Friday, December 11, 2015

Encouragement

I work with kids.  I have for a really long time.  While I do not have a formal education in early childhood education, I have learned some things through experience, through observation, and through research online.

I had an art program last night; my favorite program out of all that I have ever done. A friend and former co-worker came up with the idea for this program, so I can't take all the credit, but this program is brilliant.  Basically, gather a bunch of art supplies.  Like, anything.  Odds, ends, leftovers, whatever.  Set them out and let the kids have at it.  They can create whatever they want.

For some children, this can be daunting.  They are so used to being given instructions on how to do something that when I tell them they can make whatever they like, they look at me like, "What am I going to do?"  I give suggestions, sometimes, but a lot of the time, after the initial shock, they get right down to it.

Kids are super creative, be they two or ten.  They can use their imaginations like a pro, turn an old dowel rod into a wand, or a stirring spoon, or even a fishing pole (or a thousand other, more creative things).  The kids who come to this art mix program love it.  They always have a good time and head home with tons of smiles.  I love watching them try to work out the process of how they're going to achieve building that construction paper house, or make that foam Christmas tree stand up.  Sometimes they get frustrated, but there's nothing like the look on their faces when they finally figure out how to do something, when something works perfectly.

I get frustrated as an educator when children are in the process of learning, fail to do something, get upset, and then the parents rush in to make whatever the child wants, perfectly.  Granted, this normally happens with very young children (toddlers, preschoolers) rather than with school-age kids, but there are signs that this happens in these kids' everyday lives (they ask me constantly to help them glue something, or wrap presents, or say, "I'm not good at this").  I understand why parents do help; no one wants to see their child get upset, frustrated, throw a tantrum, etc.  But sometimes that blocks the learning process.  Sometimes we have to fail in order to see how not to do something.

A lot of the time I like to take a step back, especially with the older kids (6 years and up) and just watch.  If they ask me directly for help, I will talk them through, but in general I like to give minimal assistance.  They learn so much more than they would if I were there doing it for them.  Example; last night, a little girl built a house out of construction paper.  Another little girl came up and asked me if I could show her how to do it.  I told her the first little girl was a better teacher than I, because she was the one who actually made it!  One little boy wanted help wrapping up his creation (like a present) and said I had to help because he "wasn't good enough."  I told him I'd help hold the paper, but he had to figure out how to wrap, because how else was he going to get better than to practice?

I encouraged them along the way; there were so many creative pieces made from foam cutouts, construction paper, yarn, pine cones, boxes and beads.  Every time I saw a creative use of materials, I would say, "I see you being creative!"  Even if the final product wasn't perfect, or anything like I could make, why should I point out the flaws?  I would rather encourage these kids to keep going.  Demanding adult-standard perfection can be extremely daunting to a seven-year old (I definitely have experience with this... from the seven-year-old's point of view).

Now, I'm not saying that one should just leave children to flounder, by any means.  If they are really struggling, help is obviously needed, but don't go and fold the paper for them.  Try to talk them through the process, or show them an example of how it's done.  And always encourage.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Failure?

It has been far too long since I wrote a blog post.  I took September off because I kept thinking, "I'll write a post later," but later never really came.

To be honest, I have been lost in self-pity.  I can't exactly contribute it to the weather, since the last few weeks were incredibly gorgeous; sunny and warm.  I should have been outside, basking in the last of summer and the very beginning of fall.  Instead, I stayed inside.  The good news is that I have almost 100% completed Super Mario World 3D (World Crown is just dang hard!).  So accomplished.

I have been looking for other part time jobs right now, but all the ones I have found are after school, and that is my prime programming hours for my current job, and I am not leaving unless I find a full-time job with benefits and really good pay.  In the meantime, at least I am gaining experience where I am.

I'm afraid that my sunny disposition is suffering the ill effects of dwindling sunlight and excess clouds.  Thankful as I am for clouds because they help the leaves turn brighter colors, I hate being separated from the sun.  I am a sunflower, plain and simple.  It makes me sad, and then I am upset because I am sad.  Then I start thinking about all the ways that I have failed, instead of all the successes that I have had.

