Farm and Family, Musings

Pieces: What Was That?

We throw tantrums like parties
We’re not happy ’til everyone knows we’re sick
And that’s just how we like it
We’ve hurt bad enough, right, we’ve earned it ~ Get Well, Icon for Hire

It’s taken me a long time to figure this out. I’ve been thinking about it for months. I haven’t been able to write anything because it’s been in the forefront of my mind, taking up all of the space. I hate writing about things that aren’t resolved. You write what you know, not what you don’t know. But sometimes we don’t know what the thesis statement is for a period of our lives.

I want to start out by saying that I love my parents. They were tricked by people who they viewed as authorities, who themselves had been tricked. But I can’t let that love keep me from telling my story.

Illusion_by_nondani

I read a website called Homeschoolers Anonymous. I would say I enjoy reading it, but that sounds wrong. It is full of stories of former homeschool students who have escaped the fundamentalist environment where they were abused, and how transitioning to life on the outside has been. It’s sick. It’s demented. The things that have been done in the name of Christ are abhorrent.

I read it for the same reason they write it. To validate our past experiences. Sometimes the stories are almost identical to my own, but not usually. They are usually much more abusive and extreme. There are aspects that I can relate to, but the intensity of it makes my empathy ache.

For a time this contrast made me question my analysis of my childhood. Was it really that bad? Was that really abuse? I mean, I only remember one short period of time when any of my siblings were bruised from spanking. I was only hit a handful of times because I was older when we started following a fundamentalist lifestyle. But then, if it wasn’t abuse, why do I still show signs of an abuse survivor? Why do I feel so validated by songs like Get Well by Icon for Hire or Shatter Me by Lindsey Stirling? Why do I still have such a hard time letting myself have platonic relationships, let alone harbor the thought of a long term romantic relationship? Trust issues and self harm don’t just happen without a reason.

A dear friend told me the other day, “Just because someone else had it worse doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to hurt.” This is hard to believe sometimes. I don’t want to marginalize the experience of others. But I have to remind myself that it’s not a contest. Just because I was never beaten doesn’t mean I wasn’t abused. Emotional abuse can be very invisible, but have the same results as a belt. My parents didn’t hit me, but the way they made me feel lead me to hit myself.

Don’t tell the others but it’s all getting old
I mean how many more times must our stories be told?
And being lonely’s only fun in a group
It sort of loses it’s charm when it’s true ~ Get Well, Icon for Hire

Musings

We’re Not Out of the Woods

Maybe it’s some hereditary pathological optimism thing from my Mom. Maybe I’m just naive like Little Red Riding Hood from Into the Woods, and I can’t get past my “The woods are just trees. The trees are just wood. I have no fear, nor anyone should.” attitude. Maybe it’s because I spent so much of my childhood in the woods and it feels more, well, natural. Whatever the reason, the phrase “out of the woods” bugs me.

“Out of the woods” means out of danger. Throughout folklore the forest is considered a place of darkness and evil. That’s where the witch’s sweets house was in Hansel and Gretel. It’s where the wolf always lives. But I take issue with this. The first problem is calling the woods bad in the first place. Found on Pinterest, original artist unknownThe forest is a place of wonder. Yes, it’s where the villain often lurks, but without it there would be no story. A place itself isn’t good or bad. I think we have a habit of labeling things we don’t understand or identify with as “bad.” Bad things happen everywhere. Some areas of the city are more crime prone, but that isn’t the buildings fault. Let’s stop blaming our surroundings for our problems.

When someone is “out of the woods,” they relax. Since the struggle is over, they stop paying close attention to their surroundings. While enjoying life is a wonderful thing, and I think it’s how we are meant to live, you can’t let your guard down. You’re in the clear. You can see everything plainly, so you don’t have to try as hard. But I know from experience that there are still dangers in a clearing. You don’t pay attention to your footing, and it’s easy to step in a hole. This isn’t to say that I don’t think you should relax. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Instead of fighting and struggling during those times when you are “in the woods,” look around. Enjoy the life surrounding you. Look for the good in all of your circumstances. Be careful of the thorns and snakes, but don’t live your life paranoid about something you may never run into. Enjoy the wildflowers and the big open sky of the meadow, but just as you kept lookout for dangers in the forest, don’t let your guard down once you step into the clearing. There are still snakes and thorns; They just look different here. They are sneakier.

