When Christmas Meets LOTR

I’ve been sitting in my office for the past two hours alternating between numbness and tears over the most recent mass shooting in California (the most recent one today, I should say, because we are clearly no longer content with our current shooting-to-day ratio), and I am nearly desperate to not feel so broken and hopeless.  So, I’ve decided to post a little something I have been working on.

I enjoy rewriting songs a la Weird Al Yankovic.  I am not nearly as talented as that, but it amuses me so I do it.  One of the songs I’ve been listening to a lot lately due to the upcoming holidays is “Mary Did You Know?” by Pentatonix.

As I was making the 30 minute commute to work yesterday, I thought to myself, “Self, how wonderful would this be if it was about Lord of the Rings instead?”  To myself, I replied, “It would be pretty fucking wonderful.”  So, I made that happen.  I present to you…

Frodo Did You Know?

Frodo, did you know
that your uncle’s ring had once belonged to Sauron?
Frodo, did you know
that your uncle’s ring would lead to mass destruction?
Did you know
that your uncle’s ring was searched for by Nazgul?
‘Cause Sauron wants a body and the ring will be his tool.
Frodo, did you know
that your uncle’s ring would lead you from the Shire?
Frodo, did you know
that your uncle’s ring would bring down Sauron’s ire?
Did you know
that your uncle’s ring would come with such great cost?
You must throw it into Mt. Doom before Middle Earth is lost.

 

Frodo, did you know… Ooo Ooo Ooo

The Orcs will come.
The Goblins march.
And Isengard betrays.
The Ents will rage.
The Horselords ride
And Samwise never strays.

Frodo, did you know
that your uncle’s ring would take you into Mordor?
Frodo, did you know
that your uncle’s ring would be the cause of this war?
Did you know
that your uncle’s ring has brought about this gloom?
The evil forged within it must die in Mt. Doom.

So there’s that.
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The Importance of Planning

I have arrived at the first significant roadblock of my garden.  Of all the plants I had my heart set on, the vast majority of them are not hardy in my growing zone.  Because of course they’re not.  This is why I am spending so much time planning.  The plants I had chosen are not cheap, and while I could always just treat them like annuals, they are way too expensive to replace every year.  Also, I thought I could create some shade space so I could plant some gorgeous Japanese painted ferns.  Yeah, no.  No, that’s not going to work because of where my garden is situated.  So, I will have to come up with a new garden theme.  Thanks, Obama!

On the upside, I can still have some of the plants.  Tulips, hyacinths, and my vines will grow just fine here.  The trick is to find amazing plants to flower through the summer and fall.  To that end, I think I’m going to go with a dragon garden theme.  I’m not entirely sure what this is going to look like yet, but I won’t have to be so rigid in the plants I choose.  At least that’s the theory.

Depression and the Creative Mind

There are a lot of articles out there that discuss links between creativity and various forms of mental illness, such as depression, and they range from fluffy clickbait articles to peer reviewed scholarly publications.  It comes as little surprise, to me at least, that I have in the last few months been diagnosed with moderate to severe Major Depression.  Normally, the crickets chirping and the cobwebs in the corners are because I’m just so busy doing everything else that needs to be done that I neglect this space.  Nothing bad happens if I don’t post, but something bad does happen if I don’t turn in homework, don’t spend time with my kids, don’t show up for work, etc.  That isn’t an excuse right now.  I have lots of time that I could set aside for posting more regularly.  The problem is I have a hard time doing anything more complicated than taking a shower.

Don’t worry about me.  I’m doing what I can to take care of myself.  To that effect, I am planning a garden.  I have a very large yard and I am lucky enough to be able to plan out a private space for myself where I can go to read, to meditate and reflect, or to just be alone.  Until winter hits, I plan on posting pictures and writing about my gardening progress because 1) it’s going to be a gorgeous garden and 2) it forces me to write regularly which can only be a good thing.

The construction will go in stages.  Stage 1 will be getting all of the measurements, removing sod, installing the inner edging, and laying down rock.  The inner portion of the garden will have rock as a ground cover and a bistro set for seating.  The garden will surround this space so I can have some privacy.  I’m looking on Craigslist, Freecycle, and yard sales looking for pots and anything else I can find a use for.  In fact, I’m picking up a garden bench and three trellises today!  Depending on how much I spend on the rock and the furniture, I may go ahead and set up the gated arbor I have picked out for the entrance.  If possible, I want to pick up some shepherds’ hooks and some staked candle holders/solar powered lighting for the interior.  I’m hoping to find some end of the season sales.

