Thoughts On Selling Books

I am a bookseller. I work in the glamorous, fast paced world of used books.  While most people my age have graduated college and are either well on their way to their master’s degree or are solidly entrenched in the careers of their choosing, I work a cash register and struggle to remember the alphabet while explaining the difference between fiction and nonfiction to customers. I’m often asked by family and friends when I’m going to get a “real” job. I only make it worse by saying I’d like to go back to school. Everyone around me uses this cue to suggest any number of career options ranging from plausible (teacher, ultrasound technician, mortician) to ridiculous (“You like physics, right? Maybe you could go back to school and work at NASA!”). Here’s the thing, though. I don’t want to go back to school to get a new job; I want to go back to school for the personal feeling of accomplishment going back to school would give me. I love my job. Short of being fired or getting offered some sort of instant success acting job, which is about at likely as being offered a job at NASA, I’m not leaving the bookshop.

I get paid to be surrounded by books every day. If it weren’t for the customer service aspect and having to actually work from time to time, I’d think I was in heaven. I spend 40 hours a week hanging out with my awesome friends and discovering books I would never come across otherwise. My boss and I discussed Primeval during my last review. Where else am I going to get that?

Sure, retail has some big downsides, especially during the holiday season. I have little control over what hours I work, I deal with some pretty crabby and unreasonable people from time to time, and I am forced to listen to Christmas music. I bet morticians don’t have to listen to Kate Bush squealing out unintelligible lyrics that supposedly have something to do with the holidays. Yeah, that’s a downside.

But the good customers are so wonderful that they make up for the bad ones (most days). These are people who also enjoy bookstores. Many of them are proud of their nerdy interests and love to discuss them. I have superpowers- mainly that I can price books really fast and I can locate missing discs. These powers are only useful in a bookstore. Indeed, only in a bookstore would they be considered superpowers.

And sometimes I get to make recommendations. This is the best kind of customer interaction, especially if they like the same kinds of books I do. I get so excited when someone is looking for a sci-fi recommendation. I tend to drop whatever else I’m doing and get to the customer before one of my many sci-fi loving coworkers. It’s so satisfying and fun to introduce people to my favorite book friends! “Your son is 14, too old for YA, and looking to get into science fiction? Well, I’d start him with the classics. Here’s Stranger in a Strange Land, Dune, and The Mote in God’s Eye.” “You’re a Robert Heinlein fan but you’ve read everything he’s done and want something similar? Well, Spider Robinson was chosen to finish Heinlein’s last novel, Variable Star.” “You like Stephen King and sci-fi? Have you read Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo? It will give you nightmares but in a good way.”

I love it! I’m getting someone to read something they might not have picked up on their own. Hopefully they’ll like it, but even if they don’t, at least they tried something new. I love reading and I love seeing other people enjoying a good book.

Which is why I’m still a little bitter about something that happened to me in middle school.

Yesterday I finished reading Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. I’d never read it but always wanted to. I like the movie and I love me some dinosaurs. There are so few dinosaur novels that I am writing my own, just to have something to read. So why is it I’d never read Jurassic Park before now? It’s because of a mean bookseller.

When I was a kid I used to walk by this little used bookshop. They were between the library and Dairy Queen, so I was over there pretty often. In the summer they would keep their dollar paperbacks on a rack out on the sidewalk. One day when I was probably 11 or 12 I was walking by and saw a copy of Jurassic Park on the rack and decided to buy it. When I took it in to pay for it, the woman at the counter (who in my mind’s eye looks like some demon mash-up of the Wicked Witch of the West and the bride of Frankenstein from the Kenneth Branagh version but was probably a very normal looking woman just working a summer job) refused to sell it to me. She said it was nothing like the movie and I was too young for it. So I put my dollar back in my pocket and used it to buy ice cream.

I should have argued with her, saying that I read at a much higher reading level than my age. I read Romeo and Juliet in 4th grade, dammit! But I was a shy kid and I didn’t really use that kind of language for another few years. I could have gone and checked it out at the library, but I didn’t. Her warning got to me. Maybe she was right.

Having just finished the book, however, I can conclusively say she was wrong and if that shop hadn’t gone out of business years ago I’d go over there and give her a piece of my mind. It would’ve been right up my 11-year-old alley! Dinosaurs, science, and suspense! I couldn’t have asked for much more than that! I absolutely would’ve enjoyed it more than than I did now. Not that I didn’t like it, but I would’ve loved it then.

Why did she stop me? Why would a bookseller stop a kid from buying a book (unless it’s porn)? I don’t have any idea, but I’m going to recommend this one to the next kid who likes dinosaurs and wants something exciting to read. I’ll tell them it’s not much like the movie, but I think you’ll love it.

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Because it is the holiday season and I have strong feelings on books, I’d like to make a couple recommendations. The ones above apply, except Dune which I’ve never actually been able to get through. If you like Harry Potter and/or Game of Thrones, I’d suggest The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. If you like Ender’s Game but think Orson Scott Card is a hit or miss author, read Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus. More of a nonfiction type? Mary Roach and Jennifer Ouelette write great science books for people who don’t necessarily know a ton about science (but even if you know a lot, they’re still fun). Or, if you’re not interested in any of that, ask a bookseller at your local bookstore what you should read. Most of us love to help.

And if you don’t recognize that image above, go watch Black Books.

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What I Want

My spouse and I separated in early October after a little more than 3 years of marriage and almost 6 years of living together. There are many reasons for this separation, most of which I have no interest in discussing. I have gotten my own apartment and have been living independently for almost a month. Aside from the crippling emotional pain, living alone is awesome. I’m learning that I still can’t handle killing a spider without backup, but I can name him Orville and learn to cohabitate with him.

