#AuThorsday with A.B. Funkhauser

IMG_20160108_214128_0Today I’d like to welcome “brilliant and wacky writer” A.B. Funkhauser, author of Heuer Lost and Found.

Can you give us your quickest description of your book? 

I write gonzo mortuary revenge fiction with a hint of pas de deux.

That’s one I’ve never heard before!  What is involved in this genre/kind of writing?

Gonzo journalism was pioneered and advanced by the late great Hunter S. Thompson of Rolling Stone Magazine fame.  The basic tenet of gonzo is to shine a light on something that is held near and dear and make it more accessible through HUMOR.  These can be cherished moments, sacred cows, or pet peeves, which means the gonzo is free to wander through both positive and negative territory.  Because subtext is as important as story in gonzo, something greater than the action is featured.  More often the hero must win, or the joy is lost; hence, the revenge element.  My characters aren’t murderous as a rule, but they are mendacious.  Stealing someone’s legacy is not above them because, chances are, they’ve already climbed the mountain.  And like all humans, there is a powerful love/attachment component at play with the characters.  They strive for people and things—stuff– all for the greater good and at whatever cost.  Most of the time, they get away with it without filters and with plenty of laughs.

What are you working on currently?

A contemporary whodunnit from the pov of a cat.

I don’t see how that couldn’t be hilarious. 🙂  How do you get into the mind of a cat? 

I share a wandering kitty with people who live six doors up from me.  Because he is an occasional visitor and because he chose me, I cherish his time more so than I would any other feline.  He is pure spirit: keen, intelligent, self-centered and incredibly selfish.  I adore him and he knows it.  He is my muse and as such, I’ve had the opportunity to spend hundreds of hours with him.  I fancy he thinks me foolish, sitting in doors all day at a keyboard when I could be outside playing.  That was the germ of the idea for the story.  He knows more than I do because he gets out there and he lives.  Because I do not speak his language and my human arrogance presupposes that he can’t ever understand mine, I’ve assigned a brilliance to him that I, quite frankly, hope is real.  He’s glaring at me right now, debunking everything I’ve just said with his amazing green eyes. I mean, how could I help but let my imagination run amok.

Haha.  What is your favorite scene you’ve written?  Can you give us a peek?

Carlos the Wundercat is taken hostage by a feline fetishist sex cult bent on recreating Stanley Kubrick’s EYES WIDE SHUT. The cat is not impressed:

Though not big on the arts, the cat had a certain fondness for T.V., watching and liking to his great surprise, a good deal of what his keepers selected for him. Though his experience with the work of Kubrick was limited—he nodded off through Clockwork Orange—the strange behavior of the humans in Eyes Wide Shut was another matter entirely. The scenes with the mopey red haired woman, he had to admit, were a bit of drag; but the colorful characters her squat little husband played with were something else.
These humans wore masks too, obscuring what were probably facial features of little worth. Their bodies, once unshrouded, offered an array of tattoos and piercings. Many were on the heavy side, their adipose jiggling with the multitudes that tried to copulate in interesting ways. Nothing at all like Eyes Wide Shut which supported a kind of aesthete that was both elegant and worshipful, this sexy orgy party tried way too hard to be what it clearly was not.

Film analysis by feline.  I like it.  Your whole concept is so unique – What gave you this idea?

Pets, by fiat of municipal bylaws, must never roam outdoors because the freely and democratically elected officials who make these laws believe that every aspect of our existence must be regulated and controlled.  Kitties, like humans, make messes, cross paths, sound out, get involved, act independently, damage property, confer love, grant attention, and make a difference in the lives they touch.  We can’t have that!  That would be just C R A Z Y.

What is one bit of advice you’d like to share with writers?

Never sit down cold in front of an empty screen.  Experience begets scenes; mulling over the experience well in advance of the sit down begets excellent scenes.

That’s a good point.  Do you collect ideas in your head until you have quite a storage of ideas and then write like crazy, then?  Or do you do bits and pieces as scenes come to you?

