God Has A Sense of Humor

I’m a literal person, when I decide it’s amusing. You tell me it’s just going to be a second, I’ll respond with, “Time’s up.” You tell me two minutes, I expect two minutes. Bad idea, to ever give me a definite time, if you don’t know for certain.

This drives a friend of mine, Scott, crazy. He’s one of those people who says two seconds when he means fifteen minutes. Which annoys me to no end. And he gets mad at me for telling him to set better time expectations.

Well, I was running low on gas the other day on my way to work, which is a few miles from my house. So, I prayed frantically, saying I’d get gas at lunch. I just needed to make it to work. Please, please, please, please, please.

Made it. No problem. And, at lunch, as promised, I headed for the gas station, praying all the way there that I would make it.

Well, I made it.

Into the driveway—

—then my car died.

I restarted it and managed to pull up to a pump, but the message was clear. I prayed to make it to the gas station, and goshdarnit, I made it to the gas station. And somebody Up There was laughing at me.

So, the next time my friend gets on me for being too literal, you know what I get to say? I learned it from the best! Besides, a humorless God would be boring!

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Dating, Dancing, and Why We Need Gender Roles More Than We Think

Gender roles weren’t defined by society. They were defined by biology. It’s great to challenge them, I think, but they’re there for a reason, and far too often have I seen a woman who decides to be a stay-at-home mother called an anti-feminist.

All That Catholic Jazz

I think it is safe to say that dating norms aren’t what they used to be. We are long past the days of “traditional courtship” where a man would ask a woman out on a date several days to a week in advance, show up to the woman’s home in an ironed shirt and slacks, and take her out to a nice romantic restaurant where he would open the door for her on the way in and out and always pay for the meal. These days, it seems like text messaging and instant messaging are the typical ways to ask someone out on a date, if you are even so bold as to call it a formal date instead of “hanging out.” And it can be the man or the woman to initiate. Sometimes the man will offer to pay, but the woman may find that insulting, as if he…

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Doctor Sleep

Doctor Sleep CoverAs a college-aged chick who hasn’t started school and quit her job at the call center she was working at, I don’t have much money to play around with. Which is why I was grateful when a dear friend bought me no book other than the new Stephen King novel I had been salivating over, Doctor Sleep. It’s the sequel to The Shining, focusing on Danny Torrance as an adult. And it is wonderful. The fabulous Mr. King has done it again. It took a lot of willpower just to put it down for a few hours.

The book opens not long after the incidents at the Overlook, and we find Danny is still being haunted by some of its citizens. Dick Hallorann to the rescue, telling Danny one day he would be teaching someone, himself.

Grown-up Dan Torrance is not a pretty picture. A drunk who’s run his life into the ground, can’t hold a job for long, and is constantly drifting from town to town. Why drink? It shuts up the shining. But eventually it got to the point where I could stop whining in sympathetic misery, because he got to a town where he was employed by a former alcoholic himself, who became his sponsor, and got him into AA.

The villains, the True Knot, are basically Shining Vampires (not sparkly ones, because this is Stephen King we’re talking about, and we would never muck his image with such filth). They trek around the country, finding children who shine, and torturing them to death so they can suck up their essence (they call it steam)–their vitae (Amnesia: The Dark Descent called it that). It makes them younger, so they can live forever.

Abra Stone, the girl destined to be Dan’s student, is the shiningest shining kid who ever shone. She telepathically contacted him when she was a baby, at which age she also knew about 9/11 before it happened. So, of course, the True Knot wants her. And she and Dan have to stop them (play dramatic chords).

Not very many writers I’ve seen can go back to a standalone novel after a few years and churn out a sequel without ruining everything. But King did it well. As a fan of the first book, which I read in middle school, I don’t think it disappoints, keeping up all the delightful chills. It hurt to see Danny (or Dan, now that he’s All Grown Up) had become an alcoholic, but it was good to see him not following in Jack’s footsteps.

Also, there are plenty of references to the original. Those little things tend to make me happy. Little quotes repeated in that way King has that puts me in absolute awe of his style.

Basically, if you’re a fan of The Shining (here meaning the book), Doctor Sleep is a fantastic must-read.