We (my spouse and I, not Orville) have not decided whether we should divorce or continue trying to work on things. We’ve been civil, even having Thanksgiving dinner together as per tradition, but we’ve avoided making a decision. We’ve even managed to avoid having a conversation about eventually making a decision. As much as I hate being in limbo, I haven’t pushed the point. Why? Because I don’t know for sure what I want. I want to work on things and I want my freedom. I want everything and no amount of pros and cons lists can clarify things for me.

So I’m trying to focus on little wants.

I recently started going through my old journals. I wrote every day, often several times a day, from middle school up until about 5 years ago. I’ve been typing them up in hopes of one day using them to write a memoir. (I have some damn good stories to tell and one day I’m going to tell them.) For now, though, they’re helping me sort out some thoughts. I’m hoping that if I can work out what I want out of life, I’ll be able to work out what I want to do with my marriage.

I should warn now that unlike other posts, which I write several days in advance and edit multiple times, this one is going to be stream of consciousness. I think it’ll be therapeutic for me, but it might not be the most coherent to read. I apologize.

  • I want to do the things I love to do. I want to dance again- not club dancing, but swing, ballet, ballroom, anything that gives me that feeling of freedom and pure emotion but usually involves dancing with old men, who actually make fantastic partners.
  • I want to be athletic in a way that I enjoy. I want to rock climb again because I love it and I’m good at it. I want to skydive. I want to cliff jump. I want to climb mountains. I want to feel that sense of accomplishment that only comes from doing something really hard and physically challenging.
  • I want to travel. And I don’t just mean to visit family, although I do really love visiting family. But the only vacations I’ve ever taken that were not to see family were 2 ill-fated trips to Chicago (which were to see friends and Chicago’s so close it hardly counts anyway), 1 trip to L.A. to audition for school, 1 trip to L.A. for my honeymoon, and 1 trip to Florida with my high school band (which was hellish). I’ve never been out of the country and I want to so bad! I want to scuba dive in Australia and tour England, Ireland, and Scotland. I’d love to see Paris. Toronto has always appealed to me and I want to see Niagara Falls. I want to see The Secretions play in Sacramento. I want to drive to Key West. I don’t want to be the person who’s never left her hometown.
  • Along the same lines, I want to live somewhere other than Minnesota. I just got an apartment in St Paul and it is the farthest away from where I grew up I’ve ever lived. That is pathetic. I was so close to moving to California when I met my spouse, and while I didn’t move for several reasons, he was one reason. I have regretted it for 6 years. I hate the feeling I get being tied down as a homeowner. I’ve only owned a house for 8 months and already I feel smothered. Maybe that’s a feeling that fades, but I don’t like it.
  • I want to go back to school, or at least audition for some schools to know if I could do it. Honestly, even just a semester would mean the world to me. I feel inadequate without any college experience and I’ve been out of the “real” acting world for so long that I feel like I need to take some classes to get back into it. Which leads to . . .
  • I miss acting! I love it! It makes me feel complete and happy and I think I have a talent for it. I feel lost when I’m not acting, like a part of me is missing. In my heart, I think of myself as an actor first, and that feels false when I’m not acting. I did Rocky Horror for 7 years but that doesn’t sustain me anymore. I miss doing Shakespeare! I want that back.
  • I want to be able to enjoy my obsessions without guilt, and if I’m in a relationship I want to be able to share them. This is the one thing that has been a specific problem in my marriage. I don’t think it’s a contributing factor in my marriage crumbling, but it’s definitely a factor in my unhappiness over the course of our relationship. I’m going to use the specific example of television shows to illustrate this, but it extends beyond that. My spouse loves The A-Team and Three’s Company. I had never seen either, but I watched them all the way through with him. I got into Three’s Company right away because John Ritter, but it’s not really something I’d watch on my own. The A-Team took a little more effort. It’s enjoyable and it was fun to watch together, but other then the Boy George episode, I’ve never re-watched it. I did walk down the aisle to the theme from The A-Team. Why? Because he asked me to. I went along with it because it was a fun idea and the show was something we’d watched together. Conversely, I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Primeval. I have never gotten my spouse to watch a single episode with me. He’ll wander into the room and make derogatory comments about whatever I’m watching, but he’s never made the effort to try to understand what I get out of it. He mocks the actors, the characters, the writing, and while he’s never mocked me specifically, it felt like he was. I would understand if we watched the series together and he just didn’t like it, but it hurts me that he never gave it a chance. Again, this isn’t a relationship ender on it’s own, but it’s been a sore spot.
  • I want the ability to be spontaneous. I’ve held down the same job for over 4 years and I can be responsible, but sometimes I want to go to a movie or to the bar without scheduling it a month in advance.
  • I want to be a parent, but not right now. This one is a pretty recent revelation, but I am not ready to be a mom. It’s not just cold feet; I am just not ready right now. I want the opportunity to be 25 and maybe 26, 27 and 28 without having the life-changing responsibility of children. I’m not pregnant and we had to close our adoption file anyway, so now is a perfect time to pause. I am not ready. I want- no, I need- to be supported in this feeling. We both need to be ready before we have kids. I don’t want to resent my kids and/or my spouse because I became a parent too young.

I don’t know that I’m any closer to figuring out if I want a divorce or intense counseling, but I at least feel like I have some grip on my life. I will always love my spouse, but I’m not sure I want to remain married.