I have a staggered work schedule that allows me to wall off whole chunks where I write new material only.  This is the time where I go off the grid and I love it.  In order to get ready for these sessions, I go about my business the rest of the year editing, revising, revisiting, submitting, blogging, reviewing, and promoting.  In the course of all that activity, something usually sparks…a tag line or tweet worthy 140er that makes me howl!  I get it down in a folder and wait for more to come.  Pop scenes, my shining diamonds, are among the richest.  By the time November comes ‘round I’m ready to NaNoWriMo, beginning with that first sentence, which is usually the first thing I think of 10 or 11 months before.  Also, I almost always have the book blurb down before I write a single line of the story.

That’s quite the process.  Who inspires you to write?

Not who, but what?  And the answer is time.  Entering into the back half of my life I’ve experienced an incredible freedom of expression that I’ve never had before.  Throughout our lives, we are bound by ordering principles set down in law and societal conventions.  These we stick to, to make a life for ourselves and to assist in the lives of others we help to shape. A nd it’s a good thing: without coordinated guidelines, there would be chaos.  After fifty years of toeing the line, I’ve found an outlet where I don’t have to and that is writing. My characters routinely wander off, saying and doing unexpected things with complete impunity and often with comic results.  I just love that.  But I must hurry so that I can get everything down in time.  Tic toc, tic toc.

Writing can be incredibly freeing from all the “normal” things of real life.  I applaud you for being brave enough to take the step of indulging in this outlet!  If you’d written in earlier life, how do you think your writing would’ve been different? (Or, if you did write earlier, how has your writing changed?)

My writing is funnier because I’m older and am finally incapable of taking myself seriously.

Thanks, A.B., for sharing!

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WHERE TO FIND A.B. Funkhauser: 

Website:  www.abfunkhauser.com 
Goodreads:  A.B. Funkhauser
Amazon Page: A.B. Funkhauser
Facebook:  A.B. Funkhauser
Twitter: @iamfunkhauser
Email:  a.b.funkhauser@rogers.com

#TopTenTuesday – Memes

Top 10 Favorite Memes:

1:    Okay, yeah,  I made this.  But it’s useful. 🙂80e71cf4f03a93d3ed2f2e377e7b7193

2.  For the Emo artistic soul in all of us.

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3.  I giggle at this every time.

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4.  It’s the expression on the face.

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5.  Because… Yes.

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6.  It’s coming…

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7.  Awesome.

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8.  I laugh at this way too hard regularly. 

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9.  Sophistication. 

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10: And…oh, well, here.  Words, Words Everywhere.

Anybody have their own list?   Comment below!

Where Have I Been?

Sometime early this year – winter, most likely, when I was stir-crazy with cabin fever – I had a very weird night of prayer.  I basically told God, “Okay, look.  I need something to happen, but something GOOD this time and not something that’s just going to be drastic and unwanted and make me spaz.  Things gotta change here.  Let’s say by…October.  Deal?  I don’t know how this is a deal exactly, but can ya do that for me?”  And in that moment, I felt a very weird but familiar calm as an answer.

I kind of forgot about this through the spring and summer, which were nice and pleasant but not particularly exciting.

Then, mid July, through a series of “Don’t tell me what I won’t do!” moves combined with my obsessive need to prove I’m right, I took a friend’s challenge and signed up semi-incognito for Match.com.  (At this point you’re thinking this post is going in a different direction, but stay with me, because this is only a minor point.)  Hilarity ensued, and I very much proved my point that my options around here are terrifying at worst, sad at best.  …I might have made a collage of pictures from the worst candidates.  And yes, that might seem mean, but seriously, men – you can do better than taking selfies in your bathroom mirror when the toilet seat’s up behind you.

I told my friend that I would willingly go on 3 dates to “take this more seriously.”  Dates #1 and #2 were fine but further convinced me that I’m pretty much dead inside.  Then I remembered a guy I’d talked to earlier about movies – literally that was all we talked about, and if you know me you know that’s kind of enough.  So I agreed to meet date #3 at one of my favorite breweries with the idea of “Hey, at least I get to drink, and we’ll probably talk about movies.”  About 10 minutes in, I found myself thinking, “Damn it, I like this one.”