I have a mixed relationship with failure.  Part of me follows the idealism of Peter Lafleur (the main character from the movie, Dodgeball); "I found that if you have a goal, you might not reach it. But if you don't have one, then you are never disappointed."  Good point, Peter, except that I am constantly disappointed in myself anyway, for not really doing anything but skating by.  The other part of me follows JK Rowling;  "It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.”  I have felt as though I am failing by default.

But I don't think that's entirely true.  Sure, I may have settled for some things that I'm not proud of (like my 10 year "career" in food service, or a few relationships that turned out to be bad for me), but at least I learned something every time.  I think that's really the point when thinking about failure; did you learn anything?  Will you make a different decision next time?  Oh, that last one.  That's the hardest one to do.  At least when you're stuck in a failure rut, you know what to expect.  Potential success can be really scary.  It means work, dedication, sweat, or at least giving up the video games and zoning out.  It means doing things that make you discomfortable, things that make you think hard, and brings up a thousand problems that you have to face and come out on top of.


It's a hard decision to make, and a lot of people are not lucky enough like me to be able to chase their passions on a whim.  I am so incredibly blessed.  But I deserve to get my ass in gear and learn to apply myself.  I just have to figure out how.


Monday, August 31, 2015

One WEIRD TRICK to Help You WAKE UP in the Morning

We've all been there.  The alarm goes off at an ungodly early hour.  We slap the snooze button and try to catch a few extra z's.  But then... oh no!  It's been thirty minutes and now we have to rush to get ready.  Wouldn't it be nice to just roll out of bed and take your time getting ready?  (If the answer is no, why are you even reading this?!)

Well, I have some amazing advice for you.  Much akin to the "One Tip for a Tiny Belly" and "Why Dermatologists Hate Her", this weird trick is ridiculously easy to follow.


But first, let me give you some science.

Did you know that your cells respire?  Yes, every cell in your body has little tiny lungs inside of it that makes cellular respiration possible.  These tiny lungs carry oxygen around in your body and help to get rid of carbon dioxide.  Don't believe me?  Just look up cellular respiration and you will be amazed at the things you can learn.

Your cells never stop breathing (well, they do, but we call this "death"), even when you go to sleep!  Your body carries on carting oxygen and carbon dioxide, as well as waste around in your body.

Do you see where I am going with this?  No?  Well read on!

The waste that your body carries around comes in two forms; poop and urine.  When you finally wake up in the morning, your metabolism gets a jump-start and that's why, two bites into your oatmeal, you get the urge to go to the bathroom.

The best thing that you can do the night before is to prepare yourself for the next morning.  How do you do that?  With this one weird trick, of course!

Instead of just going to bed with your phone, have a set bedtime.  I cannot stress this enough.  Bedtimes are important for everyone, not just four-year-olds.  Once you are comfortable in bed, curl up with a good book and read for a while.  This will help you relax into your happy, warm, sleepy times.  Maybe turn on a fan for some background noise.

Then comes time for the one weird trick.  Are you ready?  Drink between 4 to 8 ounces of water, depending on your body.  No more than twelve.  Why should you do this?

Your body dehydrates overnight because you aren't drinking water, so this is not only healthy, but it helps to flush out excess toxins.  Can it be tea?  Certainly, as long as there is no sweetener.  Can it be soda?  No.  Diet soda?  No.  Juice?  No.  Drink water, dammit.

Again, depending on your body and the amount of water you drink, it should take between six to eight hours to process through.  And you know what that means.

Your bladder will fill up.  The urge to pee should be just enough that your body lets you know but not enough to haunt your dreams.  This is guaranteed to wake you up in the morning.  It should be enough that you have to pee, but not so much that you have to sprint to the bathroom like the hoover dam is bursting inside of your body.

Then, because it's light outside, it should be impossible to go back to sleep.  Now you have plenty of time to cook a decent breakfast, plan your work outfit, and make coffee so you don't have to stop by Starbucks even though you're already late and get pissed off in the drive through because how does it take twenty damn minutes for you to get your frigging cup of coffee and the boss is going to be breathing down your neck all damn day because of this and it's all the fault those slacker English and History majors who work at Starbucks why couldn't they get a degree in science oh because they're lazy!

