Fiction Writing: Child vs. Adult

My very first computer was one my mom and dad had discarded because it was a few years out of date. I had used it for a awhile before that to check email and surf anime websites and to write the occasional middle school paper. I was just getting into the upswing of the anime lifestyle at the time: watching the afternoon showings of Sailor Moon, Cardcaptors, Dragonball Z, and for many more years than I should have, Pokemon.

At school, I got top grades, but it was more because I was a perfectionist than a decent writer/reader. I loved to read books, but I tended to read them all too quickly. I was quiet and withdrawn, and at the time had only one friend. Who wants to be friends with the wacko who imitates Charmanders on the school bus?

It’s approximately at this time that I stumbled upon the illustrious FanFiction.Net. I was in anime heaven. There were literally millions of stories to read; not only that, but I had the honor of letting the authors know that I enjoyed their hard work by clicking a button called “review.” All of the stories were based on characters and worlds that I was already acquainted with. So what if the grammar was a little odd sometimes? These were stories written by amateurs, with the sole intent of being written for their (and by extension, my own) enjoyment.

After I’d read about three hundred stories (and no, I am not joking), I began thinking about writing my own. So began my foray into story-writing, which would last me throughout more than a decade. I still cringe to even look at my very first story, a Dragonball Z fan fiction about a little girl named Angel. I will leave it at that, because I don’t want ya’ll’s eyes to bleed reading it.

I wrote it in basically a month, sitting down at my computer from the time I got home from school until about one or two in the morning. I was constantly thinking of new ideas, writing them down so that I wouldn’t forget. The plot meandered all over the place, because I had no idea what an outline was back then. I started on another story right after that, and kept going and going. Most of the time, I didn’t finish what I started. The ones that did get finished are still posted on that amiable website under my assumed names. A handful of them still receive reviews occasionally, mostly from kids between the ages of 12 and 16 who don’t know that my early work sucked.

Over those years, however, I managed to develop and hone habits that would carry me on through high school and into college. My writing skills increased phenomenally. My reading skills, too, but to a lesser extent. I learned what a character was, how to give him or her more than just a pretty exterior and clothes of my own imagination. I learned to give him a scar and a story with the scar; to give her a unique name and a reason that her mother insisted upon it at her birth.

I learned to give Jirkle the half-demon a rubber ducky tattoo from a drunken night out, after which he would continually call the woman he secretly loved his “Ducky.” I learned to give him a womanizing personality that is more endearing than annoying (though Ducky wouldn’t say so!).

I learned to outline my stories before I begin, to touch it up as I go along to give the story a solid foundation on which to stand.

Now, as an adult, I write for my continued enjoyment. Unlike those early years, however, the ideas aren’t flowing freely onto the computer any more. I’m more cautious about what flies from my fingers. Sometimes I wish for those carefree days of bliss, where the only reward I ever hoped for was a review from a fellow writer.

I’ve grown some thicker skin, too. The regular fiction world is a harsh place, though I would argue that since my time there the fan fiction world has gotten a lot more so. Now there’s Canon to deal with, on top of the grammar nazis and flamers and idiots. I still delve back into that world through Harry Potter fan fics, because I adore what they can do with such a simple story. At least with regular fiction, most people are trying to help you avoid embarrassment.

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Childbirth Prep Class

Today, I attended a childbirth preparation class with Brian. I think it may have scared him a little bit because he kept asking if I was still okay with all this. I must admit, it makes me laugh that he thinks that I’m really THAT frightened.

I’m not scared of the actual childbirth process. I know it will be painful. I know that I will probably be about to strangle everyone in the room. I know that every woman is different and that every birth is different. But I also have a rough guess of what is going to come, and for me that is all it takes to alleviate (most) of my fears.

It’s the after part that frightens me. It’s the part where I don’t even know how to hold a newborn, other than I know you have to support her head because her neck isn’t strong enough yet. It’s our precarious financial standing, the too-numerous amount of animals in both houses, dealing with my mother and his mother and trying to explain that they are grandparents, not parents, and that Brian and I have final say in what is taught to our daughter. It’s not knowing how I’m going to react as a new mother.

The class just gave me a broader look at how things are going to happen during the birth process. It gave me a much clearer picture of what labor will be like. More importantly, it gave Brian the reasons I haven’t been able to voice to him about why I want him there with me. Why he is just as important in that room as the nurses and doctors are.

It’s also given me a very clear image of just how little I have been able to voice to him. Just how much I do not communicate through my voice, just how much I hope that people just “pick up on” in the long haul. I’m sure someday Brian will be able to figure out most of what I’m trying to say, before I say it. But right now we’ve only been together a year and he still misreads things. He’s gotten really good at telling me what I need to work on (like saying what I mean instead of sugarcoating it to the point where I say something completely different).