Stage 2 will be deciding which plants I can put in before the snows hit and what will need to wait until spring.  I am planning a gothic garden, so all of the plants and flowers will have a dark, gothic feel to them.  I plan on using the trellises and ornamental grasses to give the garden some height.  The arbor will be covered in flowering vines.  What gets planted will depend on what I can get and where it needs to go.  I’ll also put in the outer edging.

Stage 3 will be next spring.  Once the snow melts, I can reassess the planting I did in the fall and start acquiring the rest of my plants.  The annuals will be planted in pots that I’ve painted with a stone textured spray paint.  If I have a lot of smaller pots, I might get some inexpensive small plant stands to vary the height on them.  I’m going to be planting herbs in hanging baskets and hanging them from the shepherds’ hooks.  I want to grow several varieties of mint, dill, cilantro, chives, parsley…you know, the good stuff.

Stage 4 will be ongoing.  It’s just buying extra things for the space as I find them or can afford them.  I want a pair of these dragons to guard my garden gate.  Maybe I’ll add more lighting.  With pots and planter boxes, I can add plants if I want.

I can’t wait until I start the actual work.  It’s going to be amazing.

New Release–Fractured by Erin R. Britt

That’s right, folks!  Fractured is finally available.  Right now, the only format up is Kindle, but it will become available for paperback in the next few days.

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As I mentioned before, Fractured is a collection of poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction essays that explore the breakdown of relationships and the breakdown of self within different contexts.  I hope there will be something for everyone within its pages.

I wrote all of these pieces independent of each other, but when I decided to put together a collection, I noticed there was a common thread through all of them.  Some of the pieces I wrote a couple of years ago and some are only a few months old.  I put a lot of myself into everything I create, so if you read and enjoyed Celia, you will likely enjoy this also.

A New Collection is Coming Soon

I have finally finished something new!  In the next few weeks, I will be releasing Fractured.  This is a collection of poetry, creative nonfiction essays, and short stories all revolving around the idea of being…well, fractured.  Sometimes this is meant in the literal breaking of objects.  Sometimes it’s the breaking apart of relationships and of self.

I decided to put this collection together after my son had brain surgery.  I left my teaching position because he had so many appointments to go to and I was missing a lot of classes.  Friends suggested that I create a GoFundMe page (or a page like it) so that people could help me out financially because, let’s face it.  Gas isn’t cheap.  I take my son on a minimum of two appointments a week and I live 25 minutes away from him.  Because I am me, which often translates into more proud than smart, I didn’t want to do that.  I didn’t want people to give me money, regardless of how much I needed it, because I didn’t want to feel like a mooch.  So, I started thinking of what I could do to make myself feel less moochy.  That’s when I realized that I had enough material to form a collection and Fractured was born.

I will be self-publishing, but don’t let that scare you away from grabbing a copy.  You can be sure that several eyes have passed over this.  It will be a quality publication.

Variation on a Theme

I’m sure everyone is sick of me talking about Caitlyn Jenner, so I’m not going to do that today.  Instead, I’m going to talk about my book, Celia.

For those who haven’t read it, Celia is the story of a woman whose husband tells her he is going to transition from being a man into a woman.  That bit is a slight plot twist, but there are spoiler reviews out there so I might as well give it away at this point.  It’s told from the wife’s point of view and it follows her journey through the transition process.

(For the purpose of this post, I’m going to refer to the husband as Brian because he is Brian nearly through the entire book.  It’s going to get confusing if I do it any other way.)

Brian is the bad guy in the book.  Here’s the thing, though.  Brian isn’t the bad guy because he’s transgendered.  He’s the bad guy because he lies to his wife.  He’s secretive and hides things from her.  He excludes her, and he doesn’t care how she’s acclimating to all of these changes with him, with their marriage, or even with herself as she figures out how to navigate this new relationship dynamic.  This is something that’s very important.  Trans* people can be good people and they can be bad people because they are people.  You don’t lose your humanity because you are transgendered, so as many variations as there are in humanity, so can there be in any portion of humanity.  In short: Brian is an asshole and he’s transgendered.  He isn’t an asshole because he’s transgendered.

So, why did I write a book about a transgendered person from a spouse’s point of view?  Well, for starters, my former spouse began transitioning during our marriage, so it was the point of view I had experience with.  From there, it might be easy to think that I am bashing transgendered people because of the actions of one person.  Except, the book never undermines Brian’s decision to transition.  There is never that unseen entity pointing a finger and saying, “See what you’ve done?  You should never have done this.  This is all your fault.  You should have just stayed the way you are.”  The book does criticize the way Brian handles it, however.  We’re all dealt a hand of cards and what we get is what we get.  We don’t get to control that.  We do get to control what we do with them, though, and Brian doesn’t make the best choices.

