Thursday, October 25, 2012

The gift of giving

Last night as we were driving home from our slightly belated anniversary dinner* we somehow got on the subject of presents. It wasn't because of our anniversary, because honestly we don't really get each other gifts for that pretty much ever. I think we were talking about his birthday which is in two weeks.

Anyways, I was mentioning something about having gotten him his gifts already and he began to pout. Not because I had gotten him gifts, but more because I always get him cool gifts and he is lucky if he can manage to pick something off of my Amazon list. While this is true, I have never minded. I have an Amazon list for just such reasons.

The thing is though, he is right. I am pretty awesome at giving gifts. It is like some sort of super power I possess. I can always seem to manage to find something heartfelt, cool, unique, or all of the above. Now I do have my share of truly generic gift givings, but really one or two awesome gifts buys you more than a few DVD birthdays.

I will give a few examples of my gift giving-foo in case you don't believe me.

One year for Christmas I bought the husbeast a record. Yes an actual record. This was not any ordinary record though. No, this was a copy of one of his grandfathers records. I wrote an entire post about this at one point. It was super awesome because he had never heard his grandfather's music before.

Last year for his birthday I bought the husbeast a beautiful top of the line bowler hat all the way from England. He loves that sort of thing, I mean seriously loves it. He squeed when he saw it.

I have a couple of other examples that come to mind, but I don't want to say them because they are all gifts that are being given this year. I don't want to spoil the surprise after all.

I guess I am really just good at it because I pay attention. I am always quietly sitting in the background listening and watching. I hear when people make off handed comments about things they adored in childhood, or things that they think are amazing. Or just getting to know someone well enough that I know what sort of things would really be the perfect thing for them.

Really when it comes down to it though, I love giving gifts. I truly love the act of gift giving. The perfect gift and the way a person reacts is the best thing in the world. Seeing their eyes light up and the look of genuine awe and joy on their faces makes everything so incredibly worth the time and effort it took to figure out what to get and to find it.

*The husbeast came down with a stomach virus Monday night and was completely unfit for going out on our anniversary, so we delayed it for a day.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Marriage is what brings us together today...

Eight years ago today I got married.

I would love to post pictures of our wedding, but there aren't any that I am aware of.

So instead I will tell you the pictures that are in the photo album in my brain.

-I stand in the empty shop at TRF with a bouquet of daisies clutched in my hand peering out through the cracks in the door at the darkness trying not to shake from nerves as B calmly pets my arm.

-The entire seating area of the Castle stage seems to be filled with people, their smiling faces turned to me as I make my way toward the stage. An old makeshift cage on wheels sits at the back and the husbeast is inside with heavy metal shackles on watching me approach. Someone thought it was funny to keep him from 'escaping' the wedding.

-It is dark despite the flood lights on the stage. Four of my best friends stand in a circle around us. The air is full of tiny bubbles as the people have decided to use the little bottles they were handed during the ceremony instead of at the end. One largish bubble floats up and hovers between us. For a moment I can see him inverted through the soapy orb.

-Paul wraps a cord around our hands binding us together and I realize his hand is trembling as much as mine is.

-There is a misspoken word in the ceremony and Paul says "You will now give up sheep" instead of "give up sleep". It only takes a few seconds before the highland gamers in the audience begin bleating like sheep and everyone is reduced to a fit of giggles.

-We move up the aisle under an arch of swords still tied together, laughing with joy and relief.

-A cake in the shape of a spider is produced as someones idea of a joke for the grooms cake. The husbeast looks at it horrified and without hesitation sinks the cake knife into its large grey frosted head. The white icing from the wedding cake that had remained on the knife oozes from the wound making it look like the spiders brains are leaking out.

-We sit curled into one another on a stone bench under the East Texas starry night. Our friends run about laughing and shouting throwing water at one another having a grand time. Laughter and happiness fill the air.

-A tiny scrap of notebook paper with my vows to him written in pencil is carefully folded and tucked into his wallet behind his ID like the most treasured possession in the world.

It wasn't a traditional wedding. I had no dress, he had no suit, everything was sort of slapped together. There was no first dance or tossing of garters and bouquets. There were none of the things that I had always dreamed of for a wedding.

At the end of the day though I was his wife and he was my husbeast. In the end that was all that mattered, and all I had ever really dreamed of. I wouldn't trade those images in my mind for all the fluffy white dresses and fondant covered cakes in the world.