I admit: I write quite a bit more clearly than I have ever spoken. It’s part and parcel to having such a limited group of social interaction. It’s not my mother’s fault that I stopped hanging out at other kids’ houses at a very young age. It’s not her fault that I closed in on myself, into the books, into the writing, into the art, rather than taking the time to express myself verbally too. There are times I wish she had encouraged me to go over to my friends’ houses rather than save the gas to keep me home.

The childbirth prep class taught me a lot about things related to the birthing process, but more than that it taught me just how much I need to start focusing on verbalizing what I want. More than that, it taught me that I need to figure out what I want. Where I stand. Why I’m there. I need to start working out the me part of my life, rather than focusing so much on others. How else will I be a good role model for my daughter, if I can’t even reach into my own mind and draw out a decision?

Marker Madness

On August 17, 2010, the city of Wichita, KS, passed a law that prohibits a person from carrying “implements of graffiti” within 100 feet of any public building. These “implements” are defined in the ordinance as follows:

…(e) ‘Graffiti implements’ means any aerosol paint container, broadtipped
marker, gum label, paint stick or graffiti stick, etching equipment, brush or
any other device capable of scarring or leaving a visible mark on any natural or
man-made surface.

The preceding a-d defines the mentioned implements, but it is the last line that truly strikes home. They are calling ANYTHING that can make a visible mark an implement of graffiti. As an artist, I carry broad-tipped markers and Sharpies in my pocket almost all the time. This means that, if a police officer were to look in my pockets, I would be arrested for carrying basic art supplies.

The punishment for said crimes?

(b) Any person violating the provisions of this chapter shall be guilty
of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not
less than two hundred fifty dollars or more than one thousand, or by imprisonment
for not more than six months or by both such fine and imprisonment.

For carrying a MARKER. 250 dollars for carrying a marker. A misdemeanor on my record. Six months in prison. This is not the answer to graffiti. This is an obstruction of basic human rights via freedom of speech, freedom of expression in its legal forms. I am appalled by the audacity of the lawmakers in this city. A lot of the ordinance applies more to minors, part of which keeps them from obtaining these supplies unless they have a class that specifically requires them. My little brother is an artist, too, and he has several art classes. But he carries Sharpies as surely as I do for the purposes of marking up his notebooks and such.

WHY is it that people believe that restricting access to these supplies will make less graffiti? The criminals will just keep doing it because they don’t have an incentive not to do it. They have no positive reinforcement. Some of them are actually splendid artists. Why doesn’t the city hire them to beautify public buildings? Why not provide places they CAN go to? These things have not been tried. Why fill up the over-full prisons with people who don’t belong there?

If you’d like to support ongoing efforts to stop this idiotic law, please join the Facebook group “Marker Madness,” linked at the bottom. The full text of the ordinance is also linked.

(I hope these links work…)

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=101082009952787&ref

http://wichitaks.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=858&meta_id=66752

Curiosity About Pregnancy

Before I ever graduated from high school, I decided that I didn’t want to date because I didn’t want to have kids (because for some God-awful reason, men cannot date a woman without the end result meaning sex). Both those notions quickly flew out the window a few years later. So, here are some curiosities I had about pregnancy that I’m finding the truth of now that I’m nearing the end of this one.

Your belly button does not always reverse. I know, I know, this is totally laughable, but in every image I’ve ever seen of a woman who is pregnant, her belly button is reversed. This seems to be the trend in women whose stomachs get enormous. I’m still not convinced that it’s the skinny-mini women who have this happen. I got pregnant when I was 255 pounds and lost a considerable amount of that weight in the process. (Don’t worry, I’m gaining roughly two pounds a week now). If the sonogram technician’s initial guesstimate is correct and I AM due on the 28th of this month, tomorrow is 38 weeks exactly. I am not very large by any means.

Stretch marks are not always apparent. Unfortunately, with my yo-yo-ing weight over the past four or five years, I already had a group of pale white stretch marks. They don’t seem to have gotten any larger or darker, though, which is a relief. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t get very much larger than my heaviest weight pre-pregnancy?

Not all women experience morning sickness. Yes, I am one of the lucky 25% of women who do not have morning sickness during the first trimester. I did, however, throw up a few times (three), but I attribute that to taking my pills on an empty stomach. Yes, I am stupid. No, I do not think I will ever believe that taking even a small pill on nothing but a miniature cupcake is okay again.

