Indoctrinating the New Kid

Happy post-Valentine’s Day and Happy Presidents Day today (if you live in the U.S.)! This post has nothing to do wither either holiday! Enjoy!

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When I was a kid, the older kids in my neighborhood, when they weren’t trying to intimidate us younger kids or extort money from us, would teach us stuff. You know—stuff like Double Dutch rhymes; limericks they’d heard from kids older than them; curse words (in different languages); how to ride a skateboard; how to flirt; how to hold a cigarette and look cool (um smoking is bad for you, kids); how to hit a baseball. You know—stuff they thought was useful. After that, they would go back to ignoring us or telling us to stay out of their clubhouse. (Okay, that last one was just something my older brother would say to me.) We wanted to be like them, so we listened to them.

As I grew older, I taught those younger than me the ways of the world. Ha. I totally did not. I ignored or terrorized younger kids (like my younger brother). I was not an Obi-Wan Kenobi, out there in search of a young padawan to train.

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Perhaps that’s why I listened in fascination as Kitty took a young kid under her wing. Even a supervillain can be a mentor.

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“What’s your name, kid?” Kitty asked, somehow managing to look menacing even with a cupcake in her hands.

The kid flinched. “Isabelle.”

Kitty nodded. “I’ll call you Mel then.”

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Isabelle frowned. Or at least that was her intent. But try as she would, she couldn’t change the cheerful expression on her molded plastic face. “Mel? But that’s not my na—”

“Mel it is. And you don’t have to raise your hand to ask a question, Mel.”

“I can’t lower it. I was made this way. Just like you were made to hold that cupcake, right?”

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Kitty conceded the point, then cleared her throat and assumed a lecturing attitude. “Mel, to succeed in what I do, getting others to do your bidding must be as comfortable to you as this chair looks.”

Comfy Chair

“Is that the Shopkins Comfy Chair? I love collecting Shopkins.” Isabelle reached for the Comfy Chair. “I don’t think I have this one.”

Kitty held out her cupcake like a judge holding out a gavel. “Don’t touch that. I’m using it to make a point. . . . As I was saying, as any successful entrepreneur would tell you, bending others to your will is what’s necessary for the good of the world. And what the world needs is the firm hand of a true leader. That’s why I demand yearly tributes from the leaders of all nations. . . . Um, you should be writing this down, Mel.”

Isabelle nodded, but I was skeptical of her ability to write anything well, since she had that one-hand-raised issue. But Kitty did not press the issue. Though I was curious as to what point(s) Kitty planned to make when she pulled these out . . .

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. . . I moved on at that point. But I had to admire her technique for imparting her wisdom. It was certainly different from that used by the kids in my old neighborhood.

Judging by the look on Kitty’s face while listening to Isabelle’s squeals of delight as Kitty set the above items on the table, I was certain Kitty had the same thought in her head as did I: Isabelle would never make it as a career criminal.

Sometimes imparting your wisdom is all you’re called to do for a person younger in age or someone less senior in your chosen career. The wise person, however, knows when to give advice and when to hold back.

When have you been the new kid? How did someone older or in a senior position help you?

Valentine hearts from tastefully-done.blogspot.com. Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi found at fanpop.com. Presidents Day image from presidentsday-2015.org.

My Kind of R and R

When you’re in need of some R and R, and you conside watching a TV show or a movie to help you chill, what would you watch? After an exhausting week involving cooking for a birthday lunch for one friend and an emotionally draining visit to the emergency room with another, all while attempting to meet my curriculum deadline (and failing to write a word of fiction during all of this), my go-to for relaxation was . . .

Drum roll please . . .

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Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series . . .

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. . . and anything Batman related

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Perhaps my choices seem surprising. They were to me. I would have thought something soft and feminine like a Hallmark movie would suit me like an angora sweater. Well, at certain times of the year (Christmas), I’m all over those movies. But lately, nothing relaxes me like men and women leaping about with lightsabers, clones steering sleek starships out in space, or a tortured man running about dressed like a bat.

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Clone pilots are the new angora. . . .

While some aspects of characterization on Clone Wars are grating, I still watch the episodes. I wish I totally understood why I feel so relaxed, especially when every episode is about an aspect of war. But having grown up with the Star Wars movies, I have to say I find George Lucas’s incredibly realized world very inspiring.

