Beyond Measure

Just THINK : ABOUT IT : Just write a title, YOUR thoughts....ENJOY! :) The Little Prince’s report card came home with him yesterday. After we went over it and I hugged him, he happily buzzed away to do whatever it is a ten-year-old boy does to usher in the freedom of Winter Break. (I.e., he headed for his video games as fast as his legs could carry him.)

Me? I sat at the table and cried.

I could hear all those voices from my childhood, screaming in the dark, cobwebbed halls I don’t often visit. The ones I only open up long enough to verify yep, still nasty, still horrible and let a bit of the steam leak out so they don’t explode.

*An A? Just an A? Why isn’t it an A+?
*You’re lazy, you’ll never amount to anything.
*You’re supposed to be a lawyer/doctor! I couldn’t be one, so you have to! Don’t disappoint me!
*That artsy shit will never put food on the table.
*Head in the clouds. You’re lazy and worthless. What are you good for?
*You’ll never make it out in the real world. And you’re not pretty enough to marry.
*Artist? Ha. You can’t even wash dishes right.

Anything that even vaguely smacked of art, or of pleasure, or of culture, or even of happiness, was frowned upon, if not actively beaten into the ground. My love of books was ridiculed, and the books themselves were torn in half, taken away, spat on. My journals were read (except the ones I hid at school, thank you, Madame P, you saved my life) and I was punished for what I dared to write. No grade was ever good enough. Nothing was ever perfect enough.

On my son’s report card: “*Little Prince’s name* has become quite a writer! He often chooses to write during his daily free time. He has three stories he is actively working on, and many more inside his head. It’s great to see him loving writing and reading so much!

The Princess draws anime and manga characters. She’s not quite the voracious reader I was at her age, but she’s actively writing stories and books (including one massive multigenerational could-be-a-huge-ass-manga-series tome that I suspect outweighs War and Peace by now); art supplies are her fondest wish this Yule. “I might not make a living at it,” she says, “but anything’s possible. Hard work can do things! Also, I could be an astronomer.”

They are not afraid to dream, to breathe, to do, to be.

I cried for the child I was, and I cried for joy that my children do not know the suffocation of having their voices stifled. Neither of them can imagine a book being torn, slaps and kicks, being belittled or silenced at home. I am glad beyond words that it’s unthinkable for them. It doesn’t change what I endured, nothing can.

But it gives me hope and strength beyond measure.

If you are reading this, no matter who you are, I have something to tell you: you do not have to be silent. You have a voice, your own voice, and what you can say with it is something nobody else can ever say. It is unique, it is marvelous, and it is all yours. It makes the world a richer place. It can lead you out of darkness and stop the cycle of abuse; it can help you share the happiest life and upbringing as well. You don’t have to write with it–paint, sing, dance, make papier-mache molds of priapic elephants, specialize in Belgian pastries, whatever wonderful thing that makes joy bubble all through you.

During the Winter Solstice when the bright half of the year is reborn, when the planet starts its tilt back toward summer and the nights become a little shorter, when the dreidel spins or the Mars Rover grants us more data about our amazing universe, it never hurts to remind you that even if things are bad now, you will sooner or later have a chance to let your voice free. Keep believing, keep it safe and close inside you if you have to, a coal of resistance.

If you need permission, if you need encouragement, if you need someone to tell you it’s okay, well, consider yourself told, consider permission given, consider this encouragement from the very floor of my being. It is never too late to begin unloosing your marvelous voice, in whatever fashion. You have something to give the world. Write it. Play it. Dance it. Sing it. Keep doing it. Keep writing, keep going, keep doing.

One day it may save someone. And that someone might not be you.

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames, where there are giveaways, sneak peeks, and tons of fun. Check us out!

Good

I dislike this time of year intensely. There’s the idea that you can be a jackass for three-hundred-and-sixty-four, and then make some sort of gesture and have it all be forgiven. Plus there’s the rampant BUYBUYBUY that starts the instant Halloween ends, and the financial stress that makes parents explode at their kids in stores–I’ve seen it over and over again, and I hate it. There’s also the anxiety from my childhood–any Holiday Event was an unmarked minefield, with disaster-shrapnel only a matter of time.

And yet.

There are my kids, who are delighted with any sort of ornament or present, no matter how small. (“Jeez, Mum,” the Princess told me this year. “I mean, I’ve got everything.”) There is the sigh of relief that I am in a completely new place where memories of the times when I was trying to clean up financial messes from the ex aren’t crowding every room-corner. There are the dogs, who don’t care what time of year it is as long as there’s kibble and belly-skritches. There’s my sisters, beaming because they have some time off and can visit. There’s the satisfaction of cooking good things and watching the people I love eat and laugh.

