Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Shame


Shame is the dark feeling in the pit of your stomach that says you're not nearly enough.

Shame is the weight that drags you to the bottom of the ocean.

Shame is darkness.

Shame is feeling guilty, even if you have no guilt to bear.

Shame is feeling dirty, filthy, unwanted, unneeded, and unnecessary.

Shame is a living death.

Shame is knowing you should have done better, you could have done better, but you didn't. Shame is knowing that you let people down--the people who matter the most to you.

We may have earned our shame, or we may have done nothing wrong. Shame goes hand-in-hand with guilt, but sometimes shame appears even when you are innocent.

Shame constantly attacks, wearing down our defenses and our sense of worth a little more each day. Shame is incessant. Shame is dogged. Shame doesn't ever seem to let go, no matter how much you try to kick it off.

The hardest part of shame is living with it. Or is the hardest part of shame getting rid of it?

No one can simply tell you not to feel ashamed, any more than anyone can simply tell you what you're worth, what you mean. Years of shame won't be erased by even the best, well-wished words.

Can anybody outlive shame? Can anyone ever get rid of it? Or is it doomed to linger even in the shadows of our doubts? Even once the source of our shame is wiped away, can we really ever recover from living in shame? Or is shame something that dwells forever in the back of our mind?

Shame kills the soul. Because shame is a parasite. Shame doesn't make you stronger; it just saps your vitals until you're an empty shell.

I wonder how many people struggle with shame. Do we even realize it, or has it become such a "normal" part of our lives that we don't even recognize it?

Do you feel less than what you should be? Do you feel like you're not good enough?

Then we're struggling with shame together.

I believe shame can be overcome, but it requires something bigger than yourself. And it requires staring into the dark maw of shame to examine why it's there, how it got to be there, and what it might take of you to finally kill it for good. Something deeper needs to go to the source of the shame, take it, and heal it from the inside out.

I struggle with shame on a daily--almost minute by minute--basis. And sometimes I do wonder if I've lost my identity in the shame. Maybe I believe I am the shame.

I truly think that shame is too big of a beast for me to face without God. So often when I talk to him about it, I feel like he tries to peel my fingers away from it and let shame go. But is it really that easy? Is it really God telling me that I'm okay, or is it just my wishful thinking?

Being a Christian is hard.

Being a human is hard.

Another hard part about shame is that it's so difficult to talk about it. How could I possibly open up to a stranger, let alone someone who's close to me, and explain why I feel ashamed? How can I find the strength to admit that I screwed up with something big enough to cause a ripple of shame in my soul? The situation feels insurmountable. Shame requires confession, but confession requires courage that shame tries to steal away.

That's why I believe that ultimately, it requires something bigger than yourself. Something outside yourself. Someone. Because at least for me, I already know I don't have the courage to do it. I don't have the strength to get rid of it. I need a Hero to slay the Beast that has me in its clutches.

Do you struggle with shame, too? Just as with so many of the challenges you face, know that you're not alone.

"The truth is, I'll work day and night to keep the gears grinding in your mind,
To keep you from knowing you are worth more than gold,
Not some assembly-line rusted shell of a person that I try to remote control.
I never wanted you to believe that when you're down on your knees that someone is actually listening.
If you were undistracted for even a moment, I'll lose my hold, and you would notice that you have never been alone--
Never have you ever fought alone,
Never have you ever fought alone..."

- "Mechanical Planet" by VERIDIA

---
Photo by Tanner Van Dera. Originally posted on Unsplash.com.

Jakoub, Deena. Mechanical Planet. VERIDIA. Word Entertainment LLC., 2014. CD. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Story of Bald Mr. Frog

Hi everyone! So, unfortunately, due to some real-life stuff that came up today, I didn't get a chance to make a "proper post," so here's a little children's story I wrote up right on the spot the other day. It was originally going to go on my Blogger "About" page, but the character limit was only about 400 and I went way over that... but I really liked how it turned out.

So here's The Story of Bald Mr. Frog. Hope you enjoy this cute little tale!




Once upon a time, there was a frog who was quite bald. Every time he walked outside, the warty toads would laugh at him. "Baldie! Baldie! He's got no warts and he's bald!"

Well this was too much for Mr. Frog. So the frog went to the shop and bought the first thing he clapped eyes on:

A wig!

Oh, it was a marvelous wig, all lush and black and shiny, with curly black ringlets that dangled and jumped around his face with every leap. He was quite happy.

"Surely the toads will not laugh now!" thought the frog.

But sure enough...