So, my friend who sent me to Match in the first place became a big I-Told-You-So as I subsequently began to spend more and more time with Date #3.

Then around September, my apartment complex informed me that my lease was up in October and that my rent was going up by over $100 every month.  THIS finally reminded me of that prayer/deal God and I had made, and I might have gone, “What the hell?!”  However, since my brother also was looking for a new place, we decided to gather our eggs ($$) and get a place together, somewhere more downtown and bigger and cooler.  This meant spending hours and hours house-hunting and planning and finally actually moving.

Through all this, I tried to keep up at least with my reading and reviewing.  I managed okay, but quite frankly WRITING was the thing that got put on time-out.  I flat out just didn’t have time to write anything other than the occasional review – no blogging and definitely no novel…ing.

So, for those who’ve been wondering why I haven’t blogged in forever, the sum-ups in bold above are why.  For those who’ve asked how my 4th novel is coming along and then wondered why I respond with “meh,” the sum-ups in bold above explains how it’s coming along – it’s not.  (And for those of you in real life who haven’t seen much of me in the past few months, I promise things will calm down now that I’m living out of only one location.  And maybe I’ll finally let ya meet Date #3.)

 Now…

It’s October.  (Okay, it’s a few days into October, but 10/10 has a nice symmetry to it.)  As I sit here typing out this blog in my new little office nook, I’m pretty happy with where October has brought me.  This is DEFINITELY a lot of change from where I was last winter.  And it’s all pretty good.  I really should have known better than to give God any kind of challenge, because obviously He thinks He’s funny and enjoys throwing me for a loop – kind of like how telling a certain someone “You’re not going to circle around and around in the roundabout, are you?” means that of course he’s going to drive around and around in the roundabout.

Anyway, it’s October and I’m settling down again to play with all these new life changes.  I also hope to get back to the one constant activity that I’ve missed and finish this stinkin’ book series.

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You and You and You Complete Me

They say your 20’s are meant for finding yourself and your 30’s are for sorting out and getting comfortable with what you want in life. Personally, sitting here in my 30s, I’m finding that what I want most is good relationships with people in my life.  If you knew me in my teens, this is probably kind of shocking – back then, I had a handful of people I could tolerate, let alone love.  But I’ve never been vocationally driven, creatively over-ambitious, or heard a biological clock ticking to the point of deafening every other thought.  As I’ve moved out of my teens, out of my 20’s, and now into my 30’s, PEOPLE matter most to me, and my relationships are what push and pull me in a hundred different directions so that I feel like I’m getting the most out of life.

I’ve always hated the line “You complete me.”  Part of this may be because I was on the Rolls-Eyes-At-Tom-Cruise bandwagon before there was a bandwagon.  Mostly, I just think it’s a horrible idea because no one person can ever completely fulfill you.  It’s a dangerous, romantic idea to invest all happiness and well-being on one person (think “Twilight” style).  That way disappointment lies.  And resentment.  Anger.  Often, divorce.  No one, no matter how wonderful and no matter how much better they make your life, is perfect all the time.  Putting that kind of pressure on a relationship of any kind – marriage, BFFs, doctor/patient – can be disastrous.

And that’s why I’ve learned that I have to let relationships be whatever they are, not what I might want them to be. You can’t  make some work, no matter how hard you try to invest and make someone an important part of your life.

  • That cool girl might not want to be your BFF, but she could be someone you enjoy immensely whenever your paths cross.
  • That person you worship as a mentor might not have time to take you under their wing, but you can still learn from what they can give.
  • That guy might not love you like you wish he would, but he could be a great friend who cares about you.

I’ve learned to let relationships be what works.  You don’t need to throw people away if they don’t completely fulfill you.  That one person might be great in one specific area that everyone else misses, so let other people be the rest of what you’d want from that person.

