Thursday, May 31, 2012

things worth sharing

The last week or so has been a good time for reminiscing, as it often is when I come home. Mark's home now, too, which is a wonderful blessing, but he's not really one for reminiscing.

I've been reading through the Rose Wilder books, the series that follows the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote Little House on the Prairie. Almost everyone read those books growing up, right? My friend Courtney in Yakima never did, and that just makes me sad. Those books were an integral part of my childhood, with my mom reading them aloud, and then being able to read them myself. The Rose books, too. I'm flying through them, remember how attached I was to the characters when I was little.

We also pulled out some old cassette tapes — the Wee Sing tapes and Discovery Toys tapes and, best of all, the lullaby tapes I used to fall asleep to. "Sleepytime Tunes" and "Lullaby Magic" are the two that I remember the most. Just listening to them sends almost a little shiver through me. They always used to help me sleep, and I remember pulling them out even when I was quite a bit older (still in elementary school) and listening to them. "Wynken, Blynken and Nod" and "Goodnight, My Someone" ... hearing them is so strange, like it's echoing very far back in my memory.

But all this reminiscing has a point, kind of. The twins that I'll soon be living with, Chris & Drew, talk more about families and kids and marriage than anyone my age. It's very weird, these two young guys, who look like they could be frat boys or something, talking about what kind of father they want to be one day. But it's interesting. Chris asked me once what I'll want to pass on from my family to my own kids, and it's a question I keep coming back to. For a long time, I was staunchly opposed to kids, and I still go back and forth on that. I want to be able to be selfish, and travel the world, and not worry about uprooting someone ... plus there's the whole needing-to-find-a-husband thing, and what if my kids come out stupid, and the whole having them thing that would suck majorly and is really the most disgusting thing in the world (yes, I refused to watch the video that day in health class; anyone who says birth is a beautiful thing is a big fat liar, or suffering from memory loss), so the likelihood of me having kids ever is very much up in the air.

But I do like to think about what I would pass on, and recently I've been thinking that the songs and stories of my childhood are the most important legacy I have. All the nursery rhymes, all the folk songs, the "Oh, Susanna"s and the "Old King Cole"s and the "Little old woman who lived in a shoe"s and the "four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie"s and all of those — things that probably most kids today don't know. I think about the girl I mentor in Yakima, and her little brothers, and they just have no way of knowing all those stories that I grew up with.

We listened to those songs over and over again, on tapes in the car, and in little cassette players at home; I listened to storybooks on tape for hours, and we sang the songs all the time. If I am a good writer, it's because I was a reader from a very early age; if I am musical, it's because we always, always had music around growing up. Now, I wasn't raised listening to the Beatles, or anything famous, but we always had songs. And all those old stories — the American tall tales, the Paul Bunyans and John Henrys and Johnny Appleseeds — those are things I would want my kids to know about, too.

In the Rose books, the author talks a lot about how much Rose loves reading, and how much she loves storytelling. Storytelling is something I want to work on. If I ever have kids, I want to have stories that I make up and tell every evening, stories that make their eyes go wide and that they want to hear again and again. Not storybook stories, but stories that I make up all my own — or stories from my own life that they want to listen to. It's just so important, that oral tradition. I still hope to someday have my dad just talk into a recorder for hours on end, telling about growing up on a farm and doing rodeo and all the other bygone-era kind of stories that he's told me in pieces over the years.

If I have kids, I don't want them to be glued to various screens. For one, they will never have video games, even thought they'll probably be implanted in their brains via computer chip by then; I still hold that video games were the worst parenting decision my folks ever made for Mark, and I blame Call of Duty for his ever going into the Marines in the first place.

No, if I have kids, they're going to read. From the day they're born, I'll read them stories; they'll start out with Dick & Jane, like I did, and fairy tales, and Arabian Nights, and Little House on the Prairie, and Nancy Drew, and Beverly Cleary, and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and Pippi Longstocking, and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and E. Nesbit, and Harry Potter, and everything else that fires up the imagination. And they're going to play outside, pretending to be pirates and bandits and explorers, and they're going to tear up the garden when they play safari, and they'll build forts from old refrigerator boxes and go barefoot all summer long. That way their brains won't be mush from watching TV or playing mindless video games for hours on end, and they'll have good stories to tell their own kids when they're grown up.

In Eight Cousins, Archie quotes someone as saying that "A love of good books is the best safeguard a man can have." Word, Arch. Word.

Love always,

Sunday, May 20, 2012

On decisions

So it's been a while.

I think I need to resolve to blog more often. For one, I'm a writer, and what is a writer who doesn't write? Useless. (The fact that I write for a living doesn't exactly exempt me from this; it's like how pleasure-reading falls by the wayside during college, because you're forced to read so much for class. But pleasure-reading is still vitally important, as is pleasure-writing.) (Why is "pleasure" such a bad word these days? Hm.)

