Superhero

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My daughter wrote a memoir for her English class. It brought me to tears. I am posting it below. This girl is a rock and an inspiration. She has been and will always be my hero. Please keep in mind this memoir was written by a 17-year-old. As a side note, there are five of us in our little family and three out of the five have autoimmune disease.

Memoir-A love Letter to Superheroes

There was a time in my life when I didn’t like superheroes. If you know me, that’d be a hilarious statement for me to make. She didn’t like superheroes? How preposterous. She sleeps every night with her Marvel blanket that her mom made her for her 16th birthday. Posters and portraits and pictures for her favorite heroes decorate the walls. A Deadpool calendar sits playfully by her door, each month’s picture showing him in many different funny scenes. Figurines and books sit on cluttered art desks, where an unfinished Iron Man art project rests. If anyone could be called a fan, it would be me.

Seven-year-old me wasn’t. She shook with anger when her family pulled her into the theater to watch Iron Man for the first time in 2008, when Horton Hears a Who, the movie she wanted to see, was playing in the room next door. I often think of this moment and smile ruefully at how foolish I was. Eventually, that anger transformed to delight, and here I sit today, a treasure trove of knowledge about all superhero things.

As I grew up, I had to watch my parents divorce, suffer through abject poverty, see my parents rekindle their marriage, then have my mom become so sick that she’s now disabled. It was a rollercoaster of emotion that I had to sort through at such a young age. My brothers didn’t fare well either, each getting sick or falling in a crevice of sadness. Coupled with more damaging events, I realized the world was not a kind place, and the strength to get through it was difficult to find.

My mother was, and is still, a fierce woman who doesn’t let her disability keep her from fighting for her kids. She cleans the house, cries over her kids’ pain, and lives each day trying to repair family’s woe. My dad, a quiet man, lives each day working to the bone to provide for his family, hands shaky, but eyes steeled against ceasing his work. They have always reminded me of how strong normal people could be, but that didn’t stop me from romanticizing the idea of superheroes in a really hard time in my life.

Superheroes represent an innate image of hope. Flipping through the pages of a comic book, you could find many scenes of heroes sacrificing their happiness for the greater good. They’d give their whole lives to make sure everyone else didn’t suffer. I grabbed onto this idea after seeing a few superhero movies. I thought it was amazing what the world was like. If there was ever unhappiness, a hero from above would descend and make everything better. A spotlight in the sky, a call for help reaching sensitive ears, or a simple phone call were all that it took to instantly get one of those super beings to make everything better. I would often make little stories of myself becoming a hero and helping those in need. My afternoons were filled with stories and blurbs of “pows” and “bams.”

There was a time I was jealous of superheroes. I suppose I still am. There’s one story I remember that caused my fragile body to shake. Captain America, Marvel’s golden boy, was a sickly kid like me in his youth. Then, miraculously, through science decades ahead of ours, he was transformed into a strong superhero with no illness to his name. It was a sickly-sweet joy to watch, as I loved the movie and the comic, but I remembered that nothing like this existed in real life. This dropped my stomach to my feet. If he could become healthy, why couldn’t I?

Many might call me silly for having such ridiculous thoughts. “Get your head out of the clouds!” they might say. “Superheroes don’t exist. Just live with the body you have and worry about your own future!” To that I say, we should never be complicit with pain. It’s normal to try and escape from the pain. I know that wishing I was cured won’t help, but at least I can have fun in the idea.

I was immersed in the idea of having all my physical issues solved like they were in the movies. Maybe, even, my mom could be fixed, too. She’d be healthy, able to run and laugh like every other mom out there. Her hips wouldn’t be so broken, and her eyes wouldn’t be full of pain all the time. Despite the sad reality, when I bring this up with her, she’d laugh, and we’d talk about superheroes and enjoy each other’s company.

Being a fan of superheroes as a young girl wasn’t cool, either. Back in the early 2010s, being a fan of heroes as a girl was looked down upon. My best friend and I, who met in 4th grade, spent years riding the bus together and making up our own stories. We created whole universes, stories, and plotlines of the heroes we’d made saving the world. We’d get weird looks from the kids on the bus. Boys would be flabbergasted if I ever admitted to my love of heroes. Then came the questions, the unceasingly annoying questions. These boys who seemingly guarded the gates of liking anything that they liked, would corner me and probe me on my interests.

“What’s the Silver Surfer’s real name?”

“Do you know who Stan Lee is?”

“Why do you like Marvel anyway?”

“Is Batman DC or Marvel?”

Of course, I didn’t know everything, but after it happened so much, I stopped responding. Eventually, I just shamelessly loved superheroes without letting the other guys put me on Jeopardy whenever I showed my interests.

Funnily enough, most of those boys probably didn’t know Spider-man has a hyphen in his name.