And for a few years now, there’s been a moment when the kids are in bed on the Eve and I take a deep breath and realize there will be no screaming or broken things, no blood, no hideous surprises I’ll have to pay for. That things have, in fact, become steadily better. That I’ve climbed, step by step and reach by reach, up out of a hole so deep and black I never thought I’d see even thin winter sunlight again. There is also the moment when I expect to feel a sick thump of worry, disappointment, and fear…and it doesn’t come. I freeze, looking for the trap, and I cannot see it. Instead, there is only peace. Fragile and frightening as any new thing, but still…peace. I like it.

All that is good.

But I’m still not setting foot inside a store until after New Year’s if I can help it.

Tripwires, Explosions, It’s Only Wednesday

Things I’ve actually said since Saturday:

* “They may be the most harmless people in the world. But that’s a chance I can’t take.”
* “You dumbass, it’s just a hairbrush.”
* “What would you do if you CAUGHT the motherfucker?”
* “I have to stick him in an asylum. He’s too much trouble otherwise.”
* “Oh yeah, give me a baseball bat and make a bunch of people yell at me. No way this could go wrong, right?”
* “Please take your dominance displays elsewhere, I just ate.”
* “Yeah, he humps everything that moves. But that’s one of his better qualities.”

Yessir, it’s been One Of Those Weeks, and it’s only Wednesday. I’ve reached the point in the damn book where I have to go back and cement little bits of what’s already written before I can lunge forward and build the middle of the book where all the tripwires (and most of the explosions) are. Add to that a mountain of housework and the various vexations of single parenting (keeping a straight face has never been so difficult as lately, and keeping my eyebrows from raising when a child thinks I won’t catch them in a stupid fib is just as hard) and the fact that both the dogs are feeling their oats–can it be oats? Feeling their kibble? They’re not herbivores, does it apply?–oh, sod it all, just hand me my tea and let me go mumble about asylums and murder in alt-historical Londinium.

It’s safer for all concerned.

*wanders off, muttering into tea mug*

Cracking the Shell; Vive le Squirl

Ever since before the divorce, I’ve been retreating from blogging. The thought of engaging the world, even at one remove, was unpleasant at best. And then there was the healing, and the website hacking, and the buying of the Chez, and and and.

Of course, as I’ve become busier meeting deadlines for actual money, time to natter on (however amusingly or productively) online has shrunk. I mean, there’s Twitter, too, where 140 characters can invite people into my day. All of this means the ol’ website’s been a bit dusty and cobwebby for a while. It’s probably time to start opening the kimono again (the Selkie knows what that means) and inviting you guys in, very slowly and carefully, again.

Speaking of slowly, I’m also edging my way towards trying to enjoy that black, soul-sucking time of year known as THE HOLIDAYS. This past Thanksgiving was probably the best one I’ve ever had. The further I get away from the heartstopping anxiety of my childhood, the more I can enjoy in a limited fashion some things about this bit of the calendar. It helps that the Chez’s address is not known to several stressmaking individuals, and that I feel a sense of safety in actually owning a house, with all its attendant burdens and despite the fact that it’s the bank that really owns things. (A lawyer friend of mine was trying to explain how I really truly did own the house, but I’m afraid my eyes glazed over and I didn’t believe him. Sorry, CT. Heh.)

But yeah, Thanksgiving. There was ham, and stuffing, and pumpkin bread made from a fairytale pumpkin, and I finally, finally recreated a cranberry-walnut muffin I had once and loved, in loaf form. (The secret? Apple juice, fresh cranberries, and turbinado sugar. I have been working on this recipe for literally YEARS.) Asparagus with butter and Parmesan. Challah bread.

Is that not some fine-lookin’ challah? The kids lobby for it every year, because it’s tasty while fresh and it makes nommalicious French toast the next day when one is a little meh from overindulgence.

It’s also flat-out lovely to have a kitchen with decent counter space and reliable appliances. I didn’t realize how much of my cooking was a matter of jury-rigging an appliance into working at the old place. Honestly, I might have bought this place for the kitchen alone. (I’m kidding. Well, maybe only half-kidding.) I can juggle making pastry, pasta, black bread, and coffee all at the same time.

They are small victories, but they are mine.

I do miss Squirrel!Neo and the gang. The wildlife around here is pretty much under the thumb of fat, short, ill-tempered Napoleon!Squirrel. Although, I have to report there is a limping bluejay I’ve christened Talleyrand, for the glint in his eye and the way he’s always secretly laughing at the tiny screaming furry dictator. The Mad Tortie thinks Napoleon!Squirrel is just the right size for snacking, but for such a rotund creature he is surprisingly agile. Though the first time she scaled the back fence right behind him, he thought he was safe and slowed down–and she piled into him, so that pause probably saved his life.

