Fashion

To break a mermaid curse

You may recall for Halloween I shared definitive proof that I am cursed by mermaids.

I had a great discussion about breaking the curse with Beware of the Reader <– which can we all agree that is the best bookblog name ever?

The curse all started when I didn’t show up to a magical disappearing lake at midnight. So presumably I could break the curse if I could just wake up at midnight to get there! Alas, I love sleep more than I did as a child – we all do, right? – so I have not remained conscious through that time. If I were Cinderella, I would have made it home long before the spell is broken, but alas, I’m the opposite of Cinderella where the spell is only broken if I can stay up ’til midnight.

However, in the weeks following the reveal of my mermaid curse to the world, I received a number of mermaid items:

A mermaid blanket,
to be a land-dwelling mermaid from the comfort of home:

mermaid

Mermaid socks,
to be a mobile land-dwelling mermaid:

mermaid1

A mermaid necklace,
to carry the magic of mermaids close to my heart:

mermaid3

I guess you could say something fantastical is happening, something mermaid-related. Here’s some possibilities:

Option 1: The curse is broken. This could have occurred from my vocalizing the curse, realizing and acknowledging it existed in the first place. I did not wake up at midnight and go to the lake, but I did inexplicably wake up at 5:45 the morning I received the first mermaid gift, and isn’t that basicly equal to midnight?

Option 2: The mermaids are placating me. Mermaids are almost sirens, and sirens have a way of luring humans to their death. When I acknowledged the curse and the way to break it, maybe the mermaids sent gifts to lull me into a false sense of security, so I wouldn’t try to break the curse, to keep me forever in their grasp. Mer-things bribery, if you will. Aghhh clever mermaids you!

Option 3: I have been dubbed mermaid ambassador. My affinity for mermaids has made me an ally, speaking on their behalf to the human world. I never became a mermaid, but I now have an understanding with them. And I am surrounded by amazing non-merfolk that give me merfolk gifts, so I certainly can’t leave to live with merfolk. I like it here with you all too much. So maybe the mermaids have given me their blessing and the humans have embraced my mermaid obsession.

My parents got me the blanket and socks since, as they said, I’m “obsessed with mermaids.” But they should know by now that I’m just obsessed. I’ll flit (like a faerie!) from one fancy to another, whether that be circus or mermaid or unicorn or magicians or – who knows what’s next. But now as a potential mermaid ambassador, I’ll have at least one more mermaid story to share as a Christmas present for you all. Just you wait 😉

Musings

Close encounters of a mermaid kind

I found definitive proof that I have been cursed by mermaids.

But wait! I can’t share the secret here, it’s much too easy to track. You have to go look at my guestpost elsewhere to hear about my mermaid encounters and the curse and what will soon take place. Go quickly, read, before you miss my enchanting take on life, the universe, and mythological creature conspiracy theories 😉

After all, it’s near easy to prove something exists; it’s near impossible to prove it doesn’t.

Faith, for the Creatives

The Tortured Artist Mythology: Difficult to Love

This is part 2 of the Tortured Artist series: Check out part 1 “Identity Crisis” and part 3 “A Christian Artist’s Dilemma.”

Reading last week’s post, you may have thought I hate all that “I have problems but it’s cool” music. You know what I mean.

But actually all of these are on my Spotify favs playlist. I’m all about it, probably embarrassingly so.

Because to some extent, there is some truth to the idea of the tortured artist. (Google it: You’ll find that there are studies crediting and discrediting the idea.) Yes, some of it is confirmation bias….I know there are those who are dramatic nuisances who are not artistic and I know there are those who embody artistic expression yet I can’t imagine having a problem with (I’m looking at you, Maggie Schoepke! Don’t burst my bubble now.) But let’s be real: artists are in general particular about so much. There are non-artistic types that I can see being easy to love – no really, their laid-back temperament and cheery disposition make it so. And if you’ve seen just one portrayal of a tortured artist, well, we’re difficult to love. There are countless tragic stories created from that truth.