"Baldie! Baldie! He's got a funny wig and he's bald!"

Mr. Frog felt so embarrassed he shut himself in his house for the rest of the day.

But the next morning, the frog went to the shop again and bought the first thing he clapped eyes on:

A hat!

Oh, it was a marvelous hat, with a wide dapper brim and a tall, tall cap. He could toss it up in the air and catch it with his sticky froggy tongue.

"Surely the toads will not laugh now!" thought the frog.

But sure enough...

"Baldie! Baldie! He's got a silly hat and he's bald!"

Oh, Mr. Frog was so sad and embarrassed. This time, he shut himself up inside his house for two whole days.

Well, the other animals of the pond began to worry. Squirrel climbed all the way down the tree. Chickadee stopped chicking for a moment. And even Ms. Shrew stopped catching bugs. They all went to Mr. Frog's house to pay him a visit.

"What's the matter, Mr. Frog?" They asked. "What's got you down?"

"Oh, can't you see?" wailed Mr. Frog. "I'm bald! Bald, with no warts on my head, and it simply won't do! All the toads make fun of me!"

"Bald? But whatever's wrong with bald?" came a voice none of them recognized.

They all turned to look and--lo and behold--sitting on Mr. Frog's doorstep was a giant, glorious eagle!

They were all frightened, but the eagle just ruffled his feathers. "No, no! No need to worry, little creatures. I only eat fish. I came to help!"

"But however can you help?" wailed Mr. Frog. "For nothing will help this terrible baldness of mine!"

"Terrible?" the eagle snorted. "My dear boy, I think you are mistaken. There is nothing wrong with your baldness, any more than there is something wrong with Squirrel's bushy tail, or Chickadee's black cap, or Shrew's little pointy nose."

"But all the toads laugh at me!" Mr. Frog protested.

"Bah! They are the silly ones. They laugh because you are different? Everyone is different somehow. They should laugh at themselves for not having the same number of spots, or not being the same shade of green. No, Frog, there is nothing wrong with being bald."

"But how can you be so sure?" asked Mr. Frog.

"Because I, my dear, am a Bald Eagle!" the eagle cried. "Now, let me help you."

And with that, Mr. Frog and Bald Eagle stepped outside. The toads began to giggle and cry:

"Bald! Bald--!"

But before they could get any further, Bald Eagle shrieked very loudly. He ruffled his feathers up and made himself look very big. And then, he jumped in the air and began to flap his mighty wings.

Well, with the great noise and the great big size of the bird and the great big wind of his rushing wings, the toads were all terrified. They went leap-hop-scampering in every direction, all the while crying,

"Never! Never! We've learned our lesson, and we'll never make fun again!"

And they were true to their word.

And Mr. Frog has lived quite happily and contentedly ever since.
---
Photo by Alexas Fotos. Originally posted on Pixabay.com.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

What Does It Mean to Let Your Dreams Die?

I guess I'll put a disclaimer here for anyone sensitive to this subject matter:

This is going to be one of my "spiritual" posts. That means that throughout this post, I'll be talking about my faith (or religion, if you'd rather call it that), God, and my beliefs. I HATE preachy and I HATE Bible-bashing, but I'll be honest: my faith is the cement of my life. It holds all the pieces of me together. And especially with something as sensitive as my dreams, there's no way for me to talk about it openly without also talking about what I believe about God. My biggest commitment to you is to be open, because I think that's what you're really here for. So thought I'd give you the heads-up.

If you're totally cool with that or at least curious, go ahead and read on. Trust me, there's stuff here for you even if you don't believe the things I do. But if that's really not your cup of tea, feel free to check out some of my other posts, and I'll see you Thursday!

---

I can still remember the things my pastor said, even if I can't quite remember if he said them during a counseling session at our church building or at the gym when he was running a personal fitness program.

I'd gotten him talking about himself for once. I think he actually hates to talk about himself as much as I do, so it's tricky getting him to open up about what's going on with him. But today was one of those rare days. I managed to get him talking about how he'd recently started working out with and training with Mixed Martial Arts fighters, and how he was training to be one.

Yes, my pastor is an MMA fighter. Be very jealous. Be very confused.

I enjoyed seeing his passion as he talked about how much he enjoyed it. But he said one thing in particular that stuck out funny:

"I didn't experience my dream until I thought it was dead."


What?

He went on to explain.

He'd had a passion for fighting early in life (ha-ha, right?), but he felt like God was calling him to do something very different: the call to ministry. So he pursued that. Now, being a pastor was something else he loved, but he had to set aside his other dream. There was no time to pursue both. All his time, effort, and energy went into, well, being a pastor.

