If I Could Bottle My Nightmares (in Prose)

I could easily be a multi-millionaire. Seriously. I’m very close actually. If I can get my brain to work with me, I’ll be raking it in any day now.

How? Easy. I’d be an author using my dreams as inspiration. Not really dreams so much as out and out nightmares. The problem I have is my memory isn’t cooperating in my get rich scheme. I can’t remember my dreams well enough to write them down. Oh sure, I can remember them for like 5 seconds after I wake up… but not long enough to put pen to paper.  If I could hold on to a thought for longer than a few seconds, I’d make Stephen King books sound like lullabies.

You see, pretty much all of my dreams are nightmarish thrillers, spilling over with titillating plot lines, unbridled suspense, and chilling revelations at every terrifying turn. In technicolor. These best-selling novels of mine would be easily adaptable for the big screen. No need to be picky about that. We can franchise it even. Maybe make an app. I’d be into merchandising too. T shirts, boxers, hats, those little do-thingies with the bobbly heads.

I mean, listen, we can discuss all of the logistics later. Right now I’m just ready to start writing and I fully believe my literary creations would be a rousing success. The monsters I see when I sleep are right on par with anything portrayed in John Carpenter movies (back when he made kick-ass horror movies). I want to be humble, but honestly, they might even be better. The things my unwitting mind conjures up while it’s supposed to be resting are truly horrifying and unique. I mean, I should get credit even though I’m completely unconscious. That’s only fair. Right?

The only thing holding me back is that I can never fully remember the way the story goes. (If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.) Seriously though, I can visualize the dreams easily but getting it out of my mouth or onto paper is the problem. I know they would make for good story material and I know I’m ready to write.  The fact that I lack any type of writing skills or motivation whatsoever shouldn’t even come into it, right? Right!?

So come on, brain, let’s start working together and get the next Salem’s Lot on the shelves. Now… just where did I put my thesaurus??

For the Love of Books

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that I just moved. If you haven’t been paying attention, no worries, I barely pay attention myself.  However, this latest move really brought home (ha! Pun!) a harsh truth. I have too many books.  Although, really, are there ever too many books?  The movers who carted my stuff from the old place to the new place might say yes. They might even add in some colorful sentence enhancers.

After my last move, I downsized quite a bit and no longer have the “houseful of stuff” I’ve had in the past. I’ve narrowed down my possessions considerably. Still, it doesn’t seem to have made moving any easier. You see, I had only two different categories of boxes for the movers to sort through: fragile and books. The fragile items include a teacup collection, a vintage/antique plate collection, and other such sentimental possessions. I’d have to say though, the books won. You know, if we’re keeping count. Which I suppose we are.

I loathe giving up a book. In the past, I have donated a select few to a nursing home and a preschool. But in general, if I like a book enough to buy it, I like it enough to keep it.  So here I am, surrounded by books and fragile things. Not sure what that says about my state of being, but there you go.

If I’m honest, there’s really something comforting about being surrounded by books and if you’re an avid reader, I’m sure you can relate. I guess it’s why I love libraries and bookstores, and my own “not quite to the hoarding point” collection. I’ve always dreamed of having a library the likes of which are scene in Beauty and the Beast.  There’s just something about mountains of books that feels like home.

To start, there’s the soothing smell of an old book. Hell, even brand-new books have a comforting aroma. I’m willing to bet that you know exactly what I’m talking about. Next, there’s the satisfaction to be found in a page flip. As you progress further and further into a tale and flip a page, a feeling of accomplishment that’s almost addicting always follows. I’m not even going to get into the sheer excitement of delving deeper and deeper into a good story and the need – the absolute need – to find out how it ends … I mean, that would probably be showing a bit too much of my “crazy.”

To say I owe a lot to books is probably also showing a bit too much of my “crazy.” Doesn’t make it any less true though. I’m able to look back and see every book, every story, every adventure, and connect it to the time in my life when I first read it. When I need to reconnect to that time in my life or that feeling, I re-read certain books. Some books are just “comfort food” for my soul. Others take me on an adventure or thrill me with the ghosties that I love so much.

Heaven for me would be my own little kingdom of books, books, and more books. Nerdy? Yes, but it’s my thing. We all need to find that thing in life that brings us joy and, for me, that’s books.

Finding Calm in the Chaos

I’ve always wondered about admired the ones who keep a cool head in the face of stressful, sad, and irritating situations. Some people just seem so damn happy all the time. And while I envy them their joyful outlook on life, they’re also annoying as hell. I mean, just how do they find such unbridled joy – let alone, so much of it – when the world around us is so often full of noise and negativity?

I will admit that I still don’t know the answer to that. It’s not alcohol. I know that much. All that gets you is naked on a table at the neighborhood TGI Fridays, dancing to piped in muzak, and no-one wins in that scenario.  As much as I’ve enjoyed my spontaneous tabletop diversions, I’ve decided to explore the idea of joy in a much more productive manner.  And I’m taking all of you along for the ride.