The reverse is true too. I’ve found I often fall into the trap of trying to be everything for someone.  I want to give someone whatever they need from me, whenever they need it.  But that can be exhausting and relationship-ending too. I grow resentful, even if I am kind of encouraging them to be emotional vampires.  Some of these relationships I’ve learned I have to back off from.  I can’t complete people all on my own any more than anyone else can complete me all on their own.  But I can be something for them – just not everything.  I can still give advice or support when an emotional vampire really, really needs it.  I can still send a joke message to that awkward friend when I find something I know he’ll enjoy.  I can exchange low-maintenance emails with that girl who’s life has moved in a different direction from mine. I can’t force these relationship be what they once might have been, but they can still mean something to me, each in their own way.

Of course there are different levels of connection, and some people complete us more than others.  I have an amazing family, and I have a close circle of friends I love dearly who feed me and love me and get me – we all have these people, I hope.  But even in this group of people who fulfill me, it’s a group effort. I get different things from different people – the strain of fulfilling a person’s needs is best passed around, I think.  I don’t go to my girl friends for advice I know I’d respect more from my parents, for example (that might seem abnormal, but there it is – my parents are awesome).  I likewise don’t expect my parents to understand memes about “New Girl.”

  • I have a friend I talk to about hairstyles.
  • I have a friend with whom I discuss religion.
  • I have a brother with whom I share more personal life angst than I dare expose anyone else to.
  • I have a friend who shares my hermit/introvert problems.
  • I have a childhood friend who gets my past and how it still affects me today.
  • I have someone I met at a party who is more supportive of my books than anyone in my day-to-day life.
  • I have an author friend who knows the writing headspace and also knows that sometimes I just need a break where we have stupid conversation for an hour.

It’s good to have people to count on.  Everyone in your “inner circle” shares something unique with you, probably. It’s good to have go-to people.  It’s good to know who can handle what level of your crazy.

For me, I also know that, no matter how much I love the people who fall into the categories above, I’m always going to need new people too.  It’s not that I get bored with people in my life too often… but it’s nice to bring in new blood and see more of humanity.

One of my favorite quotes:

“Sometimes you run into someone, regardless of age or sex, whom you know absolutely to be an independently operating part of the Whole that goes on all the time inside yourself, and the eye-motes go click and you hear the tribal tones of voice resonate, and there it is – you recognize them.” – Anne Lamott
 

Also, this:

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And it’s these “ah-ha” kindreds, as well as these people who have something that makes them completely stand out, that maintain my faith in humanity.  I think you also have to let these people just be what they are without forcing these “single serving friends” to mean more than they can.  If you meet someone on Twitter who shares your love of Supernatural and you go on to become BFFs, great.  If someone shares a great moment with you and you never hear from them again after that day, that can be great too, if you look at it right.  Let it be what it is.

I guess all this boils down to letting go of control.  Control of other people.  Control of relationship definitions.  Control of what you think you need and what you think you need to be.  Let everyone in your life have their own space that is just theirs and don’t demand they fit the mold of some idea in your head.  With less pressure, less expectations, who knows?  You might find fulfillment from a thousand different sources.

Flight from Reality

I swear I will soon post something more serious, probably something where I gush about the people who’ve managed to put up with me this winter.  This is not that time.  We are not out of the woods yet.

When I was 6, my mom thought I needed therapy because I constantly pretended I was She-Ra.  I look at it as indicating that my need for escapism started early.  I have always loved Story – this interest being the one thing that gave my any practical direction in college. My imagination is always on.  I frequently get bored with reality to the point that I make up more interesting stories in my head. Or, I relate whatever’s going on to something from a story.  There’s always some part of my brain that is running on another creative level.  This is just how my mind has come to work – part observation of the world around me, part shuffling and creating as I go.

I probably should see the above as an indication that I’m a bit screwed up, but I’m kinda okay with it.  I just need to remember that the reason my life is not as interesting as many of the stories I ingest (or create) is because stories are NOT reality.  They’re shaped, crafted, edited, and the best parts and moments of something based on reality.  Most books/shows/movies don’t show anyone sitting around paying pills, brushing their teeth, or doing anything necessary but mundane.  And I shouldn’t blame my friends for not being more interesting; no one really gets into scrapes like the characters in Friends.  Although I should point out that I have several carefully crafted plans for a zombie apocalypse, I should not expect things to miraculously happen to me that are amazing, entertaining, and fulfilling.  Real life is the base for stories, not the other way around.  