In life you run into many situations. If you don’t allow yourself to find the joys and the “happy thoughts” in all places, it will be harder to enjoy them in the obvious ones.

Books and Movies, Musings, Poet Among Other Things

Saying “No” Isn’t Weak

Volumes of Rows is the only story I’ve ever finished, and I only finished it because it had to get out of my head. I came up with it as I was shelving in the library one day. Have you ever compressed a stack of paper and then let it go really fast? It makes this ominous creak that almost sounds like breathing. Now, our library isn’t all that large, so I knew I was nearly always in sight of the circulation desk, were something to happen. But what if I was alone? What if that creak actually was the books coming to life, but since someone can always see them, they can’t move? I came home that day and wrote down what played out in my head. The next week I had a gut check when I noticed that someone had left the large quilt book out.

After I finished trying to trip my sister, Meg, as she was learning to walk, I decided to torture her by other means. I attempted to convince her that aliens were going to come in our nearly two story high window, turn her brains to oatmeal and eat them with a straw. Now Meg, being very level headed and logical, had no reason to believe in aliens. I, on the other hand… have always had a very vivid imagination. I convinced myself of what I failed to convince my sister.

LimitsFor the past two years I have spent the weekends of October working at a corn maze. If you’ve ever been to a corn maze, you probably realise that there is a lot more to the attraction than a maze of maize. This particular maze features several rides and playthings, including a fairly tall zip-line. This year I worked the top of the line. I will admit, I wouldn’t have ridden this thing when I was little. I’ve never liked heights. As you can probably imagine, there were a lot of kids who would take one look and opt for the much shorter version. Most of the time the parents would suggest that they try the big line anyway. I loved it when a child who was scared at first grew to love the ride. You enjoy something so much more when you work for it. Seeing children overcoming obstacles is one of my favorite things. There’s a nearly visible shine on their faces.

Then there were the Shamers. The parents who would say some variation of “Don’t be a baby,” “He’s braver than you are,” or “Don’t be a sissy.” Some of these kids would eventually give in to their parents jeering. But some didn’t, and I applaud them all. The ones who did try because they faced their fears and the ones who didn’t because they took a stand. They didn’t give into name calling and pressuring. They ruled themselves and made their own decisions, even when those decisions weren’t popular. They set limits they were comfortable with. They had the strength to say “no.” Of course, they may later regret not riding. But, that’s part of growing up and making choices. You can allow yourself to be haunted by the Might’aves and the Should’aves, or you can learn from the experience.

My mind can be an eerie place. Because of this I have to be careful about reading or watching paranormal sci-fi or horror. If I give it the wrong encouragement, my imagination will run rampant and I can quickly lose control. There are times when I prefer movies to books, simply because my mind isn’t confined to a screen like a film is. I miss out on some things because I don’t enjoy certain types of entertainment. But I’m ok with that. To live a healthy life, you have to recognise your limits.

Actions in Activities, Musings

Stage Addict

You know how sometimes people joke about various methods of getting high? Sometimes I’ll respond with a joke about my physical intolerance for drugs. I had my wisdom teeth out several years ago, and the doctor removed not only my extra molars, but any curiosity about drugs I ever had. Like after most surgeries, they prescribed hydrocodone for the pain. I took what they gave me at the office, of course, and then the prescribed amount for maybe a day, before the sedation fully wore off. But once I woke up, I was done. No-thank-you-sir. The pain of a bruised jawbone, four open wounds and precarious stitches was nothing compared to the mental impairment from the drugs. I have a high pain tolerance and a low drug tolerance. If ibuprofen couldn’t kick it, I’d just deal with the pain. I don’t want anything clouding my mind. And taking drugs when you aren’t in pain? My imagination is vivid enough, I don’t need any help getting distracted or compromised.4198e81a1d650f717a831dd4e53ee8ba