 Also, if I write more often, I will (hopefully) avoid the novel-length posts that I end up writing when I go months in between. (Side note: "Hopefully" in its common usage was accepted by the AP last month sometime. Maybe the month before. Don't know how I feel about that ... Its original use, its correct use, was to mean "in a hopeful manner," as in, "She skipped hopefully to the mailbox to see if there was a card for her." But we've taken it to mean "I hope," as in, "Hopefully there's a card in the mailbox." And now we're allowed to do that. I like that language is alive and evolving, I get that, but I also like the rules and am afraid of what could happen if we loosen them. A short story in Mrs. Smith's 9th grade English class will forever haunt me; the sci-fi one about a guy who goes on a "time safari" or something, wanders off the path in the Mesozoic era, crushes a butterfly with his boot, and comes back to his time to find the modern world disastrously changed as a result. And everything is misspelled and awful. If we let language devolve into how normal people carelessly talk, then we'll all be writing in very ugly ways one day. And this is a long aside.)

What's consumed my life for the past month or so is a big decision: I'm moving into a house with friends! Doesn't really seem that big, does it? Well, it's not; when the idea first came up, I had a lot of resistance (I'll have to leave my own apartment! Can't have my bathroom as spotlessly clean as I like it! Can't walk naked from the shower to my bedroom! Giving up the apartment POOL! That kind of thing) but quickly came to realize that the potential benefits outweighed any negatives. And I found a beautiful beautiful historic house in the beautiful beautiful historic neighborhood here, and the owners are wonderful, and they're moving to Hawaii for a year and need someone to basically house-sit. Who better to do that than a group of flexible, 20-something-post-college kids? Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Except for the fact that 3 of our 5 are boys, and the other girl has another friend who is adamantly opposed to girls living with boys, and this friend has had an unreasonable amount of influence in the decision. So it's been a very frustrating, drawn-out process of my friend waffling back and forth, torn between what she thinks God is calling her to do and fear that the other girl will think she's casting herself into the pit of Hell. (True story.)

But anyway. That's mostly done now; we signed the lease a week and a half ago, so it's all OURS, starting July 1, and they dropped the rent down so my non-grown-up-job friends can afford it, and we're taking care of the 14-year-old cat Calvin, and there's a raspberry patch and an herb garden and a swing set with a fort and a laundry chute and windows everywhere. Sigh of contentment. Sigh of relief. Sigh of couldn't-we-have-avoided-all-that-frustration-by-just-making-grown-ass-decisions?!


This process was a good learning experience, and a useful heads up; I now know how vastly different I am from my soon-to-be housemates. And I learned that I'm OK with that. Previously, with this group of friends (whom I hold in very high regard), I would have taken that difference to mean that I was somehow wrong; that they had their priorities/personalities straight, and I was being dumb. But nope! I can say that I am very glad to be the decisive, go-getter type of person that I am. Shit would not get done otherwise. So it'll be an interesting year — a perfect experiment, really. The idea-people will maybe learn to be a bit more feet-on-the-ground; I will maybe learn to loosen my grip on "the plan" a little bit; and we'll all learn how to love each other despite painfully grinding differences.

My housemates are the group that's in my profile picture on Facebook, plus 1: Courtney, Remy, Drew, and Drew's twin brother Chris (so, basically, the same picture, just imagine 2 of the guy on the left.) Chris won't be moving in until the end of the summer, after he finishes up an internship in Coeur d'Alene.

Oddly enough, none of our parents had an issue with the mixed-gender concept. My dad says he sees it as the same as a dorm - separate bathrooms, separate bedrooms. We're even going to have separate boys' and girls' floors. His only concern was that I would end up being the housemaid, cleaning up after all of them, but I refuse. I will make them clean ... lovingly. My mom's concern, that may or may not be valid, was "How will you date anyone if you're living in a house full of boys?" The boys themselves laughed at the idea of sitting down to grill a potential date, like 3 angry older brothers at once. The fact that these three boys are probably the only eligible young men in Yakima pretty much evaporates any fear about dating ... not that I do that ever anyway. So it'll be a good year to be good friends.

Back to the writing bit, though. My task last week was to help craft a letter to send to this doubting friend, to try to explain what our mission and vision are so she can get a bit more on board. It's something that I tend to undervalue outside of my job: Yes, I'm a writer, but what good does that do me? I've been a writer for so long (of the crappy middle-school English students, I think I was the slightly-less-crappy one that stood out) that I don't even think about it. Of course I can communicate articulately; can't everyone? Not so, it turns out. So that's been cool/interesting to wrap my head around. It's a gift, one that I can be proud of, and one that is useful outside of my writing-for-a-living thing.

Disclaimer: Blogging does not equal writing.

I would like to write more, though. I tried my hand at a slam poem last month; I like how it turned out, but it will be a long time before I'm able to share it, I think. Long time. It's an odd medium; half personal story, half detached monologue. Even if it's a powerful story, and personal, it would be strange to perform it with the level of emotion it requires each time. Somewhere along the way, it becomes very scripted. But I would like to write more poetry; for the past few years, I only go that route when I'm in the midst of extreme emotional turmoil, and the words just come naturally. Forcing it feels weird. Then again, I don't particularly want to experience any more extreme emotional turmoil.

Our house is quite a musical house; two or three of them play guitar, and two of them sing, and I play piano. I would like to try writing songs with the guitar players. Again, I can do the word thing. Useful. Maybe.

Anyway. Long post. Again. I'll try to write more often, and less lengthily.
Love always,