But I DO bring books/shows/movies into reality all the time.  We all do.  Sharing much-loved, widely accessible interests is the very easiest way to connect with someone.  “You like Firefly?  Me too! We should be friends.”  Or, sometimes there is a perfect moment to quote a line from your favorite character on Arrested Development, and suddenly you realize you have something to talk about with that weird guy to your left after all.  And, quite frankly, I am immediately won over by your wittiness if you tie a Star Wars reference into whatever I’m taking about. (Hoth, of course, has come up multiple times this winter.)

Sidenote:  While books are great (excuse me, “literature”), there is something about TV/movies that is just easier to share with people.  Books demand a lot more personal interpretation. TV/movies give us all the exact same pictures and voices.  Plus, I’ve always been a visual person, and having a bit of a photographic memory probably doesn’t hurt.  THAT means I have all this stuff floating around in my head all the time – of course I relate it to reality…right?

While real life people have (hopefully) influenced my personal development more than She-Ra, there are many fictional characters over the years who, for better or worse, have shaped me.  I learn vicariously, and this includes learning from people who don’t even exist.  I’m sure every single person reading this can come up with a list (and I’d love to see ’em!) of characters who have meant a great deal to you.  Here’s a random list of fictional characters who, for reasons great and small and important and stupid, have meant something to me:

  • She-Ra.   Probably responsible for my first subconscious idea of feminine defiance.
  • DJ Tanner (Full House).  She was an oldest child like me.  I made my first bedroom a complete replica of hers because I liked the color.
  • Claudia (The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler).  She and her brother were a lot like me and my brother.  They argued over grammar.  She needed to be different, and this was the first female book character I really remember connecting with.
  • Xena.  Possible She-Ra Part 2, definite influence on Bullseye for the Kota.
  • Rogue (X-Men, the animated series).  Probably She-Ra part 3.  And I liked that a tough tomboy could also cry.
  • Mad Martigen (Willow).  My earliest version of the perfect man.
  • Errol Flynn as Robin Hood.  Close second.
  • Jane Eyre.  Being smart and a wallflower, having nothing go right, etc. countered with patience and faith was inspiring as a teen.
  • Ms. Parker (The Pretender).  I definitely like dark female characters, which by this time I realized.  But Ms. Parker had a broken, soft side that lashed out when vulnerable, and I saw myself in that.  Plus, being mean is kinda fun.
  • Clementine (Eternal Sunshine):  It was refreshing to see a goofball who was carefree and original.  And she gave a speech about men’s expectations that completely resonated with me.
  • Lily (How I Met Your Mother). It’s okay to be cute and nice.  You can still have a dark side.  And wear fun clothes.
  • Addison (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice).  It’s okay to have dark humor about not knowing what the hell you’re doing with your life/love life.
  • Penny (Big Bang Theory).  My friend Cat told me that her family thinks of me as Smart Penny.  (Her mother apparently went so far as to one day – out of nowhere – say, “Sunny needs a Leonard.”)  I get the character similarities, certainly the constant use of sarcasm and eye rolls.  I also like that she shows it’s perfectly okay to wear sweatpants and tank tops constantly – a wardrobe I have adopted since working from home.  