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I Feel That I Owe the World an Apology

A few days ago, I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final Harry Potter book.  I woke up early and raced through the final few chapters before going to work for the day.  I had never read the series before now.

I’m going to back up a bit.  Prior to this year, I was extremely outspoken in my dislike of the entire Harry Potter franchise.  I thought it was poorly written, the story sounded stupid, and it seemed wholly undeserving of all the fuss surrounding it.  When the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (I clarify as if there are actually people who are unfamiliar with the series), came out in September of 1999 I read it, along with every single person in my middle school.  As a 6th grader, I should have been the perfect age for this 11-year-old wizard to captivate me, but there was a problem: that same year I also read Romeo and Juliet, Catcher in the Rye, A Clockwork Orange, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  I had long ago moved beyond young adult literature and could not understand how a book that overused adverbs as atrociously as this one could possibly be considered worth my time.  I was a 12-year-old snob.  I thought I was smarter than all the lemmings waving their pencils and yelling “expelliarmus” at each other.

But my best friend, Dena, liked the book and insisted that we go see the movie together.  Alas.  What a terrible movie.  Other than mishearing Hagrid when he said, “Voldemort killed your parents” as “genital warts killed your parents” (which set me laughing hysterically for a solid 5 minutes), I got no enjoyment out of that movie.  I refused to read any of the following books, although I did watch the second movie when it was on tv because it starred Kenneth Branagh.  I should mention that while other kids my age plastering their notebooks with Nelly and Toby Maguire, I preferred Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Izzard,Sam Rockwell and Gary Oldman.  The whole snob thing lasted through middle school and well into high school.

I maintained this attitude toward Harry Potter for years.  When my friend and coworker went to a midnight release party for the final book, I teased her relentlessly.  I refused to perform in the Harry Potter theme night of Rocky Horror (called “Harry Potter and the Deathly Swallows” if you were curious).  I went to one theme party, but only because I was promised cake and homemade butterbeer, which was totally worth it.  By this point, I worked at a book store and it was becoming more and more difficult to maintain my intense dislike without having actually read the series.  3 of my coworkers- Jess, Beth, and Jena- continuously called me out on this fact.  The debate usually went something like this:

“You can’t say you don’t like them if you haven’t read them!”

“I read the first one and it was terrible!”

“They get so much better!”

“I don’t want to have to read a couple hundred pages of crap to get to something worthwhile!”

Etc.

As much as I didn’t want to admit it to them, they had a very valid point.  I didn’t want to stop ripping on Harry Potter, but I also didn’t want to commit myself to reading all seven increasingly long books.  Then we got in a copy of the first book on cd read by Stephen Fry.  I love Stephen Fry.  He’s awesome.  Surely, if anyone can get me through this book, it would be him.  Ohmygod it was so good!  At first I attributed enjoying it entirely to Stephen Fry.  When I finished it, I moved onto the second book in paper form, and I enjoyed that, too.  Then I read the third and that was even better!  After finishing each book I watched the corresponding movie, wanting to get the full experience.  I haven’t really cared for the movies*, with the exception of the third one which has Gary Oldman as my favorite character, Sirius Black.  (I have probably mentioned before that I love Gary Oldman, but it’s worth repeating.  He’s the wallpaper on my laptop right now.  I will watch him in anything.)

So I read all 7 books and got completely swept up.  I really enjoyed them, all of them.  I’m sad that I’m done and I will probably read them again someday, hopefully when I have kids.  So what changed?  I think part of it has to do with being an adult.  As I read them, I most liked the adults.  Sirus Black, Remus Lupin, Arthur and Molly Weasley, Severus Snape, and even James and Lily Potter, who are only developed in flashbacks, are more interesting and real to me than Harry, Ron, or Hermoine.  Harry, especially, bothered me.  I’m reasonably certain that J. K. Rowling has never met a traumatized child.  I read the first couple books while I was going through my adoption certification classes and I know that a child who was locked in a closet and maltreated for 10 years would not be as well-adjusted as Harry is.  Going back to the Dursley’s every year would cause emotional regression and cause severe mental problems.  I was just so angry that no one called child protective services!

Overall, I don’t think Rowling is a very talented writer from a technical standpoint.  I think there are several flaws in the stories and I think it’s clear that she made several things up as she went along.  However, I don’t think any of that matters when you are just reading these for fun.  The concept of reading for fun was foreign to me as a kid.  I read all the time and reading was fun, but I read to grow and learn and be superior to everyone my age.  Now that I work at a bookstore and have the luxury of being surrounded by books every day, I am able to read for fun and read a little of everything.  (Now that I’ve finished Harry Potter, I’m reading Black Bodies and Quantum Cats: Tales From the Annals of Physics by Jennifer Ouellette, just in case you were wondering.)

I feel like I owe the world an apology for my 13 years of Harry Potter bashing.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t know that the story made up for the writing.  I didn’t know it was possible to like something that wasn’t firmly based in reality.  I missed out on a lot simply because I was too cool to participate in something popular.  I’ve learned from my mistakes and I will try to be more open minded in the future.  Dena, I’m sorry if I took away some of the fun for you when we were in middle school.  Jess, Beth, and Jena, you were absolutely right and I should’ve listened to you from the start.  Harry Potter fandom: I apologize; I am one of you, now.  J. K. Rowling, I am sorry.

Sincerly, Sheena, a newly converted 25-year-old Harry Potter fan.

*I haven’t watched the last two movies yet, but as they don’t have Gary Oldman in them I don’t see how they could be better than the third one.

 

 

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One Step Forward, Several Steps Back

I’ve been putting off writing this post. 

We’ve had to put our adoption on hold. 

