Saturday, March 26, 2011


This is not a post about building things, except it sort of is, a little bit.
My father is a contractor/construction worker, and has been for most of his life. Growing up, he told me hilarious stories about the time he worked as a pizza delivery man, and the tricks he and his friends used to play on the university students. "University students," he would tell me, "are some of the stupidest people you have ever met in your life. They have no common sense. Everything they know comes from books. They don't exist in the real world." Gratitude, Common Sense and The Real World were the million-dollar concepts to my father. Whenever we were lectured for anything, leaving a mark on the wall, not doing our homework, fighting at the dinner table, my father's lecture was the same:
"You kids are so Ungrateful. You don't have any Common Sense. You need to wake up and realize that in The Real World, you can't act this way." Theoretically, I could have come home carrying a human head, and the lecture would have likely gone something like this:

"You are so Ungrateful! Do you think your mother and I ever chopped someone’s head off? Common Sense says you cannot just chop someone’s head off. You should know better! In The Real World, people don't do that! Smarten up!"

This explains the somewhat tumultuous relationship my father and I have, and have had since I developed what we refer to as Independent Thought. My poor mother had to play referee, but every once in a while, my Dad would say something so off the wall that even my mom had to go, "Huh?" So one day, somewhere in my angry adolescence, my father was lecturing me on the dangers of my not having a backup plan. This lecture was another oldie, and at some point, my father made the mistake of asking me if I knew how many people tried to write books, every year. Because I was ticked off at this point, and because I was a bit of a snarky kid, I responded with, "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. Do you?" His next words were, "Well, I could write a book too, you know." At which point, my mother stared incredulously at my father and said, "You know you're full of it, right?"

My dad, realizing his misstep, floundered for about half a second, and then amended himself. "I'm not saying it would get published..." So of course, the snark in me responded with, "Yeah, and I could build a house, but I'm not saying it wouldn't fall down."

It's strange, the things we value in this world, and why. I value people like construction workers, because I know they're necessary, but I don't understand why a person would rather do that than do this. In fact, most of the time, I assume they only do what they're doing because they don't have any other options. Like maybe they're just not good at anything else, or maybe the money's better and they need it. It sounds harsh, but then, sometimes feel the same about this venture, and in fact, most ventures of mine. In writing classes, they warn you that if you can do anything else, you should do it, because this is a long and painful road to nothing for most of us. For me, it was this, or struggle on disability for the rest of my life (which I may do anyway). I know that I have a decent job right now, and it's a job I like, but it's not what I would choose for myself, so I don't understand people who would. It was easy to be the one to say, "I'm going to be one of that 3%, because I don't have other options." Now I have another job, I have other options, I'm not miserable, and I know this is still an integral part of my sense of self, and my goals. It's a comfort of sort, to know that, but it makes other people's decisions and choices all the more confusing to me.
I've always been a DIY of a different sort than my father. My father needs to know that he is where people expect him to be. Everything that I've ever wanted, I've wanted for myself and by myself, and those have been some pretty concrete goals. I chose my profession at four, and decided I would stay single for most of, if not all of my life, at sixteen. And because of that, and because of the disability, I'm not afraid to move slowly. I get impatient, sometimes. But I take comfort in the fact that I am not like other people. I want to do things, not just at my own pace, but in my own way, and that takes time.

I think when you're a parent, with a child with a disability, you harbour a deep-seated fear that failure is inevitable. I was lucky, because I have two parents who cope with that fear in very different ways: My father, by denying the possibility of failure, and pushing me well beyond my capacity, pushing me towards goals he feels I can actually accomplish, and my mother, by denying the rest of the world's importance and embracing the failure. On their own, neither of those are particularly good ways to parent a child with a disability, and there are a lot of ways and a lot of times the whole thing worked out really badly for everyone. Put them together, though, and I grew up in an environment that if I wanted something, it was up to me to tell my mother I would have it, and if I couldn't do something, it was up to me to tell my father to back off. Sometimes this led to disaster and shouting, but it also led to me knowing exactly what I wanted, and exactly why, and understanding that if I was going to have something, I would have to get it myself. Because the people who believed I could have it also believed I didn't need help, and the people who didn't weren't going to waste resources trying to help me do the impossible.

So here we are. Me, attempting to self publish. Earning my online degree. Being at least functionally single for the foreseeable future, but daring to dream and plan for children. In part because it's the path life has led me to, but for the most part, purely because that's how I work. On my own. I suppose people are right then, to accuse me of being a bit self-interested. I am interested in myself, not at the expense of others, but because others don’t really factor into my life much. Possibly not the most lucrative way to live, and most times I seem antisocial and hard-headed. (I'm not. Well, antisocial.) But I think certain things are hardwired into you.