Of course, Miss B watched both of them fall off the fence with bright interest, and they might have lain there dazed for a while had not Odd Trundles, incredibly excited by this turn of events, launched himself across the yard barking excitedly. “NEW FRIEND! NEW FOOD? NEW FRIEND! *snortwhistle*” That brought Napoleon!Squirrel to his senses and he dashed in the only direction he could, for the left-hand chainlink fence.

The Mad Tortie was wise enough to hunker down and freeze, even in her dazed state. Odd tripped over her in his haste to turn–cornering is not his strong suit–and went tumbling into the fence, which shuddered at the impact. (Bulldogs don’t float. Being amazingly dense–I am not kidding–they sink. Like stones.) And Miss B, whose head-circuits had fused at the sight of a small scurrying thing to chase, bulleted from my side, deadly silent, and barely avoided getting her nose stuck in the chainlink.

Napoleon had managed to squeeze through to the (relative) safety of the neighbors’ yard. (I say “relative” because the neighbors have four cats and are likely to acquire more. DON’T ASK.) He turned around and chittered angrily, and I swear he lifted one plump paw and gave Miss B the finger.

“VIVE LE SQUIRRRRRRREL!” he screamed, and dashed into the rhododendrons.

I wish I could say I was taken aback by this turn of events, but I wasn’t. I suspected–and rightly so–that there was more to come.

The Recurring Day of Odd’s Arrival

Today is the natal day of Odd Trundles. (He wants a cake. I am not so sure.) He’s celebrating by trying to chew everything in my office. I am told bulldogs don’t calm down until they’re two or three years old, which means a lot of sawdust before he becomes a couch potato.

Miss B does not care that today is Odd’s birthday. She believes it is just another day during which she shall torment him mercilessly to teach him his place in the pack, which is firmly at the Very Bottom.Odd, like any adolescent, has a very difficult time with this notion, and resists most mightily. The two of them crash around the house and backyard like huge furry rockets of teeth and growling. Visitors often seem concerned. “Is that normal?” Well, yes, it is. Sound and fury signifying very little. They never truly harm each other, they’re just…loud. Like, those honeymooning neighbors at 3am loud. You’re glad they’re having fun, but still…

It is funny to see short squat little Odd and lean agile Miss B tumbling in a knot. He is (like the movie Gimli) very dangerous over short distances. But sooner or later he decides to stay in one place, and Miss B tears around, coming by in widening or shortening arcs to nip and tangle at him, while he chomps his jaws and returns the favor. It’s obvious they are having a marvelous time of it.

Odd is still as sweet and adorkable as ever. There’s slightly less drool, and he still doesn’t want to go down stairs if he can help it. Well, really, since he’s so front-heavy, I can’t blame him. But still, I’d like it if I didn’t have to carry him to the car whenever we go anywhere. *eyeroll*

“HEY,” Miss B says, nosing me urgently. “LOOK, I DON’T CARE WHAT DAY IT IS. LET’S RUN. YOU WERE SLEEPING ALL NIGHT AND I MISSED YOU. LET’S DO STUFF.”

Odd blinks from his pile of deer antlers. *chewchewchew happyhappyhappy* *snortwhistlegrin*

Guess it’s time to go get started on the day. Happy birthday, Odd. Glad you came by.

Winter, Finally

37F according to the outside thermometer this morning. Which doesn’t sound very cold to those in some other parts of the country, I’m sure. But now that I’m living in a house with real actual central heating, I sort of feel a little thrill at looking at that temperature drop and knowing that we won’t be cold.

Sometimes it’s the little things.

I feel like I’ve just awakened from a sort of shuddering dream. Summer was…well, mostly unpleasant. The nightmare of buying Chez Saintcrow (now that it’s over, I’m glad, and though I love this house I’m not sure I would ever do THAT again) shading into a autumn of settling in, finishing the Cinderella book (again, shhh, can’t say much about that) and a breakup, well, stress has pretty much been my middle name and the writing has suffered. Scraping together enough emotional energy to come back to the work day after day has been a deadly struggle, and even years of discipline haven’t helped as much as I could wish.

But the ice seems to have finally broken. I’m working on the third Bannon & Clare, and moonlighting with a story about trailer-park fae. No lie–the hero lives in a trailer park, and his world is weird, dangerous, and wonderful. It’s my reward for getting through each day’s work–more work! And I’m happy to have it so.

Spring/summer’s generally seen as the bright half of the year, full of renewal and growth; autumn and winter as the dark half, restful and consolidating. I’m thinking instead that this will be the winter of my renewal–made glorious by a son of spork, or something.

It’s good to be back. Now I have to write an invalid’s temper tantrum and a girl fencing with the Queen of Faerie. This is going to be fun…