Lying down when your stomach gets large is uncomfortable. This I didn’t really expect, though I probably should have. Sleeping on my back makes me dizzy. Some internet research has suggested to me that it’s bad for me to sleep on my back because there’s some artery that feeds oxygen to the baby and me that her weight interferes with. The dizziness coincides with that notion, so I only sleep on my sides. My stomach stretches in either direction and my upper pelvic bones become painful after too long laying on one side or the other. This might be the contributing factor to the next curiosity.

Sleep comes easily, but too often. I’m constantly asleep, it seems like. I can stay asleep for only three or four hours at a time before needing to wake for one reason or another. Sometimes I can’t readily get back to sleep because I need food or my legs are too restless. Almost as soon as I’ve eaten or taken a short walk, though, I can fall right back to it. I think it has something to do with not being able to lay still for more than half an hour at a time.

It’s a bad idea to try and ignore cravings. Almost immediately upon a craving strike, I need to start looking for a means to gain access to it. Trying to ignore it only makes it worse. Trying to “replace” it with something else makes it three times more so. For example: I crave ice cream. I try to replace it with frozen yogurt. In order to satisfy the craving, I must now eat twice as much ice cream AND I have the frozen yogurt to contend with, too. And now I’m overly full up on sweets. Yes, best to just indulge the craving to begin with. Some others I’ve had: hot dog with mayo and honey BBQ, spinach salad with dried cranberries, dark red kidney beans, cheese, and ranch dressing, tuna salad with green grapes, and Mexican food. ANY Mexican food seems to work.

Anniversary of Nagasaki

For those who are disinclined to remember history for any number of reasons, today is the 55th anniversary of the atomic bombing on Nagasaki. A B-29 dropped the bomb, codenamed Fat Man, on the city at about 1100 am local time. There are several moral issues surrounding the Nagasaki bombing, as opposed to the Hiroshima bombing three days prior.

As a military brat and as a lover of Japanese history and culture, I know that the Hiroshima bombing was a military necessity. The Japanese people, though I love them dearly, would have drawn out the fighting, causing the loss of many more lives from many more nations. However, the bombing on Nagasaki should have been postponed until after the forecast bad weather had cleared up, giving the Japanese more time to surrender. Originally, the drop had been planned for five days, not three, after Hiroshima.

Hiroshima was a military headquarters, as was Nagasaki, to a point. Nagasaki, however, was a port city, and though important during the war for its industrial involvement, could have easily been converted into a major trade center instead. With the impending surrender of the Japanese government, these changes could have occurred even before the end of the war on the western front.

Nagasaki was of a more traditional Japanese build, with wooden houses and wooden beams, tile roofs. The industrial aspects of the city had been built right alongside the old-style buildings. A medical school was located there, along with schoolchildren. I think someone was listening in the briefing rooms, because the only other attack on Nagasaki occurred little more than a week before — prompting the evacuation of many before the atomic bomb fell.

Present-day Japan would be a much different place if the second bomb had never fallen. For one thing, the traditional leadership of the Japanese people (called kokutai) would have continued, leaving an Emperor at the head of the nation instead of a Prime Minister. There would have never been occupation of the islands, in which nearly every aspect of traditional Japanese life was changed. Prostitution would never have risen to the heights it did (and in some areas of Japan, they still are relatively high).

There would have never been a “Peace Clause,” followed by a desperate urging during the Cold War by the U.S. for the Japanese to re-arm themselves.

Then again, to quote the Japanese themselves… “shikata ga nai” or “nothing can be done about it.”

Only God Can Unfold the Rose

Plans change, people change, and the world as you know it changes when you get pregnant with your first child. I’ve noticed this particularly in my situation, where the timing of my pregnancy could not have been worse – and yet I am completely happy with it. It isn’t so much that I suddenly changed personalities, but it’s more like suddenly I have more confidence as a woman.

For instance, it was I who proposed to my fiancé. Rubbish with all the traditions. I asked for what I wanted, no more, no less. We had been talking about it for months before I ever found out I was pregnant, but we’d both agreed that we wanted more time to get to know one another. His reaction to my pregnancy – this stubborn, genuine, often opinionated man – forced me, the just-as-stubborn, just-as-opinionated, but lacking in the decision-making department of a woman, to make a decision. No, not the decision of whether to marry me, but the one of whether to keep the baby.

I knew very well that I couldn’t kill her. I may be an advocate for women’s choice in abortion, but that is one choice I would never make for myself.

