To the Woman Who Taught Me of Compromise and Courage

8 May

Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who decided that being there to wake me up and make me breakfast and pick me up from school and take me to extra math lessons and tuck me in at night were more important than maintaining an untarnished sanity. I knew about the yelling at night, but I didn’t understand the compromises until later.

Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who taught me how eyes speak and the turn of a head threatens and the grasp of a man’s hand about his silverware tells you the degree of appeasement you will be serving that night for dinner. Happy Mother’s Day to the woman whose sharp and endless questions fueled by the anxiety to just keep me safe taught me to be prepared, to think ahead, to see not just the road before me but the seven hundred ways it could be different. I may have inherited the endless chatter and vice-grip-on-the-heart of your invisible traveling companions, but at least I know how to answer their whispers.

Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who’s shown me that heroes do not always come with laurels. They are found instead in years of loaded dishwashers; bags under the eyes and wrinkles frowning about the mouth from a tongue kept too long; the silent ferocity of a mind that knows better but is trapped behind a white picket fence of housewife civility; a backstory unknown till long after one’s own has been collected. I got a clean page; still, I mourn your palimpsest.

Happy Mother’s Day to the woman ineffably practical who saw my books with titles with words like “wizards” and feared my proclivity for the fantastic and the magical, till you insisted one day on reading “this Harry Potter” and after hitting the last page asked if perhaps you could borrow the next one, after it came out, and I’d finished reading it. Just so long as I didn’t tell you any spoilers before.

Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who raised me in care and caution but has not begrudged me my edges and little bits of reckless. Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who laid in my skin the practice of being hidden and invisible and yet blesses the ways I have chosen to make that skin stand out. Happy Mother’s Day to the woman who for all her practice in dustbowl acceptability didn’t even bat an eye when I told her I like girls as well as guys, and who answered with confused silence when I asked if she’d have been so supportive if I’d told her back when I was young, because she did not understand how, loving me for me, there could have been any other option.

Happy Mother’s Day to the woman whose jawline I’ve started to see when I glance in the mirror, especially back when I’d cut my hair short, and stripped it blond. I am not yet accustomed to the idea of looking anything like you, but I will not begrudge my face its ancestry. The jawline is strong, and a graceful one, even if we do sometimes clench it too hard.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Dear Readers: A Huge Thank You

24 Apr

For about a week now, I’ve had a brain full of Ecuador. So full, that last night, with the tent donation count having barely inched up to halfway of the goal the team was hoping to reach before Monday, I couldn’t fall asleep until I’d done something, anything more, and I wrote that blog post that went out yesterday talking about the situation and asking you all, dear readers, for help.

I went to bed, hoping the blog post might garner some more help. I tossed and turned for about an hour more, but eventually fell asleep – though even unconscious, I still had a brain full of Ecuador, as I wound up dreaming about sending emails to more people about the wish list, because I want so badly to reach that goal of fifty, want so badly to get shelter to at least that many survivors, that many families. I want so badly for this relief effort to work.

This morning, I woke up and sat bolt-upright with the thought “ECUADOR TENTS?!?!” shooting first-thing through my brain. I rolled over and opened up my laptop and loaded the link to the relief effort’s wish list, hoping for at least a couple more donations…

…and saw that we’d gotten a full 20% more of the entire goal. Donations went up from 25 to 36 during the hours that I slept, and now, we’re only 14, a mere, doable 14 tents away from that goal.

The only thing different between when I went to bed and when I woke up was that blog post. The only thing different, dear readers, was you all.

Thank you. Thank you, so much.

I mean, I suppose I don’t know for sure that the donations came from my readers, but the correlation is strong, so causation seems likely. So, I’m just going to go with the assumption of justified faith in people and do the thing you do when someone helps you, and tell you all thank you.

Thank you. With all the force I can muster and all the adrenaline-based pseudo-energy of the entire pot of coffee I’ve downed today trying to make even more momentum happen, thank you. Thank you for being a part of this. Thank you for helping to make a difference.

And thank you, too, if you decide to join in now. Thank you for helping to keep the relief effort going.

Fourteen more tents, readers. Fourteen tents in (ideally) eight or (allowably) thirty-two hours.

We can do this.

You’re already doing this.

Thank you.