Doesn't waking up to pee sound so much more relaxing than that?

I recommend a few nights of practice.  Start off with 4 oz of water and increase it by two until you reach optimum morning pee level.

Do this literally right before you turn of your light to go to sleep, otherwise your body will metabolize too quickly and you will wake up in the middle of the night, which doesn't help anyone.

Yes, this one weird trick can save you up to a thousand hours of rushing around every month.  Water you waiting for?  Get to it!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The TRUTH about Isagenix

As of right now, I am an inactive member in a secret society that you may have heard of, called Isagenix.

What is that, you ask?  It's this amazing nutritional system.  Seriously.  I tried it out in April of this year and I loved it.

If I loved it so much, why am I inactive?  I'm not going to lie.  It's because of the price tag.

I'm sure that my coach is probably flipping her shit right about now.  I know that it's taboo to mention the price tag without using the "You plus two, them plus two" slogan.  Well, if no one you know wants to join you and you are barely making bills as it is, $326 for 60 meals is just a bit pricey (especially considering that doesn't cover snacks or lunches).  I'm sure that I spend way more on eating out than I ever did on the shakes.  I'm sure that what I eat is not as healthy and beneficial as Isagenix.  But I literally cannot make it work right now.  I have a part time job that barely keeps me afloat, and I get extremely uncomfortable talking phone-to-face about these products.  Everyone I have tried to pitch to knows that they're being pitched to.

And honestly, that's not me.  I'm not a glossy saleswoman who could get a poor wood cutter to buy firewood.  I prefer to tell the truth.

Truth is, I love the products.

I didn't at first.  Because I don't drink artificial sweetener or diet sodas, the IsaLean Shakes read as way too sweet on my tongue (there's stevia extract as well as fructose that's used), and the strawberry didn't taste right unless I added in extra strawberries (which you're not supposed to do in the first 30 days, but I had to because I didn't like the strawberry powder).  But it was incredibly convenient to just toss breakfast and dinner into the Vitamix and not have to think about anything but lunch and snacks.  I managed to get my sugar cravings under control, which was amazing.  I always crave sugar.  I still craved carbs like pasta and bread, but I supplemented with quinoa and brown rice, and always made sure that I had plenty of protein during those meals too, to balance them out.

I credit the extra protein (from the whey powder) with a faster build of muscle.  I didn't work out for the first week because I wanted to see how much weight and inches I could lose on diet alone.  Not as much as I was expecting, if I'm honest.  But Rome wasn't built in a day, so I began a three day a week running regimen.  I hadn't gone for a jog in about six months, but was able to run further, faster, and longer than I had before.  I managed three miles each day and my cool downs between each sprint only lasted about twenty seconds.  It was amazing.  I've never felt stronger.

The best part of the system is the cleansing.  I would cleanse two days a week, every week if I could get away with it.  Basically you're supposed to have five "shake days" between each one day cleanse and ten between each two day cleanse.  A "shake day" means two shakes a day, sensible eating between meals at at lunchtime, and 100 oz of water (which is half my bodyweight in ounces of water).  On cleanse days, you drink this delicious cleanse fluid instead of eating, and can take these protein wafers that help keep your blood sugar level.  I never felt so clear and refreshed as on a cleanse day.  They were hard, though, because my mind kept telling me to eat when I was bored, but I love a good mental challenge.  I drank 100oz of water on those days as well.  Talk about invigorating.  I never slept so well.  And the best part about the cleanse is that it's not a bowel flusher, so you don't have to make sure to stay near a restroom for the whole day.

I really really love the Ionix Supreme. It became like coffee in the morning.  Because I had worked at Starbucks until I tried this system, I was thoroughly sick of coffee (I don't like Starbucks coffee; the only reason I drank it was because it was free...).  It was hard to get over the flavor of it in the beginning (and the grainy texture of the powder), but once I figured out I could drink it warm, I fell in love.