And slowly, his dream began to die. He never thought he'd get the chance to actually realize it.

Until he did.

Years and years later, long after the point where he'd given up on ever living his other dream, God suddenly brought it back. And suddenly, he could do both.

Suddenly, he could experience the dream that he'd thought he'd never get to do.


I think the same thing is bound to happen with me.

I have some very specific, very powerful dreams that I would have died to obtain. And honestly, I think in trying to catch them too early (before it was the right time), I think parts of me have died. Over the past few years, I've been undergoing a spiritual open-heart surgery to save those parts of me, to get them back. Or better yet, getting newer, healthier models. Becoming "more me."

But I've also discovered through that "surgery" process that I have some dreams that have also died--or are in critical condition.

The other day, I was laughing at myself... 


...and nearly crying at how pitiful I was.

I was one of those people caught up in the storm of the independently-developed computer game Stardew Valley. In it, you start a farm and make friends with the little villagers and try to woo a spouse. I'd finally managed to get the man I'd had my eye on since day one to marry me.

I was giddy.

I almost wished that the game had features built-in for wedding planning: picking out a venue to have the little wedding cutscene, designing your wedding dress, setting up flowers or tables for a reception. (It didn't, though. Future DLC idea?) But the fact was that I was excited. Not just "Oh, I'm so glad I finally achieved this goal I've been working toward in this game--" although there was some of that.

But I realized that my bubbly excitement was actually, for even the briefest of moments, really about the idea of getting married. The idea that there was somebody out there who wanted to be with me.

And then the split second was over and I reminded myself this was a video game and what was I thinking, getting all excited as if this were real life and I'd finally found a man who wanted to marry me WHAT WAS WRONG WITH ME GET HELP.

That was about when I nearly started to devolve into a sniffling mess of disappointment and self-pity.

Now, of course I knew the whole time that this was just a game. I knew my little pixelated beaux and I weren't going to tie the knot in real life. But the situation did, somehow, awaken in me something I'd almost totally forgotten: a dream I've had for a very, very long time.

It seemed absurd, considering I think about that dream almost daily. How could I have forgotten about it?

But maybe the issue wasn't that I'd forgotten the dream existed. Maybe a better description was that... well... I'd forgotten just how much I wanted that dream. How good that dream felt. For so long now, when I thought about that dream, there was no good that came with those thoughts. All I felt was the pain of waiting for it and wanting it.

No, even "want" seems like the wrong word for what I felt--what I feel. I think a better word is thirst, because these dreams are such a vital part of me that they're something I feel I need.

Yet I'm nowhere near realizing them. Not even close. Several years, even in the most optimistic terms. In realistic terms? They're nowhere on the horizon. I'm lost on the ocean with no land in sight.

And no fresh water to drink, either.

Little wonder I'd forgotten the good. Little wonder all I'd been left with was a husk of pain that went along with every thought of how badly I wanted my dreams.

I'm not sure whether my dreams have died. Is it good for your dreams to die? Does death mean giving up on them or letting go of them? Is it realizing that it won't kill you, even if your dreams never come to pass, if that's what God wants?

It feels like a kind of death to let go.


"I know, but can't you see? / My dreams are me. / My dreams are me..."

And yet...

"Surrender, surrender, / You whisper gently. / You say I will be free..." ("Surrender," Barlowgirl)

Finding freedom in surrendering. Finding life in death. Finding arms to catch you when you let go and free-fall.

Man, life is full of contrasts. God must love them.

I don't get it. But I know I trust God. And I believe that He made me, and He made me with the dreams I have for a reason. I don't think God would give us something as strong as dreams without intending to fulfill them in some way later. Maybe taking them and putting them toward something different than what we imagined. Maybe teaching us to be patient and trust. Maybe showing us something we couldn't have learned or known if we'd gotten our dream sooner.

But I think there is some element of death that will probably need to take place before I can realize these dreams.


Maybe that's the case for your dreams, too.

If you feel like they're dead, don't give up.

A seed seems dead when it's buried beneath the ground to sit in darkness. But when the time is right, when it receives water and warmth, it awakens.

Don't give up on your dreams.


Let them go, don't let them be your sole focus, your last lifeline--but don't lose hope, either.

And someday, may our dreams awaken.

---
Photo by Andrew Ruiz. Originally posted on Unsplash.com.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

What "Princess" Means to Me: The Romantic Princess

I often discuss my posts with a friend of mine. After reading my post On Princesses, we had a short but really interesting discussion, and it made me realize I really wanted to go back to the princess topic.