If you’d like to help send shelter to the survivors of Canoa, Ecuador, donate through the following link:

https://amzn.com/w/XLL6FUTGKU91

Making Magic for Ecuador: You, Canoa, and a Call for Tents

23 Apr

If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time (also hey, welcome newcomers), you’ll know that “I was raised on fantasy literature” is a pretty common theme to my posts. And you’ll know that those fantasy books – the ones with Dumbledore’s Army, and wizards banded together for Timeheart, and troupes made of Luster and Earthfolk alike, the ones with people (a term loosely used, here) who went out and saw the universe and did important things in it, for it – those are the books that shaped who I wanted to be. All my life, I’ve pretty much wanted my job description to be something along the lines of “saves the world.”

It’s why I pick up litter on the beach. It’s why I’m a practicing emergency medical responder. It’s why I tell people when I care about them. It’s why I’m going to veterinary school.

And it’s why when a 7.8 earthquake happened on April 16th in a country where I knew people, I messaged those friends to ask how they were doing, how their country was doing.

They were sad, and frustrated, but hanging in there, they said. But the country? Not well, was their answer. Whole towns were in ruins.

The bodies, they said, were piling up in the streets.

…When your friends tell you there are bodies piling up in their streets, you goddamn ask what you can do to help. And when they tell you what that is, you do it.

In this case, what I could do – what you could do – is get them tents.

There are bodies in the streets, but there are survivors too. Unfortunately, their city being a pile of rubble and devastation, there is nowhere for them to survive in.

So they’re building themselves a temporary settlement, and it shall be made of tents.

A couple days later, and I’m now heading up the West coast efforts for the U.S. relief team working in conjunction with my friends’ local organization, the “Surfers for a Roof” Brigade. As for the U.S. team’s efforts, my East coast counterpart and I want to get 50 tents to Ecuador – Canoa, to be specific – by Monday to help make a dent in what the 200 surviving families will need for shelter.

There have been Facebook posts, and emails with city councils, and CARVE surfing magazine even did a piece on the effort, and so far, we’ve gotten 25 tents. I want so badly to keep the momentum going. I want to hit 50 before Monday arrives. I want the world to care, and to not just sit there caring, but get up or speak out or just do something about it.

Here in this world of dust and reality, we cannot fight the source of all evil for the fate of the world.

But we can fight devastation. We can fight disaster. We can join this effort, and throw relief in the face of the ruin. We cannot fight “ultimate evil,” but we can fight this one.

To put it more pragmatically: the relief effort has an Amazon wish list going. People can donate tents directly, or, barring being able to contribute the full cost of a tent, can email Amazon gift cards of any amount to the relief effort’s account, and we’ll pool those funds to purchase more supplies. We’ve already gotten one tent on the way from people’s compounded gift card donations. We’re about halfway to another one, with current funds.

Physical donations will ship to a hangar in Miami from where a volunteer pilot – the relative of local leadership in Canoa – will fly supplies to ground zero. Tent city construction will begin May 7th.

The Amazon wish list and the email account associated with it have been created specifically for the relief effort, to allow for specificity and transparency. Anyone with questions about our financial or other records is totally welcome to ask, and we will send you literally our entire backlog of documentation. Honesty and integrity, in this effort, are paramount.

So, dear readers, I invite you to join me. Consider this your official enrollment call. I cannot off you a DA badge or a manual saying you have joined the ranks of wizards, but I can offer you the knowledge that your help here matters. That herein is a chance to know that you have helped fight to make things better for the world. Whether you donate or “just” spread the word (social media, word of mouth, sky writing, traveling bards – it’s all good) – you will have been someone who, even if just for a moment, got up and looked out at what was happening to the universe and did something about it all.

And for me, at least, that is a little bit magic.

To donate to the Canoa tent relief project: http://amzn.com/w/XLL6FUTGKU91

To learn more about how the relief effort works: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MzRn9oHb73jV3rQ0QmvPmI1twKFiNfhf7Xbk1gFKdEU/edit?usp=sharing

Existential Crises, Games Wizards Play, and When You Await Yourself Inside a Book

5 Feb

games wizards play

Books do not face many temporal restrictions. The words within them may change with spelling conventions, or the print might shift across font type fads, and the phrasing may even slouch around or slick up a bit with the passing decades, but what the books really say, what their stories are, what worlds they contain within those pages and convey across years and years of minds – those are things that time doesn’t really touch. They’re always hanging around, somewhere. Tucked between a dust jacket. Hidden under the covers of someone’s slumbering subconscious. Murmured in the soft sktch of your footfalls. The stories never really go away. They’re there, behind a wardrobe door, or a carefully tapped pattern on a pub’s back brick wall, or an amulet whispering around the neck. All those worlds, in all those books – they wait.