I tried the protein bars once.  Normally I would eat half a Cliff Builder's Protein Bar as a snack, but I found my stomach roiling after those.  I felt the same way that I did when I ate too many gummy bears or twizzlers, probably because of all the concentrated sugar in those bars.  But the Isagenix Isalean bars never made me feel like my blood sugar had spiked out of control.  I felt smooth and normal after eating those babies.  They weren't too sweet, either.

The vitamins were pretty great too.  I still have a week's worth of those bad boys in my bathroom because I keep forgetting to take them.  I also still have some of the IsaDelight green tea + dark chocolate bites hiding somewhere in the house, for when I start using the products again.

There's also this amazing community on Facebook.  I have met so many wonderfully kind and positive people because of this system.  They have your back, they answer questions, they support you no matter what.  They're mostly gym rats and insanely dedicated to what they do (selling the product, using the product, being the face of the product).  They demand introspection and personal growth.  It's not hard to get caught up in the fever that is Isagenix.

The products promise good things, and as far as I am concerned, they deliver.  Even though I lost maybe 3 pounds on the system and maybe an inch from each body part, I felt really good while on the system, and if I ever manage to snag a big girl job (that pays $40k or more a year!), I plan to get back on.

Now comes the juicy part that you've probably been waiting for; the critiques and reservations that I had.  I don't plan on saying anything about the science of it; you can do your own research and make up your own mind on that.  This is mostly the business aspect.

I don't like that I have to maintain an auto ship every month and spend about $200 on products in order to maintain my "active" status.   To make a long story short, being active means that you are eligible to get paid for selling the product.  So if you're making $200 a month in revenue from sales, you are basically pumping it back into your business, which is great if all you're trying to do is get your products paid for.  I understand completely why it needs to happen (by ordering that product, you are basically reinvesting in your business, plus it keeps your website running and yadda yadda), I just don't like it, especially if you're unable to get others to sign up (like me).

Luckily, there's a team to help pull in a good portion of the revenue, but you have to build that team.  That means you have to call people and talk to them and introduce them to the system.  Once you get two people invested in the system, you go from being an Associate to a Consultant.  (Here's my favorite Isa member to get nitty gritty about the payment system.).  From there, you end up getting paid.  Here's some light reading on the topic, with another nice video.   It is 100% possible to make a living doing this.  I have seen a lot of people start to make real money from this system.  I haven't made anything yet because of my "air of desperation" when I talk to people, and that turns people off.  However, the average YEARLY earning for 55% of associates is under $1000.  Not horrid if you're looking to make about $20 extra a week (which, I don't know about you, but that would be so handy for me right about now).

I do like that there is no pressure on me.  My coach doesn't force me to sell or anything.  The team I belong to is awesome and relaxed.  If this system isn't right for you, we do what's called "bless and release", which means, "It's your prerogative."  They haven't jumped down my throat for going inactive, they haven't cajoled me to come back.  I am free to order or not as I choose.

This is basically network marketing (or multi-level marketing).  It's not a pyramid scheme, but they do use the promise of potentially becoming a millionare to lure you in.  It is not something that you can sit by and idly let happen; you really need to take the reigns and find a way to talk to everyone you know and then some about this product.  Eric Worre's Go Pro book and website are chock full of information if you are interested in learning more about how much effort this will take.  Basically, you need to talk to 100 people in order to get 10 people to say yes.  I talked to ten and didn't even get one yes.  There are people who talk to a thousand people and still get no.  I'm convinced it's all about learning how to talk to others in a way that doesn't make them feel pitched to.