On Cutting, Self-Harm and Ice Cream

The best ice cream known to man

The best ice cream known to man

The Emo stereotype. Release the pain! Buy those clothes from Hot Topic, wear those skinny jeans, and cry tears of eyeliner while listening to some appropriately depressing music, because nobody understands, right?

I admit, cutting is a teenage cliche that is rarely taken seriously in fiction (in my limited experience), because there is just too much of it, written too badly, from too many attention whores (aka, Suethors).

But it’s not just about how nobody understands, or about getting attention, although they can be involved. Nor is it just about releasing pain.

Once upon a time when I was in Young Women (that’s the Mormon program for girls between the ages of twelve and eighteen), my leader told a story about a girl who always had cuts and bruises on her arms. So, she asked where they came from. The girl replied, “That’s what I do when I’m mad at someone.”

My leader shook her head, saying, “I couldn’t believe that she didn’t understand God’s plan for her.”

I didn’t understand, though I said nothing. I mean, sure, I got that our bodies were basically on loan from God. But wasn’t it better to hurt yourself than to hurt others? When I was angry, and I wanted to hurt someone, I’d always hurt myself, because it was bad of me to think that way about them. Slaps across the face, punches in the abdomen, biting until I couldn’t stand it. Pulling my hair. No marks ever left, and nobody’d ever ask any questions, because nobody got hurt, and nothing got damaged. Because this was between me and myself. Sometimes Stupid just had to be put in line.

Long before I’d had enough access to the Internet to realize that self-harm was common enough to be cliche, I cut myself once, too. And, for me, it was not about how nobody understood me, or about consciously releasing my pain. It was about not understanding myself. I’d been yelled at again, because I wasn’t even in eighth grade yet, and I couldn’t handle online high school classes. I was an intelligent girl, I’d been told. I was smart enough. My parents weren’t going to pay my way through college. I needed to get off my lazy butt and get to work. Stop lying to myself. Why couldn’t I do it?

It was about punishing myself. Because I was messing up, just like I always did. The lesson needed to be harsh, and I needed to make it sink in. It was about toughening up. Learning not to be the pathetic little crybaby who broke down every time I got yelled at. About taking in all the pain of life without comment. Being the hero of the story, not the little girl hiding in the corner, who exists solely to show that the hero is heroic.

So what did I do? I sat in a tree, repeatedly digging into my arm with a sharp little piece of wood. Never went deep enough to draw blood, but it’s still my only visible scar.

Sure, I’ve deliberately cut myself since that day. For valid reasons: cleaning an infection, getting out a splinter, a thorn, a piece of glass, and other foreign objects. But I still look forward to it with that same adrenaline as that day in a different lifetime, when I gave myself that scar. I’m still making myself stronger. Increasing my pain tolerance. Proving to myself that I’m not a sissy. It’s all the same, right? And when I need someone to take out my anger on, sometimes I regress to the old habit: harmless punches and slaps that won’t leave any marks, because I don’t have the guts to bruise myself.

But now, with those yelling voices no longer present, I can understand what that leader from long ago meant. It wasn’t about how our bodies are temples, which are God’s property, and how terrible it is to damage things that belong to someone else. It was about individual worth. About how I am a child of God, and it’s not always me that’s the problem. After all, the worth of souls is great in the sight of God. Just as I shouldn’t judge others, I shouldn’t judge myself.

The yelling voices don’t exist anymore, except inside my own mind. Every move I make, they’re right there, telling me how stupid I am, how whiny, how useless, how unlikable, how ugly, how background character. And I’m finally beginning to learn to tell them to shut up. I’m not perfect, but I know I’m better than that. And every time I feel the need to punish myself again, I have every right to decline the invitation.

To anyone out there who might be subject to the yelling voices and punishing themselves, or trying to make themselves stronger, I want to say that you don’t need to. When you’re angry and don’t know how to deal with it, turn it to some positive use. Exercise can be physically punishing and testing, too. And it will definitely make you stronger. When you’re depressed, find something to laugh at. Above all, realize that it’s this crazy, screwed-up world that’s the problem, not you. You are a child of God, who loves you, is there to help, and will never forsake you. If you don’t choose to believe that, believe this one: you have the potential to be something wonderful. There are people out there who want the best for you, and want you to be happy, even though they’ve never known you and maybe never will. You have the power to overcome–all you have to do is use it.