Friday, October 19, 2012

We salute you

Nearly every day on my way home from work I get stopped at the same red light. It is just one of those ill timed lights that always is just turning red as I come around the corner. It is not a particularly long light and it is not so close to the house to be frustrating, it just is. Still this is not any ordinary red light.

This particular light is at a corner where there is a small hair salon that has decided that the most effective form of advertisement for their cheap hair cuts is to have someone standing on the corner holding a sign. This guy isn't one of those fancy sign spinners or dressed up in some ridiculous costume. He is just a guy with a sign.

Alright so he is a guy with a sign who is most often shirtless and dancing poorly to the music in his head. I suppose that in itself makes him eye catching. I mean I always notice him, and I do know his sign says $9 hair cuts in big green letters, so I would have to say their advertising budget is in some way being well spent.

The thing is though, I try desperately never to look at this guy because he is embarrassing. I mean he doesn't embarrass me per se, more that I am embarrassed for him. I mean standing in a stupid costume is degrading enough, but at least it seems legitimate. I mean they paid him to stand in the dumb costume so you know its a thing.

I somehow doubt his job description included 'rip off your shirt and gyrate like some aging rock god on the side of the road'. I am pretty sure they just said hold the sign and wave to people. He had other things in mind though. Of course if I was having to stand on a street corner for hours on end holding a sign I would probably get inventive with what I did too. I wouldn't take my top off or dance, but I am sure I would do something odd.

I keep trying to tell myself I wouldn't be so embarrassed for him if he was really attractive with his shirt off or a really good dancer, but he is neither of these things. I mean I am not covering my eyes and thinking 'Dear gods put your shirt on their are children in the area'. He is not offensive in his looks, but he is certainly not on my list of men to watch walk around shirtless. He has a bit of a beer belly which I am sure is cute and endearing to someone closer to him.

His dancing is also really bad. It is the type of thing that if you saw in a club you would point, laugh, and move away from. It goes from bad air guitar to what I assume is supposed to be provocative or sexy in some way. It is mostly disturbing and sad. It makes me want to turn away. Every time he rubs his poochy belly or slaps his own ass I cringe inside.

Of course he is either unaware of his faults or really just doesn't care. I suppose if I was needing money enough to do his job I wouldn't care either. In that thought alone I have to say that I think that guy, as embarrassing and awkward as he is, is pretty damn awesome. He is doing what he has to do and is not embarrassed or ashamed in the least. In fact I don't think he knows what the word shame means.

So here's to you awkward dancing sign guy. You rock on with your bad self.

I may sit over here, divert my eyes, and be embarrassed for you, but I still salute you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dental damn

Last night I spent the entire night dreaming that I needed to pee, smelled bad and needed a shower, and was exhausted and wanted to sleep. Needless to say when I finally forcefully dragged myself from the bed that I went to pee and then crawled into the shower wishing very much that I could go back to sleep. It really isn't the best way to start the day off you know?

Work is annoyingly dull as usual. I have a double batch of evictions to process this week since I missed two days last week while I was sick. One eviction file is enough to make me go cross eyed, two files is enough to make me want to punch someone. Even my iPod isn't making today go by faster.

I have a dentist appointment this afternoon which isn't helping anything either. It is just a routine cleaning. I say that as though dental cleanings were something that have been routine for me in the last decade and a half. Honestly I have seen the dentist more in the last 9 months than I have in the last 10 years.

They have me coming in for cleanings every 3 months and I can't say I am happy about this. It isn't that I necessarily think that this is excessive considering the state my mouth was in last December. The thing is I don't want to spend the money on it. I have dental insurance which is great, but sometimes I have to wonder how much it is helping. Reading Swistle today made me realize that this is all bothering me.

Last week we got to pay  nearly $1000 to put a crown on the husbeast and take care of one filling. He has three more fillings and 8 wisdom teeth to be pulled still. That is going to be close to another $4000 with insurance which I find to be a little ridiculous. I mean if that is what it is like to do things with insurance I am surprised there aren't more toothless people in this country.

Also that was not a typo earlier. The husbeast has 8 wisdom teeth. Two full sets. Isn't he lucky? He also metabolizes pain killers very quickly so it has been determined they are going to have to knock him smooth out in order to pull the teeth. Not cheap but necessary.