Games Wizards Play, the tenth book in Diane Duane’s Young Wizard series, released a few days ago. It’s been waiting a long time.

Six years. Six long years. A Wizard of Mars, the predecessor to Games Wizards Play, came out in 2010. Wizards at War, the book before that, came out in 2005, which is nearly equally long in time lapsed, but who I was in 2005 and who I was in 2010 were highly congruent. 2005-me and 2010-me almost form the lower and upper bounds of a set of my existence, since they were both broken in remarkably similar ways, and believed pretty much the same things – about themselves, about life, about love and religion and the universe at large.

But 2010-me was not so static a figure as 2005-me. 2010-me read A Wizard of Mars sitting on the couch of her first apartment, shared with four other classmates the summer after freshman year. I moved into the apartment later than those other four, having spent a little over a third of the summer in treatment for anorexia. It was my first stint in that long progression of treatments that eventually carved out my recovery, and I’d been left red and raw and ready for the changing, though I didn’t know that yet. Change would be a long time coming.

But I remember sitting on that couch, holding the book in my hands, fresh out of treatment, wondering who I was going to be now, thrilling at all the possibilities but thinking (erringly) that I knew pretty well which one I was going to wind up with. I opened up to the first page of A Wizard of Mars, looking for (and finding) reaffirmation in that world that had built me as a middle and high schooler, that I trusted to carry me forward through the rest of college, unaware of just how much of a mental precipice I was really standing on.

2016-me is no longer standing on that mental precipice. She’s standing on a different one. On what I’m pretty sure is also an entirely different planet. The shape of the world around me and the horizon before me, it’s all so different from what 2010-me thought she was looking at. And the way my shadow stretches away, telling of my form in the light – it, too, has changed. Which is a good thing, mostly. But which is also terrifying.

I am better – but I am less good. I know more, but I believe less. My understanding has grown, but my hope has so diminished.

Within me is so much of the same fire that kept the midnight oil of 2005 and 2010 aflame, but while it still burns, I can sometimes see it flicker.

Like 2010-me, 2016-me has some decisions to make about who she wants to be. 2010-me decided that she wanted to be a wildlife vet, and 2016-me has finally gotten into vet school. In the US, and the UK. Whether I choose to stay or choose to go, there are pro’s and con’s. Risks and benefits. Uncertain futures rolling out before me like the fever dream of a hallucinating D20.

And I have to pick a starting point for it all.

Life, like YW-style wizardry, is all about choices. And I am terrified I am going to pick wrong.

So. My life has become a choose-your-own-adventure story, except I can’t flip through all the pathways to find out how they all turn out. I just get one. One character archetype. One plot arc. One final destination, out there in the future.

All of it starting with a choice made because of who I think I am, right now.

…And reading Games Wizards Play will directly confront that.

2016-me has a pretty different world view from 2010-me, and I am afraid of what that will mean for how the YW world will be able to fill that space within me where it used to resonate so well. So unquestioningly. I am afraid that because of whom I have become, where once there were echoes and vibrations will instead be dead, mute space. I am so scared that because of how I have changed as a person, I might not relate as well to what I’m going to find once I go back into the YW world in Games Wizards Play, that I have been afraid to so much as open the front cover.

Or I might just relate to it differently, but that kind of scares me, too. To be clear, I trust the books. I trust Diane Duane and her writing, the Young Wizards universe with its depth and complexity, the characters of Nita and Kit and Tom and Carl with their ability to face ethical conundrum and moral grey area. The more I’ve sat down and really thought about those nine preceding books, thought about what the adults in the books said and did as well as the kids, the more I’ve realized that the world of YW is much bigger than I’d realized at fourteen, or nineteen. I trust that the story can hold up against my doubts and uncertainties and questions. I trust that the story can handle who I am, now.

I am less sure that I can.

