Dreaming, reading, writing: my nature as an escapist

With the edits on the proof of Crystal and Wand finally in the hands of my awesome publisher (YAY! Release coming SOON SOON SOON I promise!), I am finding myself a little adrift. The creepy dollhouse story aside, there are any number of other ideas that I could look at as well — most of them being on my harddrive, which I’m still waiting to get back from the repair guy (long story short: don’t let your bearded dragon poop on your computer!).  Plus my list of other things to do. Household organization (and reorganization), parenting, bill paying, gardening, and the like. You know. Grown-up stuff.  The trouble is I’m an escapist. I just want to read. I finally read a book for myself, for the first time in months, just yesterday (still need to write up a review for you), in the space of four quiet hours. Normally, you see, I skim around my favourite blogs and hubs, reading nonfiction, informational, quirky or human-interest stories, finding out what’s going on in the world and learning about stuff in general. I like doing that, too. But because I tend to get interrupted often, I rarely get the luxury of sinking into a lovely drawn-out fiction. It now feels a bit decadent to devote a whole afternoon to a book, although let’s face it — if it’s not a book, it’s article after article after article through io9.com or Gawker. Or Buzzfeed. Usually brought to my attention via Facebook.   

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If I’m not reading SOMETHING, then the other temptation I face is to go sleep for a while. I love dreaming, even when it’s got the annoying element of being in a car that brakes too slowly, almost drives off a cliff into a river, or I discover it’s driverless and I’m having to take the wheel and find the pedals by contorting myself from the passenger side or the backseat. The problem is that sleeping too much is unhealthy, and is rather too escapist. Plus, I always forget to write the damned dreams down so that activity becomes pretty unfruitful, except for the temporary enjoyment.

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Anyway, maybe I’ll keep on with the creepy dollhouse, see where it takes me — there are an awful lot of what-ifs in my head. Maybe I’ll do a light-and-dark concept, with a romantic / fluffy piece to counter the dark / freaky thing that feels like it’s coming. There will either be evil, vengeful Wee Folk or ghosts. Hey, my imagination says, Why not both? 

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And in the meantime, stuff to do. I was feeling a bit bad again today, thinking I hadn’t been productive enough, but when I was chatting with my friend David and related that I’d taken Bridget to her doctor’s appointment, made a few needed phone calls, helped her learn / practice some math skills by letting her budget some money sent to her by my great-aunt so she could buy some crafty things at the dollar store and pay for them herself (sincere apologies to the nice lady behind us at the till who just wanted to pay for her iced tea and leave but was held up by Bridget’s anxious confusion between the value of a loonie and the value of a toonie in counting out seven dollars and ninety-six cents — we thank you for your patience!), took her on a walk to the school she’ll be going to for grades four through six, with Elizabeth on her leash clinging to my chest (tomorrow we take Skittles on the journey), and attended Jack’s soccer game after supper. He pointed out to me (bless you, Dave!) that in fact I did have a productive day and it was okay to feel tired. I am NOT Wonder Woman or Mary Poppins or a Time Lord. (Maybe that should be my mantra?) I can only do what I can do. All the wonderful things I envision happening in a musical montage of whirlwind cleaning, sorting, training (hey, both kids have done their laundry this week AND done a few dishes!) are just not humanly possible.

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Although . . . Wonder Woman, Mary Poppins, Time Lord — that’d be one helluva cosplay mashup, now wouldn’t it? And isn’t Mary Poppins really Gallifreyan ANYWAY???

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Yeah, Moffat’s all over that one.

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I want to sigh, and yet I can see the possibilities there  . . . and so off I go, finding yet another fun way to dream, avoid the chores (they’re always there anyway), because if it’s not reading or writing, it’s designing and crafting.

Good thing I’m not a maniacal villain determined to take over the world, now, isn’t it? Take ON the world, on the other hand . . .

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I need chocolate.

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Double Post Day! Post 2: On Unicorns and Star Trek and Housecleaning

I thought about writing this post on how my second sick day went (very restful, thanks, but several panicky messages from my students on our class website. Still, my ear popped just now when I sneezed, so that’s something! And my head is much less stuffy. Hooray for feeling human again!) — I didn’t do very much, moving when I needed to, spending time handling our Beardie and petting the dog, washing my germ-filled bedding and sheets and then having a lovely nap, finishing Season 3 of Call the Midwife and crying during every episode… But that’s about it. I answered my messages and gazed out at the beautiful yet frigid winter day, twiddling my thumbs and willing my coughing and stuffiness to go away.

Which brings me to unicorns.

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When I was an adolescent, I developed a love affair with unicorns which never quite faded away. The unicorn was the first animal I put real effort into drawing, using a How-To guide for sketching in a magazine, and I still use the basic concepts for drawing animals with hindquarters and forelegs, although I’ve never managed to get the nose quite right. Come to think of it, I can’t do that with humans, either . . . My hubby likes to playfully mock my love of unicorns, in the way that I playfully mock his Trek-ness. But the thing with unicorns is perhaps the same with Star Trek.

