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If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that sometimes you just need to hit things with swords.  Big sharp swords.  Since I’m a sedentary middle-aged woman, I do it virtually.  After my bout of movie-induced-melancholy last night, the chaos of boxes and packing and housekeeping were overwhelming me, and an email offering a free week of World of Warcraft just happened to appear in my inbox.  Darn you, Blizzard marketing department.  You’ve been spying on me.   

Smashing things feels incredibly soothing right now.  It’s like antidepressants, with sound effects and treasure.  Of course  WoW is a money pit.  After buying the program, you have to subscribe for $15 a month, which means $30 because if I subscribe, Flash will too.   I’m still on my free week, so we’ll see.  I don’t have the latest upgrades and they want to sell me those.  We have so many moving related expenses and I don’t have a regular income yet… but gaming is still way cheaper than therapy.  Not that I’m giving up therapy any time soon.

The last time I played Warcraft regularly was a couple of years ago.  At that time the boys were younger, and didn’t really notice if mom and dad locked their bedroom door at night so we could sneak in some roleplaying.   In the game.  Get your minds out of the gutter.  Now, however, launching the game attracts Kinesis and Entropy like magnets.  “What are you doing?  Why don’t you kill that?  Go climb that tower and jump off!”  The fact that they have their own games to play during quiet time, their own DSs, access to a computer with subscriptions of their own to ClubPenguin and Lego Universe, and in our living room sit an XBox, a Playstation 3 and a Wii does not distract them from hanging over my shoulder and kibbitzing about Cuteypie, my new troll character.  This has led to the development of new geek parenting phrases, such as “Go play your own MMOG! Now!”

There have been some changes in the game in the past two years.  The graphics are better, and I find the gameplay smoother.  Yet it still is a world populated by adolescent males and those who act like them.  Sometimes I just have to turn off the universal chat function.  I prefer to avoid guilds and PVP and just play solo quests, or group up just with Flash, doing lots of crafting along the way.  You know, the girly stuff.  And being in the same room on side-by-side laptops saves a lot of time on chat. 

Of course, computer gaming is a time sink.  I probably could have packed the kitchen cabinets I had my eye on today, but instead I got up and logged on for a while… and then the while grew… and grew.  I’m going to have to set some strict limits if this is going to continue.   The whole time we were watching Dr. Who (and more about that tomorrow) I was preoccupied with wondering where Flash and I would find some level 10+ quests in the Ogrimmar region.  When you can’t focus on the Tardis, you are officially hooked. 

Anyhow, that’s all for tonight.  Gotta go fight some bristleback quillboars.  You know.  Mom stuff.

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This evening once again Flash and Entropy are off playing Magic, and having momentary control of the remote, I made a terrible mistake.  Left alone with Kinesis, I managed to get him off to sleep and started browsing our Netflix recommendations all on my own.  How fun, to see a movie without superheroes that doesn’t need to appeal to any of the boys, young or old, in my life.  Period pieces are one of my favorites, so of course, up came Howards End as a recommendation.  Vanessa Redgrave, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, and a very young Helena Bonham Carter.  How could I go wrong?

I must admit it’s been some years since I read Forster.  I remember enjoying A Room With a View, but my memory might be fuzzy because clearly tonight I waded in over my head.  I understand Foster’s points about universality of experience, humanity, and our need for relationship and understanding, etc, etc, but did the story have to be so damned sad?  

Let’s just say that I have little fondness for what might be called the darker side of fiction. I enjoy light beginnings, perfect endings, and as little unhappy middle as possible.  When I watch a tragic movie I end up brooding and melancholy, as if the characters in the story were people close to me.  In high school I couldn’t finish reading Lord of the Flies, Tess left me weepy and I managed to write a paper on Heart of Darkness even though I skipped any of the darker parts.  I love Shakespeare, but avoid  the tragedies.   Especially that eye bit in Lear.*

Flash, on the other hand, enjoys reading and watching movies about what might be termed the darker side of life.  He claims his life has little drama, so he enjoys some vicariously.   Some people might even think that my lack of true appreciation for tragedy and drama is due to some lack of artistic appreciation, or that as I’ll develop a thicker skin.  Yet I find that the older I get, the less tolerance I have for sad tales in my entertainment fare.  It’s too much like real life. 

