Today is (I think) the last day of Holidailies, which is a bit of a relief. I’m planning to take a short break here, a week while I’m in Oregon visiting my parents and another week to recover from flying all over the country. Then I’m hoping to be back here posting once a week, maybe more on occasion, but I don’t want to aim for more for fear I won’t do any.
I managed a post for every day of holidailies, even if it wasn’t posted every day (I think I missed one day, but started a day early, so it evened out) which totals 32 days (including this one) in a row of blog posts. I realize this isn’t an enormous accomplishment, but it’s what I set out to do, so I’m happy to have finished it. I’ve also managed to get some (thought by no means all) of the holiday things done that I needed to do, so it’s not as though everything dropped to the side so I could get the blogging done, something I’ve been known to fall into in the past. A few things dropped to the side, but I think nothing important. I got several batches of chex mix baked for gifts, two glitter bottles finished for Ender, the wave bottle finished (thought not sealed) and two drawings done for Matt. Again, none of these things are especially epic on their own, but they are all the sorts of things I often mean to do, and don’t get around to, so I’m happy, and optimistic about my goals for the year.
If you missed my 2011 wrapup here are my goals for 2012:
1. Find time to do something creative at least a few times a week.
2. Submit a short story to magazines.
3. Re-write chapter 1 of novel.
4. Create dummy for picture book, and 2 finished pages. Submit picture book to publishers.
5. Create one simple (even if entirely useless) iPad app.
There are several other cascading goals, and better defined goals, that come from the ones above, but those are a good target for me at the moment, and I’m feeling pretty good about them at the moment. I’m starting out by giving myself small (very small) daily goals such as getting a sketch done, or spending an hour doing some editing. Re-focusing my efforts in this (these) direction(s) should help get me back into doing what I want to be doing, and what I need to be doing. I think daily blogging has been a good step stone for that, and helped me get some of my thoughts organized.
I did a shirt credit giveaway December 19. The winner is Sherck with the suggestion: “Stare at it until you can see the Magic Eye picture (I swear it’s there, and I can’t believe they would put that on a onesie).” Sherck, I’ll get in contact with the shirt blanks company when I get back from Oregon (in about a week) and figure out how to get you your $25 credit then. This is my first giveaway with an outside company, so forgive me if I fumble a bit.
Matt and I debated about giving Ender such a loaded nickname. Forget the fact that Ender Wiggin killed two children (in self defense) before he was 12, and forget that he unknowingly committed mass xenocide. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, a summary of Ender’s Game should help.)
Ignoring all of the acts he was tricked or pushed into committing, there’s still the problem of (the character) Ender’s own experience: his childhood didn’t exist, and once “freed” from the training of killing buggers he spent the rest of his life trying to absolve himself of the guilt of that war. He is never at any kind of peace until he marries Novinha on Lusitania some… 3000(?) years later, and that is a half-peace, under shared guilt and the weight of disaster.
It’s not something anyone would wish on a child, and names are nothing if not wishes for our children. Look at the most common meanings of names: beautiful, lucky, joyous, strong.
Except the character of Ender is not just the sum of his actions and experiences. He’s the most compassionate bad-ass imaginable. Oh, and a genius besides. And everyone he comes in contact with can’t help but love him. These are far from bad things, even if they are the very traits that get him into Battle School, and more importantly, the traits that pushed him to the top of Battle School, and ultimately made him responsible for winning the Bugger war.
We played with other nicknames. When I talked to him while I was pregnant, I usually called him “Ollie.” It’s funny, it seemed automatic at the time, but now Ollie is a totally different being: Ollie was the fetus and I can’t imagine this baby being anyone but Ender. Of course he could decide he hates it when he gets older, but fortunately Olivander lends itself to all sorts of nicknames. These days I’ve given up on telling people Ender is “short for” Olivander, because generally it just confuses them.
Matt and I both loved the name Olivander, but we weren’t settled on it. I’d thought of the name Ender independently, but wanted to give our baby a name with some meaning aside from a literary character, and Ender, as far as I know, has no meaning beyond the literal “one who ends,” which is not the most auspicious of meanings for a baby. As a nickname though, it’s an entirely different matter.
We were listening to the audiobook of Ender’s Game, and all its sequels, on a series of long trips. Matt had read Ender’s Game before, but not recently enough to remember it. I’ve read it so often I have bits memorized (which isn’t actually unusual… that is true of many of my books). As we got to the end of one of the books, Matt said, “couldn’t we name him Ender?” He was half joking. I grinned at him and pointed out that if Ender could be a nickname for Andrew, surely it could be a nickname for Olivander. I think we were pretty much decided after that.