And then there is Batman, whose film noir life has some unsettling aspects. Yet watching many of the DC direct-to-DVD releases are as restful as a mug of warm cocoa. I don’t mean they put me to sleep. I just find them almost as comforting as the chapters in Fellowship of the Ring where the hobbits, after being terrified by Old Man Willow in the old forest, find safety in the house of Tom Bombadil. (Another comforting chapter is a one in The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame where Mole and Rat find safety in Mr. Badger’s house after a frightening trip through the woods. But I digress. . . .)

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I’ve seen many episodes of The Clone Wars and the Batman animated shows and movies at least ten times a piece. They’re great background for my crocheting projects. And I’ve got ten hats to crochet in the next few weeks.

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Jordie is killing time watching The Clone Wars, Season 5. It was either that or Video Game High School on YouTube.

Perhaps some of the relaxation stems from my love for cartoons, which dates back to my watching Saturday morning cartoons with my brothers. They had bunk beds, so we’d climb to the top bunk and watch the TV in their room. We called this gathering our weekly bed club. Ah, such bliss.

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Watching criminals trying to shoot Batman or General Grievous fight Obi-Wan Kenobi is a far cry from the cartoons I used to watch when I was a kid. But after a trying week, they offer the kind of rest I need.

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Here’s lookin’ at you, Obi-Wan!

Batman animated image from power-animals.com. Angora from nancyelizabethdesigns.com. Top Cat from gifsoup.com. Bunk beds from beds2udirect.com. Obi Wan Kenobi from simplywallpaper.net.

Depression: Should I Post About That?

cloudDepression—when hope shrivels from grape to raisin size. (I wanted to use a watermelon for the size factor. But a watermelon doesn’t work for the analogy. Anyway, you get the idea.) Yes, I struggle with it from time to time. Like now. Not only that, I struggle with admitting that I struggle with depression. As I considered a subject for this post, depression was not my top choice. But it was the honest choice. You can thank Mishka Jenkins for that, because this post on her blog (A Writer’s Life for Me), prompted me toward honesty.

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Sometimes life is like this (left photo), rather than this.

As I consider my state of mind, for some reason “Duel of the Fates” by John Williams is playing in my head. Star Wars fans will remember hearing that music during the battle Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi fought against Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (episode 1). Depression, however, doesn’t seem as epic as that choreographed fight. But it is a battle, nevertheless.

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Obi-Wan Kenobi (left), Qui-Gon Jinn (center), Darth Maul

When dust piles up in corners and you stop noticing, except in bursts of clarity when you realize you have not dust bunnies but dust warrens, that’s when you know the gray cloud overhead isn’t a raincloud.

GollumBut who wants to hear that? We want to hear stories of triumph not tragedy, don’t we? Don’t we? Hmmm. . . . So, as I debated over this post, I had a running conversation with myself like Gollum had with himself in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King—only mine was less psychotic.
Me: Depression? Nobody wants to hear that.
Me Too: But maybe if I admit I struggle with it, someone else will have the courage to admit that he or she does too.
Me: Still, I should write something cheerful or encouraging, shouldn’t I?
Me Too: But if I don’t admit to where I am and write about something else instead, it will look as if I’m having a party on the page that I’m not having in real life.
Me: Yes, but won’t the post seem like a downer?
Me Too: Life isn’t just a series of stairs going up. Some stairs go down too.
Me: I don’t really know what that means. . . . I want potato chips.
Me Too: Well, it means . . . Oh never mind. I want some too.

So that’s where I am. For some “fixers,” this admission might present a problem. Some might want to rush in with advice for how to get over this. “Why don’t you try . . .?” “Do this . . .” “Well, if you would only . . .” But you have to get through certain experiences. One of the best things you can do for someone going through depression is to listen without judgment before rushing in with advice, even if you can only listen for a short while.

E_B_WhiteWant to know something interesting? As I began this post, the latest Brain Pickings newsletter came through the email. In it was an article by Maria Popova concerning a letter author E. B. White wrote to a despondent man. Here is a quote from that letter.

Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness.

The entire letter is here. You can find the letter in this book. In the article on White’s letter, Popova included a link to an article on White’s belief in the “writer’s duty to uplift people.” That article is here, and contains this quote from White:

I do feel a responsibility to society because of going into print: a writer has the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.

So you see why I debated about whether or not to admit to depression, especially if a writer’s duty is to be “lively” and “lift people up.” But White mentioned the need for truth also. Sometimes, you have to admit where you are in order to begin to move on.

By now you probably have “Duel of the Fates” going through your mind also. If you’re not familiar with that piece, check it out:

Weed photo from outsidepride.com. Gollum from wallconvert.com. Raincloud from stevecotler.com. E. B. White from Wikipedia. Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Darth Maul photo from cwcgoodlife.blogspot.com.