Anyways, I am less than thrilled about missing two hours of work to go pay $150 for a cleaning, which will be my third cleaning this year. I am considering telling them they can't flouride my teeth or irrigate them. The irrigation is them simply directly squirting some super mouthwash on my gums and then giving me the bottle to rinse with for a week. This costs more than $50. I already have two bottles of this stuff at the house. I don't need to spend a weeks gas money on another bottle thank you very much.

Of course this means arguing with my dentist. I don't think I am smarter than her, and it is not that I think she is trying to scam me or anything, I just am trying to be reasonable here. I still have the mouthwash, I will rinse with it for the next week if that is what she wants, I just don't want her to charge me for more of this stuff. Does that sound like I am being unreasonable?

I am just happy that my sinus infection is almost completely cleared up. I couldn't imagine trying to do this appointment and not being able to breath through my nose. I am certain that somehow the lingering snottyness will make it less than pleasant.

Ohh well what can I do? Turns out I like having teeth. I just wish it weren't so damned expensive.

Monday, October 15, 2012

It takes a village

I have often heard people say that it takes a village to raise a child. I think that while this is not always true, that when it is true the child truly benefits from such an upbringing. All of those different minds helping to shape and mold a child is a wonderful thing. They benefit not only from their parents life wisdom, but so many others.

I was lucky enough to have a lot of family involved in raising me. My mom brother and I lived with my grandparents and were very close with my moms siblings and their spouses. I had mom and gram and two aunts and two uncles fairly active in my upbringing and am ever so thankful for it. I am who I am because of them.

From my mother I learned how to be crafty and work with my hands. I learned that I could make anything out of anything if I just took the time to figure out how to do it. I learned to wake up with a song on my lips. I learned how to be strong and independent. I learned that I should always keep striving for what I want. I learned that being something simple is good as long as you do it the best and with all of your heart. I learned there is nothing I can not overcome.

From my gram I learned how to be poised. I learned how to have grace and composure. I learned how to be gracious. I learned about good taste. I learned how to make food infused with love. I learned how to keep a straight face. I learned that things aren't always what they seem but no one needs to know that. I learned that everyone is flawed and that just makes them be so much more beautiful.

From my Aunt Mary I learned how to be fun. I learned from her that rules were meant to be broken. I learned that your ideas can be worth much more than you realize. I learned that a silly song could make everything better. I learned ice cream for breakfast was alright. I learned that laughter and love make a life better.

From my Uncle Brian I learned how to be absurd. I learned that there was nothing that was not possible. I learned that not even the sky could limit me. I learned to take risks and be bold and be wild. I learned that my imagination was my greatest tool.

From my Uncle Bob I learned that every idea was special. I learned that it was never too late to try something new. I learned that if I like something it doesn't matter if no one else likes it or even understands it. I learned that being a geek could be cool. I learned that you could see such amazing things through someone elses eyes if you will only take the time to look. I learned to always put down my thoughts in words.I learned that no matter how different you thought you were there was a kindred spirit out there.

While there were other family members around growing up, I really do think that these five helped shape me the most. From baking with my grandmother, insane games with Uncle Brian, ice cream for breakfast with Aunt Mary, early internet and Issac Asimov with Uncle Bob, or creative projects with mom, there was never a dull or quiet moment in my childhood. These people filled my life with so many ideas and experiences that have become the foundation of me.

Pretty much when it comes down to it, I am my family, and without them I would not be me.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Closed due to illness

Sorry there has been relative silence on my part this week but I currently am residing in a state of plague. Alright it isn't that bad. I mean I am not having any sort of black spots forming and oozing puss. Nothing like that. Just a good old fashioned sinus infection.

I did however have to go to the ER last night, or was that this morning. Thursday 1 am. Yes, it was this morning. Ok now you are thinking I was lying when I said it wasn't that bad. I suppose the need for the Emergency Room sort of makes it that bad in a manner of speaking. Ok in any reality really.

The thing is I spiked a small 102ish fever around when I went to bed, and that coupled with heavy amounts of decongestants I got severely dehydrated while I slept. Hey don't look at me like that, there is no way to hydrate while you sleep unless you are a fish or on an IV.

Unfortunately when I woke up and realized what was happening I had already hit that yucky point of dehydration where you can't actually drink anything because it makes you want to vomit. You may not know this about me but I don't throw up if I can help it. It's a family thing.

