Book Trauma

Wordy Wednesday

My dreams have suddenly taken a turn for the literary–as you’ll know if you follow me on Facebook. But the night after that dream, I had a dream much more traumatic.

I don’t even remember what the problem was, but in a desperate gamble to save my books from a no-longer-remembered fate, I tried to heave my entire bookshelf across the Grand Canyon.

My bookshelf

My bookshelf

T501

The Grand Canyon

The attempt was unsuccessful.

This is kind of funny, considering that the morning before I dreamed this, I threw out my back trying to move a piece of furniture to make room to work out in my living room. (That attempt was also unsuccessful.) And because I have never been to the Grand Canyon.

In the dream I was pretty distraught, however. The Fate Worse Than Exploding Bookshelves was surely a fate worse than exploding bookshelves, but all I could think about was my exploded bookshelf. “My books!” I wailed. “Especially The Ordinary Princess and Til We Have Faces!”

So, if your bookshelf exploded, which two books would you be the most distraught about losing?

Valentine Jesus

Family Friday

I’m still trying to figure out why I keep forgetting it’s Valentine’s Day now that I’m married, when it used to haunt me when I was single.

As I have hopped around Facebook this 2/14/14 (or 14/2/14, depending), I have noticed that it does indeed seem to be haunting a number of my single friends and family. Since I was among their ranks not all that long ago, I recognise the sentiments. Because frankly, telling everyone else, or being reminded myself, that “it’s not a real holiday” didn’t ever relieve the frustration much. Whether it was a “real” holiday or not (whatever that even means–aren’t they all made up, on some level?), there was really a lot of in-my-face hearts and schmaltz and flowers-for-other-people and romantic dinners out that I wasn’t having–and to make matters worse, it had been like that my whole life. I didn’t even get many of those cheap cartoon-themed store-bought cards that kids always passed out in elementary school–and if I did, it was only because the donors’ mothers were the kind who made their children give one to everyone in the class.

They were usually unambiguously un-"romantic," too, even for kids' cards. If someone had had a "cousin" one they could have palmed off on me, they probably would have.

They were usually unambiguously un-“romantic,” too, even for kids’ cards. If someone had had a “cousin” one they could have palmed off on me, they probably would have.

(There were the mystery carnations that time in eighth grade . . . but one of them turned out to be from my dad, and the other one turned, for a long time, into a reminder of missed opportunities. And I still don’t know which of them gave me the pink one versus the red one. Heyyyyyy . . . )

Somewhere I have a photo of them, they were that momentous at the time. (Just no longer momentous enough for me to remember where it is.)

Somewhere I have a photo of them, they were that momentous at the time. (Just no longer momentous enough for me to remember where it is.)

So, speaking of real, I happen to believe that Jesus is a real person and a real God, and that you can really get to know Him, and that He can and will even communicate with you directly. This has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, it’s comforting to know that the Being who made you also loves you and has your back. On the other hand, sometimes having the God of the Universe impinging on your personal agenda can be a little . . . oh, I don’t know . . . inconvenient? (There are other more alarming adjectives which could also legitimately be used, but they’ll side-track this post, so we’ll leave them alone for now.)

I left London in 2002. Up until about nine months earlier, I had been planning to apply for British citizenship (dual, actually) and relocate there for the rest of my life. Then, through a series of events, sensations and conversations, I began to think that God wanted me to come back to the U.S. I had promised to go where He wanted and do what He wanted and I had gone to London on His account anyway, so I guess if He was done with me there it made sense to come back, but I was angry about it. I was also angry that I was turning 30 that year and that up to that point I still had never gotten past a first date with anyone (and there had been very few of those), let alone been in a romantic relationship of any duration or significance.

By the time Valentine’s Day 2003 rolled around, I realised that (my last shred of hope) I had not been “called” back to the U.S. to “meet someone” (at least . . . not for another eight or so years). Jesus was all I had left. I sort of resented this, but I was also sort of aware that I needed Him to be all that I needed, or a relationship wasn’t really going to fix anything, so I decided to have a Valentine’s date with Him.

Bear with me–this gets cheesy, but it really helped. I don’t remember where my roommate was that night (she didn’t have a boyfriend either, but she definitely wasn’t there), but I made the nicest dinner I could think of, and I got dressed up and ate it, and then I leafed through the Bible until I found a passage that I thought was something God especially wanted to communicate to me right then, and one that I especially felt I could pray to Him. Then I got out my pens and glue and ribbons and construction paper and made two Valentine’s Day cards–one for me, and one for Jesus. I did that every year on Valentine’s Day after that, until I met my Paul.