Hopefully it’s only temporary.

Mostly it’s due to our finances and some relationship troubles, neither of which I want to delve into here because the internet is far from anonymous. Although I think it is worth pointing out that most couples have relationship issues when they’re about to become parents, but few ever talk about it. 

I would like to talk about dreams and dream fulfillment.  It’s a subject that has been on my mind quite a bit lately.  My biggest dream, my biggest love in life is acting.  I went to an arts high school and I’ve done local theatre, but what I really want is to get a degree in it.  I want to go out to California, even though I am fully aware that I do not have the look to make it in Hollywood. 

Once upon a time I applied to my dream school in Los Angeles and actually got accepted.  That was the happiest moment of my life, no question.  (And yes, I feel guilty that that trumps my wedding or any other great moment in my life.)

But I couldn’t go, for reasons that I shouldn’t get into here.  The very simplified reason is that I couldn’t afford it and no one was there to help.

Things changed for me when I learned that I couldn’t go.  I stopped auditioning, I got a full time job, I married the next person I dated.  These aren’t mistakes, just decisions I would not have made if I had gone to LA.

So as I work toward becoming a mother I find myself wondering what might have been.  I am talented, even if I’m not thin and beautiful.  I was never looking for mainstream success.  My biggest dream was to have a part in a Todd Haynes film, so much so that I have a flying saucer and a quotation from “Velvet Goldmine” tattooed on my ribcage.

“It is joy of all joys to dream.”

Now that I don’t have the time to act (or the money to support the habit), I’ve been focusing on my writing.  It’s just a cover, though.  All of my characters are ones I’d like to see in a movie someday, some of them could easily be played by me.  It’s acting without leaving my couch.

It just isn’t quite as fulfilling. 

I ran across an old interview with Douglas Henshall (I’m very aware that I have professed my love for him here before) in which he said, “Fierce ambition coupled with crippling laziness… it’s a difficult one!”

I prefer not to give that too much context, because I really like it as a stand alone line.  He’s talking about acting, in particular his drive.  I can relate all too well.

I have so much in me that I want to give.  The problem is that my desires are incompatible with each other.  I want to act, but that is no longer much of an option.  I want to write, but I didn’t spend years learning how, so I’m slow.  I want to adopt kids from the foster care system and give them a stable home life, but that will mean giving up on my own dreams.  I’ve told myself many times that it is just my crippling laziness holding me back.  It is so much easier to sit here on the couch, dog at my feet, than to get up and accomplish anything. 

I can’t keep coasting like this anymore; I need to do something with my life. 

Putting the adoption on hold is giving me the opportunity that most expectant mothers do not get- I can examine what I really want out of my life and I can decide if this is truly the time to bring children into my life. 

It just feels like I’m moving backwards.

 

 

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There’s a Pain Goes On and On

This upcoming August will mark the 9 year anniversary of my father’s death.  9 years is a long time.  That’s only 1 year short of a decade.  He died when I was 15; in no time at all he will have been dead longer than I knew him.  Already he’s been gone longer than the amount of time when he was an active part of my life. 

These are the thoughts, the numbers that have been circling around in my head lately.  Every year is the same: with summer comes grief.  It is impossible for me to associate warm weather with anything other than hospital, hospice, and funeral parlor visits.  The events play over and over in my head and it is as if no time at all has elapsed. 

But it has. 

Every year when I feel this coming on again I try to stop it.  Surely there must be something out there that will end this cycle.  With that in mind, I read C. S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed on my lunch break today.  It’s a short book and I was able to read it in about 45 minutes, possibly making some wonder why it’s taken me this many years to read it.  The answer is that C. S. Lewis and I don’t really share the same beliefs, and I expected the book to preach (which it did not do).

The book was worth reading, and I feel that I got something out of it.  If nothing else, I got a bit of a reality check. You see, I’ve been convinced that my grief has gotten worse with time.  Every time I feel it, I hurt so much that I can’t imagine ever hurting more.  This, of course, is my mind playing tricks on me.  Pain is so hard to accurately remember.  In this book, Lewis compares his initial grief to a concussion.  He feels that he’s in a haze, that everything is slightly off.  As someone who once drove a high speed go-kart face first into a van, I can agree.  I had forgotten how very disconnected I felt in the days and weeks after my father’s death.

I still have times when I feel that way, when it feels like he passed away only yesterday.  At those times I feel so angry that everyone is going about their business, oblivious to my agony.  They should just know.  But those times are far fewer than they used to be.  That’s progress, I think. 

Switching gears a bit here, I haven’t written anything for awhile.  Most of that is because I had this idea in my head, but it wouldn’t come together on paper.  The idea being this: I am not religious, but I want my kids to be.  I think I’ve figured out what I want to say on that, and it ties very closely with my grief.

Although my spouse is Christian and although I attend church fairly regularly, I do not consider myself a Christian.  I really like what Jesus had to say and I get a lot out of the sermons, but I think if we were to examine core beliefs I would not fit in too well. 

I can believe in a creator (or a Creator, if you prefer).  I tend to believe that the Universe (unintentional capitalization there, but I think I’ll leave it be) created itself and, if pressed, I would say that God and the Universe are one entity.  Whether that entity is sentient or not is a matter of debate for me.  If we say that He/She/It is sentient, then I find it very hard to believe that it could have any care or concern at all for an insignificant speck such as me.  Just look at how many billions of stars we can see (not to mention all the ones we cannot).  I cannot believe that we are unique.  I cannot believe that a Creator who created a Universe that is, to paraphrase Douglas Adams, vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big, would even notice us as individuals. 