Another awesome alternative (and tasty too!) is eating ice cream, as seen here, and in the greatest fanfiction of all time. Partially thanks to that, I prefer Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey (pictured above, in all its magical glory), myself.

Cheers, and happy eating!

Invasion of the Mormons

“Mormons, Mormons were everywhere, a plague of Mormons, Mormons in neatly pressed uniforms, clean-shaven, clear-eyed, too soft-spoken for cops, so excessively polite that Roy Miro wondered if it was all an act, Mormons to the left of him, Mormons to the right of him, both local and county authorities, and all of them too efficient and by-the-book either to flub their investigation or to let this whole mess be covered over with a wink and a slap on the back. What bothered Roy the most about these particular Mormons was that they robbed him of his usual advantage, because in their company, his affable manner was nothing unusual. His quick and easy smile was only one in a blizzard of smiles full of teeth remarkably whiter than his own. They swarmed through the shopping center and the supermarket, these Mormons, asking their oh-so-polite questions, armed with their small notebooks and Bic pens and direct Mormon stares, and Roy could never be sure that they were buying any part of his cover story or that they were convinced by his impeccable phony credentials.
Hard as he tried, he couldn’t figure out how to schmooze with Mormon cops. He wondered if they would respond well and open up to him if he told them how very much he liked their tabernacle choir. He didn’t actually like or dislike their choir, however, and he had a feeling that they would know he was lying just to warm them up. The same was true of the Osmonds, the premier Mormon show-business family. He neither liked nor disliked their singing and their dancing; they were undeniably talented, but they just weren’t to his taste. Marie Osmond had perfect legs, legs that he could have spent hours kissing and stroking, legs against which he wished that he could crush handfuls of soft red roses–but he was pretty sure that these Mormons were not the type of cops who would enthusiastically join in on a conversation about that sort of thing.
He was certain that not all of the cops were Mormon. The equal-opportunity laws ensured a diverse police force. If he could find those who weren’t Mormons, he might be able to establish the degree of rapport necessary to grease the wheels of their investigation, one way or another, and get the hell out of there. But the non-Mormons were indistinguishable from the Mormons because they’d adopted Mormon ways, manners, and mannerisms. The non-Mormons–whoever the cunning bastards might be–were all polite, pressed, well groomed, sober, with infuriatingly well-scrubbed teeth that were free of all telltale nicotine stains. One of the officers was a black man named Hargrave, and Roy was positive that he’d found at least one cop to whom the teachings of Brigham Young were no more important than those of Kali, the malevolent form of the Hindu Mother Goddess, but Hargrave turned out to be perhaps the most Mormon of all Mormons who had ever walked the Mormon Way. Hargrave had a walletfull of pictures of his wife and nine children, including two sons who were currently on religious missions in squalid corners of Brazil and Tonga.
Eventually the situation spooked Roy so much as it frustrated him. He felt as if he were in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”
–Dean Koontz, Dark Rivers of the Heart

Mormons: the worst fear of affable villains everywhere.

On Fear

“Only a fool doesn’t fear. Only a coward doesn’t face his fear. But the wise man always has a belay.”

I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about fear. After all, I’m not only a horror junkie, but have also gotten paid to run a zipline. Also, I’m a human being. I’ve been the wimp. The crybaby. And I know how great it doesn’t feel.

We all have our fears. Some of us have our more childish fears—the fear of what’s lurking under the bed, in the closet, or behind you, down that dark hall. Then there are the mature fears: divorce, bills, losing a job, bankruptcy, rejection. The lists go on. Somewhere in each of our minds lurks that bug, scratching and crawling until we can’t stand it. Those fears worm their way through every fiber of our beings, informing how we think and act.

What hurts us the most, though, isn’t the fear, itself. It’s when we let it hold us back. When we won’t take that small little step up off the zipline tower, because that insect is providing us with a thousand and one deadly what-ifs. What if the cable breaks? What if I get stuck? What if my harness is too tight? What if I lose money? What if the pretty girl laughs at me? What if nobody else will hire me? What if they all laugh at me? What if I mess up?