Sometimes you can’t avoid a high. A surge of endorphins. Adrenaline is my drug of choice. Roller coasters. Ice skating. Oh, ice skating. Not just your quaint little families-on-a-pond ice skating. I mean flying. I mean taking your life into your own hands– er, feet, because if you crash you could slice your leg open and die from arterial bleeding. Or at least, that’s the objective (though, not the dying part). I’m not actually that fast of a skater, and if I crash, the worst that would happen is that I’d blow my knee out (which I’ve done several times, and survived). But adrenaline isn’t only found in high octane, low drag activities.

Hi, my name is Annie. [an overly enthusiastic, but curbed “Hi Annie!”] It’s been one week since I set foot on a stage…

The morning after we closed I thought to myself,”I imagine this is what it feels like to be hungover.” My body hurt. My brain hurt. I was emotional. I just wanted to forget about last night. Forget that I wasn’t going back to the theater that day. That I was no longer Mrs. Elizabeth Martin. And yet, I didn’t want to forget a second of it. After the last show I had to go back on stage and collect a prop that was mine. Most of the furniture was gone. All that was left was a couple of tables, baskets, and our lovely yellow walls. I picked up my plates, looked around the empty room and ran out. Try as I might, smearing my makeup was unavoidable. Thank God for waterproof eyeliner, or it would have been worse. Someone jokingly asked the director why she was making her actors cry and we all laughed because Kittie is just about the sweetest person ever. But it bugged me. Why was I crying? It wasn’t because I was put on stage and made to feel special. It wasn’t because the show was so fantastic. It wasn’t because I was exhausted and relieved to be out of that itchy sweater. Those are all true, and valid reasons to assume, but they weren’t the real reason for my tears. Then on the way to the cast party I figured it out between sobs.

I have never felt that chosen and accepted before. I was cast, without knowing a solitary person in the theater department, without a single show on my resume, and having been in the same room as the director and stage manager only once. I wasn’t cast because someone put in a good word for me or because I had any kind of reputation. All they had was me. It didn’t take long for the other cast members to realize that I’m pretty naive about a lot of subjects. I was, in all honesty, a sheltered homeschooler. I would say things that, evidently, don’t mean what they did when the books I read were written. They would laugh because they knew I didn’t mean it that way and inform me of the current word usage. But they didn’t dismiss me as too weird. A subject would come up and they wouldn’t treat me as dumb for knowing nothing about it. It was mentioned that we should play “Never Have I Ever.” When I stated that I’d win in 5 turns, another game was chosen. I don’t have any scandalous stories (unless pulling your brother and sister from a frozen pond or riding in the back of a passenger van with a three week old calf is scandalous). Most of the time, I’d just sit there and listen. But for the first time, being myself, holding nothing back, not only wasn’t an automatic rejection slip, it was why I was there.

People are insane, ya know? Either we act; We develop multiple-personality-disorder and put ourselves out on a stage for the world to see, raw, exposed, intimate. Or we don’t act; We live our lives as only one person and keep our clothes and bandages on, never fully immersing ourselves in our imaginings. I don’t know which lunacy is worse, but I know that after tasting both, there is only one for me.

The Bald Soprano. It doesn’t make any sense. Think about it too hard and you’ll only give yourself an aneurysm. People asked me “Who played the Bald Soprano?” There is no Bald Soprano. The phrase is mentioned once in the entire show. Don’t try to understand the jokes. Just laugh and move on. It’s insanity on a stage. But it was mine, and it’s gone.

This has to be what it feels like to be in withdrawal. I find myself reading scripts for upcoming shows that have only just been announced. Looking for my next high, but knowing I won’t be able to find it for months.