It took me all of half an hour to agonize over how a baby would change my life – change our lives, change my parents’ lives, even change my brothers’, as little as I thought they would even be interested in being uncles at the time. I thought about how my mother would take it – I was already living at home, jobless, and I’d somehow gotten myself pregnant. I was never certain how my father would, and there was a point where I panicked that I would be out on the street. I knew both Brian’s folks would be thrilled, if not so much with him or me as with having a grandbaby right in town to spoil rotten. Never mind that mom said later that neither set of parents would have allowed the baby to go up for adoption outside of the family – it was simply out of the question.

My very first priority was to triple the search for a job, for both myself and my fiancé. I thought more about things, made more contingency plans; even as I waited to tell my father that he was about to be a first-time granddaddy. (Obviously, I’m still living at home.) I knew from the beginning of our relationship that I would be the main provider of a family for my fiancé and me. It’s not because Brian won’t work, but because, for a variety of reasons, it is exceedingly difficult for him to get work. It causes no end of hurt pride on his part, but I’d actually prefer one of us stay home with the baby.

My financial know-how, learned from experience and from others’ experiences from years of financial stupidity, has been enough to carry us on 600 dollars a month for the past three months. I think that, once I am a teacher, I will be able to make things work. Even a starting wage of 18 grand a year will be plenty enough for me.

A world that was never very kind to me has suddenly opened up to the land of opportunity that America once was touted as. You would never imagine the kind of things that change when people find out that you’re having a baby, your first baby, and you don’t have much. My baby girl is set, almost, for her first couple weeks of life. All that remains is a car seat to bring her home in, and I may yet be able to get that on my own.

I had expected to run into purists who did not agree with my decision to become pregnant before marrying Brian. I had expected rudeness and malcontent. Instead I have faced nothing but arms-open support from every direction. It has reaffirmed my belief that the human race is actually decent at heart, and reaffirmed my belief in God. For only God could put me in a situation that I had never believed I would be in and make me a stronger person for it. As the song goes… “Only God can unfold the rose.”

Tex-Mex Lasagna

Lasagna is one of my absolute favorite dishes. I love the simple sheets of pasta, the tomato sauce, the risotto cheese, the hamburger meat, and whatever cheese I decide to throw on top (usually a blend of mozzarella and mild cheddar). But the recipe I want to share with you today isn’t traditional lasagna. There isn’t even any pasta in it.

I use the term extremely loosely, considering that it normally refers to the dish I related above. It means “cooking pot” in Greek, so technically it could be any dish at all.

The story behind my Tex-Mex Lasagna comes in from the days my brother would bring home enchiladas from his friend’s house. I LOVE enchiladas, especially the ones made from a Mexican mother’s hands. She gave me the recipe, but I always found it really hard to roll the enchiladas. It was really time-consuming.

So I started trying to figure out a way to make the enchiladas without having to roll them. I finally figured out a way to do so by layering the tortillas, meat, sauce, and cheese (veggies optional), rather than rolling the meat and cheese inside of the enchilada.

Now, the reason I didn’t call them enchiladas: The word itself means a rolled tortilla with meat inside. Hence, Tex-Mex Lasagna. I will forewarn you that I tend to eyeball a lot of stuff, particularly my spices and cheese. When I make this, I use anywhere from 2 cups of cheese to 6 cups; sometimes I only need one can/jar of enchilada sauce, sometimes I need three. It’s all about taste and the size the pan and how many people I’m going to end up feeding. With that said…

The recipe is fairly simple:

3 teaspoons oil, separated (canola or corn works best)

1 pound hamburger meat

2 cans/jars of enchilada sauce

Appr. 50 corn tortillas

2-6 cups of Mexican-style cheese

Spices: Chile powder, black pepper, basil, oregano, garlic powder, chives, all to taste.

Optional:

1 onion, chopped

3-4 green onions, chopped

1 bell pepper (red, green, yellow, orange?)

Use any other peppers you like, to taste. I cook for a family without a spicy appetite, so I leave out these.

Fry the onion and bell pepper in one teaspoon oil till the onions are translucent, then add hamburger meat. Cook through. Add spices in the meat. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the remaining oil in the bottom of a 13×9 pan, followed by a little enchilada sauce. Put in 9-12 tortillas, just to cover (it’s okay if there are holes). Drain the meat, then spoon some on top of the tortillas.

Put more tortillas on top and enchilada sauce on top of those, just to cover. I put cheese on top every layer, but you don’t have to. Repeat this layer until you come to the top of the pan. The last layer should cover any remaining meat mixture, followed by sauce, and then cheese.

Place in the oven until the cheese melts (20-45min). Put green onions on top and bake for another five minutes. Pull it out, cut it up, and it’s ready for noms! =D

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