Recently, I had the flu. And I remember thinking, “So this is why people have partners. It’s so they can have someone to walk the dogs, and cook food and do the dishes while they can’t stand up.” It was the first time it occurred to me that being single might be in some ways harder than being coupled. Another day, I was talking to a friend about my severe lack of a social life, where I talked about having very few friends, and she offered many solutions, how I could go out and meet new people, and what do to once I had. And after making excuse after excuse as to why I couldn’t, I realized that it wasn’t that I lacked friends. It was that I had lived too full a life, I had friends on three continents, scattered all over the country, and that didn’t even include the myriad of amazing people I had met through other people, online. I wanted more time and more space in common with those people. I am not lonely for friendship or for romance. It’s just that the world is made for people who come in pairs and sets.

Good things and bad things to everything, I suppose. There are times I take on too much, sometimes, because like my father, I forget what I'm up against. I get stagnant and sometimes I'm easily overwhelmed, because I think, like my mother, that I should just revel in the fact that I have any ambition left, and sometimes that's enough to be grateful for. But one day I'm going to have all the things I want to have, a family, a career, and a life that I earned, and the job I always dreamed of having. And when I do, I know it'll be in part because I have good people in my life, and lots of support, and a little luck. And part of it will be because I learned how to stand up to the people who loved me before I had to stand up to the people who don’t. But mostly, it'll be up to me. Because there is the world, and there is me, and when we work together, it’s awesome, but when we don’t, somebody has to look out for me.

I sort of like it that way.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Still Here. Alive and Kicking. And Screaming (a lot of screaming)

*Sigh* I so wanted to be out of First Draft Hell by now. See, it’s been almost a year since I started this blog, and I thought I knew how long this particular first draft was going to be, and woo, I was wrong. This thing just keeps going and going. The fact that I know it’s crap and will have to be torn down and rewritten is highly disheartening, but the real problem is that I have to finish it before I can do that. Bleh. Curse curse curse! (I’m practicing not swearing. See?) I feel pretty bummed that it’s been a year and I don’t even have a good enough first draft yet. But, unlike when I began rewriting Hannah, it’s not because the words won’t come out, or I’m way overconfident about my ability to finish, or nervous about my ability to tell the story. I have been writing more regularly than I have in years, and it feels as amazing as it always does. But I’ve also got a lot more going on in my life than I think even I realized. Since it’s the anniversary of this blog, and I started this blog so that I could share my adventures in actually getting off my ass and getting a life, I thought I’d share. Lots of things cooking, and very exciting!

Firstly, of course, I’m still working on my Vampires. I had an idea that I assumed would take a certain number of words. And I did something I have never done before, I mean ever. I underestimated myself. No seriously, I grossly overestimate myself, generally speaking. Societal pressure meets disability culture, I am a victim of too many low expectations (blah blah blah). So usually I make some ridiculous proclamation like say, “I am going to win a Pulitzer by age 35” (not an actual proclamation). Or, oh, “I’m going to write a book in six months.” (Yes. I did say that.) This time, I made a fairly reasonable proclamation, “When I write this first draft, it’s probably going to be about 120,000 words.” And. Well, I’m not quite at 120,000 words yet. Because about a week ago I got completely freaked out, because I was nearing 100,000 words and holy god I had so far to go! Which led me to two conclusions, the first and most obvious being wow my first drafts suck, and the second being that I would of course, need to do some massive restructuring to the pacing of the story that I absolutely could not do within this draft. Which meant that I would have to finish the horrible ugly and very long draft, and then proceed to not use it. Which led me to my only logical recourse, which was basically to not look at the file for about a week.

I was not hiding under the bed. In the first place, my bed is occupied by several boxes of stuff, the primary purpose of which is to keep the dogs from taking things from around the house and hiding them under there to be destroyed later. Also, I was very, very busy with lots of other things, so technically still writing, so. Myeh. Okay, I was hiding under the bed, a bit. I’m sorry. But I actually do have a lot more work than I thought I would, because in addition to this blog, and the book, I’m working on a couple other personal projects. Namely, of course, is the actual day job, which has been, in the last few months, much more demanding than I’m used to, but is about to slow down considerably, which is nice, because more importantly, I am finally and in earnest pursuing post-secondary education.

So remember a few months ago when I had mentioned the young woman who, after reporting instances of child abuse in the special education class she was TA-ing, was fired pending an investigation of whether her autism would interfere with her teaching abilities? And how I said that when I had a moment, I would rant about it? And then I didn’t? There’s a reason for that. It’s something that goes beyond laziness, and something that I am, eventually going to have to share, but I can’t now. The fact is, the whole thing is just, well, triggering, for me. I sat down to tell my own story about my own college experience and the discrimination therein, and burst into tears all three times I tried. It’s embarrassing, not because it’s not horrible, but because it is common, and because of how naive and unprepared for it I was, and how traumatic I can still find it, six years later. The short version is that I too, after working for years towards the education and eventual career path I most desired, after years of being told that, in spite everything, I was smart, and that would make all the difference, I learned that wasn’t strictly true. And then I also had to put aside my dreams of college education, and for years, it was so upsetting to me that I could not entertain the idea of going back, nor did I particularly want to do something just for the ‘experience’ of college.