As for what happens to us when we die, I believe two things: 1. Nothing, and 2. Something.  The logical scientist in me believes that our neurons cease firing and there is nothing at all.  Death is the end.  The emotional part of me that needs to believe that the people I love aren’t really gone, believes that some part of us lingers and watches over the people who love us.  I’ve had experiences that certainly seem to prove this second belief, but I am hardly objective.  I do believe that it makes more sense to pray to our loved ones than God/the Universe.  If I want comfort, it makes sense to ask my father.  If I want advice, it makes sense to ask the friend I lost.  I know these people and I so desperately want to believe that they are still around in some capacity, so I talk to them when I need them.  Maybe they hear me, maybe not, but it feels like the right thing to do.

This being said, I want my children to have the kind of reassurance that religion brings.  “You are loved, you have a purpose, when you die you will be reborn.”  You see, although I am comfortable in my beliefs, they have never brought me much comfort.  I have kind of a lonely set of beliefs.  I want my kids to know that they are loved in every way it is possible to be loved.  That is assurance that can only come from religion. 

Getting back to my grief, I’ve been wishing for that assurance of an afterlife that religion supplies.  Try as I might, I still don’t believe it.  But I want to.  More than anything in the world I want to talk to my father one more time, adult to adult.  I know that will never happen, but maybe if there’s an afterlife . . .

I read a lot of science fiction and even as I think about the possibility of a conversation between us, I know there would be a catch.  Maybe I couldn’t talk to him about our past, or maybe I couldn’t ask him the Big Questions.  Honestly, though, I’d give anything just to share a pizza with him and discuss books.

“I think A Mote in God’s Eye was the better novel, but Lucifer’s Hammer just stuck with me more.  Have you ever read any Spider Robinson?  I think you’d enjoy his books.”

(In all seriousness, if you are somehow out there, Dad, and you read my blog, you should really check out a Spider Robinson book.  It’s your kind of humor.)

This desperation for one last conversation is what still fuels my grief.  I don’t want big things.  I don’t care who’s to blame for what and I know in my heart that he loved me, even if certain actions said otherwise.  What’s past is past and I have forgiven him for any and all transgressions.  After all, he died almost 9 years ago, there’s no point in holding a grudge.

9 years is a very long time.  Barring any unforeseen incidents, there will come a time when I am older than he was.  There will come a time when he’s been dead longer than he was alive.  The Earth keeps spinning no matter how much we might like to make it pause.  That is one thing, perhaps the only thing, I know with certainty.

What Am I Doing Here?

Tuesday.

This Tuesday, day after tomorrow we meet with a social worker to turn in our application and talk specifics.

Tuesday we’ll have completed our classes and have only the home study in between us and being matched with our kids.

Whew.

I’m feeling a bit discombobulated.

Here’s the thing, I have always wanted to be a young mother (meaning closer in age to my children than most mothers are), but I didn’t know how to do that without being a pregnant teenager.  Now it’s becoming a reality.  Ideally we’re hoping for two kids in the 8-16 age range.  I’m 24.  I feel this is a perfect arrangement for me, as I still clearly remember what it was like to be a teenager and I think I’ll be good at that stage.  I think that being young will be to my advantage.  I’ve thought about this a long time, and both my spouse and I feel we’re making the right decision.

On top of that I’ve met these social workers and I know they want what is best for these kids.  I know they will not think I’m crazy.  We’re both working toward the same goal.

So why do I feel like this?

Maybe because it’s finally happening.

Maybe because this step sounds so much more official.

Or maybe because saying, “I am only 8 years older than my son” sounds completely nuts no matter how solid our family is.

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Life As a Grown Up

If there’s one thing I’ve learned conclusively in my life, it’s that no matter how prepared or unprepared you might be, life changes completely and abruptly.  Case in point: we adopted a dog this past weekend.

Dannie is a Boxer/Pitbull mix.  She’s a year and a half old and she is just as sweet as can be.  She’s wiggly and cuddly.  We’re pretty in love.

But here’s the thing- even though we both wanted a dog, we read dog care books, we had dogs when we were kids, we dog-proofed the house and yard- our life turned upside down when we brought her home.  All the theory and preparation in the world doesn’t change that reality.  Life is different now.

I get migraines from time to time.  They’re the kind of headaches where light hurts, my brain feels too large for my skull, and I’m nauseous every time I move.  I’ve never found anything that actually helps other than hiding under the covers and getting a back rub.  Even that doesn’t make it go away, but it makes it a bit better.

I have a migraine today.  I felt it coming on last night and it hit hard when I woke up this morning.  Luckily I have the day off of work.  I’m trying to get some housework done, but I keep getting dizzy.  I know my spouse will be upset when he gets home from work, but he doesn’t get headaches so he doesn’t really understand how hard it is to force myself to do something.  Normally I’d just hide under the covers and take his exasperation when it comes, but now we have Dannie.

Dannie isn’t completely housebroken yet so I need to let her outside every couple hours.  She also needs a walk, which means I’m going to have to brave the sunlight.  I’m not looking forward to it.  We also have an adoption class tonight, which means I need to get dressed and sit in a ridiculously uncomfortable chair in a brightly lit room for 3 hours.  The thought of it makes me want to cry, but I have to go.

Whenever people hear that we’re adopting, they’re quick to tell us our whole lives are going to change.  I have to bite my tongue to keep from giving a snarky response.  I know they’re just trying to be nice or they think they’re helpful, but from my point of view it’s insulting.  While some people get pregnant by accident, one cannot accidentally adopt kids from the foster care system.  We are entering into parenthood far more prepared than most people.