What prompted this experiment in happiness, you ask?  Well, walking through a bookstore recently (of course, right? a bookstore!), I saw a book called Three Moments of Joy.

The cover drew me to the book if I’m being honest. It just looked happy. Contrary to my oft-displayed demeanor, I like happy. Three Moments of Joy is a guided activity journal, and while there’s not much to the book itself, the purpose behind it is amazingly profound.  It’s intended to help us focus on finding three things that bring us a sense of joy every single day. More than that, it’s meant to change our entire outlook on life and the world around us. That’s a tall order for a book with an illustrated bird on the cover, I know. However, this book’s motto… why yes, the book has a motto… sums it up pretty well: “What you focus on, expands.”  Following this logic, it’s not such a tall order after all. Even on the worst days, we can find three small moments of joy, thereby lessening the grief or the stress or the chaos. We may have to dig deep to find those three small moments, but… what you focus on, expands.

One thing I liked about this book is that rather than have all the answers, it sends you off to find your own. This book seemed to say, “Hey, we understand life is busy and chaotic. Life can be a struggle. Life can suck. Why not try to find three things that make you happy each day? This story is yours and you’ll decide on your own path.”

“Stop and smell the roses”, has always seemed cheesy to me. I just don’t have time to do that! But maybe that’s the problem.

As I said, I’m taking you along for this enlightenment ride. I’ll post my “three moments of joy” every evening. Although, knowing me, I’ll likely end up piggybacking a few together BUT I will be giving it my best effort. Maybe you’ll share your three moments of joy with me in the comments so we can truly take this journey together.  I mean, hell, if I can do it, as curmudgeonly as I am, anyone can. Besides, who couldn’t use a little more joy in their life?  What you focus on, expands.

 

Libraries, am I right?

Okay, so I know that I said I was off my book kick, but well, to put it bluntly, I lied. Although to my credit, this is more about libraries than books. Yeah, yeah, fine, I know. It’s about books.

As a kid, I spent a lot of time at the local library. Shocking, I know. The same can be said for when my kids were young readers. Quite honestly, nothing has changed. Walking into a library is heaven for me. It brings a sense of tranquility and excitement, if that makes sense. I do it as often as possible.

I’m constantly amazed at the number of people who don’t even own a library card. I mean, WTF? It’s free for goodness sake … free knowledge, free entertainment, free escapism. The question shouldn’t be, why do you need a library card, but rather, why don’t you have a library card?

They call the internet the information superhighway … well, the libraries had this down pat long before the internet was thought into existence. I’ve always thought that the idea that you could walk into an information storehouse and take as many books as you want home – for free – was just too good to be true. From self-betterment to the opportunity to explore new and exciting worlds, libraries are valuable.

In what might seem like an unrelated statement (but trust me, it’s not), if you’ve never seen 1994’s, The Pagemaster, I highly recommend it. Yes, I know you’re all adults. So what? It’s an awesome movie. I first watched it with my son and it soon became a favorite for us both, and then my daughter as well, when she came along. It brought to life, literally, the books we already loved so much.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’ve been known to watch it just a *cough cough* time or two in recent years.

The Pagemaster is focused around a ten-year old boy named Richard. Young Richard bases his perception of life on statistics and figures and risk assessment, resulting in a fear of… well, just about everything. Upon getting caught in a storm, Richard takes shelter in a library to wait out the nasty weather. A fantastical adventure ensues as Richard encounters the Pagemaster, three books – horror, adventure, and fantasy – who seemingly come to life (horror, bless his heart, is my favorite … I know, typical, right?), and various fictional characters from beloved classics. To avoid spoiling the entire movie (I will reiterate that I highly recommend you watch it yourself), Richard gains a new sense of confidence and fearlessness by the end of his adventures.

It would be easy to say that The Pagemaster is a metaphor for the way books offer excitement, adventure, and a new perspective on life that we can carry with us forever, because it’s true. But it’s more than that. Books let us explore worlds that we never knew existed while helping us to be more present in our own. They quite literally feed our imagination to keep our sense of wonder alive, and this movie captures it all. An homage to libraries everywhere, The Pagemaster captures the importance of books and the impact they can have on young minds (though old minds could benefit from a book or two as well!).

So, while it might seem a little odd to recommend a movie in order to encourage reading… that’s exactly what I’m doing. I mean, let’s face it, today, now more than ever, we need books (and the libraries that safeguard them) and all they have to offer.