I think my colleagues would agree that being a pastor often gives one a close up of the less pleasant side of the human condition.  So many people who are so placid on the outside are from families that are secretly seething with tragedy.   I’m not talking about the many times I’ve witnessed the natural process of death.  I mean the families in which broad smiles mask physical abuse, addiction, sexual violence… even murder.  There are so many situations that are so painful, closer than you’d ever imagine, I can’t seem to find the joy in even a fictional tragedy.  Real ones haunt me.  So help me, I’ll never pump my fist in the air and cheer a bloody death.   It’s the casual cruelty that gets to me every time.

Maybe I’m missing some sort of Schadenfreude gene.  Yet as I write this I look down at the sleeping face of my son and part of me desperately wants to believe that deep down, most of us are basically good, yearning for the true, the just, and the beautiful.  There is too much meanness, too much hate, too much sadness in the world already.  Give me an unbelievable and obvious happy ending any day.  And may we find those endings in real life.

__________________________

*This may be some strange biologically inherited aversion to royal occular mutilation, as according to my Mom we are descended  on our Norwegian side from King Magnus the Blind, who was plain old King Magnus until he had his eyes plucked out by his uncle.  Seriously.

“Quot libros, quam breve tempus.”

We’ve been officially packing for a couple of weeks now, and we are still working on the books.  In fact, we are only about halfway done sorting and packing just the library.

Time for a story:  Years ago in the days B.C. (Before Children), Flash and I moved into a tiny apartment as caretakers of an historic adobe.  We crammed ourselves into the miniscule one bedroom, which of course meant that a significant portion of the bedroom, living room, and kitchen were filled with books.  The previous caretaker dropped by to give us a set of keys.  As he stepped into the living room, he looked around wonderingly and said, “So, who’s the egghead?” 

We both are.  If by egghead he meant “reader”.  After two decades of marriage, the only difference is that we’ve expanded into a much larger house, and acquired Entropy and Kinesis and all of their books as well.

This is the library, halfway packed:

At least, this is one wall of the library.  Then there are the other three walls, and the four shelves in the boys’ room.  And the three in the downstairs hall.  And the schoolroom books–five full bays.  And the books in our bedroom.  Flash only has two, but I have four.  And all of them chock-full of wonderful, beautiful books.  Books that contain stories we love, information we reference, glorious pictures and the wonderful scent of ink on the page.  Heavy, heavy books.   Books that take up space.  Lots and lots of space.

I remember reading Farenheit 451 as a child and trying to figure out what book I would commit to memory in case of post-apocalyptic fascist state takeover.  At the time I was going to be Alice in Wonderland, now I’d probably be a pretty good Pride and Predjudice, but I aspire to be Moby Dick.  If you haven’t read Farenheit 451, now’s your chance to do so. 

Our reservations have been made, and we are indeed going to limit our household goods to 5 storage pods, so most of the books are going to have to go.  In preparation for the move, we’ve ordered iPads for Flash and I, and Kinesis and Entropy will be getting Kindles, particularly for school books.   We spent the day as we have others, picking up armloads of books and trying to decide if they are keepers or going to be sold in our upcoming garage sale. 

The criteria are fairly complex. I’ve had a Kindle for a couple of years in an effort to keep our book purchasing to a minimum, but you can see how that’s worked out.  Even after several moves and prior cullings, we are still inundated with books.  So, if it’s available on Kindle, we’re getting rid of it.  Unless it has really awesome illustrations.  Or is signed.  Or has deep memories associated with it.  Or… OK, no, we’re getting rid of it anyhow.  So we now officially have around 25 boxes of books to keep, and twice that many to jettison.  