I made the husbeast take me to the ER when I realized I would never be able to hydrate myself. He was not terribly happy about being woken at 1am, but he of course is the good and loving husbeast. He played Bad Piggies on his phone while I slept and let the IV do its job.

After about two hours I woke up and decided I could be nice and turn the TV on for him, but all that was on were infomercials and bad SyFy movies. I couldn't turn it off so we watched a Clive Barker movie in silence. I think it may have improved the movie. Or that could be the fever talking.

Anyways, I was released home and told to take the day off and drink lots of fluids and take a handful of pills that the doctor gave me. I did just what he said and am so glad I did. I still feel shaky and weak but on the upswing.

So this is all to say that I have been sick all week and in no real shape to write anything of significance. Other than this, which I am sure is informative but really rather rubbish in the writing department.

Tune in next week when I hopefully will be all better and will be able to finish off my series on things that influence me and hopefully start on my spooky posts in honor of Halloween.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Me and Earl were hauling chickens on a flatbed out of Wiggins***

I don't even know how to begin this post. I've known I would have to write it since I decided to start this series, but words seem to elude me. I know this post will be long, and I know I will cry through most of it, so I wasn't really sure I was up for writing it. I thought about putting this off to the last, but somehow that doesn't seem right. Sharp was never last.

Have you ever had a person in your life, whether for a brief moment or for many years, that simply was a defining moment in your life? I mean just by knowing them, being around them, having the privileged of being part of their world, they helped make you? I was that lucky.

I have searched for years to find a way to describe Gil Sharp. He was my teacher. He was my mentor. He was my friend. He was so much more though. I am not certain I can ever really describe what he was to me, I just know I would be a different person without having had him in my life.

Aside from my family I think Sharp was the most important person I had in my youth, and had one of the most profound influences on me. I know my mother would agree with that statement so I am not afraid to put it here. Sharp just is undeniable.

My first knowledge of Gil Sharp came through my brother. Sharp was the theater teacher at our high school, and since my brother was a year older than me, he got to meet Sharp first. Things went well at first. My brother was an excellent techie and took to the program easily, or so it seemed.

When UIL* came around there was a disagreement of sorts and Sharp tossed my brother out of his role in the UIL show. My mother, who has always fiercely defended her children when it came to bully teachers, went in and proceeded to rip Sharp a new one. My brother was reinstated, Sharp was publicly chastised, and I saw my High School theater career go up in smoke before my eyes.

I was devastated. I was certain that Sharp would hold the incident against me and my brother and we would never have a roll in the department. The only thing is, Sharp didn't work that way. He wasn't afraid of my mother, he wasn't angry at her either. He respected her. In fact by the time we graduated high school my mom and Sharp were friends.

So needless to say I was taken into the fold as soon as I got to high school and spent the next four years practically living at the theater. Sharp demanded excellence out of all of us and expected us to give 110% at the least. We put in more effort on shows than we did on anything else. Weekends, holidays, summer vacations, late nights, early  mornings, you name it we were there.

He was tough. He was rough around the edges at times. I saw him scream at students, throw chairs, cuss at parents, throw temper tantrums, and be completely insane. I also saw great amounts of compassion and respect from him. I saw brilliance oozing out of him. I saw so much love and passion for his art and for his students.

Sharp used to tell us we were all replaceable. He would shake his fist at us saying he had the perfect one man show and all he needed was a wheel chair, a down spot, and an idiot who could memorize the lines. He would rant at us about not giving enough or not being dedicated. He would tell us we looked like we were waiting for a bus with fish for arms when we would be working on scenes.

Those are the moments, both funny and scary that a lot of people will remember. What I remember is him sitting next to me my senior year after we had most undeservedly lost in UIL. I remember sitting there staring at the stage realizing I would never perform there again. I remember feeling like a failure. I had given more than my all and it was just overlooked again. He sat there for the longest time saying nothing. We just sat there quietly. Then he patted my hand and gave me a small smile.

"You were wonderful." He said quietly. "You deserved an award and they were blind not to give it to you."
I gave him a small smile at his words. He was trying to make me feel better.
"I am so proud of you."

I can't remember if he had ever said that before, or if he ever said it again, but I remember him saying it at that moment. I will always remember that moment. I made him proud, and he meant that.