Also, while I’m making lists, here are some of my ridiculous triggers. (This usually annoys most of my friends who don’t know what I’m talking about, but at least my brother gets it):

  • Anything about an island will make me think of Lost.
  • Whenever anyone says “odd” I will retort with, “Odd.  That is to say, Strange.” This from the TV-movie version of Alice in Wonderland.
  • If one object is moving towards another object, I will quote Galaxy Quest’s “There’s a red thingy moving toward the green thingy.  I think we’re the green thingy.” 
  • Also frequently, for no good reason, I quote Galaxy Quest’s “Is there air?! You don’t know!”
  • Anything about a system controlling anything will result in 12 Monkeys “It’s the system!”
  • Eating chicken… Fifth Element “Chicken good.”
  • Llamas… Emperor’s New Groove “Yay, I’m a llama again! Wait…”
  • (I hate that I’m admitting this)  If someone is talking about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I sing in my head The Hangover’s “…The three best friends that a guy could ever have…”
  • If someone doesn’t have a tattoo, I mimic Idiocracy’s “Why come you don’t gots a tattoo?”
  • Berries… Intolerable Cruelty “Everybody likes berries.”
  • Jewelry… Secret of NIMH “Ooh, a sparkly.”
  • High school… She’s the Man “Screw you guys, I hate high school.”

So, yeah. At any given moment, some part of some story is swirling around in my head.  Sometimes other people get it; sometimes I sound like a crazy person giggling to myself. But I think it’s interesting how stories can carry over into real life, sometimes shaping us more than maybe we realize. And it’s fun to see where we have overlaps.

Hermithood

It’s that time of year when I typically have had it with winter anyway, but today I’ve spent most of my time eagerly anticipating the moment when the wind is going to finish tearing off my neighbor’s screen door so that it joins the blowing snow, which just doesn’t seem to want to fly down

I miss the color green.
I can’t even remember what dirt smells like.
I remember what birds sound like only because of TV.
I’m sick of being cooped up and having way too much time to think and consequently freaking out about every life decision I’ve ever made.

 But here’s the thing: Despite the weather, despite hating being cooped up (yes, I could do things outside, but I’m not a crazy winter person), I really don’t mind this winter causing me to spend so much time alone.  I would like to be out, at the park, at the beach, among the living, etc.  But I’ve gotten pretty good at doing these things by myself.  Maybe it’s part of being a writer, but I like to be out in the world and just observe.  I like having great stretches of time where I can think without having to entertain anyone else. Selfishly, I like doing things my way.  Less selfishly, I like not making other people accommodate me into their plans.

Of course I like spending time with my family and my friends.  Most of them.  Many of them.  Some of them.  Sometimes.  It would be absolutely detrimental to my mental wellbeing if I didn’t interact with people regularly. I genuinely love meeting new people.  I’ve had a job in the past which required me to be more social than any of you probably will ever be in your life, so forgive me if I smirk a bit when you get all judge-y like I can’t be social.  (Okay, that started to get specific…) Anyway, yes, I like people.  I’d say I need people.  I may be an introvert, but people feed me creatively, spiritually, etc. in ways that neither I nor Netflix can.

But my usual, comfortable state involves a table for one.

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The natural question most people ask is, “Don’t you wish you were in a relationship so that you’re not alone all the time?” My first reaction is usually to find this insulting.  My second reaction is to take a deep breath and try to make the person understand that I’m quite happy being single.  Well-meaning relatives and friends of course try to “help.”  My usual response echoes Liz Lemons’s “No, thank you, please!” Okay, being in a relationship wouldn’t be a bad idea, but having some guy in my life usually just exhausts me.  If someone wants to see me more than once a week, I start to feel claustrophobic.  Maybe at some point someone will surprise me, but I don’t NEED someone to make me feel content.  I think that’s a much healthier space to be in – hoping to be surprised – than dating anyone/everyone in the hope that I won’t have to be alone.

If I’m being honest, most of the time it’s probably better that I’m not around people.  Usually in public my verbal edit switch IS clicked to on, but I apparently have lost all ability to control my facial expressions.  While I might really, really want to spend time out with friends, after a few hours that enthusiasm is likely to wane and I’d rather be back enjoying Sammy (my TV) or else writing.  However, this time of year, I think everyone has had it with being stuck inside and so we’re a bit more likely to enjoy each other’s company just for the sake of being in each other’s company. I can be okay in public, and this time of year even I am willing to give it a go.

 On that note, I have to go get ready to leave my apartment.  Good luck to everyone dealing with me tonight.

Rabbit Trail Drift Off

It’s that time of season when this:

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Stormtrooper (my car), where he hasn’t moved for days.

 leads to this:

Just watched...