Somehow it feels like a sort of betrayal on our part.  Like selling good friends, just because they’ve gotten old and unwieldy.  So many of my childhood memories are tied up with the printed page.  I grew up running from the goblins with Bilbo, being bosom friends with Anne, philosophizing with the Red Queen, solving mysteries with Hercules, sailing the seas of Narnia, and basically consuming stories at an astounding rate.  Now seeing them go is difficult.  Even painful.

Yet I keep telling myself that it is the words I love, not the paper.  The printing press is merely one technology to share information, and though my Kindle may not smell of ink, I can be just as lost in the story.  Circumstances are forcing our transformation, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.  Having an entire library that I can carry in my purse is pretty awesome.  I’m still not ready to give up my notebooks and fountain pen for Evernote on my iPhone, but who knows… perhaps some day.  Or maybe not.

Just for fun, here’s Flash’s side of the bed. 

Stick around, and one day I’ll post about the 50,000 or so comic books in the garage and how many of the 5 moving pods they will fill.  Sigh.  He really is a great guy.

May the Fourth…

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.  — Carl Jung

Yes, it is indeed that geekiest of holidays: Star Wars Day.  In our family that means an all-day full length marathon of Star Wars movies.  Of course, Flash and I disdain the new three, so the kids watch Jar-Jar and the adults wait for the real thing.  The fact that after over (ahem) thirty years of watching the film we know most of the lines by heart doesn’t seem to reduce the fun.

Except–if you’ve been paying attention, you know this whole “change my life, move across the country, engage life anew” blog inspirational thingy was originally spawned by my own diagnosis with severe depression.  And the problem with severe depression is sometimes it crawls back and bites you on the ass.  Today was not a good day.  I had horrible nightmares all night, and by the time morning came I was ready for a full-fledged withdrawal from the world and an overly melodramatic cry. 

So I coped.  Maybe not as well as possible, but I made it out of bed and not a tear escaped.  I even joined my kids for part of the first trilogy–although if anything is able to induce depression, George Lucas’s take on the prequel to one of the great mythological pieces of the 20th century will certainly do so.   If there is any point to my ramblings this evening, it is that the loss of joy that happens when your brain goes awry is truly incomprehensible.  Me?  Not enjoy Star Wars?  How is that possible?  For almost 20 years I’ve been dealing in a professional capacity with people suffering from depression, but I just never really got it.  Well, I get it now.  It sometimes feels like life will never be the same again, as if someone has mysteriously changed the world from full HD color to a grainy black and white. 

Perhaps that is what inspired my incredibly ambitious plan of jettisoning our worldly possessions and spending the summer travelling across the country.  I’m looking for something to remind me of the color, the joy, the simple pleasures that have become difficult for me to grasp at times.  Some days it is there, and then others like today I wake up and it slips through my fingers like smoke. 

And, of course, may the force be with you.

My experience of the past two years and my ultimate social and mental defeat (albeit temporary, I have hope)  has led me to reflect on what I have discovered about the nature of  community.  Strangely, for someone who has spent her entire adult life employed by churches (dare we say, “church communities”) I’ve always struggled with finding true community.  A place where the metaphorical masks come off.  It’s not that I don’t have a wonderful family, fantastic friends… but those I am closest to are all members of a very small subculture.  Geek tribe.  Ironically, a place where literal masks sometimes go on.

Now, you may say that I might have to be more specific about my allegiance.  That the real geeks are (choose your personal favorite):  comic geeks, science geeks, cosplay fans, hobby boardgamers,  computer nerds, anime otaku, schoolgirl goths, nerdcore rappers, yaoi readers, SCA reenactors, old-school role-playing gamers, sci-fi fanatics or anyone who owns any sort of t-shirt referring to the above.  It’s a cross-section of geekery like you only see at Comicon.  And… it’s my tribe.  And if you have any idea what I’m referring to above, it’s most likely yours as well.  Yep.