Though I really loved superheroes, I was even more interested in the people who made them. Issue after issue, these people created characters and plotlines that all intersected and wove together to create amazing stories. This was something that influenced my writing. Larger than life characters, who were humans with real flaws, would be influenced by the stories in comics and their movies.

I love writing fantasy, and I never shied away from creating a character who was powerful, but still had flaws like the comics did. There was a time, as a twelve-year-old, where I created a character who could control water, but was deathly afraid of oceans and lakes. It was a fun story to write and I often think of it when I get writer’s block.

Stan Lee, may God rest his soul, has been a role model for me for as long as I liked Marvel. His life story of becoming a Marvel employee and revolutionizing the stories was inspirational. Stan Lee never shied away from putting minorities and disabled people in his comics, which inspired people with those labels. He was a big deal in the company for years, and even became a fan favorite, cameoing in dozens of Marvel movies and shows.

Jack Kirby and Joe Simon were also two role models of mine who were a part of Marvel. The two of them worked together on Captain America, releasing the first issue in 1941, right at the cusp of Worl War II. The issue showed Captain America punching Hitler in the face. At such a scary time for these two men, who were Jewish themselves, they bravely wrote a comic about American pride, showing a symbol of hope by punching a dictator in the face. Comic books aren’t just about entertainment: they send messages of positivity and happiness to those who need it.

Never take anyone seriously who says comics and superheroes are only for babies and children. Those are the same adults who watch hours of football or lifetime movies, which isn’t any different than being a fan of heroes. There’s nothing wrong with liking any of those things,  but comics have taught me so many lessons that football and lifetime movies never could.

Superheroes have taught me about morality, mercy, inspiration, and loss. Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, suffers from PTSD and depression in the Marvel movies. He’s just a man with a lot of money, surrounded by super beings, and he shows vulnerability in his mental ailments. Peter Parker was just a genius kid who only wanted to help his city and the people who couldn’t help themselves. Doctor Strange taught me about loss when he came to grips with the destruction of his hands, and instead saved our reality. Thor taught me about loyalty and familial love, because even when his brother betrayed him repeatedly, he forgave and loved him anyway.

Maybe one day I will grow out of my love for heroes. One day I’ll be able to have more adult interests, but not right now. Marvel and DC shaped my childhood. There were so many moments of joy because of them.

So, what is the point of all this? Why am I talking so extensively about something that most people wouldn’t care about?

I want to convey that when we as humans find something we love, we must cherish it. Don’t be shamed by others for what shaped you as a person. It’s not “silly,” and it’s not “stupid.” It doesn’t matter what you love. It could be makeup, it could be cars, or it could be Disney movies. There are lessons and happiness to be found in everything.

There was peace found in the lessons comics taught me. There was escapism from pain, and a whole world for me to submerge into. My writing was affected, and it strengthened me as a person. It wasn’t just entertainment. Our likes are never that simple. They define who we are and give us happiness.

Superheroes give me hope in times when my family is sick. We watch them together as a family and make our own theories. I see them as a beacon of hope and representation to people who need someone to look up to, where there’s acceptance for all your differences. That’s important to little girls like me who needed guidance at bleak stages in her life.

There will be moments where we’ll forget our own origin stories. Like superheroes taught me, many get lost along the way. We’ll feel bad about ourselves and feel ashamed when people make fun of the things we like.

Remember to always stay true to yourself. Let yourself fall into your passions.

In the words of Stan Lee, “To all of you, I say, Excelsior!”

–S. F. Dragon Hunter

 

 

 

Why is Death so Greedy?

funeralEventually, death will take us all. He will come with his cold, boney hands and lead us away. None of us can escape him. His piercing eyes see all of us—the happy children playing in the park, the woman cuddling her fresh, new baby, the old man taking his last gasp of air before reaching out for death’s cold grasp. Death knows the prize is his.

Why, then, is he so greedy?

Two weeks ago, a friend of mine collapsed in the locker room of a local rec center. He died before paramedics arrived. He was 41. He has four young children, the youngest being two. I’ve struggled since then, still in denial that he’s dead. I didn’t go to his funeral. I couldn’t make myself go. My own mortality reflected back in my face from the tragedy. They did an autopsy and still have no answers to why he died.

Death cashed in early, took him before his time. Did he really need to take a husband, father, middle school teacher, faithful churchgoer, years before old age set in? And what I wonder is, was one life not enough? Because yesterday I was informed that his wife just found out that she has cancer. His insurance policy is being canceled at the end of the month. She has no idea what she’s going to do. She has had no time to mourn the loss of her mate, and now she is staring down death herself. My head still can’t wrap itself around this information.