All of our lives change drastically over and over again.  My parents’ divorce changed my life forever, as did going to kindergarten, getting my driver’s license, my father’s death, moving out, getting married, buying a house, etc.  We prepare the best we can for the changes we can predict, but mostly we just have to go with it.  I do not like that I have to put the dog’s needs before my own today, but I understand that it is the responsibility I took on when I adopted her.

I am a worrier.  I hang on to stress (hence the migraines, probably).  I do not like change and it takes me a long time to adjust.  However, I accept the fact that I am an adult now, and if I want certain things in my life I need to make sacrifices.  Right now that means sacrificing my comfort to learn what I need to know to adopt my children.  When I finally meet my kids and bring them home, it will mean many more changes and many more sacrifices.  I can prepare as best as I can, but my life is going to turn upside down no matter what.  In my mind, being a grown up means realizing that life is not fun or easy, but doing it anyway because the rewards are worth it.

As I write this, Dannie is sleeping on my legs.  She’s dreaming and her legs are twitching like mad.  When I place my hand on her head, she stops squirming and sighs deeply.  She’s known me for less than a week, but she knows I offer comfort.  That makes this all worthwhile.

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Thoughts That Keep Me Up At Night

I’m going to be honest here- the type of honest that only comes from being sleepy and deciding to put off bedtime until this is written- and say that I’m a little terrified to become a mother.

I know, every expectant mother has had this thought, whether she’s pregnant, adopting, becoming a step-mom, or some other variation of parenting a child.  But these fears are threatening to crush me tonight.

We had our first real, hardcore adoption class on Saturday.  It was 8 hours of learning how hard it is to be a parent, and how exponentially harder it is to parent children who have been through the foster care system.  On Sunday my friends and their one year old son came to visit.  They didn’t stay long because their son wasn’t feeling well.  Then, tonight, because I loosely follow politics but love to read opinion pieces on politicians, I read an article about what it means to be a stay at home parent. 

I have been bombarded with every parenting detail that scares me and I’m questioning my nerve. I’m not scared about adopting older special needs kids, I’m nervous about the basics of being a mom.

Here’s the thing: I’m good at the really big stuff, like talking about abuse and sex and drugs and all of those topics most parents dread talking about.  My two favorite things in life are reading and public speaking, so I am damn good at those uncomfortable conversations.  I can be informed and eloquent, without being stressed.  I’m also really good at the little stuff.  I can plan awesome birthday parties, I can cook favorite foods, I can find the most impressive playground or the biggest sledding hill.  I’m good at homework and attending plays or soccer games.  I’m also reasonably competent on popping popcorn and watching a movie.  These things I can do.

What I’m afraid I won’t be able to do is sit up all night with a sick kid, or not lose my temper when I have to leave work to go pick them up from school.  I’m terrible at being around sick people and leaving work in the middle of a shift stresses me out more than I like to admit.  I’m scared that I won’t measure up to the everyday inconveniences of being a parent.  

My sister in law, Erin, has been my rock lately.  I can talk to her about anything and she is honest with me.  It’s very calming to be around someone who is a great mom admit that she has faults and explain how she deals with things.  No one is perfect, but it’s possible to be an imperfect mom and a good mom at the same time. 

What if I don’t measure up, though?  I’ve got another class on Thursday where I’ll hear more terrible things.  I know they’re trying to paint a realistic picture but it’s exactly that realism that scares me.  I know my kids will have been through hell, I don’t want them to have to deal with a mom who has a panic attack every time they throw up. 

These thoughts have been with me for a long time, but are becoming harder to ignore as I get closer to the reality of bringing my children home.  I’m not sure what to do with these fears, other than admit to them.  Maybe getting them in the vast openness of the internet will take away some of their power.  Maybe I’ll hold my kids in my arms for the first time and suddenly I won’t mind staying up with them.  Maybe my spouse will be some kind of parenting superhero who is delighted to take care of sick kids (it’s unlikely, but you never know).  

All I can do is hope and learn and try to accept that I am far from perfect, but no one really is.  I know parenting will come with it’s hardships.  My friendships will change, my sleep schedule will change (we’re not adopting a baby, but even a teenager will make noise at night), my whole life will change.  One of our teachers said fear is the underlying cause of almost everything.  I’m afraid, but I’m almost ready.

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My 5th Grade Journal

I recently got 14 boxes of stuff left over from my parent’s divorce.

I’ve barely made a dent going through this stuff.  It’s a goldmine of forgotten childhood artifacts.  I found my baby book, old drawings, toys, birthday cards, home movies.  It’s so much fun to look through everything.  In one box I found my 5th grade journal.  I read through it and laughed so hard that I just have to share it.  I imagine that it was the sort of situation where the teacher gave us prompts, but as I didn’t write them down I like to imagine that my 10/11 year old brain just randomly got upset about football and declared it’s love of tomato plants.

I’ve typed it because it’s difficult to read my writing, but I’ve left all of the spelling and grammar errors.  My sincere apologies to everyone who’s name I misspelled.  Enjoy.

9/9/98

This summer my best friend, Courtnee, took me to Valleyfair with no adlts. We also went too two PG-13 movies alone.  I had fun!

 

9/9/98

What did I do after the first day of school yesterday? I was swinging on my bar (a closline pole) and my shoe fluu off.  I was about to jump and got my shoe, when my foot slammed into the pole.  It knocked me off the bar.  I couldn’t

 

9/10/98

When I pre-read I start by reading the back of the book.  Then I look at the cover for coments.  After that I look at the table of contence (if there is one).  Then I look for pictures.  Fianally I read the book.