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I think that for both of us, it’s the symbolism of the thing that we like the most.

Both unicorns and Star Trek represent an ideal world. An existence that is as beautiful as it is mysterious, whether through magic or science (or, the combination of the two). Both are associated with adventure, taking chances, following dreams, and the power of the stars. Unicorns are mythical beasts that are known for being difficult or impossible to find; Star Trek is about encountering difficult or seemingly impossible situations and overcoming them. And there is beauty in both the beast’s form and the creatures that each crew of the Enterprise contacts in outer space. There is danger in both as well: with unicorns, if you’re neither virginal nor pure of heart, or even female (sexist things!), you run the risk of being impaled on the spot. With the entities and hostile aliens (or those who misunderstand the good crew’s intent), the risk of imminent death is the same.

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I realized tonight as I was combing through pictures of Bearded Dragon vivariums and wishing that I could maintain my home as well as a 1950s housewife (sorry, Gran, I know you sigh at me), that I’m still pursuing that fictional ideal. I put a lot of pressure on myself and I can never live up to it, creating a cycle of guilt. I’m a hunter chasing a unicorn, believing that if I can just find that one magic being — that ideal situation — I’ll have the answers to everything and a glorious tale to tell. I thought that might be a difference between the myth and the science fiction/fantasy of Star Trek, but they too are seeking answers, and although they are to scientific questions, the answers are no less filled with implications for the meaning and workings of life. And occasionally, the answers are found, though not to everyone’s satisfaction, like that episode in which all the main species bring artifacts together to discover that they were seeded by a single origin species. The Romulans and Klingons were particularly perturbed by that news, as I recall.

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I think, too, that the unicorn is a mirage. It’s a false image built not out of heat waves and thirst, but from our need to believe in something untameable yet pure, perfect in design with its origins unknown, representing the mystery of creation and beauty in times of darkness and ignorance. Much of that description could fit Star Trek as well, coming out of the era of the Cold War as it did. It’s hope that something good still lives in unmapped territories, leading us onward in anticipation of discovery — an anticipation tempered by the understanding that if we actually do catch up with our quarry, some of the magic will be taken away. Still, we chase it, because to behold something so perfect even for a short time changes our understanding of our places in the universe.

At the same time, mirages are dangerous, building false expectations in the mind (and body) hungry for sustenance. A logical mind, balanced and nourished, understands what it is and what it does. The starved are only fooled into an endless and fruitless chase. We’ve seen examples of that both in unicorn stories, and in Star Trek. In real life, if I forget that my “unicorn” — a perfectly clean and organized house, with a beautiful display of books and memorabilia along with a workable desk and graceful vivarium — will only come through sustained effort and planning, if I keep chasing the beast without care or balance or understanding of how the mirage works, I’ll end up self-destructing. Fruitlessly sweeping up dust bunnies over and over without making any real progress. Lodged in a time-loop, walking in and out of the same room over and over without seeing any change or escape.

One final similarity between unicorns and Star Trek: in both, the pursuit of knowledge (or the symbol thereof) is undertaken by a team. Terrible things can befall the solitary wanderer, the lone hunter following glittering tracks, or the single officer (or Red Shirt, heh heh) in a shuttlecraft. To catch a unicorn, you need a team: the bait (innocent virginal maid), the nets (four strong men), a fifth to place the bridle, and the leader(s) (whoever is smart/dumb enough to try). To explore the galaxy, you need a team as well, a balanced gathering of intelligent individuals each with their own task to perform for the safety and expediency of the crew entire. (Here, my hubby — were he reading over my shoulder — would point out that Star Trek is eminently superior to unicorns for that very reason.) Therefore, if I want to achieve something close to my beast, I have to find a way to engage the whole household as a team.

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That’s always been my downfall, getting children and hubby to act in concert with me in cleaning and sorting. It always seems as though no sooner we get one room done that the day is over, we start the next, but the room that we’d cleaned and organized doesn’t last more than three days before lapsing back into chaos. The unicorn leaps, laughing at me, back into the wilds; the Enterprise gets thrown into a vortex while the bridge crew lurches in unison, and I have to start over with assigning chores and motivating and quite often, getting frustrated.

I’ve been thinking about approaching our home like a business and assigning chores, acting like a manager when I get home and have been managing classes all day.

I’ve also looked into Chore Wars, a promising site that uses chores as experience points and levelling-up. I should look at that again.

Still, she flashes her hooves and her horn glimmers from between the leaves. The ideal is so close, sometimes, I know I can get there if I can put just a little more effort in and get everyone — even the stubborn, unbribeable nine-year-old on board.