When you think about it, any interesting literary character probably didn’t have a wonderful time of it- otherwise they wouldn’t be interesting. Misery and conflict is what makes a story. If we have a wish for our children, it would be boredom, and if naming our children were granting wishes, we would never name them for literary characters. No one wants their children to have adventures.
Naming isn’t wishgranting though, it’s giving. And if we are giving Ender anything from the character Ender, I hope it’s a taste of future, of things that seem impossible, of everyday beauty and love. Maybe the knowledge that nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and a bit of healthy distrust for authority. Independence but not loneliness, responsibility but not guilt. And especially a sense of open possibility.
I sign all my emails like this:
I didn’t have a lot of friends in high school. I was the weird girl who made creepy drawings and painted all the theater sets. Looking back, I think there were more people who might have been my friends than I realized, but at the time, I felt very alienated at my school. Fortunately, there was fencing.
As of last fall, I have been fencing for half my life– I started when I was fifteen years old. It was an important time for me, I was feeling lost and a little hopeless.
Fencing was transformative. I was around adults that treated me as an equal which is of HUGE importance to a teenager. My senior year, the coach, Paul, gave me a job as an assistant teacher/coach for a home school program. It wasn’t just the extra money (and I can’t remember how much it was, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t much) it was the realization that my contribution was important, that I was actually of value. Of course there was the physical fitness aspect, I can’t claim to have ever been truly svelte, but I was healthy and athletic by the time I left for college, and my doctor told me my lung tests were good enough that he wouldn’t have known I had asthma. I gained a sense of accomplishment, with two or three placements in finals of low level national tournaments, and, the summer before college, my first ever first place finish. Thanks to the generosity and tolerance of my parents, I was able to travel all over the country for tournaments and fencing camps. In fact, that’s how I first got to see Notre Dame’s campus, frigid but beautiful in January of 1998. Fencing was probably what got me into Notre Dame too, or at least it certainly wasn’t my grades, which were decent, but not good enough for ND.
Without a doubt though, the most important thing fencing gave me was friends. My first boyfriend was a fencer, and while the dating part didn’t really work out, he was my best friend for several years. A handful of other teenaged boys in Eugene were friends to hang out with and play video games and learn calculus from. And because Eugene didn’t have many fencers that traveled to national competitions, Portland fencers stepped up as a second family, as de facto teammates, cheering me on, coaching, advising, when I ought to have been all alone.
My first female friends as a teenager were a couple fencers from Portland: Heather and Leah. Both were younger than me, Heather by a year, Leah by two or three, but perhaps because I was a bit immature, they felt like a natural peer group. With Heather and Leah for the first time since elementary school, I would frequently laugh to the point of tears, usually over incredibly stupid things that could never be explained the next day. I felt completely relaxed with them, and never felt that I had to prove anything. I ENJOYED being with them, rather than feeling that I needed to fit some persona.
Which brings me back to my email signature.
I started emailing, on my Dad’s account, when I was a junior in High School. Heather was my first correspondent. She signed her emails like this:
I thought that was pretty cool. I had never seen an emoticon before, and it actually took me a few emails to figure out it was supposed to be a smilie. At first I just thought it was a cool bit of graphic typography. And, in the way of teenagers, I wanted to imitate it.
I came up with: “<<>>”
It was meant as a pure aesthetic statement, and if anyone asked, I figured it looked kind of like an eye. This seemed appropriate to me, since I spent much of my time drawing eyes and some of my finished pieces had eyes as focal points. I had also kind of, but not really at all, been nick named “watcher” by a senior at my high school when I was a freshman, for my tendency to stare them to the point of discomfort if they tried to haze me. So eyes were important to me.
But yeah, mainly I just thought it looked kind of neat, and I wanted to have something cool on the end of my name like Heather did.
I continued to sign my emails that way through college, worrying a bit that it might be unprofessional, but persisting nonetheless. These days, I don’t even think about it, the <<>> is entirely automatic. On the rare occasion that I send an email that seems too serious to include it, my signature feels naked without it, and for the most part I’ve stopped excluding it, even if the email is important and to a stranger.
It has no more meaning now than it did when I was sixteen. No one has ever asked about it. Which is just as well. If they did, I’d have to admit, that I’ve been signing my emails with <<>> for 14 years for no better reason than I think it looks kind of cool.
So long for now,