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.

Friday, September 14, 2012

John 2-8

John 5:8-10
Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk." And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath. The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, "It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed."

The man in question was a cripple. He had been unable to walk his whole life, but Jesus healed him. And the Jews immediately got upset because the man was "working" on the Sabbath.

It takes a while to finish healing. When the doctor takes the cast off of your leg, you have to work hard to regain muscle tone. The skin needs to be exfoliated and cleaned and moisturized. You need to re-learn how to walk. When you come out of rehab, it takes a while to figure out how to avoid temptation in the outside world. Beer commercials are on TV, on the sides of buses, in magazines. Pills are everywhere. The people you knew before may try to bring you back to your old ways.

Healing takes time. After the initial, painful, technical healing (detox, bones re-fusing, deciding to let go of anger, breaking off an unhealthy relationship, being miraculously healed of a chronic condition), there are millions of smaller healings that come all day, every day, for a long time.

These people were looking at a walking miracle, and they got distracted by the fact that his healing was ongoing. How often do we see a new Christian and get distracted by their potty mouth, or their smoking habit, or the clothes they wear to church? Instead of being overjoyed that they are trying, that they are growing and learning, that they have taken a big step in their lives, we get upset that they haven't taken that step the "right" way. We need to give people room to grow, room to learn, room to heal. We need to see the miracle, and ignore everything else.

John 7:52
They answered and said to Him, "Are you also from Galilee? Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee."

There's a first time for everything, kids. Again, don't let your own preconceived ideas about the "right" way to do things distract you from the presence of the Divine.

John 8:3-11, 15
Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such be stoned. But what do You say?" This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."
"You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one."

This. This right here.

At no point does Jesus make excuses for this woman; she has sinned, and He knows that and is sorrowed by it.

But neither does He judge her.

Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more . . . You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.

He knows that she has done wrong. He asks her not to do it again. But He doesn't judge.

There is a big difference between holding someone accountable and judging them, a big difference between acknowledging that someone's choices are not beneficial to their lives and thinking less of them because of those choices.

Also, can i point out that the law of Moses that they reference (Lev. 20:10 and Deut. 22:22) state that PEOPLE caught in adultery should be killed? In fact, both passages are pretty clear that BOTH people are to blame, and that BOTH should be put to death. So where's the dude? How come only the woman was brought to Jesus? If she was caught in the act, the guy must have been there. So where is he now?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Call for Artists

Guys, this is for serious. Everyone in my office is on their staff retreat right now, so i'm basically writing nonstop at my desk. This is great, because i don't have a desk at home, so it's very hard for me to write when i'm there. I've been very productive yesterday and today, and the book is really coming into focus.

And it has to be comics.

Until i started reading comics, it would never in a trillion years have occurred to me to write one. I don't write superhero stories, i can't draw, and i'm not interested in attending conventions with people dressed as Spock or Batman. I didn't know that it was possible to write comics outside of those parameters. I thought that comics necessarily equaled superheroes and loner nerds.

Sandman has proved me wrong. V for Vendetta has proved me wrong. Hell, even Batman and X-Men have proved me wrong. Suddenly, i get why people like these things, why comics have endured for generations, why kids can grow up reading comics and be no less in love with them as they approach (or even pass) middle age.

And now, the book i've been struggling to write for over seven years makes sense. It needs to be a comic.

But i still can't draw. I still need an artist.

So if anyone reading this is a comics artist, or knows someone who is a comics artist, or has a cousin whose ex-husband works with a guy whose daughter's college roommate is a comics artist, send them my way. It's going to take a while for this whole thing to be ready to roll, but with everything suddenly making so much sense in my head and on paper, i don't want to delay any more than i have to.

So, seriously. If you know anyone who might want to collaborate with a stranger on the internet who claims to have a great story for a comic book and has never been published before, send them my way. But do it discreetly, because anyone who reads that last sentence and thinks, "This sounds like a wonderful and totally legitimate business opportunity!" may not be someone i want to work with.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

what i wish i'd said on the phone just now

Yes, Ma'am, i understand your question. But this is the Admissions office -- I don't have access to your daughter's financial information. I can transfer you over to Student Accounts or Financial Aid.

I'm sorry that you called them this morning and have yet to hear back. But i can't access your daughter's bill, so i can't confirm the amount that she owes us monthly.

I would be more than happy to help you if i could. But i don't have access to that part of her file. I don't know what financial aid she has or what her balance is or what the monthly payments would be. That information is only accessible to a few people.