My Spirit Animal

So. I went to the movies the other day. What did I see, you ask?  Well, I’ll tell you. No laughing though. It was Detective Pikachu, with none other than Deadpool himself as the titular character. I will just say… GREAT movie. In fact, I saw it twice. I’ll probably go see it again. I know, I know, it’s not exactly Oscar-worthy and the snootier among us won’t even give it a chance. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic movie and I highly recommend it.

Pokemon holds a very special place in my heart. My kids grew up with it and I enjoyed it alongside them. I eventually became very familiar with all things Pokemon – from the television show and popular games to the trading cards and movies. Yes, there were movies prior to the live-action one starring Ryan Reynolds Deadpool. They were of the animated variety, but still.

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but there are about a gazillion Pokemon, Pokemon being “pocket monsters.”  For those into the Pokemon craze, we all have our favorite. If you asked most fans, they’d probably tell you they prefer the “cooler” ones like Charizard or Mewtwo. There’s also a wide fan base for the most recognizable Pokemon of all, Pikachu.

If you asked me what my favorite Pokemon was, however, you’d probably be a bit underwhelmed. Who’s that Pokemon? (Ha! See what I did there? Oh, well, you’d have to follow the show to get that joke. Nevermind.)

Without a doubt, Psyduck. Seeing the most recent incarnation of this amazingly awesome pocket monster on the big screen just solidified my connection.

click the pic for the Detective Pikachu movie trailer … you can catch a glimpse of Psyduck in his glory at the 2:13 mark.

I relate to Psyduck on a deep, personal level. You might even say that Psyduck is my spirit animal. This little, yellow duck-like Pokemon is widely considered to be one of the more useless Pokemon. Still, I can’t help feeling drawn to him. Personally, I think Psyduck gets a bad rap.

See, Psyduck is absolutely riddled with anxiety. About what?  Well, about everything. Boy, can I relate to that. He’s also plagued with constant migraines and I feel his pain on a spiritual level. The thing is though, Psyduck’s anxiety and migraines can get to a breaking point and when that happens, he loses his shit. Which in this case, means he explodes with a wave of psychic energy the force of which is not unlike a nuclear bomb. Like I said, awesome, right??

Unfortunately, fortunately, of course, I mean, fortunately, my especially bad migraines don’t lead to an outburst of awe-inspiring psychic energy. Psyduck has me beat there. My migraines do occasionally make me lose my shit but I’m still waiting on those psychic powers.

Much like me, Psyduck is also shy and easily overwhelmed by the world around him. These qualities tend to make Psyduck reluctant to engage in battles like most Pokemon and it makes him endlessly frustrating to his trainer. I, too, tend to shut down in overwhelming situations and it can be frustrating to those around me. In fact, frustrations abound. Maybe Psyduck and I are just misunderstood.

And hey, at least we’re not a Magikarp.

Books, Books, and More Books

I know, I know, enough with the books already, right? Oh, who am I kidding. I love books. Will always love books. And speaking of books, I need more bookshelves because my personal library is ever-growing. Yes, I buy books. I own books. I will also readily admit that I rarely clean out my collection, preferring to keep what I have forever. I. Love. Books.

I’ve talked before about the readers in my book clubs who seem to think that reading is a competition. In this week’s meeting, one woman announced she had read 30 books during the month of April. That’s one a day. Who has that kind of time?? I know, I know, I keep harping on the whole “how many books did you read” thing, having regaled you with other such stories recently… but come on!

These are the members who joined for the sole purpose of showing off their Evelyn Wood Speed Reading ability! No matter what book you bring up, they’ve read it. I mean, of course they have. They’ve seen the movie, and trust us, the book was better. Okay, well, they have a point there.

But you know what these voracious readers won’t do?  Re-read. “There are too many new books out there to read, why would I waste my time on re-reading?”  Ummm… I don’t know Karen, for starters, maybe you’ll catch little details you may have missed the first time during your speed-reading session. I’m no speed reader, but I, and many like me, reread books just for the purpose of enjoying a beloved story all over again, delighting in the subtle plot points we may not have noticed before, or for whatever reason, didn’t “click” in our heads during the first read. It’s like watching a movie more than once and catching the joke or the witty dialogue or the especially meaningful glance that you missed during the first viewing.

Not to mention that some books just get better with age. Maybe upon a second or third read, the story will hold greater meaning – or be interpreted completely differently – because as we age, so does our insight. Re-reading allows us to tap into that maturing mindset to see things differently than we did before.

For me, my most dog-eared books are what I call my “comfort reads.” They are books I’ve read too many times to count just because they bring me joy (as much as Stephen King can bring joy), I love the characters more than a person should ever love fictional characters (I’m looking at you Poirot and Mr. Darcy), or because the story means something to me. And you know what? I’m not ashamed. Re-reading is cool.

So, as I close out my book rants for a while, what are my words to you? Read the book you’ve already read. And then read it again. Drink it in, enjoy it. You won’t regret it. Trust me on this.