First off, I didn't really make it very clear what I meant when I say "princess," so today, I'd like to start there.

There are a lot of different kinds of princesses out there. Heck, even the word itself can be used in a multitude of ways, ranging from a grandfather's pet name for a granddaughter to a derogatory term for a high-maintenance woman: "Excuuuuse me, Princess!"

There's also the "fake" princess, the marketed one that so many people who dislike Disney think of: politically-correct, polished and prim, perfect. Disgustingly perfect. Impossibly perfect. This "fake" princess is pressed on our psyches over and over by commercialism; you need look no further than the medley of girl's toys available today. No wonder few enjoy this image of a princess.

When I refer to the concept of the princess, however, I'm not talking about any of these things, just as I'm not talking about the "real life" political position of a princess. I think the best way to describe my concept of the princess is a princess in her highest, most pure form--a Romantic form, you could say. The form that doesn't exist in the physical world (or else it would be a political princess), but it also isn't fake and artificial, either. I believe this kind of princess does exist... but in a spiritual way.

This is the princess who is morally pure. This is the princess who is genuine in what she believes and how she behaves. This is the princess who displays what it means to be strong as a woman, whether she can fight in a battle or not.

I believe it's this kind of princess we see Sara trying to be in Frances Hodgson Burnett's A Little Princess. Sara is an orphan. Regularly, oppressively, all the other girls and the adults (who are supposed to take care of her) mistreat her. But Sara is determined to be brave. Now, Sara's brand of courage isn't the path of resistance; she's not trying to rise up to fight against those who have hurt her. No, Sara's courage is even more difficult than that: she is determined to remain a good person despite all the abuse she has endured. She makes a vow that, no matter what happens to her, she will pretend she is a princess. To her, that means treating everyone kindly and always giving them the benefit of the doubt (even those who are cruel to her). She chooses to remain optimistic, putting others' needs before her own, and just being a pleasant person in general.

Another good example is a girl who is not a princess but actually a queen: Lucy Pevensie in C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia. After the momentous battle with the White Witch, Lucy exhibits her selflessness and goodness by using her gift from Father Christmas to heal the wounded that litter the battlefield. Perhaps even more telling to her character, of all her siblings, Lucy is the one to continually hope in Aslan's power and goodness, even when the others don't believe her. She is brave enough to walk her own path because she knows it is the right one. I absolutely love Alanis Morissette's song Wunderkind that appears near the end of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe soundtrack, because it so perfectly describes Lucy... and the concept of the Romantic princess.

Both of these examples prove that Romantic princesses don't have to be warriors to be strong and brave. In fact, this is one concept that I think many miss when they try to create strong female characters. My sister and her best friend have both said to me how media today so often shoehorn female characters into displaying masculine strength. They completely miss the fact that women can be strong without being physically powerful or without fighting. In fact, if a female character doesn't know how to fight and/or never learns, the writers are blasted for creating a wallflower, a damsel in distress--the underlying message being, "How dare you force your woman to rely on men to protect her! She's useless if she can't fight!"

But we know there's more than one way to be strong. We know not all strength lies in the size of your biceps or the skill with which you can wield a weapon. How did we forget this as a society?

I'm reminded of a scene in the extended version of Peter Jackson's film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Pippin the hobbit encounters the warrior Faramir, who has recently lost his brother, Boromir. Boromir was a war-hero admired by all. Faramir laments how different he and his brother were, implying his brother was strong while he is not. (If you haven't seen it, you can watch here; although if you still don't have the extended version, I strongly recommend you find and purchase it!)

If you've seen it, I'm sure you know exactly how Pippin replies: "I think you have strength. Of a different kind."

There's so many other kinds of strength: strength of will, strength of mind, strength of spirit, strength of heart.

And I'd argue that it's more of these sort of strengths that strong women--and Romantic princesses--exhibit. Strength of heart to keep fighting for relationships, even when things get hard. Or strength of spirit to keep on hoping even in an impossible situation. Those are the kinds of strengths I see in female characters that I deem "strong." It has nothing to do with how powerful they are, and it certainly has nothing to do with them feeling so insecure that they feel the need to remind every other person they meet that "I am woman, hear me roar!"

Romantic princesses don't often concern themselves with whether they're strong. Or if they do, it's only out of a desire to become a better person or to protect the ones they hold dear--a side-effect of their strength of heart.