 

9/11/98

I know everyone’s name in this class.  Becides Todd and Jazzman I have either been in their class or was introduced by a friend.

 

9/14/98

I don’t really have a favorite winter sport.  Iv’e never been skiing.  I have only been ice fishing once and was bored out of my mind.  I can’t skate.  If sledding is a sport, that’s my favorite.

 

9/15/98

I have two favorite books not one.  They could be one big book.  The books titles are Catwings and Catwings Return.  My favorite animals are catwings.  I lost my books when I moved to Col. Hts.  I hope I find my books soon.  A catwing looks like this.

 

9/16/98

What did I do for my birthday?  I got alot of presents, and ate alot of sweetish meatballs.  I also ate a hoal artichoke.  I had fun!

 

9/17/98

What are my most and least favorite subjects?  Science is my favorite subject.  Math and langue are my least favorite subjects.  I LOVE to read, but reading class is too slow for me.

 

9/21/98

For the new year my family eats a speatil dinner, stays up untill midnight.  We watch the ball drop on T.V.

 

9/22/98

Yesterday was summer.
Today is fall.
Will tomorrow be winter?
We don’t know at all.
The leaves are changing
And falling to the ground.
The wind is gaining
And blowing things around.
Today is fall
And thats all.

 

9/23/98

Write a poem about your best friend.

Fatty fatty 2 by 4
Can’t fit through the litterbox door
And when he tries
He only cries,
He weeps and weeps
And then he sleeps.
H wakes up and gets back to work
And with a smirk,
Leaves puddles on the floor.

 

9/24/98

Fog reminds me of the background in a picture. Like this:

It used to remind me of smoke from a fire in cartoons or movies.  One time in Hopkins a house across from us burrned down. The smoke looked like fog.  Like this:

 

9/25/98

I don’t have a favorite flower.  Roses are pretty and thorny.  Petuna’s don’t come back.  Tomatoes smell the best of all.

 

9/28/98

What do you want to be when you grow up?  A vet!  A vet!  A vet!  Because I LOVE Animals.

 

10/2/98

SOCCER!!!!  I used to play for the team Purple Power, but not anymore.

 

10/5/98

What are you doing tomorrow night?  I’m having Perry Jr. + Perry Sr. over for dinner.  Tony is my step-dad, his dad is Perry.

 

10/6/98

I didn’t watch the game and I don’t care!!  Ill I know is the score was V37 GB24 (I think).  I voted for GB but so what?!  My dad was watching it while I was in bed.

 

10/7/98

I’m in a Ride The Sunrise book.  It has a bunch of 3 or 4 page stories.  They all have easy words.  They all have easy words.  It is requierd in the fifth grade.

 

10/8/98

 

10/9/98

Evil Eye, master supervillin.  My slogen will be “I eat Mighty Mice for breakfast.”  I’ll be carrying a dagger + an eye.  I’ll have on a cape.  I made up this charcter.

 

10/20/98

I don’t think there is a best student.  I think I’m a good student.

 

10/21/98

I have more than 1 hero.  My mom is my hero because she loves me.  Laura Ingals Wilder is my hero because she wasent afraid to be herself.

 

10/22/98

My best friend Courtnee Guyette.  I met her in kindergarden.  That was when we were both living in apartments.  Now I’m in a house and she’s in a hotel.  She tried to get me R.L. Stine’s signitare but she would have had to wait 4 hours!!  I got her an Animorphs poster because she tried (shh big secret!).

 

10/23/98

I HATE FOOTBALL!  If Kerby Pucket were a football player he would be my favorite player!

 

10/26/98

Do you like school, yes or no?  Why?
Yes, because I want to be around animals all my life and if I don’t get a good education I can’t.

 

10/28/98

I have 3 favorite holidaies.  Hallaween, Easter + Christmas.

 

11/4/98

This year I like science the most.  Science

 

11/9/98

What is your favorite food?
Every year I have a new favorite food.  Two years ago my favorite food was ravoili.  Last year it was spagetti and meatballs.  This year it is artichoke and tofu patties (also known as tofu/garlic mashed potatoes).

 

11/10/98

Do you like choice in daliy jeogrophy?  No, I don’t like choice in

 

11/12/98

What does Choice? mean?  I don’t know what Choice? means.  I think it means choice.

 

11/16/98

Name everyone in your family.  Mom, Ian, Dad, Raina and Trixie live in our house.  Grandma, Grandpa, Mimi and Perry are my grandparents.  Scott, Greg, Perry, Cris (Tuffer) and Don are my uncles.  Jill, Kathy, Yolona and Patty are my aunts.  Eric, Cory, Casey, and Alexandra Clair are my cousins.  I can’t name everybody.

 

11/19/98

I was born in Minnesota.  In Northeast Hospital in Champlain.  My mom worked at Northeast Hospital when I was born.

 

11/20/98

What are your least favorite foods?  My least favorite foods are cooked carrots and beets.  I eaven like cooked cabige and spinich better than them!!

 

12/1/98

What did you do over Thanksgiving weekend?
On Saterday 11/27 I went to a monster truck show at the metradome.  My favorite truck was grave Digger.  Mom had two favorite monster trucks, Monster Patrol and Bear Foot.  On one race, Bear Foot agenst Grave Digger.  Bear Foot was winning.

 

12/3

Finish what you wrote on 12/1.
Monster Truck tires are the height of a full grown adalt.  Bear Foot’s tire rolled off!

 

12/4 + 12/8

My favorite song is ‘God Must Have Spent a Little More Time With You’ by N’Sync.  I also like ‘I Swear.’  (I don’t know who sings it.)