But we all know what happens next. We listen to that nagging little bug, just to shut it up, and stay in the comfort zone. We don’t break out of our self-imposed boxes. The moment passes by. And we spend the rest of our sorry little lives regretting it—wishing we’d told that bug to shove it, and taken a chance. Because appeasing its behavior will only make it stronger, until it controls our lives. Until we can’t stand tall anymore, for that dreaded fear that someone might notice, and think badly of us. Until we become bound slaves to that pathetic little bug.

My brothers and sisters, I am here to reconfirm what we’ve been told time and time again, since before we could talk. Nothing can be gained without taking a chance. Without upsetting the status quo every once in a while, our lives will never make good stories, because there’s no conflict to be had. We’re not living, merely existing. And it’s a sad state to be in.

Working on a zipline, I have a thousand and one lines to coax a scared kid to take that step. The entire project is focused on facing fears and trying new things. Because that’s how we grow. The challenge is to face your fears, and push them just a little farther—to tell the bug who’s in charge. Try a zipline. Rappel down a cliff. Fall off a platform. Climb a wall. Walk on a wire. And know that you’ll be a better person for it.

So, today, I’d like to challenge all of you lovely people out there (myself included) to push back just a little bit more. Put fear in its place, and enjoy life while we have it. Ask the guy/chick out. Zipline. Walk through that dark hall. Talk to faces, not behind backs. Take a chance. Live.

Now, this is not the opportunity to jump out of a plane with no parachute and, if you somehow manage to survive, blame it all on me. The fears are there for a reason, after all. Which leads to the third part of the quote above. A wise man always has a belay.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with a belay, allow me to explain. When you’re climbing, a belay is the person to catch you when you fall, through various systems of pulling on the rope. Climbing without a belay is not a smart thing to do.

There are many different belay systems in life. For those of us who are religious, it could be your god, whoever you deem them to be. But there’s always that safety measure—that parachute. They allow us to be adventurous without being suicidal.

So, acknowledge those fears exist. Put them in their place. And always have a belay. Thanks folks, you’ve been fantastic. I’ll be here all night. You’re beautiful, people!

Oh look! Controversy!

The latest installment of the popular children’s series The Heroes of Olympus (sequel to the Percy Jackson series) recently arrived. The House of Hades. And everywhere, fans delighted at this, the end to their suffering. At last, we would know what happened after one of the most evil cliffhangers ever!

But oh no! A controversy! And gasps of shock and horror shook the fandom to the core!

On the day the long-awaited book came out, I was lucky enough to not have work. So, I got to go to my local Walmart and buy it, along with the usual assortment of groceries. Even better, I got to read it while my best friend, who introduced me to the series, watched in envy. That’s what she gets for being a poor college student, I guess. I can’t help it that I’m a very vocal reader.

Anyway, thanks to my fortune, I was able to finish the book by three the next morning. And when I woke up, before going back to work, I looked on the Internet to see the reactions to the big anvil of the book—a guy with a crush on another guy. Most of them were the usual you get out of fandoms—giving the character big hugs, much sympathy, and fan works. And then there were the other ones. The ones who only had things to say along the lines of, “thanks for ruining my childhood.”

And that, ladies and gents, was just sad.

Just like Harry Potter, the Percy Jackson books (all nine of them), are coming-of-age stories. There are things in Deathly Hallows that I never would have wanted to read when I started the series when I was nine years old. When J.K. Rowling started dropping a curse here and there and including alcoholic beverages, nobody got their panties in a twist about that.

And then, you know, there’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians. A series about the Greek gods. Anyone who knows anything about Greek mythology should realized that it’s rank with homosexuality. If you wanted to read a series about them, you should have been forewarned.

Besides, I don’t think it’s right, pretending that kids live in this little bubble where gay doesn’t exist. In fact, it’s stupid. Welcome to the world.

Homophobia is disgusting. I don’t care.

And can’t we all just get along?

PS: The book’s totally awesome. I am left in dire, desolate jealousy of Riordan’s ability to balance so many characters and make them all feel so real and distinct.