Yona from the anime Akatsuki no Yona (Yona of the Dawn) is an example of this. An actual princess, Yona is exiled from her home when a usurper kills her father and steals the throne. She spends the rest of the series struggling with her grief over the event while trying to become a better person--and a better princess--by learning about her peoples' needs and serving them. Yes, she takes up arms--but only after she has weighed the cost and has determined that she must do everything she can to protect the ones she loves. She doesn't fight to feel powerful or to make sure no one can ever oppress her again. She fights not because she is physically strong, but because she is vulnerable.

I think--and I truly believe many other people believe this too--that vulnerability is one of the greatest strengths a princess--or any character--can display.

It goes back to princesses being strong even if they don't know how to fight. Their captivating vulnerability isn't because of their physical vulnerability--it's their emotional vulnerability. Romantic princesses are honest about who they are down to their very core. They are open about how they feel, even if they are raw and hurting on the inside... or if they are weak and need someone to comfort or protect them.

Again, Yona is a fantastic example of this. She is traumatized by seeing her father murdered in front of her. Her eyes are hollow, and her motions are automatic. By the end of this nightmarish evening, she doesn't even have the strength to run on her own two feet: her guardian carries her past the palace walls into the wilderness. She doesn't struggle out of his grip, pride wounded. She doesn't make a fuss, even as he tries to help her regain her strength over the next few days. She knows how weak and wounded she is. She doesn't try to hide it. She doesn't chastise her guardian for limiting her or looking down on her--she humbly accepts his help. She's strong enough to admit to herself and to others that she's vulnerable.

Courage. Selflessness. Loving others, even when it hurts. Optimism. Hope. Vulnerability. These are the qualities that define the Romantic princess. These are their strengths.

---
I almost completely forgot: if you're at all interested in Yona, it's in both manga and anime form, though I've only watched the anime. The anime is only in its first season, but you can watch it on FUNimation's YouTube channel here. Definitely give it a watch.

ne(6)

For Him, To Him

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Confessions of a Reformed Grammar Nazi

 

I used to be a grammar Nazi.


I know, I know. Hate on me all you wish. I deserved it. But I've changed since then, I tell you! I've seen the light! Just look at my blog and you'll see. It's nowhere near the polished English I craft for cover letters. I can be hip! I can be cool! I can write in fragments!

You know, it's funny how my writing has metamorphosed over the years. At least, my informal writing. (It's okay if I call this blog "informal writing," right?)

I'd been a self-proclaimed "grammar Nazi" since grade school. I used to nitpick everyone's grammar--written and oral.

I think I was around 8-10 years old when I realized just how incredibly annoying those corrections were. It was, of course, when I got a dose of my own medicine: my dad started correcting my grammar, and that made me feel like crap. I hated being corrected on anythiiiiing. Still do. So, in the interest of not making other people feel like crap, I stopped correcting people (mostly).

It's not that I didn't care about grammar any more. I just chose to stop being a snob about it.

To the point where I didn't really care whether I used a comma or a semicolon as I chatted with my friends over an instant messenger.

Toooo the point where grammar flies out the window when expressing my inner voice here on my blog!

But that doesn't mean that I don't still have my pet peeves.


It's and its still drive me crazy (although why did the English language choose to curse us with this bizarre anomaly? Everyone knows that every other possessive word is made by adding 's! So why not its?!)

And don't get me started on abbreviations where they don't belong. Are you sure you want to be plastering "LOL" all over that important document?

And do most people develop selective amnesia when they go to comment on a YouTube video? Punctuation exists, people! Use it! Love it! Live it!

But now I have the awkward problem of not knowing when to correct someone.

It's not just with grammar, either. I have trouble correcting people on anything now.

Like the first job I got outside of working at my dad's business? I introduced myself to a coworker over the crooning of pop music on the loudspeakers. She misheard my name, of course, so instead of "Jeannette," she called me "Janet."

The first time, I wondered if I should say something. But it took me too long to inwardly debate the pros and cons of correcting her. I mean, it wasn't a huge deal. It was just a name, right? And "Janet" was pretty dang close to "Jeannette."

But with each "Janet," it made me flinch inside (I hate the name Janet with a passion, which I attribute to Arnold's obnoxious cousin on The Magic School Bus cartoon).

Oh, but now it was too late. She'd been calling me Janet repeatedly. I'd missed the window of correction opportunity. If I said something now, it'd just make us both feel weird and uncomfortable.

I convinced myself that "Janet" would have to do.