I told my Paul about it for the first time today. “Jesus probably misses those Valentine’s Days,” he said. “I hope He’s not sitting at home all by Himself today–writing bitter things on Facebook.”

My Paul went to finish getting ready for work. I looked out the window and saw this:

This pretty much sums up Jesus' and my relationship: dark and light, vibrant grey, a beautiful Tree, and lace.

This pretty much sums up Jesus’ and my relationship: dark and light, vibrant grey, a beautiful Tree, and lace.

“Nope,” I thought to myself. “He’s not posting bitterly on Facebook. I think He just sent me a card.”

So this is mine. Happy Valentine’s Day, Jesus. I love You.

The Eye-Hand Monster

Saturday Snippets

You know when you’re on the verge of sleep and you kind of start dreaming, but you are still conscious of the fact that you’re actually lying in bed waiting to fall asleep?

Usually when that happens to me, the “dream” I’m having is about something in real life that I’m trying to sort out, and if I get startled awake, I become aware that I was conversing with someone about whatever that thing is, and that whatever seemed like a cogent argument or summation of the issue suddenly seems perplexingly nonsensical. But I had one of these a couple of nights ago which didn’t follow this format at all. Behold.

I was with someone in this dream–I think it was my Paul, but instead of being our grown-up selves (relatively speaking), we were both kids in an illustrated children’s book. Actually, I’m still not sure (probably because I was also still aware of the fact that adult-me was lying in bed waiting to fall asleep) whether we were in the children’s book, or writing it together (as children) while seeing it play out before our eyes. I’m also not sure if there was a third child who was narrating to us what was happening in the book, or if that was actually my Paul, too. But we all looked like drawings. All this confusion of perspective makes it kind of hard to tell this story, but I’m going to make a valiant attempt. Oh yes. It will be valiant.

feel like my Paul and I were standing at the edge of the illustrated page, kind of like the Pevensey kids standing on the frame of the Dawn Treader picture before getting pulled into it, and there was this other kid on the inside who was telling about the trouble in his village. The trouble in his village was a gigantic blobby monster with tentacles, kind of like the fingers on a hand, only at the end of the central tentacle was a giant eye.

I don't know who illustrated the dream-book, but it wasn't me, because although the monster looked cartoony, it didn't really look like this. But . . . close enough.

I don’t know who illustrated the dream-book, but it wasn’t me, because although the monster looked cartoony, it didn’t really look like this. But . . . close enough.

I don’t remember what it was doing to terrorise the villagers–maybe grabbing them with the tentacles and inserting them into its giant, sinisterly smiling mouth. Anyway, we were about to run into the picture and try to save the day (I’m not sure how), when the kid on the inside said, “Oh no, wait! It’s gonna blow!” And all of a sudden the giant eye exploded and thousands of tiny replicas of that eye, kind of the size and shape of large gel-caps–scattered everywhere.

“Great,” said someone. “It was pregnant.”

“Those things get pregnant in their eyes?” I asked. (It didn’t occur to me to ask how this happens . . . but then again, I probably don’t want to know.)

“Yep,” said the someone, who I think was the kid on the inside, but might have been my Paul elaborating on the story–since I’m still not sure if we were in it or writing it. “Never mind, guys. You can’t help now. You would’ve had to kill it before it exploded. Each one of those little eye things contains the embryo of another one. We’re doomed.”

“So, they’re like eggs?” I asked.

“Sure,” said the kid. “Or pods. We call them eye-pods.”

Oh yeah. Jennwith2ns. So punny, she even dreams in them.

What’s in a Name?

Wordy Wednesday
Whatever it is, would it smell as sweet?

Whatever it is, would it smell as sweet?

I would make a terrible spy.

There was that time I realised you could probably put explosives in your shoes and get through airport security, before the Shoe Bomber incident, but that’s about the extent of my prowess in that field. I certainly could never manage an alternate persona.

If you’re wondering how I know this, it’s that I have tried for almost two years now to continue writing under my maiden name. The idea behind this was that I could somehow (even though I blog about it) keep my personal life personal by living it under my married name and somehow none of you would know that Jennifer Anne Grosser the writer was the same as Jennifer A. G. Layte. Plus, I already have stuff published under my maiden name.