After I graduated I came back to see Sharp when I could. I didn't make it home from college all that often, but a trip up to the school to see Sharp was always top on my list. I would email him to ask for advice on classes and shows I was auditioning for. I would ask him for cuttings and wardrobe advice. I would just write him so I could hear a friendly voice. Someone who always believed in me.

My sophomore year I was back in Austin for spring break but I didn't go to see him. He was busy with UIL and I was busy with life. I had friends and a boyfriend and a job. I was busy. More time passed and I just was never home and never had time. I was busy. There was always next time.

Only there wasn't.

There never was a next time.

In March of 2003 I started getting emails and phone calls from old high school friends telling me Sharp was sick. He had pneumonia. He was in the hospital. It was bad. I kept thinking how bad could it be? It is pneumonia. People don't die from pneumonia anymore.

Only they do.

And he did.

I remember standing in the doorway of the student lounge at my college theater with tears in my eyes after I got the call. My college had a summer high school workshop that Sharp sent his favorites to so there were several of us going to school there for college. I didn't even know how to say it to the boys. I think they knew by the look on my face though. All I think I got out was his name before I was reduced to tears.

We got to the viewing early. It was a Thursday night and I had to drive all day to get there in time. You could see people clumping together and milling about quietly. There was a cluster of teary eyed teenagers numbering around 20, they were obviously his current UIL group. They looked so lost and shattered. We all did though. It had been four years almost since I was his student, and I felt so suddenly alone. What would I do without him there?

The number of people there that night was impressive. It was hard to tell since people sort of came and went as they pleased, but it was several hundred easily. I recognized a lot of them from school, but there were a lot I had no idea who they were.

The next day though was something that still makes me cry just to think about. His funeral was at noon, and school actually was dismissed so people could attend. Three teachers died while I was in high school and there was never this sort of response.

The church was large and two storied and by the time the service started every single pew was over filled. People stood along the walls and the aisles. The lobby was packed as was the hall outside. I am pretty sure a fire marshal would have shut us down if they had seen it, though I don't think one of us would have moved.

Whispers came through the aisles. Victoria who had been a senior when I graduated had flown in from England. Chris, who graduated the year before I came to school, had been in Chicago without money for a ticket down so a group had gotten together and bought his ticket. Sharp had been at his wedding only a few months before. Bayard who had been a senior with Victoria had apparently walked off set in LA and lost his job to be there. Someone even said that there were students there from his first year of teaching back in the late 70's.

Towards the end of the service the pastor, who was Bayard's mother, asked that Sharps current students, the Golden Mask Players as we were called, to please stand. In the front twenty shaking sobbing kids stood up, clinging to one another.

She then asked that all the M.A.F.I.A.** members present to stand. A large number of people stood. These people who's children had been Sharps students, some of whom were there without their kids, had come after many years to honor him. He was important to them too.

Then she asked all the former Golden Mask Players to stand. The sound of people standing was almost deafening. Only a handful of people remained in their seats. There were hundreds of us. Hundreds. We had flown in from all over the world, some of us at great cost, because none of us could miss saying goodbye.

It was then in that moment, looking around at all those people that I realized that I was not unique. I was not alone. All of these people felt the same way as I did. Sharp wasn't just my mentor. I wasn't the only person who he guided and loved. We were many. We were so many and so much better for having had him in our lives.

I will never think his death was fair. Not because I lost my friend and mentor. Not because I could no longer turn to him for advice or a friendly word. Not because he never got to dance at my wedding like he always said he would. I know that his death was wrong because while he touched so many of us, there are so many more that should have been able to have him there for them.

Sharp taught me so many things. He taught me how to be punctual. He taught me to have pride in my work. He taught me that hard work was necessary to achieve excellence. He taught me that I was worthy of praise. He taught me to embrace my talents. He taught me about beauty. He taught me poise. He taught me how to be classy. He taught me that no matter what to be gracious and polite. He taught me never to boast, always to be humble in public, always encourage others, and never be cruel to someone who has lost. He taught me how to perform and how to lead. He taught me who I wanted to be.

I miss him so much. I am just happy I was lucky enough to have had him at all.

*University Interscholastic League. It is the body that governs all extracurricular competitive activities in the state. Sporting events at the state level, One Act Play competition, Mathletes, all of that stuff. Big deal in Texas. Huge.