I have grown up. Not entirely, but more than I ever wished to. And that is a good thing, but it also a very painful thing.

And so, as I said, I have found myself shaking, whenever I try to open that front cover and turn to page one.

Because once I do, my past self and my future forms and the existence I am, truly, right now, will be left to stare at each other from within the lines on a page, and I don’t know what’s going to happen once one of them blinks.

Guess there’s only one way to find out, though.

I was warned, I suppose. All those years, all those pages ago, Nita Callahan did say that life, at least, would never be boring

A 6-Year-Old Don Juan Is A Problem

18 Jan

Today, on my way back from the grocery store, I got hit on by a six-year-old.  I assume he was a six-year-old, because he was most certainly prepubescent and no bigger than a slightly overgrown wombat.

He pulled up to the corner of the sidewalk on his tiny child skateboard as I walked by. “Excuse me, miss!”

I stopped and removed my headphones, entirely expecting him to tell me he was lost or ask me where some tiny child theme park was located or if I liked the color green or some shit like that.

“I’m doing this thing for my skate park,” said the tiny male human as he smiled up at me with wide puppy eyes, “where I have to land a trick in order to get a hug.”

Uh.

Uuuuuuh.

Well that’s a weird promotion. Why would they have a kid do that? What kind of training approach are they OH MY GOD THIS INFANT IS HITTING ON ME.

“I… think you should ask your parents for that hug,” I said, once my brain stopped reeling from the shock of being flirted with by someone who probably doesn’t even know if he can grow a mustache yet.

“I did that already!”

“Yeah, well, practice makes perfect.”

At this point, I started to walk away, and this tiny manchild actually began yelling after me, shouting “Aw, come on! Come on!”

I, being an adult and not the size of a wombat, was able to outpace the indignant little human fairly easily and made it home without a small yapping thing at my heels.

Now, let’s talk about this.

The story is amusing. You have a child acting like an adult, and that is often funny, in the same way that pugs wearing sweaters and boots are funny. It’s one thing pretending to be something it’s not. It’s a behavior farce. Lol. Ha ha. Whatever.

But this story is also absolutely fucking horrifying. It’s only funny because I was dealing with a small child incapable of overpowering me or presenting any real threat. But fast-forward ten years. That wombat-sized kid is now a sixteen year old boy who’s probably at least as tall as I am. Move ahead another ten years, and now a fully grown man is the one getting angry that I turned him down and is shouting “aw, come on!” at me while I’m just trying to carry my bags home from the grocery store. Now it’s an adult who’s throwing a tantrum because his line didn’t work and he didn’t get what he wanted. Now it’s someone who’s much more of a match for me physically coming at me with a lifetime of assumption that if he asks for it, I, a complete stranger, should give it to him.

That right there is rape culture. Inside of a six-year-old.

Not so funny now.

Comedy becomes tragedy all too easily. For that story ten and twenty years from now to be different, its revision needs to start now.

Storytime

1 Jan

leap year page 1

Here in Los Angeles, California, it’s just shy of three hours to the close of January 1st, 2016. Today’s not been much different than any other day, closer to weekend-style even though it’s Friday, but not quite the same because one of my roommates is out of town, and the other is recovering from a long stretch of mandated human interaction, and I myself just returned from The Hellhole That Is Currently Underwater.*

But still, all in all, pretty much the same as any other day. January 1st has no particular magic to create a grand shift in my life. It is just an arbitrary designation of the passage of time.

Except… we don’t want it to be, do we? We want there to be some power in the rustle of a new calendar being hung on the wall. We want there to be some force that we can harness through the symbolic gesture of wiping the slate clean. Whatever the year, we want 01/01 to be not just one more day full of nothing more than more of the same, but rather to be one glistening 24-hour chance to grasp hold of a future we haven’t yet tainted. A notebook that’s got no smudges or eraser marks. A slab of clay, wet and waiting, for us to pick up and do something with.

We want it to be the start of a new story, ripe for the telling.

2016 is a particularly good year for that, it seems. We’ve got a leap year ahead. One whole extra day for awesome.

And I, who makes much of her living out of words, sits here at the close of page 1 of 366 wonder – what makes a good story? What do I want?

What do you want?

What makes a story worth it, after it all, when you’re running out space for lines on the page and midnight is tolling and another book, another voice, another year is chasing at your heels? What is it in a story that will leave you satisfied at “the end” – or even better, hungry for more?