I think it was about two weeks later when another coworker overheard my new friend talking to me and asked, "Did you just call her Janet?"

"Yeah, that's her name, isn't it?"

"Uh... It's Jeannette."

The moment of truth. They both turned toward me.

"Yeah," I confessed. "It's Jeannette."

"OH MY GOSH I'M SO SORRY!"

The moral of this story?

Don't be a grammar Nazi, or people will hate you.

...But don't be a Janet, either.

Now I need someone to console me about how ridiculous I am. But I can't be the only one who has a love/hate relationship with corrections! Do grammatical errors (or name errors!) get under your skin? What are some of your other pet peeves?

---
Clipart originally posted by Open Clipart Vectors on Pixabay.com.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Confessions of a Newbie Blogger

Pre-confession: I was going to title this "Confessions of an Amateur Blogger" to make it sound more professional, until I realized I didn't even feel comfortable calling myself an amateur. An amateur! As if that word somehow has a semblance of "professionalism" to it.

Nope. I'm just a newb. Keepin' it real for ya.

Next confession: I have no idea what I'm doing.




I probably should have researched a little more before jumping on the blog train, but I am also a writer. And writers are notorious procrastinators. So I figured I'd follow Shia LaBeouf's advice (actually I guess it was Josh Parker's advice) and "JUST DO IT!" (Yes, I know that joke is older than the hills, but my friend and I will still quote it from time to time. It's a good reminder to rip off a band-aid of life.)

So yes, I have no idea what I'm doing. So my posts are a little haphazard and very unsure. Kind of like me! Kind of like my writing in general.

Keepin' it real.

And another confession: I usually have no idea what to write.

And I'm terrified of Tuesdays and Thursdays.


I dread--can I say "dread"?--Tuesdays and Thursdays.

They almost always start the same way: with me staring blankly at the white "New Post" screen.

99% of the time, I have no ideas. No clue what to write.

So I watch for the first thing to float into my head. Then I shoot my hand into the waters, latch onto that sucker with a death-grip, and yank it out of the ocean of inspiration.

I start tapping at my keyboard.

Head to my go-to photo websites.

Plug in a picture. Add an attribution line.

Done.

Oh, but I don't dread excerpt days. Excerpts are my cop-out. They're light and easy. Excerpts are already-written bite-sized packages of delight I can post with little thought. The most mind- and soul-searching I need to do for those is to--

--Well, actually write them, in the case of most of those Victor's Blade excerpts now. But what's a writer if they don't actually write?

But anything other than excerpts? Oh gawwwwwwwsh. Those are the mind-numbing ones. The ones that make me freeze up and forget I can write at all. I think my fingers forget how to work exclusively on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Another confession: today started out as yet another one of those dry, no-idea days.


But look at this! I already have...

(One second as I procrastinate and pull up word count here...)

427 words! Wow!

I'm terrified that my blog/writing/life sucks.


It's tough when I post stuff day after day with no clue if it means something beyond my little sphere of influence.

Of course I don't want this to be a practice in Narcissism (Heaven knows I don't need more practice in that). I want all of my writing to mean something to you. And you. And you in the back over there--don't think I can't see you passing notes to Suzie O'Hara.

Freaking Suzie.

(There is no Suzie I swear I don't have childhood trauma.)

You want to know another funny confession?

I'm terrified that every time I purposefully toss grammar out the window (like in that parenthetical whisper up there), Google will never take my blog seriously.

I worry about some really stupid stuff, don't I?


But I think being taken seriously has been one of my concerns for a long time as a writer. Heck, I guess that's any writer's big concern. "Is what I have to say really important?" and "Will anybody care?"

Or the dreaded, "Is my writing even any good?"

But honestly, from a writer's perspective (and maybe I'm biased, but--), I don't think it matters. Or, at least, I think those are the wrong questions to be asking.

If you care enough to write or talk about something, it's definitely important. And if it's important, of course somebody else out there is going to care, too.

I think the issue is that, well, the internet--heck, life in general--is so freaking flooded with media. Messages, noise, 24/7, all day, every day. It's no wonder people tend to feel so refreshed after unplugging for a while. No wonder people love taking a walk out in nature to "get away from it all." There's a million voices shouting at you throughout the day--and it happens so much, we don't even consciously notice it half the time.

So one person's voice tends to feel kind of small in that ocean of media. And if you're small, you're tempted to think you don't matter.

And if you're small and you don't really know what you're doing, it's scary. I don't care if it's blogging or chasing your dream or working your job--it's always scary if you feel like you don't know what you're doing. It tempts you to think that what you're doing or saying doesn't matter. That you don't matter.

