsense is the only thing that makes any sense at all. It is the only constant in a fluid and shifting world. It is entertaining and soothing, hilarious and sobering, jarring and comforting.

Friday, September 28, 2012

John 18-21, Acts 1-5

There are a lot of serious and impressive miracles that happen in Acts. It's kind of a weird book: when people aren't raising the dead or speaking in tongues, they're having meetings and voting on church issues. It goes back and forth between sci-fi thriller and church meeting transcript throughout the whole 28 chapters. It's a very serious book.

So why am i reading the first few chapters and picturing scenes from the Three Stooges?

The apostles get arrested for blaspheming and working on the Sabbath and whatnot. They are put in prison overnight, and they simply walk out (through the power of Jesus' name and the Holy Spirit within them). The religious leaders freak out, hunt them down, and arrest them again, and they walk out again. It's downright slapsticky.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Reason #15 Why I Should Live With My Boyfriend

I live with all girls. I have three roommates, and they are all female. So who the hell bought fucking single ply toilet paper?!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


I said before that i didn't adapt existing fairy tales to fit the structure of my book, except when i had writer's block. And i don't really have any interest in continuing to work on these stories, to adapt and edit and turn them into comics that have a place in the narrative i have created.

But i kinda do.

It wouldn't be part of the overall narrative, probably a separate volume of bonus issues, with maybe some behind-the-scenes stuff (old drafts, scripts, etc). One of those things that doesn't really have a place on the timeline, but that nevertheless belongs to the same sort of world.

It would be great to do a few of my favorites, including some of the unfortunately overlooked ones (The Six Swans would be particularly well-suited to my world), but i'd mostly like to avoid the overdone, Disney-fied ones (like Snow White, who only manages to stop being Betty Boop in my head when she is written by Gregory Maguire or Gail Carson Levine). And Cinderella exists in every culture in the world; what's the point of rehashing that one? The gruesome roots of Sleeping Beauty might be kind of fun to explore, but i'm not sure i actually want to publish a fairy tale about rape and attempted cannibalism, especially since people are not very good at Googling and would likely assume that i made up those elements of the story. (I didn't).

So i was all set to hunt out obscure and beautiful stories that were easily adaptable. And then one day, i was out for a walk around my neighborhood, when it occurred to me that there was still something new to say about Cinderella.

My Cinderella is an agent of AVIS. (Don't worry if you have no idea what that means. I don't think you're supposed to yet.) She is one of the most powerful and talented magicians/witches/agents (haven't figured out what to call them yet) they have ever seen. And AVIS badly needs some political support and power. Cinderella (Phoenix) wants to continue her studies, train other agents, and launch an attack against Faerie. AVIS wants her to become a queen so that they can get an official militia behind them.

Eventually, she is pressured into marrying the doofus prince (what kind of man bases his decision to marry you on how tiny your feet are?), but she is angry and frustrated. She therefore uses her magic to live up to her name and escape the banality of her existence, all in one fell swoop (bonus points to whoever figures out how she does it).

Monday, September 24, 2012

what's saving me (illustrations)

I've been in free-fall a little bit for the last few weeks. It's not a total plunge toward rock bottom, but i can feel it coming. Lately, the thing that's been saving me is my new desk. My wonderful boyfriend helped me haul it up to the second floor from the basement. The stairs were narrow and twisty, the ceiling was low, it was late at night, and we both ended up with scraped knuckles. And my shin was pretty badly skinned, too.

Since then, i've been settling into the corner of my room, arranging pencils and notebooks and drinking rum and coke with peaches. And then i spent a lot of time decoupaging.

I found an old dictionary and thesaurus set and did a little tearing and cutting and coloring. I left plenty of room for things i might want to decoupage in the future, but i'm pretty happy with it so far.

The old orange desk that i keep on the corner was the perfect canvas for a selection of illustrations i cut from the dictionary. I went letter by letter, finding illustrations i liked. Not all letters had illustrations, and not all of the illustrations were memorable. But here's what i ended up with:

Plenty of room for movie tickets, stickers, fabric scraps, and so on. But it's a great start -- both to my workspace and to saving myself again and again.

Friday, September 21, 2012

John 9-17

John 13:47
"And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world."

John 13:34-35
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

John 14:27
"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

John 15:12
"This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

You can't save the world if you're busy judging it. Leave the judgment to God; focus on saving people. Love people. Love everyone. Love first. Leave room for love. Live in peace with one another and with yourself. Love, love, love.

These are the words spoken by Jesus in the last days of his life. The last things that Jesus wanted to say to his followers were words of salvation, of love, of peace, and of love.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lazarus Redux

Okay, if this is really the same mouse being reincarnated over and over, he must have been Hitler or something in a previous life, because he has been through hell.