My best friend and I had boys two months apart. My son will be turning 21 in a few months. Hers died at the age of twelve. I was at the hospital when he died. He had been diagnosed with ALL (leukemia) only six days previous. I did go to his funeral, and these were some of the thoughts I had. My heart hurts so bad. Why did he have to die? I’m so glad it wasn’t my son! Why do I feel so guilty?? 

It’s remarkable that I am having some of those same thoughts now. How could this happen? My heart hurts. He can’t be dead. Thank God it wasn’t my husband. Why do I feel so guilty??

My husband has noticed I have been clinging to him the past few weeks. I’ve noticed he’s been holding my hand a little bit too tight. And deep inside I know that both of us are scared. We’ve seen a lot of death in the past few years. Friends, co-workers, and children of friends have died. A big fat reminder that his eyes are on us too.

It’s tragic that death doesn’t come only for the elderly, the people who have lived what they could out of life and are happy for death to lead them into the next grand journey. But life isn’t fair like that. Death is there, lurking, as a reminder to love fully, to care deeply, to forgive quickly, and to live greatly.

Daydreams and Nightmares

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My dreams and nightmares are intensely vivid. Most of the time, when I am asleep, I don’t feel like I’m sleeping. I’ve been chased by gang members, ridden an elevator to space, and have even died in an airplane accident. Have you ever heard that if you die in a dream, you die in real life? Well, if that is the case, then I have been living as a ghost for the past few years without realizing it. This thought brings me to the strangest dream/wake event I have ever experienced. Several months ago I woke from a pretty intense dream. When I’m startled abruptly and am in that half wake/half sleep stage, my brain can think up some crazy stuff. In this case, I woke thirsty and rose from my bed to get a drink. Half-way down the stairs sadness consumed me as I realized that I had died in my sleep, and was now a ghost. I drifted to the cupboard, snatched a glass off the shelf, and proceeded to get a drink of water. Not once did I think that drinking water proved that I was still alive. I made my way back up the stairs, wondering how I would break the news to my family that I was no longer with them. Arriving at my bed, I saw that my body was not there. I looked down at my hands and arms, finally in the stage of almost being completely awake and thought, oh there it is! Comforted that I was alive for yet another day, I climbed into the bed and fell asleep. Of course, in the morning I laughed at what had transpired in the dark hours of the night. My husband just shakes his head at me when I tell him about my nightly adventures. He is amazed at the way my brain works in such a creative fashion.

In the daytime, my thoughts often get away from me. I’ve already discussed the seemingly catatonic state my husband sometimes finds me in, wondering why I’m staring at the wall. In reality, I’m lost in a far-off world trying to figure out how to escape a terrifying situation. But I also see ‘make-believe’ in mundane situations happening all around me during the day. My mind doesn’t stop; it’s crammed to the brim with ideas.

Lately, I’ve wondered about the correlation between my night-time dreams and my daydreams.  Is it because I have such vivid dreams that I am so creative, or am I so creative that it causes me to have such vivid dreams? This led me to think about all the creative thinkers out there. The writers, artists, actors, and other creative people. What happens to them when they sleep? Is there a connection between vivid dreaming and creativity? I would like to know. Tell me your thoughts on the topic. What kind of experiences have you had with dreaming, nightmares, and creativity? Please, leave a comment, a thought, a story or a musing. Tell me about your dreams.

Confessions of a Derp

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Sometimes I’m a derp. It’s the truth. I am not ashamed to be a derp; it’s part of my wiring. I’ve been this way my entire life. That doesn’t mean I’m stupid. I’m actually quite intelligent. I graduated college with honors; Golden Key International Honor Society, thank you very much. I have often told people that I am the smartest ditz they will ever meet.

Once a friend of mine asked me if I dyed my hair brown, and that if I were blonde underneath would that mean I had artificial intelligence. This was back in the day when blonde jokes were acceptable, please don’t judge.

When I was in college, a roommate introduced me to Saturday Night Live. I had never watched it, let alone heard of it before going off on my own to bravely face college life. It was fascinating to me. These were the days of Chris Farley living in a van down by the river, Mike Meyers playing his guitar in the garage, and getting a weekend update from Kevin Nealon; definitely the good ole days. I was so fascinated in fact, that one afternoon when my roommate came home I asked her if she wanted to watch Saturday Night Live with me. She furrowed her brow and frowned. “You realize it’s only Wednesday, right?”

I’m sure my roommates at the time often wondered how I passed any of my classes. One of them stood back and watched as I frantically searched for my glasses. I couldn’t find them anywhere and was panicking. I was dangerously close to being late for a class. Eventually, my roommate pointed at my face and said, “Your glasses are already on your face.” Ah, the relief I felt as I ran off to class. Of course, this is probably where the nickname wacky Wendy came from. A nickname I carried with pride.