So, why write the book at all?  I think most people think I wrote it for cisgendered people.  The fact is, I wrote it for transgendered people and for people who might be the parents of transgendered people.  Clearly, this is not representative of every transition experience, even those that occur within a marriage.  Not all marriages end in divorce because of a transition (though a fair amount do, including my own, for various reasons).  At first, Brian’s wife does the best she can in order to be supportive of his transition and to help whenever she could.  Many wives and husbands are supportive.  So, while this is not representative of transition experiences, it is a type of transition experience.  This is what can happen when someone is told they can’t be who they truly are.  This is what can happen when someone is beaten for questioning their gender identity.  That child or adolescent grows into an adult who might think that if they could just find the right partner, that partner could “fix” them and they would be normal.  Except, there’s nothing to fix because they’re not broken.  This sets up the transgendered person to be depressed, miserable, and possibly even desperate.  They might marry someone and even have children while they’re living their own personal lie.  This makes for an unhappy home life for everyone involved.

I wrote this book to say, “This is what you are setting yourself/your children (for parents of trans* youth) up for if you can’t be who you are/if you can’t let them be who they are.”  In my own case, there was a lot of pain, not just for me but for my children who I lost custody of.  I live in Indiana.  ‘Nuff said.  While writing this book, I kept thinking back on my former spouse as a child and thought about all the pain that could have been avoided if my in-laws had just allowed my former spouse to be authentic.  If I’m being honest, I blamed my former spouse to some extent, too, for not being strong enough or brave enough to be authentic in spite of it all.  That’s not fair, but we don’t always react fairly when we’re in pain.  I don’t have a high opinion of my former spouse and I probably never will, but it isn’t because of the transition.   I have always supported the decision to be authentic.  I don’t think highly of my former spouse because my former spouse is a selfish asshole who didn’t care about anyone else’s needs.  I don’t hate the cards.  I hate how they were played.

This is why I feel so strongly about Caitlyn Jenner being so high profile.  If it allows one parent to look at their trans* child and say, “You know what, maybe this isn’t such a horrible thing after all,” then she’s done something tremendous.  We are not islands.  We ripple, touching lives beyond our own.  I imagine my former spouse transitioning as a teen, being comfortable enough to say, “This is who I am” and finding someone who is comfortable enough to say, “I want to be with who you are.”  So many people wouldn’t have been wounded later on.  This is why I wrote the book.  It’s a warning, a preview of what can happen when you try to live as someone you’re not for the sake of other people.

More Thoughts on Caitlyn Jenner

Since I wrote my open letter yesterday, I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback.  I’m very happy to see so many people being supportive and making the world just a little bit better by accepting the beings who live in it.  From this point, I see two more camps who I feel need addressing.  There is the camp who says that going public wasn’t intentional and it wasn’t intended to benefit the trangendered community, so we shouldn’t be quite so supportive of it.  There is also the camp who says that Caitlyn Jenner cannot be someone’s hero because she isn’t risking her life in order to help people.  I’m going to address this second camp first.

In my letter yesterday, I mentioned that trans* people encounter disproportionately high rates of suicide, assault, sexual violence, and murder. I want you to take a moment and look here.  Then I want you to look here.  And here.  Keep looking because there is more to see.  Caitlyn Jenner risks her life just to exist as her authentic self.  Her wealth and celebrity may protect her from the brunt of it, but being a celebrity doesn’t keep you from being killed.  There is no guarantee that her being in the public eye will serve some greater good, but I can guarantee you that it will help more than it will hurt.  If even one trans* youth sees her in the spotlight and decides not to commit suicide, then Caitlyn Jenner will have saved a life.  That makes her a hero.  We may never know if that happens or not.  We don’t necessarily need to.  The possibility is there and that’s good enough for me.

So, going back to the first camp, I am of the opinion that it doesn’t matter how or why Caitlyn Jenner went public.  What matters is that she did and what she does while she is there.  By virtue of being public she has raised awareness.  She has sparked conversations.  She has compelled transphobes to come out of the woodwork into the light of day and that has given the rest of us opportunities to combat that as we encounter it.  I have had so many people say, “I’ve been friends with this person for so long and I had no idea they felt this way.  I just can’t believe there is so much hatred.”  Even if that is the only thing she accomplishes, that’s huge.  It’s caused those of us who are allies to be even more visible.  More people are seeing our support and that increases the chances that we can be there for people who we might not have been able to be there for.  I cannot speak for all allies, but for myself, I more than willing to be an ally to anyone who needs me.  You now know where to find me if you need comfort, support, and someone to have your back.