Can you spot the mess-up in this picture?
Can you spot the mess-up in this picture?

Above is the picture I did during worship this Sunday. (I know, even if you think I’m a bad writer, you can’t argue that I write better than I draw.) And it actually all started with me spilling coffee on the paper. A mistake. But finding the coffee stain is a trick because really, with my skills, it’s all a mistake, all of the splotches should have been more splotchy, all the lines should have been more defined, the squares would be more symmetrical and the squiggles shouldn’t have angles. One big oops. And that’s kinda life. And that’s kinda church. And that’s kinda people. (Not their creation, but their actions and relationships.) In some ways, the coffee stain is the most exactly right part of the whole thing. Oops!

Confession: I’m a little bit of a Sheldon. From Big Bang Theory. I actually watch the show and want to yell at Leonard and crew for not understanding him. I have a “my spot” too, that (though I don’t react as much as Sheldon) no one else can sit in or I’ll be uncomfortable the entire evening.

My roommates were talking about my “Roommate Contract” if I formed one like Sheldon did. It entailed the following:

  • Don’t let my bananas touch your bananas
  • Don’t let my toothbrush touch your toothbrush
  • Don’t move away from the sink while brushing your teeth
  • Don’t reorganize the communal areas without apt time for mental preparation
  • Don’t feed me sauce without first informing me of its exact ingredients or I will assume you poisoned me with Sriracha

Here’s a near-exact conversation from this week:

Courtney: Amy doesn’t like spicy food

Me: Yes I do, some. I get Medium spicy at Indian restaurants. I just don’t like the taste of most spicy sauces. Because they’re a sauce.

Lexi: And you don’t like most sauces.

Me: Right.

Courtney: But you don’t like it so spicy that your nose runs.

Me: No. Because that’s wetness. And I don’t like getting wet.

Courtney: Yeah, that’s a different problem.

It’s kinda hilarious and kinda pathetic that while at the grocery store I told Courtney that I can’t walk out of the store without a cart, even if I had no groceries. I was joking, but she thought I was serious.

(Side note: My roommates are moving out – who’s ready to be my roomie now? Haha 🙂 )

I’m very particular about certain things, but then I’m fed up with people who are very particular about other things. I’m scared of change and slow to trust, and I know I should be more flexible, more adapatable, just more than I am. But the shoulds can’t own me just like the faults can’t. And where’s the balance in this?

The lie of easy relationships can stifle the artist’s ability to engage in true relationship. Because it’s destined to failure or great pain at the very least, according to all of the Hollywood portrayals. And even if we’d risk ourselves, if we truly loved the other person, would we expose them to the toxicity of relationship with madness?

This is the dilemma artists face, the paradox we love and we hate. Because the tortured artist mythology is true. But it is also false. It’s only part of the story.

I’m difficult to love.

But I’m lovable.

And I can’t forget that part as I try to get rid of character flaws while holding on to my personality.

What About You?

Do you consider yourself an artist or no?
What quirks do you have?
What do you think of the tortured artist – true, false, both?

Come back next week for Part 3: The Christian Artist’s Dilemma

Faith, for the Creatives

The Tortured Artist Mythology: Identity Crisis

Hello, my name is Amy, and I’m a tortured artist.

Or am I?

There’s a problem with the “tortured artist” cliché in popular culture. It’s everywhere. It creates this community of “I’m crazy, but I’m not the only one.” Which is nice. But it’s also an indisputable excuse to continue on with unhealthy habits and relationships. Sometimes it’s hard to determine what parts of me are my artistic quirks, what parts of me are my personality irrelevant to creativity, and what parts of me are character flaws I need to battle. And the “tortured artist” can mesh all of those into one clump and escalate the necessity for madness.