Books and Movies, Camp, Musings, Poet Among Other Things

Filling Journals

I’ve had journals since– I don’t remember not having journals. Sure, the entries were about 20 words long and illustrated because I couldn’t read for so long, but I had things to say, even when I couldn’t articulate, let alone spell them. I look back on some of those rudimentary scribblings and laugh. If they weren’t so old they’d be embarrassing. e678b832b693eac8bcb557b690cce3d8But even though I couldn’t write down how I really felt, and often didn’t actually know, I wrote enough to trigger memories. There’s one journal that Dad gave me around the time he was deployed overseas. It’s just about the ugliest shade of green, that one that is evidently the only dye color the military has, so I quickly took my crayons to it and made it mine. Our basement flooded a few years ago and it was barely saved. But on one of the pages, that has been threatening to fall out for years now, are a few words about how my day was ruined because Wendy’s messed up my baked potato, complete with a picture of how the spud should have looked. I remember that day. We had just been visiting one of mom’s friends and I was overwhelmed with the cares of being 9. It was the last straw. Either mom was pregnant with Adam or Dad had just left, but I was an emotional wreck and I couldn’t show it, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t draw, and now my lunch was a travesty.

I have another journal that my then best friend’s mom gave me. It has a picture of us in the front. Little, tiny, 7 year old us. This one is blue with vines, a picture window on the cover and a ribbon bookmark with a heart lock charm on the end. The one that I simply cannot remember not having is my Winnie the Pooh locking diary.

I used those two off and on the most, since the military surplus one was ruined, but I’ve yet to fill a journal. I’ve filled plenty of random notebooks with sketches of rooms and beginnings of stories, but I’ve never written my soul from cover to cover. That’s what a journal is. The soul on paper. Whether it means what it says or is just a symptom of the true condition is for the reader, usually your older self, to decide.

But that trend is about to change. 4980f05fdb74af85e118941df03bd15f

I have six pages left. I really don’t know what to do with myself. It feels as if my filling of that last page will end something in my life. I got this journal 2 years ago when I was a finalist in the library’s poetry contest. It was the year that Meg was also a finalist and Claire was the Honorable Mention. I didn’t win anything, but it was my last year of eligibility. I graduated high school right after that, and then started writing in the little book at Camp that summer. Only first few pages actually bare the thoughts of a baby counselor, as I quickly got too busy to write. Instead, it chronicles the heartache of a life turned rightside up. Learning to accept my PCOS, giving myself permission to live, embracing my gifts. It’s all in there. It hurts to go back and read who I thought I had to be. But the closer I get to the end, the less it hurts and the more it is beautiful. Most of my “poems” are actually journal entries, written as I’m falling asleep. They are raw Annie. What she sees with her eyes, but also with her heart. Moonshadows. Will-o-the-wisps. Dew laden blades of grass.

The closing of my little book coincides with the closing of my first semester of college. I never thought I’d go to school past what was required. I had no need to. I began the journal feeling broken and purposeless. I close it happier, more full of life, and whole. You don’t come through a chapter like that without scars. But scars fade. They remind you who you are.

Actions in Activities, Musings

How To Be a Girl

“If I were a boy, life would be so much better. No one would care what I wore or what I did.” She looked up at the enormity of the sky outside her window, laid her small head of matted, mouse brown hair on a pink Barbie pillow, and fell asleep.

“I have hips. When did that happen?” She sits on an examination table in a cold doctor’s office, looks down and notices her own, fully formed body for the first time.

I went directly from being a little girl to being a woman. At least, that’s how it feels. Those years that most girls get to grow accustomed to their bodies were stripped from me. No, I get it. Everyone is awkward during puberty. But I wasn’t just awkward, I was resentful. From the time I was 9 until this past year, I resented and hated the fact that I am female. During those years, the only emotions I truly felt at all were anger and hatred, so of course that was the only way I could view myself or my body. My parents never taught me to think this way, it was the 905dfa71e173a5a222272b7585f56c14pervasiveness of the ideologies of the purity movement in our church and homeschool community that hammered it into my brain, but the purity mindset was still encouraged. I am the one who took the encouragement a step further. The feminine form was something to be hidden, if not ashamed of. I still hated skirts, because all things that are feminine were weak and therefore must be eschewed. So, I wore boys jeans even though I was beginning to get tiny teen hips and they didn’t really fit right. I wore unisex t-shirts and sports bras almost exclusively. It wasn’t hard at all. It’s easier to find clothes when you just need to cover your shameful nakedness and hide your seductive form.