** Mothers And Fathers In the Arts, or MAFIA, was the theater parent booster organization. Sharp had a great sense of humor.

***Before every show we did a good show circle, and we would cross our arms and take the hands of the people on either side of us and would pass a squeeze around the circle to get energy going and some focus. While the squeeze was being passed we would tilt our heads back and look at the ceiling and recite what we could remember of 'Me and Earl' as we called it. Sharp had this old recording one of his students made of it while drunk on spring break on year. It wasn't quite the same as the one in the link, but it was close enough. Sometimes I say it to myself because somehow it makes me feel closer to him still.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Music and Lyrics

Moving along in the world of things that make me me, we now progress to actual people. As I think back through the years I am certain I could probably pick dozens of people who made great impacts on my life. I am sure everyone can if they think about it hard enough. I had friends, family, neighbors, and teachers aplenty to help shape me, but there are a few who stand out above all the others.

The first one that comes to my mind, outside of family members, is Helen Fessler. Ms. Fessler was my reading tutor and piano teacher. Really though she was so much more than the woman who taught me to read and pound out a few choppy notes on a piano.

I remember her house was green. It wasn't a bright vibrant green or a dark foreboding green but instead a rich and earthy moss green. The house was two stories and set far back in a slightly older neighborhood close to where my church was. It sat back slightly surrounded by lumbering shade trees which encompassed the house in shadows at all times. Not creepy shadows that bring about visions of monsters, but instead the welcoming shade that beckons you to curl up under a tree and lazily watch the world pass by.

There was always this certain smell to her house. To this day I can't tell you what that smell was but it wasn't unpleasant. It was subtle and probably nothing purposeful, but it was there. It was a welcoming comforting smell. I imagine some people might associate it with the smell of a beloved older relatives house.

The house was always dark. Rarely did we progress beyond the front room, which had the piano in it. Sometimes when my brother was taking his lesson and I was done, I would be allowed to sit quietly in the living room while I waited. I would often sit on the deep pile carpet on the stairs and wonder who this woman was.

All the doors in the house were closed and none of the lights ever seemed to be on. If the curtains weren't drawn there was very little light coming in from the windows because of the trees that surrounded the house. I don't remember ever seeing any family pictures and I don't ever remember there being anyone else in the house. I was so young it didn't occur to me to look or to ask if there was a Mr. Fessler. Looking back now it makes me a little sad I don't know that.

I am not sure how my mother found her, but when I was struggling so hard with reading, she was the solution. I remember going to her house and sitting in the room where the large piano sat in the front window seeming to pull to it the only sunlight that could make it through the trees. We would sit with flash cards and bingo boards and eggs of silly putty for what seemed like forever.

I don't recall much else of what we did in those months, but I remember it was never a chore. Trying to read in school was embarrassing and difficult. It was a burden. With Ms. Fessler it was almost a game. I wasn't trying to read books or sentences I was just reading words. It was very fundamental. It was almost fun.

Then one day I just looked up at a billboard while we were driving along and I could read. I was so excited that I read every billboard or sign we passed. I was amazed and all I wanted to do was to go tell Ms. Fessler.

I think my brother started piano lessons with her before I did, but it wasn't long until I was there as well. I am not a musically inclined creature. I can appreciate it all I like, but I lack any natural sense of rhythm which makes playing music difficult. I couldn't find the beat if my life depended on it. Still, just like with reading, Ms. Fessler was there guiding me along the way.

She found ways to work around my obvious shortcomings with music. I was able to passably play. I was really no good at it at all, but I really enjoyed it. She made me enjoy it. Again it wasn't a chore. It was something I liked doing.

I didn't stick with piano lessons, though to my recollection they lasted several years. My brother probably took them longer than I did. Sometimes I wish I had stuck with it, but I know I was never going to be any good and I needed to focus my energy on things I was good at.

Even though it has been probably two decades since I last sat in Ms. Fessler's parlor in front of the old baby grand piano, I still think of her often. Anytime I pass a piano, whenever I finish a new book, every time I stand in a book store coveting the tomes before me, I think of her.

I think of how proud she would be to see that I developed such a thirst and love of reading. I think of how proud she would be that I have embraced and fostered my penchant for using words. I think of how she might like reading my blog and knowing that she is the reason for it all at the very base of things.