We do this to protect the privacy of our students and their families. I work in the Admissions office. No part of my job involves payments or budgets or financial aid or balances. Now that your daughter is an enrolled student here, now that she has passed through the Admissions office and we have admitted her, the best i can do is transfer you to the appropriate office.

Here in the Admissions office, i can help you become a student. I can look up students who are interested in attending here. I can tell you what parts of the process they have completed and what we are still waiting for. I can tell you about visit days, how to get admitted despite low academic performance, what our Honors program is like, what kind of academic support is available, where all of the buildings are. I can tell you who your child's enrollment counselor is. I can tell you which offices to contact with your questions. I can give you names, departments, supervisors, phone numbers, and email addresses. I can help you become a student here.

But once you are a student, once you have moved into the dorm and started classes, once that first week of classes is over and we are no longer accepting students into this semester, the only thing i can really do for you is transfer your call to another department.

I'm sorry. I would help you if i could. But i do not have access to your daughter's financial information, because there is no reason for me to need access to your daughter's financial information. If we don't have a reason to let someone access information, we don't give them access. Again, this is for your security. Aren't you relieved to know that the receptionist in an unrelated department can't access your daughter's financial information? Doesn't it make you happy to know that there are only about half a dozen people on this entire campus who know what your bill is and how prompt you are with payments and how many times you have called to ask if there is any way your bill can be lowered or postponed or forgiven? Do you really want everyone who works here, including other students, to know your family's financial situation?

Don't give me that attitude. I'm doing my job. I am doing exactly my job. Even if i wanted to do more, even if i wanted to go above and beyond, even if i wanted to do someone else's job for them, i do not have the clearance. I can't see that part of the electronic file. I don't know where those paper files are. I literally cannot do anything except exactly my job.

Have a nice day.

Monday, September 10, 2012

College 101

Okay guys, it's time for some tough truth: not everyone should go to college.

My dad is a genius. Literally. He's taken the IQ tests and was a member of Mensa until he opted out because he was tired of all the flyers they kept sending him. He skipped a grade in school, he coasted through high school, he was admitted to Dartmouth as a chemistry major, and he got kicked out in his freshman year because his depression was so crippling that he couldn't even get out of bed. He transferred to a small Christian school in Massachusetts, where he met my mother, and when they got married and moved to Baltimore, he got jobs and worked while she finished school. He never graduated from college, and is still one of the most brilliant, talented, educated people i know.

I know someone who is borderline retarded. I'm not being insensitive or politically incorrect -- she is actually close to being intellectually disabled. She told me this herself. Her IQ is 85 (mental retardation is 70 or below, 100 is considered average). She spent some time in rehab as a teenager. She did a lot of drugs and drank a lot of booze when she was younger, and she didn't get a chance to start college until she was well into her twenties. But she finished her degree in four years, and last i heard she was checking out grad schools.

Here's the thing: we've all seen the articles about how people with graduate and postgraduate degrees earn more money over their lifetime than those without. But the important part of that phrase is "over their lifetime". When you graduate from college, you have two choices: find a job immediately and start paying off your student loans, or take out more loans to go to grad school so that you can postpone paying your student loans and also postpone finding a full-time job with good pay. Jobs that require degrees are harder to get than jobs that don't, and they often don't pay as well at the entry level. Once you've earned more degrees and advanced your education (and your debt) further, you can get promotions and raises, and by the time you retire you'll be making bank. But you still have to pay off your student loans, and you may find yourself eating ramen and cold pizza for several years after obtaining your BA or BS. College is expensive, and it will be a long time before you see any financial benefits from your degree.

If you want to go to college so that you can make more money, turn back now. It will be a long time before you can realize that dream. Your best money-making bet is to get an Associate's degree in business from a community college, find a good internship or entry-level position in a financially stable corporation, and work your way up. When you've been there long enough, they may help you pay for additional classes, which can also be taken at a community college or even online. If all you want is to make money, don't travel out of state to a private, liberal arts college and pay for four years of tuition, room and board, student fees, and books. It will likely be many long, hard years before you see any return on that investment. Some people are luckier than others and fall into their dream job immediately after graduation, and they make six figure salaries after two years and pay off all their student loans in fifteen months. Do not assume that this person will be you. The only reason that they got that lucky is because they never assumed that they would get that lucky. They worked hard, they took chances, they pursued the things they wanted. And for every one of those stories i can tell you ten more of people who took years to get any luck, of people who slacked off and never achieved their dreams, of people who worked as hard as they could but still had to settle for second best, or even third.