You do.

Take it from me, you do.

So keep at it, whatever it is you're doing. Keep chasing, whatever it is you're running after. Don't you dare give up.

Don't ever give up.


We'll get there together.

---
Photo by Geoffrey Arduini. Originally posted on Unsplash.com. Seriously, what little I've seen of his stuff is amazing. Check him out.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

On Princesses

What is it about princesses that just... enthralls me?


I remember as a little girl pretending almost every day that I was a princess. I had a beautiful gown and a sparkling tiara and a handsome knight and a kingdom to save. It was what I wanted. It was what my heart yearned for. I can't tell you how much I wished I were really Anastasia or Cinderella--that I was a hidden princess, just waiting to be found.

That was me as a girl. But even now, that still holds true. I love princess stories because I want so much to be one.

I'm obviously not the only one who loves princesses, or else Disney wouldn't be popular among anyone over the age of seven. But it is.

There's something about princesses that captures many peoples' imaginations. But it's not so much princesses in the real world--although there is plenty of people who are enraptured by real-life royals, too. It's more the princesses that live in our imaginations, or in movies, or in stories.

There's something captivating about the idea of a princess. A pure woman who is beautiful, inside and out. Someone who is vulnerable enough to share her heart, but also strong enough to stand against evil--to know what is right and what is wrong.

Maybe that's part of the appeal of princesses, what makes their purity so pure and lovely: their moral fortitude.

Don't get me wrong. I know life isn't always black-and-white. Life has just as many grays, and we need to have stories to point that out.

But in this day and age where anyone's allowed to do whatever they feel is right, doesn't it sometimes feel like we're all just drowning in a sea of gray? What really is "good" and "right" any more, when we have so many villains that believe what they're doing is right and true and good? Is good really just a matter of opinion or perspective?

I don't think many people truly believe that. Because I know the sort of movies most people love to see. They're stories with heroes that, even if they may sometimes lose their way, they know that there is real good to fight for. There are boundaries that are evil to cross. There are right and wrong choices.

And I think princesses encapsulate that. I mean, can you think of a princess who was torn apart by moral ambiguity? I'm having trouble coming up with one, besides perhaps Rapunzel in Disney's Tangled, who felt torn between obeying her mother and exploring the life outside her walls (Though I'd argue this is a "false positive," since Rapunzel is locked in an abusive relationship to her "mother," but that's another topic for another time).

No. When you usually think of a princess, you think of someone who is pure not sensually but morally. She knows what's right. She is firmly entrenched in what is truly good. She stands in stark contrast to the villain because just as the villain represents wrong choices, the princess represents right choices.

And knowing there is real good in this world is like the sun breaking through gray clouds. It gives hope.

Little wonder so many love the idea of a princess.

---
Photo by AdinaVoicu. Originally posted on Pixabay.com.

o(5)
 
For Him, To Him

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Creativity - Orrr Lack Thereof?


It really never ceases to amaze me how strong my creativity is connected to my physical (or emotional) well-being.

It's way easier to create when I'm feeling well (or on the days when I gather the gumption to exercise). But throw in an emotional slump, or a gray and cloudy day, or a cold (like yesterday), and instantly creativity's all "BLEGHHHHH."


Sometimes creating things can be releasing for me. In fact, roleplaying (which is basically cooperative storytelling in my book) is one of my favorite relaxing pastimes. Or when I'm in a really bad mood, journaling or writing poetry helps me regain some emotional stability (and sanity).

And then there's some days, like the past few days, when creating is a chore.

The Victor's Blade is coming along, but I've barely been able to eke out a few pages every few hours lately. It's pretty frustrating after it had a much quicker rate to start. But I guess if I think back, the beginning wasn't without bumps, either. Maybe it's just working out my "writing muscles" again that's got me feeling so... cramped.

(No, I will not apologize for that terrible metaphor!)

Blah.

I know I just need to sit down and write. But sometimes even just doing that is extremely difficult. I suffer from acute writer's block some days. Staring at a blank page and having no clue what to put down is agonizing.

I wonder how much of the current difficulty is due to feeling ill, or due to "writing exercise," or maybe even something else? I almost feel like if I could just pinpoint what was making writing this particular section such a chore, then I could solve it. And, once solved, the words would naturally just flow off my fingertips again! Right?

Sigh. Why can't everything be as easy to write as Jaranin and Isalaina scenes? Their sheer adorable makes it way easier!

TVB, be more adorable! I command thee!