New Game: Furniture Tetris!

My family and I don’t live in a tiny house (although I think they’re super-cute and I’d love to do that), but the space in our little three bedroom, one-and-a-half storey is at a premium. Part of that has to do with the eccentric layout — I think the original dwelling has been added onto and altered at least three times since the original construction in some time in the 1920s — and with the fact that we have too much stuff. Decluttering is still a losing battle. But this post is not going to focus on the little things that cover surfaces and fill boxes and baskets — I’m able to deal with those. Sort of. No, this is about the big things that we need to arrange to make optimum use of the space available to us.

My friends, I give you Furniture Tetris.

The rules are simple:

1) You can’t get rid of any piece of furniture that you cannot replace. the_floor_is_lava__by_finnishfox-d4psdnt

2) You have to be able to move easily from one area of the house to the next, particularly the living space, without starting a side-game of Lava Floor.

3) You have to be able to move the furniture alone, without assistance from children or partner, who will just occupy the precious space needed to adjust the hulking pieces on the board: couch, love-seat, coffee table, bench, cupboard, side table, TV stand . . .

4) The game can only be played at night or on a weekend, and must be completed within a 24 hour period, or you run the risk of the pieces freezing like the screen on an overburdened computer, and possibly NEVER MOVING AGAIN.

5) The new configuration of furniture must be significantly different from what you had before — just moving ONE piece of furniture doesn’t count. The default number of moving pieces is three. Maximum points are awarded for moving everything.

6) Washing the floors and vacuuming at any time before, during, or after Furniture Tetris constitutes levelling up, with the reward being the ability to invite friends over for coffee in the brief 24-48 hour period during which the new arrangement feels workable and the house is still acceptably clean.

I like playing this game at least twice a year, but I don’t always get my fix. It all depends on my personal energy levels, the degree to which clutter is covering the working surfaces, whether visitors from out of town have been scheduled, a holiday requiring space for a large fake tree and the requisite spread of gift-wrapped boxes underneath it, or the approach of a child’s birthday. It’s tricky, too, trying to make sure that the rest of the family is amenable to the proposed changes. After all, what works in winter (put a couch right next to or just over a heating vent and we will fight over who gets the “warm seat”) doesn’t necessarily work in summer (couch + window = HOT seat). And heaven forbid the new arrangement of furniture make it difficult for the watching of TV . . .

For example: I would love to move my dining area, making it adjacent to the front window to encourage us to actually eat at the table instead of the couch. Then I could make that nice cosy corner into a separate office space, move the couches by flipping them in the opposite directions they currently face, and putting the television in the spot where the filing cabinets are. Trust me, it all makes sense. But certain family members are resistant to my Master Plan. They might have a point about the location of the internet connection cords, but still . . .

I’ve also envisioned moving the dining area to where the computer desk and filing cabinets are — I know, I know, same problem. Damned plugs!

Honestly, I think that computer desk has been in every other corner of the room than that dining area!

I find myself envious of those who can afford or obtain those awesome pieces of fold-away furnishings. Like this stuff:

And this stuff . . .

And these things!

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But something interesting to note: we’re looking at magazine-photo-op-ready spaces. I do know of people who are able to live and function in spaces like that, but I’m not one of them. My world is not built that way, as much as I’d like it to be. I just think that if I had some fold-away pieces, maybe my Furniture Tetris skills would improve exponentially. I’ve often fantasized about doing away with the couch and love-seat altogether, going to big fluffy floor pillows and hammocks instead, but when you live in this climate, floor-oriented furnishings simply aren’t practical. (Unless you have heated floors — heated floors are Da Bomb. I covet heated flooring.) And I doubt my lower back would appreciate the journey up and down, although I am the first to admit that I get more done before I am comfortably ensconced in my couch groove.

I am hoping to complete a successful round of my game soon, although I haven’t yet worked out all of the details. Tonight would be perfect as it’s garbage day tomorrow, making it a perfect time to declutter as well as shifting large objects. It’s also necessary, as we are looking at adopting a bearded dragon in a few days and we’ll need room for the tank. But it requires following the rules as laid out above, so at the moment, it’s a waiting game. I must wait for the room to be cleared of children and spouse. I must be able to find my steam-mop to attack a certain sticky spot left by the dog and her find of a chewy candy or drink box or whatever it was. I have to find new homes for a massive pile of random books that I’ve moved out of a cupboard I shifted in order to store my record collection under my record player (I could probably put the books into the trunk currently housing the record collection but then they’d sit unused and unseen and that’s not the point of having books!), and I’m thinking of putting a row or two of books on the top of the TV cabinet but that will require moving the framed photos and lamp and assorted thingies on display up there and where on earth will they go?

Sometimes, just sitting with things as they are seems like the simpler option.

But then I would not have the victory that awaits me — winner of another round of Furniture Tetris . . .

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