Without her I would have eventually learned to read but I have a feeling it would have been something that I resented and always felt bitter about. I think that I would have never embraced it as a pleasurable past time and only seen it as a burden. I fear that I would have never found the wonder that books and words provide.

She may not have taught me to be a great musician, with notes flying from my fingertips, filling the air with songs that drive people to great emotions, but I give her credit for turning me into a writer. She taught me the fundamentals of words and because of her that is my music. My words are my notes and my stories are my songs.

Thank you Ms. Fessler. Thank you for teaching me to read. Thank you for teaching me to play. Thank you most of all for giving me the tools to make my own music. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

The idiot box

Today we start on a journey through the things and people that have influenced my life to make me the fine upstanding citizen I am today. Seriously don't laugh when I say that. I thought I would start off with something a little light and move into the more sentimental aspects later on. So today I am going to talk about TV.

It shouldn't come as any surprise to anyone that someone of my generation was greatly influenced by the television. I wasn't exactly one of those children who grew up with the TV as a baby sitter. I in fact spent a great deal of time outside playing with friends and getting in trouble. My mother was a firm believer in us not living in front of a television.

That being said, I still spent a lot of time in front of that glowing box of escapism. I was a kid in the 80's and 90's it was bound to happen. I reveled in the joy of Saturday morning cartoons. As I got older I was an avid SNICK (Saturday Night Nick) kid seeing as how Nickelodeon was my TV channel of choice. I never missed TGIF and for years could tell you what the line up had been. When I was a teenager I fell into the WB (Now the CW) as it emerged as a channel full of shows built just for my age group.

The fact that to this day I am still devoted to and highly invested in my TV viewing is not the influence I am thinking about. That habit is one thing, but I am more thinking about how certain shows influenced my likes in every realm of my life.

As I said I watched all of the standard things kids watch. I watched Saturday morning cartoons, all of the popular Nick shows, mainstream sitcoms, and lots of older syndicated shows of times gone by. It was pretty much your standard fare. Almost.

You see I had this habit of finding weird things to watch on TV. Being an insomniac sort of lent itself to finding shows most people miss. At 3am the programming selections were limited to say the least. The number of channels actually showing anything was incredibly limited when I was a child, even with cable at my disposal. Cable back then paled in comparison to cable now.

I remember the first time I saw Doctor Who was on PBS at probably 3am. It was followed by episodes of Star Trek TNG and then episodes of Sailor Moon. All of these were shows I had never heard of and could never find on my own during daylight hours. All of these were shows I was immediately engrossed in, especially the first two.

The simple idea of Doctor Who and Star Trek were thrilling to me. Space travel, time travel, great adventures, companionship, the unknown, fantastical creatures. All of it was just amazing to me. From that strange man with the long scarf in the blue box to Klingons and Captain Picard's shiny head it was all amazing.

Watching these shows sparked a creative fire inside of me. They let me imagine things far greater than myself and my small world. They let my dreams travel further than I ever thought possible. They opened my eyes to the greatest of possibilities.

These were not the only shows though. There was one show, The Oddysey, that was about a boy who fell into a coma and went to this weird world where no one aged beyond 16 and it was run by gangs. Eventually he comes out of the coma but you discover the other kids in his dream world are really other kids in comas. I have no idea where I saw it, and I remember always having trouble finding it, but I was thrilled every time I did.*

Also I remember when I was in 6th grade we used to watch a show in my reading class to teach us about libraries. It was called Tomes and Talismans and was set in the future with aliens and a out of her time librarian was helping kids try and save the human race by finding a lost book. It was campy and poorly made but still I loved it. That was my favorite part of that class.

Each of these shows and so many more like The Secret World of Alex Mack, Animorphs, Space Cases, Ghostwritter, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Eerie Indiana, and probably a dozen more that I am forgetting, all helped to shape me. I mean beyond the fact that I still love all things sci fi, fantasy, and paranormal. Beyond the fact that my reading preferences lean in those directions. Besides the fact that my TV preferences lean in that direction. Those are sort of obvious.

These shows opened me to loving RPGs, comics, theater, improv, ren faires, and circus freaks. These shows were like gateway drugs into a geeky world of endless possibilities. They let me see beyond myself, beyond reality, beyond normal convention. They let me think that there was so much more.

I am thankful for all of these shows for helping shape me. I am thankful that they showed me that I am only limited by my own imagination, and my imagination is limited by nothing.