Nowadays, this need to be weird, to own up to quirks or faults, to accept them because I was “born this way” or have self esteem or am genuine (all important concepts) seems to have created this competition to be crazier, louder, even bitchier, with no accountability or ownership of legitimate need for growth and change. Either it’s all accepted as a part of the personality, or it’s all blamed on past sufferings.

In Ted Dekker’s book “Outlaw,” the angel Shaka says, “The insane secretly crave suffering. It gives them an identity, however absurd.” And it seems like that’s the idea of the tortured artist, that my problems are my identity. But that’s not truth. I am not my sin, my flesh, my past, or even my quirks.

Oh, I’m a little mad. But I don’t want to succumb to what I should not. I want to learn and grow and not be held captive to the artistic stereotype. An easy one for me to bring up, because I  am already so not this way, is punctuality and reliability (or lack thereof.) The stereotype of creatives is that they’ll show up when they show up, have no regard for others’ time, and are not reliable for their commitments. And it drives me crazy!!!! Because I’m not naturally that way. But other problems are more difficult for me to bring up, specifically because I am prone to those quirks – or even faults.

On the flip side, I think there is some truth to the idea of the tortured artist. Artists in general possess (or are possessed by) quirks, vices, elusive behaviors, simultaneously inflated and self-destructive egos, and temperamental tendencies. To name a few.

It’s a paradox, difficult to grasp both sides at once. In a Huffington Post article on the legitimacy of the tortured artist idea, Christopher Zara says, “In speaking publicly about tortured artists, I’ve been accused of suggesting that drug addicts are better off high and the mentally ill should not seek help, if only because such impediments, by my estimation, help them produce better art….So why, then, are so many artists still turned off by the tortured-artist concept? For some, I suspect, it simply hits too close to home. Consider the wedge it creates between two fundamental desires: the desire to be happy versus the desire to produce great art. The stereotype of the tortured artist as a long-suffering creative genius suggests that those two states are mutually exclusive — and that’s an unsettling thought for anyone who practices a creative craft.”

And this is the dilemma I have now. Who am I really, and what is the imposter inside of me to let go of?

What About You?

Any other creatives have this feeling? What do you think of the Tortured Artist? To what extent is it actuality and to what extent do we perpetuate the needless cycle?

Just for fun:

Wiki-How’s “How to Act Like a Tortured Artist” – for anyone still learning 🙂

This is part 1 of the Tortured Artist Series: you can also check out Difficult to Love and A Christian Artist’s Dilemma.

My Creative Projects, Showcasing other Creatives

Collaborative Writing: Apollo’s Prophecy

My friend Doble and I are collaborating on a fairytale. And by “are” I mean “were when right out of college, then she left the country to get her masters and we put it on pause, now she’s back and we’re starting it up again, but soon she’ll be leaving to get a doctorate and who knows.” It’s just for fun for us, but involves classic, modern, and lesser-known fairytales, fables, and mythology. My current favorite character is the Pied Piper, but I’m pretty sure the Dread Pirate Roberts or Mnemosyne will grow on me. Anyhow, today I thought I’d share Apollo’s prophecy we created to kickstart the epic quest. Enjoy!

 

When the ciphers gather

where Beauty sleeps eternal,

the mortal fate of one

fulfills the balance of favor.

Resist temptation,

and consult the old woman under the oak

before the ocean’s crossing.

By turning around here,

one can walk back, safely,

and will lose no face.

But those who continue the quest,

that which they seek, the Book of Spells,

grants the possessor what is requisite.

When legend is obtained,

the quest reaches its end,

and the world will pay the price.

 

***Note: A brief portion of the prophecy is a quote from Neil Gaiman’s writing. We know! Neil Gaiman is a part of the legend in our story. No plagiarism is intended (I don’t imagine anyone could successfully steal Neil Gaiman’s work), as this story is just for funsies for us, and all of that portion is credited to his writing within our story. ***

 

for the Bookworms, Showcasing other Creatives

Book Review: The Furies by Natalie Haynes

I am so grateful to have received this book through FirstReads. I gave this three out of five stars – BUT I highly recommend it for the right person.