I know that culturally, college is viewed like thirteenth grade. It's sort of assumed that you'll be going to college, studying for four years, getting a bachelor's degree in something. But i have seen so many people graduate with a degree in liberal arts, or business, or English, just because they picked something they liked in high school or something their roommate was studying or something that sounded easy to get a degree in. Those people ended up working in pet grooming shops, or in a department store, or as someone's secretary or receptionist. If that's what you want to do, you should do it right out of high school, instead of wasting four years and tens of thousands of dollars. If you work in a pet grooming shop for a few years and then suddenly realize that you want to be a vet, or a research biologist, or an architect, you can always go back to school. Yes, it's harder to go back when you've been gone for a while. But it's also hard to pay rent and student loans at the same time when you're working 35 hours a week at Dunkin Donuts. And if you work at a pet grooming shop for a few years and then suddenly realize that all you want to do is groom pets, start taking night classes, or online courses, and get a business degree and open your own pet grooming shop.

Don't let anyone pressure you into college, including your parents. Ask them if they really want to pay for four years of education when you don't know what you want to study. Make a deal with them: you can live at home and work and save money for one year. If at the end of the year you know what you want to major in, you'll go to school. If you don't, you'll move out and support yourself. Do some research: show them statistics about student loan default rates, about how much money you can expect to make your first year after graduation, about the average debt of college students after graduation. Tell them that you are making the responsible decision to hold off on spending money for college until you're sure it will be worthwhile.

If you know exactly what you want to major in and where you want to work and what you want to do with your life, you may still want to consider a state school or community college, or postponing college for a year or two. College is fucking expensive, and it takes a long time to pay off. Even if you are one thousand percent certain and committed and motivated and driven, it will take a long time to realize your dreams. It will take a long time until you can live the life you've dreamed of. Do not get drunk in a hot tub three months after graduation and start crying in a fake British accent about how you've been waiting "so long" but you can't find a job (yeah, Fay, thanks for ruining my 21st birthday). It's been three months. This is going to be a long, expensive, difficult, stressful, exhausting struggle. Be patient, work hard, and understand that you're going to face a lot of failure before your "big break".

Think of it this way: if you inherited some sort of legacy that gave you an allowance of $100,000 a year, what would you do with your time? Would you still want to write? Would you still want to teach? Would you still want to clean teeth? Would you still want to sell clothes? What is the one thing you could see yourself doing for the rest of your life, even if you didn't need any money? Now imagine that you are getting an allowance of $30,000 a year. It's enough to make ends meet, as long as you don't have kids. But working would give you some extra income, would help you save and afford big purchases and maybe even support a family. What is the one thing you would want to do? Now imagine that there is no allowance, no inheritance. It is up to you, to your talents and skills and passions to support yourself and your future family. What do you want to do?

If the answers you're coming up with are things like "socialize", "something that would give me lots of vacation days and leave my weekends free", or "something with a good benefits package", don't go to a liberal arts college. Maybe don't go to college at all. Go to a vocational school, take business classes online, work full-time at a bagel shop or part-time as a security guard or intern at a business. But if the answers you're coming up with are things like "counsel suicidal teenagers" or "write poetry" or "teach seventh grade math", go to college. Get your degree. Just understand that, while all of the stress and money and hardship will be worth it in the end, the end is a long way from where you are now. Be prepared.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Luke 19:28-24:53, John 1

John 1:1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

John 1:14
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:16
And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

I AM SO EXCITED TO START READING JOHN!!! John is, in my opinion, the best-written gospel. John had a special relationship with Jesus, so his account offers a unique perspective, and he is also a great writer. The passages above are twisty and weird, but also beautiful and theologically deep. I still get chills when i read over the first half of this chapter.

John 1:46
And Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."

This verse, John 1:46, is interesting for a different reason. I've read lots of books that attempted to factually prove the existence and divinity of Christ. While i do think that there is evidence of these things, and while i agree that intellectual satisfaction is important for a life of faith (especially for me), i don't think that we'll ever have absolute proof. Where is faith in the face of overwhelming evidence? Furthermore, i think that this is entirely the wrong approach to take with most people. We choose to disregard facts every day. People see pictures of smokers' lungs and still go through packs a day. We attend funerals of drunk drivers or their victims and still think that buzzed driving is okay. We refuse to wear seat belts, we eat junk food and avoid exercise, we drink coffee and Red Bull by the gallon, we eat out instead of buying groceries and cooking.

Jesus goes beyond fact. It's not enough to make arguments, to create bulleted lists, to produce eyewitness accounts.

Philip doesn't try to tell Nathanael about the things that he has seen. He doesn't remind him of prophecies, or tell him what John the baptist said, or try to get into an intellectual debate. He just says, "Come and see." Because in the end, there is no substitute for our own experiences.

