Category: joshua

The View from February 2016

Usually that’s what I title my New Year’s Resolution Update post. I look back on what I resolved to do–learn to skateboard, say “classy as balls” 100 times, publish a book–and then I measure how far I’ve come. But this year I didn’t make a resolution and there are even more important things for me to look back on. As an added bonus, this year I have visual aids to demonstrate my progress.

This is what my desk looks like right now:

The arrangement changes frequently because my desk is at the same table we use for meals, work, and homeschool. You can see one of our kittens lounging behind my computer on the geography materials. The Oreos are because today is the first day of my birthday. Don’t hate the playa, hate the game.

This is what my desk looked like four years ago to the day:

Joshua brought that rose home for me because I’d just finished writing halo (which became Halo Bound, the first book in the Redneck Apocalypse series), and he was proud of me.

In twenty-eight days, I’m going to publish the fourth and final book in the Redneck Apocalypse series, God Killer. Some people will read it. Most won’t. Some people will love it, some will hate it, some will be totally indifferent.

But four years ago, only one person read every word I wrote. He was even proud of me for writing them. He still is today.

Many of the greats throughout history give off this illusion of having gotten where they are on their own. “Writing is a lonely business” and all that. Maybe they did, but I did not. There is one reason I’ve made it this far, one reason I can sit down at my computer and bleed into a word document, then stand back up and grin like a dog with brain damage. His name is Joshua and I love him.

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When is a computer not a computer?

For those of you who can’t view the image, this is a picture of pure love and support. For those of you who can’t view metaphors, it’s a picture of my new computer.

Near the beginning of the summer, my old computer began having what people in the tech biz refer to as “freak outs.” The screen would go black and the Caps Lock key would start flashing, which it turns out is really bad. (Don’t worry. This isn’t a horror story about losing tons and tons of files. After the first twenty times my computer freaked out, I wised up and transferred everything from my computer to a secure location.) Last month, my computer finally gave up the ghost for good.

Now, it just so happens that September, October, November, and December are the only months out of the year where all of our biggest bills are due, the months when we actually plan to have no money and scrape by eating all the weird stuff that accumulated in our freezer and on our shelves over the previous eight months.

But this year, not only did we not have the money we planned not to have, we also didn’t have the money required by several surprise things that popped up. Replacing the bald tires on our truck, getting a new part for the furnace, and so on. No matter what kind of fancy fund-work we tried, there just wasn’t a way to replace my computer until Josh got his Christmas bonus.

Four months without writing. In the self-publishing world, that’s a death sentence for your career. In my world, that’s a death sentence for me. Writing is how I live. It’s how I cope with reality. It’s how I measure all of my self-worth.

For a while, I tried to figure out typing on my phone. After that, I went back to my high school days and wrote in a notebook. (Imagine!) But not being able to write the amount that I’m used to writing in the time I’m used to writing it in a good ol’ fashioned word processor was killing me. I didn’t complain or throw any overt fits, but Josh noticed I was depressed, upset at myself, and entirely at loose ends. When you share something as deep and meaningful as a nightly tour of Skyrim, it’s hard not to learn to pick up on your spouse’s moods.

Last Tuesday, Josh came home and slapped a check on the counter.

“We’re buying you a new computer,” he said.

“What?” I said. “How?”

“I asked if I could work the next four Fridays and get paid up front,” he said.

To fully understand this, you need to know that near the beginning of the year, Josh started going in at five every morning and working through lunch every day so he could come home at three and have Fridays off. He did it so he could spend more time at home with the boys and me. For him to sacrifice four of his Fridays to buy me a stupid computer was too much.

All I could do was ask him why.

He shrugged. “I want you to be able to write.”

Q: When is a computer not a computer?

A: When it’s physical proof that I’m loved and supported by one of the best men in history, a man who is constantly sacrificing for my dream. Something I already knew, by the way. But now you know it, too.