Who is the “Right” Person?

I favor plot-driven stories – the more complex the plot, the more twists and turns, the more I’m drawn to the story. This book is not that – if you’re expecting it to build to some climactic unexpected ending, that is not the case. This is a wonderfully written character-driven novel – you’ll have much of the plot figured out as you go and just be interested in how it happens and why it happens. For this reason, I did really enjoy this book. So if you enjoy slow builds and exploration of characters, Natalie Haynes does this so well that you can’t put the book down.

 

What It’s About

The Furies by Natalie Haynes is about a drama teacher in a “last-chance” school, and the consequences of discussing Greek tragedy. I know some reviewers weren’t big on the book because of believability – the teacher should have never got the job “just cause” she had connections. Sure, I agree. But that wasn’t a point of the story, and it didn’t detract from the story I don’t think.

I loved the integration of mythology in the classroom environment – the literary side of me loved seeing students intrigued and engaging in the story in some fashion. I also think that the youth were not stereotyped one way or another, but were each unique and complex with believable backstory that provided room for both empathy and frustration at their behavior – like most real-life situations I imagine.

 

One of my favorite quotes:

“Like most ostensibly bad children, as Robert had long maintained, they didn’t want to be bad. They were keen to learn how to relate better to each other, to their families and friends. They wanted to be happier and less angry. They didn’t enjoy the tantrums they nonetheless felt compelled to throw so frequently. They could usually understand that just as they didn’t like being shouted and screamed at, other people didn’t either. And if they couldn’t always make the extra step from recognising that fact to acting on it, that didn’t make them desperately unusual, for teenagers.”

I feel like that quote is both a great philosophy on youth who act out, as well as a great debate waiting to happen between those who have experience with the youth and those who like to think they know what they’re talking about. So much controversy, but a beautiful way of framing the problem at least.

Faith, for the Bookworms, for the Writers

9 Defenses of the Christian Fantasy Genre

This is part of a series. To read “In Defense of Christian Romance,” click here. Check back later for “In Defense of Christian Horror” and “In Defense of Christian Fiction.”

Magic. Dragons. Witches and wizards. Vampires. Zombies. Mythological beings. These words can cause some Christians to immediately write off a book as demonic, Satanic, immoral, or a waste of time. Here’s my defense of the genre.

 

1. Beyond our understanding lies…

Remember when the earth was flat and we could fall right off?

Remember when flying was humanly impossible?

With a clap of my hands I can make light appear. There was a point in time where that would have been seen as magic. Now it’s called tacky electronics. In fact there’s a lot of things so common now that are beyond history’s understanding.

Similarly, there are things believed in the past (falling off the earth) that seem preposterous now.Some fantastical elements can just be a shift in understanding. Suspend disbelief. This is the world that these people live in.

2. God is into the inexplicable

Do you know how many times God asks us to suspend disbelief in His book? Over and over and over. Dragons, leviathan, Sheol, ghosts, miracles, talking animals, animated detached hands, immortality, the “sons of God” and “daughters of men” creating Nephilim. There’s some weird inexplicable things in there. And God seems just fine with His book having supernatural occurrences we can’t explain.

I especially love that there’s a ghost in 1 Samuel 28, and God doesn’t stop the story to say “Hold it. This is not actually a ghost, but a demon masquerading as a ghost.” That may or may not be the case, but that’s not the point of the story. Sometimes God tells the story and lets the story speak on its own, without worrying about what exactly is going on supernaturally.

Remember when Job is attacked by Satan? What is God’s response. It’s not, “Oh well see here, Satan came to Heaven, I was asking if he’d noticed your righteousness, and he challenged me.” Instead He says, “Where were you when I formed the foundations of the earth?” It seems God’s point isn’t to explain all the inexplicable in the universe, but rather to say that there are things in this life we’ll never understand – and that’s okay with Him, in fact, it’s His plan at least for now. To trust Him despite the weird, absurd, or confusing moments in life.