But about a year ago, I had a health scare. Not a major one, but a little one that made me think a lot about my body, and my life, and my role in it, and I began to think about my life in terms of the next three years, instead of ten years or twenty from now, and I saw that what I wanted and what I had were miles from each other, and the first step to everything seemed to be getting off public assistance and supporting myself. Since I tried college, and the hands-on approach didn’t do it for me, I looked into distance education for the first time, which is where I found Athabasca. So now I’m a full-time English/History student. I don’t know for sure, really, what it will do for me, if it’ll get me off the system. But it will make me a better writer, and come hell or high water or whatever else, that is what I will be doing. So I have hope. It’s also not nearly as traumatic.

In addition, I also seem to be embroiled in someone else’s project. My friend Paul has dreams of dominating the world via video games, or some such thing, and has asked me to assist him in the writing. I have no idea what I’m doing, I’m not a gamer by any stretch (bad hand-eye coordination keeps you away from that sort of thing, y’know). But as he keeps asking for input and I keep writing, and we keep talking about it, it looks like one of those things I may actually wind up doing, which is pretty cool. Always like taking on new things.

I feel bad, because I’m not very good at this whole blogging thing yet, I’m still at the stage where I have a hard time downshifting from talking about the stuff I want to talk about to telling the story. Not because I don’t want to tell the story, or because I don’t want to talk, but because once I start telling the story, I feel guilty if I am not eating and sleeping and breathing it as well. I’m improving from this kind of neurosis, but there could definitely be further improvement. So, I promise this year to… I promise to write more entries than I did last year. Let’s just leave it at that.

Also, I may share some of my actual writing that is not just me talking about myself. Ulp.


Couple other small changes to the blog that I will hopefully actually stick to:

-I am also taking part in Inkygirl’s 500 word-a-day challenge. Which I have been doing swimmingly at except for two weeks, the first of which I had the flu and the second… yeah. Hiding under the bed. You should check it out if you’re a writer, want to be a writer, or just missing Nanowrimo at the moment. You can even do 250 words a day. Seriously, that’s like 15 minutes of writing a day or something equally ridiculous. A monkey with a typewriter could do that. On its own, even, without its fifty friends or Shakespeare.

-I am also doing Script Frenzy, in spite of, nay, because of having failed every single year I do it. I may actually have time to blog in the process of that. If not, I’ll probably regularly on the boards, and I need a lot of hand-holding. You should join in.

-I am taking part in the Goodreads reading challenge for 2011. My magic number is 35. You should also do it, if you are a reader, or add me to your friends list if you’re already doing it. Seriously. I don’t have enough friends who read. My friend, she owns the bookstore in town, and she laments every day, “Why did I open a bookstore in a town that doesn’t read?”

- After reading a series of disgusting articles in which we examine the fact that although more women read more books than men, and this planet is about 50% women, yet the books being published that were written by women are around 33%, and the books being reviewed that are by women are somewhere around roughly 20%, I got a little peeved. And after reading the explanation from publishing journals and popular book reviewers that, “Women just aren’t writing the kind of things we review,” I got a little ragey. But rather than go on a full-on rant, I have decided to be a bit more productive than usual about this whole thing. In conjunction with my reading a lot this year, I have decided to review the books I’m reading, but only if they were written by women. Which means some of the books I’m reading will probably be older books that have been reviewed ages ago, in which case, sorry. Books are expensive. If it weren’t for ebooks and audiobooks, I would be even less well-read than I am now, and I’m not anywhere near as well read as I would like to be. Have I mentioned I love Audible? They’re not even paying me to say that, but I do. I should also warn you I do not yet have any sort of college degree, so my reviewing will consist of a lot of squee, omg you have got to read this!!!!, and a lot of despair. (Why am I not as good as this?!) And possibly some headdesking. (Omg how does this stuff even get published erlack?). For more constructive criticism, you may have to wait til something pisses me off. Sorry.

I think that’s pretty much it. If I could squeeze anything else in there, I probably would, but I don’t think I can. I don’t think I’m travelling this year, even. *sadface* Meanwhile, I would like to thank this blog for being an awesome place to dump things that bug me and things I like, and how tortured I am. And, if I have any regular readers at all, seriously, thank you for spending an entire year not thinking I’m horrible, and maybe occasionally thinking I’m pretty awesome. I shall do my level best to not let you down over the next twelve months!

Also, is it completely ridiculous that I find this awesome?