(Yeah, that'll work.)

---
Photo by Alexas_Fotos. Originally posted on Pixabay.com.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

April Poll Results In! - Excerpt from Raenden the Blessed

Thanks to everyone who voted in April's poll! As promised, here's a little something (although fair warning, it may or may not make it into the final draft!) from Vega: Raenden the Blessed!

---

"Ah, Vega Raenden," grumbled General Hevan as he brushed away a cluster of retainers that had been spreading maps out before him. "Have a seat." He pulled out a stool and set it at Raenden's feet. Beside the general stood a man that Raenden really had no desire ever to see again.

Well... the summons from the general wasn't about Father.

"Hello, Vega Raenden," came the slippery voice of the noble standing beside the general. Lord Randolf looked quite prim and proper, dressed in a fine velvet tunic of crimson and holding his hands behind his back innocently.

Raenden sat as he'd been told. It was... a slightly uncomfortable and very unnerving position, considering that even when he was standing, Randolf had towered over him. Now that Raenden was sitting on the low stool, he felt like an infant staring up at a mountain.

General Hevan ran a scarred hand over his sharply-trimmed black beard. "I'm not certain introductions are needed, but this is Lord Randolf of Irinshar."

Randolf bowed his head. The smirk on his face was sickening.

The general then sighed. "Look, Vega Raenden, I'm sure you know I'm not one for pleasantries or subtlety, so I'm going to be blunt--Lord Randolf has filed a complaint against you. And, after looking into the matter further, we've discovered there's some truth to his claims."

"First-hand witness testimony, General," Randolf corrected, still with that disgusting smirk on his face.

Raenden knew exactly what he was thinking to bring out that nauseating grin. He struggled to remain sitting down, keep his composure, "Sir, I understand how it looks, but you have to believe me when I say, I was only trying to do what was right."

"Oh!" Lord Randolf crowed in melodramatic insult, "Assaulting my retinue, you mean?" He turned to the general. "When last I checked, our enemy was the Vadigons, not each other."

The general glared at Randolf, but it was clear he wasn't very happy with Raenden, either. "This is what discipline and ranks are for, Vega Raenden. To prevent things like this. You've insulted not only the good lord here, but also my entire division."

"But sir, they were assaulting that woman!" Raenden protested.

"They were retrieving my bride-to-be," Randolf snorted.

Raenden had half a mind to retrieve his sanity by running his knuckles into that pasty face.


"So, Vega Raenden," the general continued, clearly tired of the exchange already, "do you deny you attacked the lord's men?"

"I only did so to protect the lady--"

"Do you deny it?"

Raenden glanced from one man to the other. The general was insulted and angry. Randolf was glowing with pleasure.

"Yes, sir! I do deny it!" Raenden insisted. "It was not an 'attack' in the sense that the lord would have you believe. I was only--"

"Didn't I tell you, General?" Randolf interrupted. "Didn't I tell you he'd--"

"ENOUGH!" General Haven threw his arm across the table, spilling maps onto the ground. 

The tent fell dead silent.

"Enough..." The general slid his hand across his face. He looked exhausted. He finally collapsed into a chair of his own. "I can no longer turn a blind eye to this... this inbred rebellion."

Raenden winced. "Inbred rebellion." Even though he'd heard iterations of it his whole life... the words still stung.

"It was dangerous enough when Stergon was actively serving... releasing captives left and right, fraternizing with the enemy..." the general continued. "And now this." He leaned forward in his seat. Even sitting, he was still tall compared to Raenden. His voice struck a new, bass low. "Insurrection. Against your officers, myself, and now your rulers. I will not tolerate it.

"I will not have you--you--Stergon-spawn making a mockery of my operations or endanger my troops any longer."

The general rose from his chair. "You are relieved of your duties."

Raenden sat for a moment, stunned, trying to make sense of this travesty.

"Now get out of my camp." The general gestured to someone behind Raenden, presumably the guards.

He felt himself being seized from behind and roughly lifted off the stool. Then he was dragged outside before he could even get his feet beneath him.

They threw him to the ground.


"Stergon scum."

"Get out of here, traitor. Go find your Vadigon friends. And hope we never see your face again."

Raenden made his way out of the camp to the boos and hollers and thrown stones of men he had just fought beside two days ago.

And all because I tried to save her! He thought as a rock struck his shoulder. He clutched the wound, as it began to bleed.

Now he was alone, and she was still trapped, doomed to live with a monster.

Jasinth... I'm so sorry... I failed. I failed us all.