3. Some books, some people…

I stated this in defense of Christian Romance, and it’s as true a statement in Christian Fantasy. I am not defending every book in the genre, but the genre as a whole. Some books that claim to be Christian are not, and should never be read by a Christian. Also, some people may have personal convictions that cause them to never read Christian Fantasy of any type, and I’m fine with that. In addition, I’m aware that overexposure or worship of the genre can be unhealthy, escapism in the sense of neglecting this world for fictional worlds. But don’t throw out the entire genre quite yet.

This post is not to argue over which books should not be read or which people shouldn’t read Christian Fantasy. Rather this is just some thoughts to start a discussion about the view of the genre as a whole.

4. In defense of magic in fiction

To be clear, I am talking about magic in the sense of witches, wizards, incantations, and the like. Supernatural occurrences that are inexplicable are not magic per se, and are fair game in my book, due to reasons 1 and 2 above.

Here’s my stance on magic. And I know you may disagree with me. Magic is evil according to the Bible. Magic is in the Bible, depicted as evil. I am completely fine with books having magic used by “bad guys.” I’d even be okay with magic being used by “good guys” if it was not the end-all be-all solution. Because that distorts the truth. As soon as “bad magic” and “good magic” are pitted against each other, I can’t support the story personally. If there is magic used for bad purposes, I can totally read a book with that, because if I couldn’t then I wouldn’t be allowed to read the Bible. But I will not personally perpetuate the lie that magic can be good.

5. In defense of dragons

I’d say, “Poor dragons, why do they get such a bad rap?” Except, I know why. It’s the whole Satan is depicted as a dragon in the Bible argument. In this case, it may seem that I would only be in support of dragons depicted as evil, just like magic in reason 4 above. Except….

Instead let me say this. God never created a creature that is purely evil. There in fact, as far as I can tell, is not a single thing on this earth that is evil in and of itself. Everything was designed “good,” and then Satan comes along and messes things up. Humanity. Animals. Romance. Alcohol. Emotions. You may think you have a rebuttal by bringing up Satan and demons, but remember what they once were? Angels. Designed for good, but chose bad.

So don’t count dragons as always evil – give them a choice like angels and humans, or have them live in this fallen world as animals groaning for the restoration of creation, but don’t make them all evil. Or, if you make them all evil, have them be Satan’s spawn or something I guess. But the point is, they don’t have to be all evil. They can be good creatures in story without the story being demonic.

6. In defense of Damon, Klaus, the Byronic Hero, and the Anti-Hero

Vampire Diaries (the TV show) just happens to be one of my obsessions. And who do I root for? Damon and Klaus. There was a point where I wondered if this was a problem. That maybe I liked the idea of having an excuse for evil behavior, a reason that being bad can be acceptable or even justified.

You may have a similar issue with this new anti-hero fad (Wicked, Maleficent, Once Upon a Time, and other villains’ stories explained) or with vampires or creatures that go against a certain moral standard. I prayed about this and even stopped watching Vampire Diaries for a time.

I received my answer a few different ways. Here’s a new perspective of this phenomena.
• Hurt people hurt people
• The Misty Edward’s song: “For all men are broken/And broken men break their children/Who grow up to be broken men”
• We all have a fallen nature in us, we all have a tendency towards wickedness until redeemed

You see, the reason I root for Damon and Klaus is because they own their bad choices. They aren’t afraid to admit it. Stefan, Matt, Caroline, Elena – often they act as if their choices are good when they’re just as broken as the rest. My qualm was not with them choosing good, but with them pretending to be better than they are.

Just something to think about when you encounter a fallen creature in a story. What is this story saying? Could the theme actually be Scriptural, even when the character is not?