How to Bloom Late

Or, “Understanding Gender Denial”
Guess what, readers? I am a girl. Female. Woman.
I’m okay with admitting that. Or, really, I’m becoming better at admitting that. Growing up, I wasn’t able to. I didn’t want people to think of me as a girl. I wanted to be tough, strong—“totally b.a.” is a phrase I use nowadays that I didn’t know back then, but it’s definitely what I wanted people to think when they thought of me. I wasn’t gay and I never felt like a boy trapped in a girl’s body. I just didn’t want people to see me as a girl.
Why? Because I didn’t want anyone to think that they could hurt me. I had been a girl before. I’d worn skirts and headbands and got my hair cut in all the cute ways that little girls do. And I’d been hurt.
So I dressed in boy’s clothes. I wore button-down shirts and combat boots and—when I could get away with it—pants to church. No makeup or jewelry, ever. Skirts when the religious guilt and yelling got to be too much, but only huge tent-like messes that looked awful and dragged the ground. I was the first female in the history of my school to buy a men’s letter jacket, the kind with the gold sleeves. I tried to speak and sing in a lower voice.
Nothing girly was allowed in my interests. I could only like the things I thought boys liked—wrestling, hunting, BMX. I read comic books, horror, and epic fantasy. In band, I played the drums because that’s what boys played. And I didn’t just want to pack second or third snare in marching band like some dumb girl trying to be cool. No, I wanted the quads and I wanted to be the drum line captain.
To be fair, some of the “boy” interests were genuine on my part. Drumming, for example—I love the drums. I love horror and epic fantasy and comic books. But I was a die-hard Cowboys fan who had never watched a full game.
There are a lot of things I could say about a girl trying to be a boy in a rural area, but I wasn’t trying to make a statement or change anything—all I really wanted was to be safe. Gender barriers are fragile things, though. The year after I ordered a gold-sleeved men’s letter jacket, another girl did, too. The year after her, four girls did. It’s such an insignificant thing, but I like knowing that those girls got what they wanted instead of what they were expected to.
With the good, though, you take the bad.
While we were still in elementary school, I told my best friend, a boy, that he couldn’t make me cry. I spent the rest of the week taking punches, kicks, getting scratched, and having my face smashed into playground equipment by the boys in my class. I made it. I didn’t cry. But there’s still a scar where my best friend dug a freshly sharpened pencil into my thumb until the lead broke off.
For the first six years after I started puberty, I denied having my period. If we were out of tampons or pads at the house, I had to buy my own from the school bathroom. I couldn’t tell anyone when I was having cramps so debilitating that I almost passed out. I couldn’t take medicine to ease the pain.
I couldn’t do things the way that girls did. No flirting. No being catty. No long stories that could be summed up in a few words. No depending on anyone other than myself. If I had a problem with someone I either had to fight them, outsmart them, or show them up. I couldn’t have the emotions that girls had. No crying. No fear. No feeling hurt.
No boys.
No one at my school ever asked me outright if I was a lesbian. I know people wondered, though. I don’t blame them. I had all the other clichéd markers of a bull dyke—including weight lifting. But I loved guys. I loved the way they looked and the way they smelled. The way they talked and joked and how their bodies moved when they walked or played sports. I knew they would feel great to touch. Kissing one would be incredible.
But I couldn’t like boys—not where someone could see me.
Then I met Josh. For two years, I admired him in excruciating silence. He was all I thought about, the only thing I’d ever wanted so badly. What was weirder, I wanted him to want me. It was as if a safecracker had started working on the locked-away girl part of my brain.
Josh and I limited our interactions to a ridiculous and incoherent set of rules. He smiled at me; I put on a pair of broken glasses and said I’d been hit by a bus. He gave me paper towels from the boys’ bathroom; I wrote a stupid song and sang it in front of hundreds of people to impress him. We spent half a class scraping a rock-hard wad of gum off the bottom of a desk; I popped it in my mouth and tried to chew; Josh laughed and got in trouble. Each new, crazy exchange was another tumbler turning.
One night I couldn’t hide it anymore. Driving home from Upward Bound, I told my best friend that, “I…think…maybe…I like Josh.” She told me everybody already knew. And since everybody already knew—and no one had changed the way they acted around me—maybe I could do something about it without jeopardizing the image I thought I’d built for myself.
I asked Josh out my senior year. We dated according to those first rules of engagement—muddy cemeteries, chemical lakes, and hanging out with each other’s grandpas. I sent Josh encoded letters without a key; he bought a family Bible. After a few months, we held hands, then he asked me to marry him.
Sorry, guys. I didn’t realize this post was going to turn into a love story. I guess that’s a good metaphor for my life.
There are still times when I find myself avoiding something because of that stubborn, scared part of me that doesn’t want to be seen as a girl. I can’t force it. Locks take time to pick. I have hope that it won’t always be such a struggle to admit that I am, in fact, female.