As a result, here’s what happened in my mind last night as I was trying to fall asleep:

This book’s fun.
Gosh, my bed is warm.
[hears gust of wind outside]
No, I’m not letting you in!
What would I do as a vampire?
Who’d be my role model – Aidan or Lestat?
My ears have been ringing for over an hour.
Someone must REALLY be gossiping about me…
Is that an old wives’ tale or just something my mom made up?
I don’t know who’d be up at-
[checks clock on phone]
-3:14 am, anyway.
Did I have caffeine today?
[thinks through everything I ate/drank]
Nope.
Scary that I can do that.
What day is tomorrow – Wednesday?
These are normal questions when hibernating…hermitting…hibermitting.
Nailed it.
This is going great.
Count sheep.
No, boring.  Count Almosts… What am I at – 46?
Hmm… No, not thinking about THAT.
Galcon is Welsh.  Evant is French.  Hack is Colombian.  Matsuri is, what, American?  Poor guy is so uninteresting.
Well, he IS based on-
[edit omission to protect myself]
Did I email everyone back today?
No, I will NOT email/text at-
[checks phone]
3:20.  Great Sky, this is ridiculous.
Coke!  I put Coke in my rum!
Er, you know what I mean…  I know what I mean.
Am I talking to myself?!
This is how it starts.
Well, crazy Aunt Dora lived to be over 100, right? Decent trade off.
I wonder if she was an artist/writer/whatevs.
Gosh, darn, heck – did I just THINK ‘whatevs’?
Not okay, brain.
But I DO wonder if she had journals.
I would SO follow the blog of a crazy person.
Like that poet who writes the conversations she hears the voices having.
…I should write this down.

Muppet Christmas Lessons

[This is from a few years ago, but it’s still appropriate. And still a lesson I struggle with…although I hope I’m better. Anyway, ’tis the season.]

I am proud of Jason Segel.  I don’t know him.  Never met him.  I know being proud of someone you’ve never met is odd, but it’s true.  He brought the Muppets back to life.  The Muppets were essentially dead for over a decade, and now my whole generation has back this wonderful element of our childhood.  Better yet, as one of my friends pointed out, we are free to love the Muppets without irony (the culturally acceptable attitude painted over long-forlorn objects of childhood affection).

After watching the new Muppet Movie, which happened to release around my birthday, my friends went on a Muppet binge for over a month.  It helped that this was around Christmas, and the Muppets’ several Christmas specials fit with perfect timing.  Chief amongst these was, of course, A Muppet Christmas Carol.  Admittedly, I’ve always been partial to Muppet Treasure Island and hadn’t watched their Christmas Carol in several years, but it’s still one of my favorite adaptations.

This time, however, I for the first time noticed something about the general story of the Christmas Carol that got to me – Scrooge.  I’m sure several people who know me would say that I should always have identified with Scrooge, but that’s not exactly what hit me.  The thing about the story that I noticed this time was this:  After his midnight ordeal, Scrooge wakes up in the morning a changed man, and though we only see his first morning after, the projection implied is that Scrooge was a changed man ever after.  That made me think, as many a jaded adult should probably admit to thinking, “Yeah, but how long did it last?”

Then I watched Young Adult, where Charlize Theron plays a woman so self-important and miserable that she honestly thinks it’s not only a good idea but a possible one that she can steal back her now-married ex-boyfriend.  As I watched this movie, I couldn’t help make the connection – she’s a scrooge.  She’s entirely focused on meeting her own needs; she sees the world only from her own viewpoint.  However, unlike Scrooge, when her climactic moment of decision arrives and she realizes that she must change or else be miserable the rest of her life…she doesn’t.  She reverts.  She not only doesn’t learn her lesson but she believes that there was no lesson necessary to learn.  It’s a disturbingly accurate portrayal of our contemporary approach to choosing to be better people, I think.  (I never thought I would accuse Dickens of being optimistic, but by comparison to Diablo Cody, I guess he was.)  In Young Adult, this scrooge thinks there’s nothing really wrong with her, and it’s deeply disturbing because you come to want so badly for this person to grow up and be better.