As I’ve struggled the past two years to create lasting friendships in a new community, I’ve realized that ignoring my own geek tendencies only compounds the problem.  I live a double life–pass for vanilla by day and then come home and have fun with my family.  So one of my dreams is that as we travel across the country, as I journey into where and what I want to be, I am able to be authentically… me.  Just me.  The woman who spent much of the past week jailbreaking her iPhone so it looks like a Star Trek TNG Padd.  It’s fantastic.  Regardless of whatever stars the other sneeches have on thars.  Isn’t that part of the human condition, how God created us to be?  And, importantly, I must ask the obvious question:  Can I be myself and still find ministry in my life? 

Tonight I’m having Mommy/Son time with Kinetic.  We are watching favorite movies like the original Indiana Jones and a couple of Harry Potter movies, plus he spent some time playing Oblivion while I watched.  Ice cream is involved.  We’re going to “sleepover” on the couch and watch movies until we fall asleep. 

  We’re able to have this together time because Flash and Entropy are out at one of their favorite   Friday night events–Magic The Gathering league play at the game store.  It is mostly attended by men from their 20s to middle age, but 9 year old Entropy fits right in.  Tonight he wore his Requeza hat.  (That’s a Pokemon, for the uninitiated.)  He’d worn it all day.  Entropy was amazingly well-behaved, asking people’s names, introducing himself, shaking hands.  Then it happened, as he interacted with one of the few kids his own age.

Kid sitting next to Entropy says, “Dude! You have your own Requeza hat!  That’s awesome!”

I want all my life to be like that.  Dude!  You are awesome!

Back to the boxes tomorrow.  The mountain grows behind the couch, and the empty boxes have taken over the entryway as well as much of the living room.  That’s for tomorrow.  For tonight remember: there are only 10 types of people in the world, those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

This is it. That moment before an impending move when it seems like the chaos will overwhelm us. We are drowning in a sea of boxes. Flash brings them home every week from the comic store.

The problem is, we have too much stuff. Mostly books. Games. Graphic novels. Video games and toys. And books. There is not a room in our home which is not abloom with literature.

However, we can only store so much. So most of the books, most of the shelves, are going. Everyone will get Kindles (mine is already two years old) and we will join the digital age. Now, don’t get me wrong, we’ll still have books. Hundreds of books. Enough books to educate a slew of children and ourselves. But fewer. Far fewer.

For now, the boxes loom in the hallway reminding us that time is counting down each day. We now have less than two months to go, and our new life must be ready for her first voyage. It sounds like a lot, but feels overwhelmingly immediate. I start to question my madness…

This morning this was the view from our house. The sun was coming over the mountains in the East, and I knew I would miss some parts of this place, this life. We’ve been in So Cal for 20 years. My entire adult life. Feeling melancholy tonight.

I wanted to change the world.
But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself. 
–Aldous Huxley
 
I’ve always been the stable one.  The level-headed, reliable, succesful doer.  I kept on going despite the odds, despite grief, despite tragedy, despite a full-time job and two needy kids and a career that demands perfection while paying lip service to forgiveness.  And this past February it all came crashing down on me.  All it took were a few emotional kicks from some angry people, and I dropped to my knees and broke.  Suddenly I couldn’t face the responsibilities of life that I’d been plugging through for the past 20 years.  My shell cracked and inside I found an overwhelming sadness that almost led me to take my life.
 
But I didn’t.  I reached out to my wonderful husband (we’ll call him Flash), and I was quickly in a treatment program, sitting in a room with people who had life stories that were far beyond my experience.  But I listened, and I learned, and it soon became clear that most of my problem was centered in the barrel of “should”s I carried around each day.  I should own a house by now.  I should spend more time with my family; no, more time on my career; no, family! 
 
Three months later, I’m on a new road.  Or soon will be.  I’ve taken a leave of absence from my job, and Flash and I and our two young sons–we’ll call them Entropy and Kinesis–are selling out or packing up everything in our four bedroom house to drive cross-country and focus on relationship with each other and reconnecting with grandparents and others.  And so I chose my blog title:  Ad Meliora.  To better things.  That’s where I hope I’m headed.
 
I’m RevMommy.  After almost 2o years as a pastor I’m changing direction.  It may bring me right back where I started.  But I suspect the journey is going to be interesting.