Faith in Jesus is more than accepting a list of facts, more than bowing under the weight of incontrovertible evidence. Faith in Jesus is a personal experience. You have to come and see for yourself.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Their dwarf companions were a funny mixture of gloom and cheer. A lifetime of living and working among rocks had made them rather solid and slow in their thoughts and speech, yet they made a number of jokes. These jokes were very funny, apparently, but it was a little hard to tell. They relied so heavily on an intimate understanding of stone and involved so many bits of mining slang that they were largely incomprehensible to the two humans. Yet after every joke, the dwarves would all burst into gales of hysterical laughter; without, however, changing their glum expressions.

Monday, September 3, 2012

scars, 3

My mother is in the unfortunate position of being differently intelligent than her children and her ex-husband. Let me be clear: she is fiercely intelligent in ways that we are not. But in the ways that allow you to show off while watching Jeopardy, in the ways that genuinely enjoy intellectual pursuits for their own sakes, in the ways that allow you to write brilliant books and papers and achieve good grades without effort and have your intelligence be immediately apparent to anyone who meets you, she is lacking. And there's nothing wrong with that, except that it can be a little awkward at times.

For my mother, it is more than awkward. She is dismissive and contemptuous of us one moment and jealous the next. For years, she praised my intelligence, so that even in the depths of my high school depression, even when i planned my suicide, even when i felt that almost nothing about me was redeemable or worthy of notice or interesting or in any way mattered, i knew that i was intelligent. I knew that i was more intelligent than most, and that if all else failed, i could cling to that. It was the one thing i was sure of, the one part of me the value of which i never doubted. And then she began to tell me that intelligence was not enough, that i needed to change who i was to succeed in the world. She told me that my type of intelligence, like my dad's, was one that she did not understand and did not always like. She disparaged my accomplishments and dismissed my efforts.

She accelerated this with my sister, telling her that she had no reason to be proud of straight As, because she didn't have to study. Accomplishments only mattered, only had any worth, if you had to work for them. Things that came naturally didn't count.

Any time that any of us find something in ourselves to be proud of, she finds a way to devalue it. And we are not a naturally confident bunch with lots of things we like about ourselves. We mostly don't like ourselves very much, so when we finally find something we're okay with, that is something to celebrate and cherish.

But my mother has a very hard time looking favorably on anything that is different from her, especially if it's not something she can readily understand. She has no patience with or understanding of mental illness (despite having been surrounded by it, experiencing it herself, and taking many psych classes while attaining her three post-graduate degrees). She thinks that people who are good and smart and beautiful, people who are healthy and loved, people who have a lot going for them, have no reason to be mentally ill. She thinks that depression only happens to people who don't have anything else to distinguish them, people whose lives are empty and difficult. She thinks that anyone who has a good, full, happy life has no reason to be depressed, and that the chemical imbalance in their brains can be corrected through a determination to be happy and the simple decision to "get over it".

She is her own standard of correctness and perfection, her own yardstick of health and normalcy. If someone disagrees with her, they are wrong. If someone thinks differently from her, they are weird. If someone's skill set is different from hers, they need to adapt and change in order to succeed. If someone has accomplished more than her, they were lucky. If someone is happier than her, they are lying to themselves.

I was fed a steady stream of these messages for twenty years. When i got my first tattoo, in addition to all of the beautiful and uplifting messages about family and heritage and goals and love and connections and roots and wings, it was my way of saying that i was done with all that bullshit. When i turned twenty, i turned a corner in my life. I decided that no one else got to decide my worth, that only i got to place any kind of value on my self. I decided that it was time to pick up the parts of my mother that were uplifting and encouraging, the parts that i loved and felt connected to, and leave the rest behind.

A tattoo is like a scar, but it is not accidental and it does not come from someone else. A tattoo is a sign that you will accept no one else's marks on yourself, that only you will decide what will stay with you and what will be brushed off. A tattoo is a reminder that you have the final say in who you are.

There are still things that are beyond my control. The scars from my mother are still healing, still bleeding, still hurting. I still have weeks and months where i fall from the high wire. But now, my mother is not my partner or my safety net. I have built my own arena, my own circus ring. I have choreographed my own act, chosen my own partners. I am dancing above the abyss, and while i know that i may fall, i also know i will not be falling forever. There is rest to be found. There are places of safety. There are times of stability. And in the meantime, i am learning to dance, free and fearless, on the tightrope of my sanity. Because if you're going to be up there anyway, you might as well make something beautiful of it.