I recently got cast in a play at school, and it’s been so, so good for me. I realised that I still often carry myself like I’m ashamed to be alive, even though I’m happier now than I ever have been. I slouch. I mumble. I look at the ground when I walk. I avoid eye contact. As far as I’ve come, I’m still not used to being a girl. But I noticed something else. One day at rehearsal our director was talking about not being ourselves on stage, but being our characters. Mrs. Martin is a very posh, English gentlewoman. She crosses her ankles when she sits, with her shoulders back and head held high. Whereas I sit hunched over with elbows rested on the desk in front of me, my legs either out in front or tucked up under my seat. The first time I felt this dissonance between myself and a character I was portraying was at comic-con last spring. I was cosplaying for the first time, and I had chosen Snow White from Once Upon a Time in her huntress get-up. As I walked through the crowded hallways I noticed my attitude. I was standing straighter, but walking more urgently. Like the hunted princess. I was running from the Evil Queen (who, incidentally, is by far my favorite character), and it was all I could do to keep from breaking out into a sprint.

So, what now? Well, I have lines and blocking to memorize. Lines for Mrs. Elizabeth Martin, and blocking for Ms. Annie Hall. There is still so much character development in the works. Who is this girl with such a complicated past and such an ambitious future? How does she carry herself across this stage? She is a princess and a storykeeper. She carries herself with grace and love and confidence. What is her motivation? Life. Vivacious, glorious, abundant, splendid, Life.

Books and Movies, Musings

In Your Face Subtlety

I came across this graphic on Pinterest the other day. I pin a lot of writing things, so Pinterest has decided to just throw random writing pins on my feed. I’m fine with that; I find a lot of really good ideas that way. Some of my favorites are ones like this. But I don’t like this one for some reason. Maybe it’s that I don’t care for the color/texture/font combination, but it got me thinking.1bcf9b2f6f7c4c407f83f266d6db3345

I couldn’t read independently until I was about 10. Before that I “read” my dad’s college anatomy textbooks for fun. There were lots of pictures and I could understand what they meant without the use of words. Once I learned to read, I quickly jumped to junior high level books, then to high school. By the time I was 13 I was reading on a college level. But my “reading” of reference books didn’t end when I started actually reading. I remember the day I got my first pocket thesaurus. I was ecstatic. I soon got a pocket spelling dictionary as well. Both books were essentially just lists of words, but they were my lists of words. If I found one I didn’t know, I would ask mom or dad what it meant. It was a rare occasion that they actually just told me what the dumb word meant. Generally they would direct me to the enormous, red, college dictionary. This pretty much drove me up the wall. For one thing, it’s heavy as all get out (and about 4 inches wide.) But I also nearly always got distracted and started reading other entries before even finding the word I was initially looking for (if I ever got there.) While this was infuriating at the time, I learned a lot of new words and how to alphabetize, from this practice.

So if I spend hours searching for the right word in a dictionary or thesaurus (now with the help of thesaurus.com), why don’t I like this graphic? Well, it’s not exactly this specific graphic. It’s an idea behind it. Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is one of my favorite movies. It is about growing up, but never growing old. It is about living life to the fullest. It is about following your dreams and chasing your own star. It’s about beginnings. But it’s also about endings. In fact, the whole plot of this beautifully whimsical movie, when you actually look at it, is about Mr Magorium’s death. You see, he found a little store and fell completely in love with a certain pair of shoes, so he bought enough to last his entire lifetime. And his last pair is just about worn through.2dd8c74b2a81503c1a26666b97e5c3b6

When King Lear dies in Act V, do you know what Shakespeare has written? He’s written “He dies.” That’s all, nothing more. No fanfare, no metaphor, no brilliant final words. The culmination of the most influential work of dramatic literature is “He dies.” It takes Shakespeare, a genius, to come up with “He dies.” And yet every time I read those two words, I find myself overwhelmed with dysphoria. And I know it’s only natural to be sad, but not because of the words “He dies.” but because of the life we saw prior to the words.