My most recent episode came a few days ago while looking for my purse. I could not find it anywhere. I went to the garage to see if I had left it in the car but found the door locked. I went back in the house, rummaged through my purse to find my keys, and then went back out to the car to look for my purse. I am not making this up; I really do stuff like that. After a few seconds, I realized what I had done and went back in the house.

I consider my derpiness a sign of my brain being overstuffed with thoughts, stories, and things to get done. I got a lot going on up there; it can be hard to focus on mundane things like where my glasses are. It doesn’t bother me when I see people giggle at my antics. It comes with the territory. I suppose some of the best daydreamers, storytellers, authors, etc. have some kind of a streak of derp in them. Are you one of them? If you are, leave a comment and tell me about it!

My Secret Life

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Small drops of water splashed against my head and tumbled down my back. The air around me was dense with moisture. Only a few rays of light peeked through the trees, and I knew it would be dark soon.  I trembled, wondering when the monsters would come. I knew I needed to make camp quickly, and find a dry spot to build a fire.

The soft burn of eyes boring into my side caused the tiny hairs on my arms to stand upright. It was then I knew I was not alone.

My heart leapt in my chest. Anxiety tightened my throat. I slowly turned my head and saw my husband staring at me through the glass shower door. He had a worried look on his face.

“Are you ok?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Why?” I replied as the daydream slowly slipped from my mind.

“You were staring at the wall with a really zoned-out look on your face.”

I sighed. My world and the creatures in it had completely disappeared.

I don’t know how long I had been staring at the wall in my shower. I would have probably stayed like that until the water ran cold. I suppose I have a real kinship with Walter Mitty. The world, to me, is not as it seems. There are creatures and mystical beings residing in blades of grass, hiding behind trees, and living in the shapes in my shower. Portals to unknown worlds are right at the tips of my fingers. I can’t go to the grocery store without seeing something that sparks a new thought in my mind. There are so many stories that my brain bulges with ideas.  Adventure is everywhere.

The exciting part of my secret life is that I have the ability to transport myself anywhere in the cosmos, real or imagined. I can be anyone I want to be. And what should be a simple trip to the grocery store never really is so simple. I have saved the world on many occasions, roamed through secret gardens, worn the clothes of a superhero, and lived life in a musical.

Sometimes when I pass by others on the street, I wonder if they too have a secret life. Is that guy a secret agent delivering the secret code to save the world? Maybe she is really a princess from a faraway planet and was sent here through a secret portal for safety, and she’s secretly putting together an army of mystics to retake her planet. The possibilities are endless.

I think my husband has come to realize that when he finds me staring blankly into space that I have transported myself somewhere else, living among my creatures, and most likely trying to decide what happens to them next. It is a life all my own. Someday I hope to share some of it with the rest of you.

If you are willing, tell me about your secret life. Are you a daydreamer too?

Encouragement

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Encouragement can come from unique places. Today I received my second rejection letter from a publisher. This rejection letter was even more exciting than the first. They claim that they actually read the manuscript and enjoyed it. They just don’t have the marketing for a book of this type. They even encourage me to try and get it published. Wow. Nice shot in the arm to keep me motivated. Seriously, I have heard so many horror stories of agonizing, soul-crushing rejection letters that I had prepared myself for the worst. Two decent rejections in a row will keep me motivated to continue the journey to publish my book.

For those of you querying out there, what was the worst/best rejection letter you ever received?

Death

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I never personally met the man. The closest I ever came to knowing him was through listening to his raspy breath exuding from a room beyond my view. He had a stroke a little over a year ago, about the same time I moved into the neighborhood. Another neighbor and I have visited with his wife, once a month, for close to a year now. He succumbed to his illness on Halloween. Today was his funeral.

The funeral was beautiful. His family was there—his wife, children, grandchildren, greatgrandchildren. There was a room full of friends who had known him for a very long time. Many of the people in my neighborhood have lived here thirty plus years. The man and his wife have been here over fifty.

Many people stood and honored this late man’s life. The funeral lasted an hour and a half. I found that for most of it tears leaked from my eyes, even though I didn’t personally know him. The tributes were heartfelt. Each grandchild spoke of their favorite memory; children spoke of the life’s lessons he taught.

There is nothing better to put a life into perspective than to attend a funeral. During the tributes, I thought over my own life. What would my children say about me if I died tomorrow? What were the most important things in my life? Was it my family? Time? Or trivial things that you can’t take with you when you die? What am I leaving behind? Memories? Are the memories good ones?  Do I sometimes speak too harsh?

I am grateful that even in death this man was able to give a wonderful gift to someone he never knew. I want to say thank you, for reminding me of the most precious things in life; my family.

 

Death does not always come quickly. Sometimes it is drawn out, like a long, raspy breath. A body, weakening over time, becomes thin skin stretched over bones. The mind slowly dims, and the only thing left in his voice is a simple children’s song. He sings it one last time before he closes his mortal eyes.