 

12/9

I don’t have a favorite singer.

 

12/11

I got to go to a golden birthday party

 

12/21/98

For X-mas we are having my grandpa + grandma over.

 

1/4/99

I don’t have 1 favorite teacher I have 4.  Mrs. Perrier and Mr. Nemerov are my favorite teachers

 

1/5

Finish what you wrote yesterday.
Mr. Lightbody, Mr. Zeff

 

1/25/99

continue what you were writing in 1/5
and Mrs. Dockett are my favorite teachers.

 

1/27/99

What did you do after school yesterday?  I went to

 

1/28/99

continue what you wrote on

 

2/19

I HATE every sport except soccer!

 

2/24

Jim Carry

 

3/1/99

Beloved Mr. BUBBLES
son of Reggie

 

3/3/99

Jasmine

 

3/5/99

Sunshine, because every other run was

 

3/8/99

NOYB!

Bering Sea

 

3/10/99

Yes if people shovle paths to my bus stop!

 

3/11/99

He’s OK

 

3/19

Today, I’m cold

 

3/22

Yes

 

3/24

No, but I am going to New Mexico on 3/26.  I’m going to visit my step-dad’s family.  Don + Patty just had a baby, Alexandra.

 

4/8

NO!

 

4/16/99

No, I’m not allowd to watch it!  (I’m grumpy today!!)

 

4/19/99

petuinas, tulups other flowers

 

4/20/99

Look at Mike’s hair!  Mike has tiny poney tails!

 

4/21/99

No, I don’t!  I don’t know why.

 

4/23/99

What happened 1 year ago yesterday?  1 year ago yesterday Jenner Jacobson Wildthing Seavey died.  He was my hamster + first pet.  I Loved him!  I still do.  I got his name from the book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.  Jenner was one of

 

4/29

Yes.  I LOVE CATS

 

5/7/99

Change a song’s words to show how much you love cats.

O.S.
Cats in genaral ain’t mu cup of tea
Can’t see y folks make such a fuss
Got no right to be so upity
Always thinking they’re better than us

They’re good for frightining mice + that’s
All I’ve got to say for them glogone cats.
M.S.

Cats in genaral ARE my cup of tea
I Can see why folks make such a fuss
Got a right to be so upity
They rely are better than us

They’re good for frightining mice + that’s
Not all I’ve got to say for them great, great cats

 

5/10

Pears     I love them!

 

5/11/99 + 5/12/99 + 5/13/99

Yes I like *B Witched because of their song “Cest la Vie.”  It goes like this.

 

The end.  Yes, I ended my journal by writing out the full lyrics to that terrible pop song, which if you wish to remember it, you can hear here: http://youtu.be/UvjLgjtJKsc

 

 

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Thoughts On The Hunger Games

I went to see the Hunger Games last night.  Oh, I am just so excited and would love to give a full review of what I thought about the whole thing!  Alas, maybe if I had a time machine I could go back and be one of the first thousand people to give my review.  Rather than giving my review of the film, then, I’d like to talk about how the film made me feel. So here goes . . .

First of all, I have never gone to see anything nearly this popular.  My spouse and I were discussing this as we found our seats a full half hour before the previews started in an already filling theatre.  I saw the entire Lord of the Rings movies on Christmas Eve each year that they were in the theatre, but the holiday meant I was one of a handful of people each time.  Aside from special events, such as “Can’t Stop the Serenity”, I’ve never actually been to a sold out movie, much less on a Wednesday evening.  It was weird and a little uncomfortable being among such a large crowd.  I’m not really a fan of large groups of strangers in small spaces.

While waiting for the movie to start I gave some thought as to why I don’t like many popular things.  Part of it is just a natural propensity to go against the crowd.  (Not to belabor the point, but even in choosing to adopt rather than get pregnant, and to adopt older siblings rather than a baby, I’m going against the norm.)  Part of it is also just that my interests don’t often align with what is popular.  My favorite hobby is reading, followed closely by watching anything involving science or science fiction.  I also enjoy going to the theatre (to see plays) and sewing.  None of these are particularly prone to huge crowds of screaming teenage girls. 

Until now, that is, apparently.  My favorite things to read are science fiction novels and dystopias (which are often one in the same).  I love 1984, A Clockwork Orange, Brave New World, and now The Hunger Games trilogy. 

So, that was a unique experience. 

Then the movie started and I got completely sucked in. 

I knew it was coming, I braced myself, and yet when Rue died I lost it.  That beautiful little girl just broke my heart.  All I wanted was to keep her safe and I knew I couldn’t.  It brought up some things in me.

Every single day I feel so much frustration and futility because all I want to do is protect my children but while I am enjoying a movie and popcorn, they are in physical and emotional peril and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.  All I can do is fix up the house and take the classes and read the books and be ready to become a parent when our kids are available to be adopted.  That just doesn’t feel like enough to me. 

I feel like I have already failed as a parent and I haven’t even met my kids, yet! 

I’m not sure when I started to identify with the parents of some of the characters rather than the character’s themselves.  I’m not sure why I can identify with Katniss, but Rue just looks like the daughter I might have one day.  As such, her death was terribly painful to watch.

I hope and pray every day that my kids are safe while knowing they’re not. 

All in all, I really enjoyed the movie and would highly recommend it.  My spouse hasn’t read the books and he also enjoyed it.  The acting is wonderful and the whole thing is heart-pounding.  It was wonderful to watch a book I enjoyed come to life on a big screen.  And it has given me some things to think about.

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