He came back again a few days ago. Charlotte was chasing him around my room. I got her away from him and tried to encourage him to run and hide. When he wouldn't move, i looked closer. His back legs had both been damaged as Charlotte played with him. He could still use his front legs, but he was not strong enough or fast enough to drag himself over the lintel, run away from Charlotte (who was camped out just outside of the door), and find safety in the attic or basement or walls.

Charlotte doesn't know how to kill mice quickly. She only knows how to play with them to death. I know that this is not exactly cruelty, not the same as if it were me playing with the mouse to death. I know that this is the natural order of things, that cats play with mice and birds and other things to death every day, that i don't know anything about the pain that mice feel or remember. I know that i didn't buy or capture a mouse specifically for her to play with, that the mouse wandered into our house and found an unexpected cat. I know that there is no reason to fret myself over this one tiny life, that this one mouse was even less than a drop in the bucket of suffering in the world.

But i couldn't let her keep playing with the mouse. I couldn't sit quietly at my desk, hearing the pained, frightened shrieks of the mouse. I knew that even if i got the mouse safely away from Charlotte, there was still a good chance that he would find his way back in, or that she would find another mouse. But i couldn't do nothing.

I found an empty box. I gently scooped the mouse up with my hands and placed it in the box. I put on pants and took him outside. As i watched him dragging himself slowly up the hill, i thought about the other cats i'd seen in the neighborhood. I thought about owls, dogs, raccoons. I knew that this mouse would not be able to feed himself, protect himself, that he would likely die even more slowly out here than he would have if left to Charlotte's tender mercies. But i couldn't sit and listen to his dying cries.

It occurred to me that the merciful thing might be to find a large, heavy rock, and put the mouse out of his misery. The thought made me physically ill. I could almost imagine myself doing it, but then i realized that there was a chance it might take more than one blow. I couldn't do that, for certain. One blow i could perhaps manage, but i was not capable of slowly beating the life out of Lazarus.

Was my own psychological suffering worth more than his physical pain? Was it more important to protect myself from sorrow and nightmares than to make him comfortable?

But i couldn't do it. I know my limits, and i had reached them. I decided to wait until someone else was home, someone who might be able to stomach it. But by then, when i went back out into the yard, Lazarus was gone.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I Don't Trust Shortcuts. By Which I Mean, I Don't Know How To Use Them.

So this book. The one i've been working on for seven years. The one i've struggled with, shared, hidden, despaired over, forgotten about, rediscovered, loved, hated. The one i've scribbled during breaks at Quizno's, edited in Spanish apartments, typed up in my dorm room while Buffy episodes played in the background. The one that i finally realized was actually a comic book.

This book is a pain in the ass.

At least two drafts of each story exist. There are as many as six drafts of some of them. I start by writing them longhand, then i edit them in a different color of pen, then i type the drafts, then i print the typed drafts and do some more red pen editing, then i type the changes. Currently, i'm printing out typed drafts and rewriting them by hand.

As if all of this isn't already enough work, the decision to write a comic book instead of a traditional novel should make things considerably easier. Comics scripts are not fully-formed novels. They are more like, well, scripts. Some of them are fuller than others, but none of them are complete novels. (The exception may be the rare cases where a prose novel is adapted into a comic book, but even then i suspect that a looser script is first written from the novel, and that the comic is written from the script.)

What this means is that i should be able to relax. I can stop writing so furiously and start outlining. I can write a few expository and descriptive paragraphs, then focus on dialogue. I can simply suggest what i want to happen. I can storyboard and sketch and then collaborate with an artist to fill in the blanks.

What am i actually doing? I am handwriting a fourth draft of a handwritten, then hand-edited, then typed, story. And i am writing it in full. I'm perhaps a little less worried than i might normally be about getting all of the wording exact, but i am not writing a comic script. I am writing a novel.

Neil Gaiman says that there is no right or wrong way to write a comics script, as long as you and the rest of your team understand what is happening. So the fact that i don't know how to write a comics script should in no way prevent me from writing a comics script. So let me be very clear, here: what i am writing is NOT a very full comics script. What i am writing is a novel.

I know exactly what i want the final script to look like. I know the formatting i want to use, the way i want the writing to happen, the contributions i want to make to the finished product. There is no doubt in my mind of what my final draft will look like, before handing it over to artists, inkers, colorists, and letterers. I just don't know how to proceed straight to that final product. I don't know how to write the thing i want without writing a whole bunch of other things that i don't want. I don't know how to dive in without warming up.