7. Speaking of vampires….

Funny how some creatures get special dislike from Christians. Not just that it’s a waste of time to read about them because they’re fictional, but that they’re inherently evil, perhaps even demonic.

I’m speaking specifically of vampires with this defense, because that’s where the dislike most commonly manifests right now, but this can be the case for many a mythological creature.

The mythology of vampirism is that they’re humans turned immortal surviving off of the blood (life) of others. We can see why this is unScriptural. I would not argue that this creature is holy and pure by any means. But there is a Christian perspective to this mythology that can bring clarity and depth to these stories.

This is what I think is the strength of vampire stories. A new way of seeing the Romans 6 struggle. For instance, my favorite vampire fix would be Vampire Diaries. On the show, some vampires drink animal blood, some drink “fresh” human blood, from the vein. Others only drink from “blood bags,” taking from blood donation locations and hospitals. Some vampires have embraced this part of their new life, while others are wracked by shame and contempt for the very nature they can’t seem to escape.

Just as humans daily have a struggle between their sin nature and the glory God has designed us for, vampires have a struggle between their vampirism and their humanity – restoring what was lost in them. You see, vampires for the most part have NOT chosen this lifestyle; like humans are born with a sinful nature and choose to sin, vampires are forced into a vampiric nature and must make their choice from there.

Each of these “dietary” choices come with their own dilemmas at different times. The shame and guilt of breaking your own standards. The problem of stealing blood from hospitals. The manipulation of drinking from the vein. And what if the strength of animal blood is not enough to fight off an enemy, and the friend tells you that you should drink from their vein – is it okay then, to save your friends? You see what I’m getting at – no longer black and white issues, but daily areas that appear so grey at times.

It’s easy to say “Thou shall not steal” and the set standards of living for God. The day-to-day living gets harder to see where the black and white is. I thought of this when I read “The Land of Stories” and the brother lies to his teacher to help his sister. The narrator says “it was the wrong thing to do as a student, but the right thing to do as a brother.” I won’t say whether that is justified in God’s sight or not. I’m just saying getting into the gnitty-gritty of life, sin gets a little confusing. And vampirism shows this struggle with a new perspective – a little more distanced, but also a little deeper. Vampirism is an analogy for humanity’s inward life in many ways.

8. I’m so lost I don’t like Lost anymore

And herein lies so many people’s problem with the tv show Lost. Let me be clear – I am obsessed with Lost. I’m completely fine with its unanswered questions and layer upon layer of what’s really going on. Because that’s the point of Lost. That there’s always something you can’t understand, there’s always more going on than meets the eye, there’s always unanswered questions (see my reason 2 above.)

Switch to something more Scriptural. If you recall, there’s this thing where we’re supposed to worship God for eternity and never get bored, because there’s always something more to discover. And the apostolic prayer from Ephesians about “knowing the love that surpasses knowledge.” Some things aren’t meant to be explained. There’s always going to be something more. So in the case of vampires, zombies, mermaids, faeries, hobgoblins, will-o-the-wisps, time-travel and parallel universes – just enjoy the mystery. Don’t explain away how they aren’t real, because yeah, that’s not the case (or is it? Muahaha.) Enter the story and enjoy the inexplicable for what it is. Or don’t read it, if it’s not your thing.

9. We don’t fight against flesh and blood

Ephesians 6 describes a supernatural war that is going on that we are a part of. This can be seen all throughout the Bible, I would say especially in Revelations, where crazy crazy stuff goes down. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, to forget the battle that is going on around us that we can’t see. More importantly, it’s easy to forget about the battle that we are constantly a part of. We’re called to something great and epic, beyond this flesh and bones daily living stuff.

I don’t know about you, but reading a story so much bigger than one character – especially if it includes elements I don’t see in daily life – reminds me of the life I’m called to, the life I’m daily living and so easily forget about. It sparks the need to be a part of this invisible supernatural battle – because we are natural beings, but we are also supernatural beings. And it’s war time.

What do you think? Tell me in the comments below.