If you’ve got some thoughts to tell, I’d like to listen.

——-

* Missouri. Not necessarily an intrinsically bad place, but a historically terrible destination for me in particular. Also, it’s rained so much there in the past few days that a house literally floated away. It was on the news, guys.

It can be okay in the summer, though.

Just… mind the tornadoes.

Mrs. Claus

25 Dec

A horror story for the holidays.

She pulled off the fancy bow, throwing the ribbon tidily onto the ground next to her. Opened the lid, slowly. As was proper. Breathed in a little as the top jiggled loose with a quiet puff of old dust. Looked inside.

A moment of silence.

“This is… not what I was expecting.”

The man in the red suit with the slicked-back hair and black goatee, all glint and glimmer and promising shine, smiled his lopsided smile. Deceptive as ever.

“What do you mean?” he asked, sickly sweet as an overly gummed candy cane. He slid closer, gliding like a hellcat in the shadows. “What were you expecting?”

She looked up, her eyes an angry flash at his bloody veneer. Her lips curled up into a snarl. “Immortality.”

The man in the crisp red suit threw his head back and laughed, all mirth and mockery. A tear dripped from one eye and he brushed it away with a black-gloved hand. “Oh, my dear,” he hissed, “That would have been an awfully big present. Too big for one as little as yourself. There’s not enough soul in you, to pay for that.”

Her slight frame shook. She pulled the bauble from its box. A glass knife. No – it was already dripping – an ice knife. Sharp. Pretty. Ephemeral.

She had asked for control over life and death. He had given her a toy.

Sly cat. No matter. She had some claws of her own.

“I will take what is my due,” she whispered, her voice thin as a blade and three times as sharp.

The man in the red suit lounged back on her sofa. “Oh really?” he purred, one eyebrow arching up. “And how is that, pet?”

She smiled. Carefully. Slinked towards him in her dress, red like blood and seduction. A sin for a sin. Of course he’d said they’d need to match.

She climbed onto his lap and put her hands over his chest.

“You’re magic,” she murmured under her breath. The man in the red suit leaned into her words. “Ageless.” She let a little reluctant wonder creep into her voice while one finger crept up the red suit and came to rest just over the heart that beat beneath the red suit. Her nails were long and pointed, sharp like daggers. Red from cuticle to tip.

Red. His color.

And now hers.

She dug her claws into the suit, into the flesh, into the man and his magic and his terrible gift-giving and she stole it. Pulled it up, out of him, away from his years and years of cheated death and trickery treasure and into her own body. She felt herself grow large, taking it all in. Bigger. Powerful.

Beneath her claws, the man in the red suit withered. His skin wrinkled and aged. His goatee frayed and greyed and whitened. Flab arose and clung to his middle like denture paste to an old jawline. His eyes sunk and his nose reddened.

And he began to scream.

She pulled her claws out then, cackling.

The old man in the red suit wailed at the sharp blades of her fingers cutting their way back out of him. There was pain. Oh yes, there was pain.

But there was no death.

He healed. Instantly. There was still enough magic left in him for the job.

She had made sure of that.

His chest rose and fell, clunkily. Ragged.  “Ho. ho. ho.” The old man’s wheezing was short and clipped.

The woman smiled. “Ho ho ho,” she laughed.

The man looked up at her, fearful. “Who are you?” he whispered, eyes growing wide with fear.

Ah yes, a name. The woman looked down at her fingers, covered in red like cherry slowly drying to crimson around the cuticles. Her eyes narrowed.

Yes, that would do.

“Claws,” she said, voice firm as desire. “Mrs. Claws.”

She pulled the man up from the couch, thrusting him back towards her fireplace. “Now, if you don’t mind, dear, I believe you have my bidding to do.”

The old man in the ancient red suit was silent. But he nodded, then disappeared back through the flames.

Mrs. Claws’s eyes glinted in the firelight. She looked around the room, wondering where to start.

A now-empty box caught her eye. Mrs. Claws smiled. Cracked her knuckles. Stepped into the fireplace to follow the old man back to his workshop. Yes, that would be her first order. That is how he ended. That is how she would begin.

Toys,” Mrs. Claws hissed. “Toys for everyone.”

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