So.  When/if we repent, change, heal, whatever, how long does it last?  At least for me, the answer is usually “not very.”  I have all the gusto in the world and have every honest intention of being a better person once I’ve been slapped in the face with my own idiocy, and I might even make a really good go of it for a week or two.  But pretty soon, old nature sneaks back in and my enthusiastic decency-revival fades.  Or, worse yet, like Young Adult, I talk myself out of needing to change because I’m so comfortable wallowing in my own mess that I can’t see how to do anything else.  I’m not really that bad, right?  Maybe it’s everyone else who’s wrong.   Maybe I just need to focus more on myself.

Example:  Lately (I use that liberally but feel free to replace with “for quite some time”), I’ve been a pretty sulky, victimized, snippy, unpleasant brat.  I can easily admit that my biggest problem is that I quickly find flaws in people and expect too much from them, and I was living from the position that all my problems were caused by everybody else.  (Let’s face it, this is an easy road to go down.)  The stupid thing is that I’m horribly self-aware and knew I was being an ass, but I have always been able to rationalize my behavior and thoughts – okay, maybe that’s my worst quality.  Anyway, I was definitely being a scrooge, pre-ghostly visitations.  Fortunately, what finally got to me was not as traumatizing-ly supernatural.  While reading Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman, I realized that I was being completely, self-righteously ridiculous.  The problem was me.  Yes, everyone else has problems and nobody’s perfect, but I CAN change ME.  For starters, I needed to at least realize I had a plank in my eye.  If I can rationalize my flaws, why can’t I do the same in others?  I needed to be more forgiving of other people’s flaws.  It’s only fair.  What right do I have to think I’m better than everyone I’m upset with when I know I’m being a jerk?  Why can’t I be as forgiving of other people as I am of myself?

As a Christian, I believe that the great, great thing about God is that he’s just waiting for us to realize we’re idiots.  I always imagine a spiritual finger poking me when I need to realize I’m being stupid.  The scary thing about us humans (or maybe just me…but I doubt it) is that we get really good at ignoring the poking.  Sometimes it takes something to get our attention, and in my case is was Not A Fan (I’m really happy it wasn’t the Ghost of Christmas Future, because that guy always freaks me out, even in Muppet form).  As I finished reading a chapter, I felt a weight lifted, and I knew it was my own stupidity.  I acknowledged for the first time in way too long that I was being a self-righteous, judgmental idiot.  And just like that, I felt God going, “Ah-ha, there ya go.  Welcome back.”  I realized at once that this was yet another time when I had to decide where to go and how to be better.

  1. Be fair – treat people at least as kindly as I treat myself.  If I don’t like something about someone, first ask myself if that’s because it’s something I don’t like about me.
  2. Be a more invested friend – show up when people ask, because they might stop caring if I don’t.
  3. Get out of my own head.  Empathize more.
  4. Let things go.  People aren’t perfect.

Of course, in this approaching time of New Year’s resolutions, there is always the question of “How long will it last?”  There will be slips.  I’m not perfect, and no one ever completely changes.  Within a short time, I’m sure I’ll catch myself saying something or doing something that will make me feel that finger-poking rebuke again.  But I intend to remain aware and try to fix my behavior and thoughts as often as possible.  

NOT THIS:                                                         THIS:

adu       scro

NOT THIS:                                                          THIS:

adul                scroo

My brother’s first songs

[This Thanksgiving, my mom and I sat at the kitchen table listening to the cassette tape she’d recorded between 1985-1988 of my brother and me saying our ABC’s, singing “Jesus Loves Me,” etc.   It’s amazing to me how early our creative loves developed – I take every opportunity to tell stories; my brother wants to sing.  I took the tape home with me and uploaded it, and so here we are.]

As promised (or threatened, depending on who you are) earlier in the week, here is the recording of my brother’s first recorded performances.

He’s come along nicely in 20+ years, so feel free to check out his music at: ChrstnSmrvllMsc

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