I think this is something we as writers often forget. Sometimes you don’t need a grand description or a flowery word. Sometimes the most accurate word is the most simple. The phrase that subtly states a simple fact, but makes the reader think. It reminds me of the shortest verse in the Bible. Jesus wept. Scholars and theologians have spent innumerable hours trying to figure out what this means. It just means He cried, but there is so much more to it than a bodily fluid draining out of a gland in His eyes. It shows humanity.

I once found a graphic that said, “How the teacher interpreted the text: The blue curtains symbolise the protagonists sorrow. The author’s real reason: Blue’s a nice color.” Sometimes details don’t matter as much so you write them simply. Sometimes details matter so much that you write them simply. Sometimes subtlety makes a stronger point than grandiose description.

Musings

Never Forget

I realised something today. I realised that I’m part of the group of the youngest people to remember what they were doing on the morning of September 11th 2001. I was only 7 years old.

Mom had a La Leche League meeting and we had gotten up early to make the hour drive to the larger city where her group was. She got a call on her cell phone from my dad and pulled into a bank parking lot. I’m not sure if she was crying or not,57931_464783596387_4036277_n but she was scared. Dad told her to withdraw some cash and fill the minivan with gas. Everything was in chaos. The lines at every gas station were mind bogglingly long, and it seems like some stations were running out of fuel. My dad was in the National Guard at the time. I was terrified that he would have to go to New York or Washington, or go fight the bad guys somewhere else. I didn’t want to lose him. Come to think of it, from then until a little while after he retired, that was probably my greatest fear. That dad would get called away and killed.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to go to New York City with my aunt and uncle. We were only there for a few days, but got to go to the beach, see the Statue of Liberty, and walk through the 9/11 Museum. It was one of the most soul shaking experiences I’ve ever had. Reading things kids my age had written about losing their parents. Seeing case after case of things pulled from the rubble. At one point there was an entire wall filled with paper cranes folded by school children in Japan as a wish for peace. We had gone to several war memorials in DC, but I wasn’t alive for any of those wars. Sure, my granddad fought in the Korean war. He once came back on deck of his battleship to find his seat full of shrapnel.  If he hadn’t gotten up, my mom would have never been born. But as real as that is, it’s still just a story to me. 9/11 is personal. Those weren’t lives lost in history. They were lives I could have known. Souls I could have come in contact with at some point in my life.

It’s my dream to go back to New York one day. It’s an amazing city. There are plenty of things I want to see. Touristy things, not so touristy things. But someday, I want to go to the memorial and just sit for a while. And remember.

Books and Movies, Musings

This Is Real Life, And It Is An Epic

Every heart has a story to tell
Some dreams have wings, some are torn at the seams
and just sit there on the shelf
If you were to walk in my shoes
You’d see we are all the same
So find the love inside yourself
Cause every heart has a story to tell
This is my heart
This is my story to tell

I really love Pandora. I have found two of my favorite songs by using it. This is the chorus of Every Heart, and it perfectly exemplifies something that’s been rolling around in my brain for a while. I touched on it several months ago, but I think this is an idea that warrants a closer look.

Stories are incredibly powerful things, and I’m not really sure how to describe them. What *is* a story? If pressed for a short answer, I would say it’s a string of related thoughts having to do with and describing an event. But they are so much more than that. They are life. I don’t just mean stories from 10660227_730463573675003_2572696761722264010_nhistory either. But my life is nothing like a storybook. It’s boring. All I do is go to work, eat, and hang out at home. Stop. I mean it. That is no way to talk about an epic masterpiece.