There is absolutely no reason at all in the world to do this the way that i'm doing it. It's not better. It's not easier. It's not the "right" way that you're "supposed" to do it. There is no reason for this except for my own neurosis.

I don't know how to do what i am doing. And rather than reading stacks of old comic scripts and learning by diving in, i read part of one comic script and a little bit of information about comics scripts in general, and now i am easing into the shallow end. I'll get there eventually, but this will be a very long journey. Because i don't take any other kind. Because i have a terrible sense of direction and get panicked very easily when driving, and like to stick to the route i know even when there is no good reason to do so. Because that's the way i know.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Overheard in the Office 20

"Jesus's last name wasn't Sandberg. It was Christ."
"Yeah, but he was Jewish."
"Jesus Sandberg? Jesus Feinstein? 'Hi, Jesus Feinstein. Nice to meet you.'"

Monday, September 17, 2012

So now there's this happening.

Moodle is an online system that allows students and professors to connect, share information, and go paperless. It is one of several such systems; my alma mater (where i am currently employed) uses Moodle. It's a great system in a lot of ways: changes to the syllabus can be immediately posted in an accessible place, make-up dates for snow days or other delays can likewise be posted, and assignments can be updated. Students can turn in work electronically, ensuring a time stamp and eliminating wasted paper. It is also possible to lock the assignment window after a certain date, ensuring that students can't turn in assignments late. It has many wonderful features, and it would be a perfect system if it would only work properly.

In four years as an undergraduate student and one year as a grad student/employee, i have seen innumerable Moodle issues. The site cannot be fully accessed from IE, despite the fact that IE is the only browser that fully supports the other three online systems that the school uses. It sometimes crashes. It often gets confused about login credentials and blocks all attempts of everyone to use it.

And today, it is sending me quizzes from a marine biology course.

I am not teaching marine biology this semester. I am not the TA for marine biology this semester. I have never even taken marine biology. In fact, i took a regular bio course in high school and have never studied biology since. Yet for some reason, as these students submit their completed quizzes to Moodle, the quizzes are being sent to me for grading.

UPDATE: Turns out, this particular professor has been using Moodle for his class quizzes for years. This semester, as he was setting up the page, he did exactly the same things that he has always done, and the quizzes are rocketing all over the place. I've gotten two so far, the VP of Student Development has gotten a few, our data technician has gotten some. The professor has gotten none.

infinite loop

If you have ever read a short story, novel, poem, or piece of speculative fiction about time travel, if you have ever seen a TV show, movie, web short, play, or commercial about time travel, if your physics professor ever mentioned time travel in class, you know the most important rule: don't change anything in the past.

If you change something in the past, even something totally insignificant -- like, say, giving Native Americans safety pins or encouraging Napoleon to grow a beard -- you will return to your present time only to find that it has transformed into a nightmare world, where Nazis have teamed up with Martians to enslave lesser races and turn them into hamburgers. If you somehow travel into the past, you must make sure that your presence there is totally undetectable, that your arrival and departure create no ripples in the fabric of existence, that you change nothing. God forbid you should somehow prevent your parents from meeting, or from getting married, or anything like that -- you will wipe out your own existence!

Except that, if you wipe out your own existence, there will be no "you" to interfere with your parents. Which means that they will meet and get married and have you, and you will be born.

Which means that there will be a "you" to interfere with the past, wiping yourself out of existence.

Which means that there will be no "you" to interfere, meaning that everything will unfold in exactly the way that it already has.

Which means that you will be born.

Which means that there will be a "you" to interfere with the past . . .

The problem with interfering in the past is NOT that it would change the rest of the course of history, necessitating a trip back to set everything right (hilarity ensues as the hero finds himself fending off advances from his own mother!). The problem with interfering in the past is that it would create a tear in the space-time continuum, and send you rocketing back and forth between existence and non-existence like a metaphysical tennis ball. Plus, remember the butterfly effect: if your parents had never met, obviously you wouldn't exist, but what else might have changed? Who would they have married instead? Would one of them have found the cure for cancer? Would one of them have become the next Hitler? Imagine a world of constant, rippling change, where you rocket back and forth between existence and non-existence, the whole face of the two worlds drastically different. One world would be the one we know, but what would the other one be? Utopia or Hell?

Which is a fascinating concept for a story.

We all assume that life proceeds onward in a straight line, unhindered by any science fiction tropes. But in reality, there was a time traveler at some point in the past/present/future who so badly fucked up that the entire universe is constantly being re-created and destroyed. Every generation, the re-set button is pressed, and none of us are aware of it, because we are all living inside the loop (Matrix-like). There is no progress, no moving forward. Just endless, senseless reincarnation. And physics.