TheBro says Jennifer A. G. Layte is a much better author’s name, and I think he’s right, and I also suspect he has some idea that it would honour my husband if I were to publish under his surname instead of my original one. But I wasn’t resisting it out of any dishonour. I just really, for a little while, imagined I was remotely subtle enough to maintain two personas without it being blatantly obvious that these two names were the same person.

Only . . . I’m not. I don’t even begin to know how to conduct such procedures. When I send out a query letter about Favored One, I usually sit there for fifteen minutes, wondering how to sign it. Am I supposed to use the name I wanted to be published under and then if anything comes of it, say, “Oh by the way, my real name is . . . “? Or do I sign it the other way and if anything comes of it, say, “But I really want to be published under this other name . . . ?”

Recently a very faithful writing friend invited me to join her in a public reading opportunity next weekend, and she introduced me to her event liaison as “Jennifer Layte.” So I decided to put the question to them. The “Layte” vote was pretty unanimous, so maybe we need to recoin the phrase to . . . Better Layte than Grosser . . .

But I still have a question:

If someone buys Trees in the Pavement and asks me to sign it, do I sign the name in the by-line, or the name I have now?

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Memory Monday

When I was eleven or so, a boy around my age or maybe even a little younger made it into the news because he had begun bringing meals to homeless people in some major American city–New York or Chicago or something. I’m pretty sure up until this point, the only poverty I had been aware of was in what was then called “third world countries”–like the one I lived in until I was eight.

I don’t remember the name of the kid, but I still remember sitting at the dinner table in the house where I grew up, some adult visitors talking to my parents about this story, and The Dream being Born.

What dream?

Well, how about this? Two years later, our surprisingly creative math teacher assigned us to create a scale-map of our Dream House. Mine was a “mansion” “in England” which I was going to buy and partition off into small bed chambers or apartments in which I planned to house all the homeless people of London that I could haul out there in a bus. Because I had read books like The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and The Secret Garden and for some reason this seemed like a plausible modern-day use for houses like the ones described in those stories. I seem to remember writing a paper about homelessness (and another one about the ozone layer) in high school, and then doing a bit of research on Jane Addams, after which I realised that maybe a little more planning and thought would have to go into this communal housing idea, but that I still liked it.

A little later, I heard about some Christian orphanages in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and Morocco, but somehow I never ended up working at any of them. I have, however, as I mentioned to the Youth Group a few weeks ago, been working with other people’s kids since before I was 16. And for some reason the “providing a home” thing has never really gone away. In London one of my roommates and I once took in two different friends who were going through domestic violence issues at the same time, and at various points in my adult life, I have applied for jobs as a residence director at colleges and stuff.

So maybe Number 12 isn’t an accident.

#12

Number 12 is the house owned by Now Church for the past few years, lived in by Pastor Ron and Mrs Dona before RevCD showed up, and now just kind of waiting to be loved. Meanwhile, the Youth have no room of their own in the church, and there are plenty more Youth in the neighbourhood outside of the church, and so for the last few months I have been crafting a proposal to give to the Trustees, asking them to let us turn Number 12 into a Youth and Outreach Centre. The idea is that the extant Youth Group activities will mostly take place there now, and that eventually–I hope in the autumn, pending a few structural adjustments and other reddish tape–the house will be open in the afternoons for local twelve- to eighteen-year-olds to come in and get homework help, spiritual help, and referrals to other centres that assist with more specific issues.

I have been working hard on this proposal, and I am really excited about it. This doesn’t make Number 12 into a homeless shelter. But . . . I think there are different kinds of shelters. There are plenty of kids who need a place that feels like their own, and if we can provide a house that feels like a home even for just a few hours in an afternoon, that has to be worth something.

Just over a week ago, the Trustees approved the proposal.

I was a child when I first thought of opening up a home to people who weren’t my family, in hopes we’d become a family. TWCN is a much younger child, but recently she drew a picture for school that pretty much sums up what I’ve been thinking and feeling lately.

Sometimes you have to wait a lot for the unseen. But the faith of a child is certain.

Sometimes you have to wait a long time for the unseen. But the faith of a child is certain.

There’s another Bible passage that says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain” (Psalm 127.1). I’m praying God’s building this house. I’m trying to have faith that He is. I’m grateful for what He (and the Trustees) have done thus far.