What do you look for in a strong character? You look for complexity, depth, emotion. You look for things that make it real. To the characters in stories, their world is just as real to them as ours is to us. You sit in McDonalds and drink a Dr. Pepper. They sit in an inn and drink a pint (“They come in pints?”) It’s kind of like what I say about the news. Just because something bad is reported on tv doesn’t mean it is a common thing. In fact, if it were common, it wouldn’t be worth noting. [Note: This isn’t strictly true, especially in cases regarding social justice issues.  I’m referring to things like buildings collapsing or people finding anacondas in their bathrooms.] Stories don’t often dwell on the mundane parts of a character’s life. They skim over the irellevent stuff and focus on the important details. We have the luxury of seeing only the good bits. The character doesn’t get that. They have to work their way through life, and they don’t know the outcome. Just like us. They don’t know which details are the important ones, they can make a guess, but there’s no way to know for sure. Just like us. 

But what’s the point of telling your story if you don’t know where it’s going to end? What’s the point of waiting? Do you read the last page of a book before you even begin reading the first chapter? I used to think that my story was boring. I grew up in a fairly normal family. Nothing exceptionally tragic has ever happened. But two things happen when you begin telling your tale.

You find out what makes you special. If you never talk about your life with other people, they can’t give you feedback and tell you how weird you are. I knew having 5 siblings wasn’t normal, but I didn’t know living in 5 different states was remarkable. My dad was in the military, moving was normal until I talked to people who had lived in the same state, same town, or even the same house, their entire lives. 

 You find out that you are not alone. Whatever you think may make you an outcast, or unloveable, or weird, someone else is dealing with too. But until you start talking and opening up, both of you will think you are the only person that feels that way. This is why we have fandoms. If we didn’t talk about loving Firefly, we would think we were the only ones obsessing over a bunch of space cowboys. If we didn’t talk about the damage that fundamentalist mindsets do, people would keep getting hurt by them and think they were the ones in the wrong. But since we talk about it, we can find each other.

When you look at your life as a story, it’s easier to see personal progress. As I said in A Bubbling Brook, a well written character changes. You may not catch it, change often happens gradually. There isn’t always an ultimatum.  Just like in a story, you notice those in real life. That sudden instant of realization. Sure, these moments may be turning points, but you don’t just turn without preparing. If you did that while driving, you’d flip the car. If you do that while singing, your voice will probably crack. Without your consent or knowledge, your life so far is leading up to something. Don’t speak disparagingly about what will be your success story. 

Farm and Family, Musings

10 Reasons Growing Up in a Big Family Wins

My family has 6 kids. The dynamics of things are kind of different when you have this many people living under one roof. Dishes are mountainous. Laundry is unending. Privacy can be illusive. Ziplocks are a hot commodity, and I’m still not sure why. But even with things that could be perceived as hardships or inconveniences, life in a big family is pretty awesome. I found a Buzzfeed post the other night (don’t judge me) listing 23 things you get used to when you live in an above average family. Since a lot of my facebook friends are from large families, this sparked quite a hilarious conversation (primarily about food and socks). Since everyone seem to be challenging people lately, my mom challenged me to write a blog post of the 10 best things about living in a large family. The list was not allowed to be sarcastic, but could be humorous. Easy. Without further ado, roughly in order, but not really, my 10 favorite things about living in a large family:mylifeessgood

10. You have several personal book, movie, tv and music reviewers. I cannot tell you how many times one of my sisters (and even Adam every now and then) has sent me a link to a new song or artist. We compare Pandora stations. We send each other youtube videos. The number of books that have been thrown at me by my siblings isn’t too great yet, since I’m the oldest and self proclaimed family librarian, but there have been a few. For instance, Claire read The Hunger Games before either Meg or I did. Usually I’m the one who reads or watches something first, but I’m predicting that this will change once we are all grown up.

9. You have a built in study group. For most of my life, Meg and I have been at about the same skill level in most things. I understand some things better than she does, and she understands some things better than I do. We all bounce ideas for writing assignments off each other. Two heads are better than one, right? How much better would three or four head be?

8. You have a higher chance of being fashionable. This isn’t always true. At all. But I have noticed, at least in families with many girls, that the likelihood of someone having a built in fashion sense is fairly high. Some people have a friend with taste, I have a sister. Well, actually, I have three, each with their own sense of style. If I want to know what looks good on me, I ask Meg. If I want to find an epic t-shirt or other quirky-cool item, I ask Claire. If I want to just have fun, I’ll let Hannah dress me (If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed this).

7. You have a brute squad. “I’m on the brute squad.” “You are the brute squad!” Have you seen the new version of Yours, Mine, and Ours? There is a scene near the end where two of the boys are being harassed by some bullies at school, and one by one their siblings intervene. “That’s just ignorant.” “And you know how you get rid of ignorance?” “Butt-whoopin’.” Not that I condone violence or anything…

6. You learn how to fight fair. Come on, you know it’s true. Fighting happens even in the most peaceful homes. But this is simply part of life. You will, at some point, disagree with someone, probably get emotionally involved, and have to resolve the situation. I’m not saying fighting is a good thing, but since it happens throughout life, I’m figuring you may as well learn how to do it well. Getting involved with speech and debate is also very helpful, and actually made us fight less, and more efficiently. Siblings don’t always resolve their issues. There are plenty of estranged and strained relationships, but I would speculate that the majority of people with siblings have good relationships with them.

5. You learn how to live in a group setting. Obvious right? But after spending some time at camp, I realise how important of a thing this is. Once when we were discussing what to have for dinner, spaghetti was suggested. I stated that everyone hates spaghetti, and so other ideas were brought up. Mom brought spaghetti up again, and said she liked it. Then, one by one, every single member of my family betrayed me. “Everyone else likes spaghetti. Annie just hates it so much that she fills to room with her hatred.” I’m pretty sure we ended up having spaghetti that night. (for the record, I don’t hate spaghetti, I just don’t like to have it more than, say, once a month, and rarely choose it if there are other options.)

4. You have different perspectives on life events. You may have best friends that you grew up with, but even they probably weren’t there for everything. A brother or sister, even if they are older or younger, you probably share many of the same memories.

3. You develop a family lexicon and innumerable inside jokes. If we pull up to a drive-thru and someone shouts “Get out your coffeemakers!” don’t be surprised. In fact, if we say just about anything, and start to giggle or nod, just assume it is part of our family culture, smile, and carry on with your life. You can probably ask about it if you really want to know, but we may or may not even remember how the trend or saying got started. It’s just what we do.

2. You get to see kids grow up, without having to raise them yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I do want some littles of my own one day, but not yet. Having a toddler in the house, but being able to leave and not have to worry about him is just about the coolest thing ever (sorry Mom). You get to know humans in progress, and learn from them, and watch them be hilarious, but they are still your peers on some level, or at least they will be eventually.

1. You learn how to entertain.  When I was about 9 years old we lived in Middle-of-Nowhere KY, 30 minutes from a gas station. At this point there were only 3 of us, but we were still homeschooled and still fairly secluded. We had tv, but not cable, and PBS kids cut out in the middle of the afternoon. We had internet, but it was dial-up (I still got hooked on gaming… Very slow gaming.) I couldn’t read at this point either. This left us with essentially one option for occupying our free time (which, in all honesty, was most of  the time). We played, and we played hard. But this wasn’t just building mud villages and becoming dirt people. We learned how to not only entertain ourselves when there is nothing else to do, but also how to be generally entertaining. In life, if you can make people laugh and keep their attention, it doesn’t matter what you aim to do, people will notice you. And when people notice you, sometimes they give you a job, and sometimes you make relationships.

Well, there you have it. These don’t apply to all families. I know some families where the opposite of many of these points is true. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Having a big family is hard. We fight hard, we play hard, we love hard (“I love you SO HARD!”). And I wouldn’t have it any other way.