But now comes the big thing.  If you order the 30-Day System, you get:
  • 4 IsaLean® Shake (4 containers of whey protein with 15 shakes in each container)
  • 1 Ionix® Supreme (the cidery morning drink that is way more awesome than coffee)
  • 2 Cleanse for Life® (this is the cleanse juice I mentioned)
  • 1 Isagenix Snacks™ (these are the whey wafers for cleanse days)
  • 1 Natural Accelerator™ (a blend of herbs and spices that help to "flush fat")
  • 4 Replenish® (Sticks) (each stick makes two 8oz servings of [basically] "Gatorade")
  • 1 IsaFlush!® (magnesium capsules cause this much protein has the potential to constipate even Spartacus)
  • 1 Guide - 30 Day Pak w/ CD (an overview of how the system works)
for $284, if you sign up and become an associate.  BUT WAIT!  That doesn't include tax and shipping.  Add $20 for each, which brings the total up to about  $326.  (Obviously I don't like that tax and shipping prices are not included, but don't get me on that tangential soapbox.).  I know that looking at it over a month, that's spending $10.86 a day on two meals (so $5.43 for each meal).  Which is pretty reasonable.  I just can't afford to spend $326 plus whatever that third meal and snacks will cost (we'll say $100).  That's an entire paycheck for me.  How can I pay rent and my car payment, and my medical insurance, and my gas on what I have left?

This product is obviously aimed at middle-to-upper class people (this is why I have had so many people say no; they're in the same boat as I am).  So unless you specifically target that group of people or come up with a really good way to get poorer people to sign up (and not "Do you have two friends?" cause I guarantee that they'll just say, "Yeah, but they can't afford it either."), you're probably not going to get very far.

Hopefully this was at least reasonably helpful whether you were solicited to do the business or you want to try the products or even if you just want to know what all the hype is about.  Please also read the disclaimer on the Isagenix website.  I know that I am biased, as I have used these products and never tried anything like Herbal Life or Shakeology, but I wanted to share my experiences with others, especially if those others think that this is going to be an easy buck to be made.  It's not.

But I want you to make up your own mind.  If this feels right to you, then by all means, go ahead!  If you get an icky sinking feeling in your stomach, don't do it.  (Yes, those are generally my guides in decision making processes).



*Disclaimer; all the links for the products lead to my personal Isagenix page.  If you want to order something from there to try it out, go for it!  However, it will not effect me in any way, since I won't get paid until I order something, and I can't do that till I start making more money.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

What a Naturalist Notices

September is so close that I can almost taste the pumpkin spice everything.  Even though fall doesn't technically begin until the Equinox (September 23rd this year), nature is already gearing up for the harvest season.

I went out to take a walk the other day because it was so beautiful outside, and right away, I saw signs of autumn.  Leaves on the ground!

The first rumblings of autumn.
 And here I was, thinking that I'd have to wait another month to crunch fallen leaves on the ground.  Not so!  It depends upon the tree.  Some trees, like beech trees, don't "lose" their leaves over the winter; the leaves turn brown and hang on till springtime.  I may have to try to get some pictures of that this winter.  Mental note!!
 
You can even see some leaves turning already, if you look close enough.  Some yellow leaves blend in with all the greenery, but these leaves stand out pretty well, thanks to red and green being complimentary colors on the color wheel.

Blurry.  Thanks camera...
I can't tell from the picture (my camera wasn't behaving terribly well), but I'm pretty sure that the red leaves are black raspberry leaves.  They look like poison ivy, but I didn't see any berries or rootlets, so I'm just going off what appears to be a brown, boxy-like stem in the middle.

Poison ivy does produce berries in the fall.  They are very different from blackberries, luckily.  But please, if you're ever lost in the woods, triple check the berries that you are going to eat.  Getting poison ivy in the stomach can be deadly without access to medical care.  And for goodness' sake, please never burn the stuff.  The oils get trapped in the smoke and then they get on your skin and potentially in your lungs.  Not a pleasant situation.

As much as I dislike poison ivy, I have to (begrudgingly) admit that it is beneficial to a wooded environment.  Deer and birdies can eat the berries and leaves.  Humans seem to be the only ones who are allergic to it.  Perhaps it and cacao tree were the only things that came with humans on the spaceship... but I digress!

When I think of autumn foliage, I normally picture reds and oranges, the forest canopy aflame with color.  But did you know that there are some plants that flower in the fall?  Yes, the shift of the seasons is the perfect time for allergies.  Don't worry.  It's just tree sperm invading your nose.

The color!
This little buckeye tree is the one whose leaves are littering the ground.  He has made a happy little friend though, in those yellow flowers (wigstem, perhaps?  I don't know what they are, honestly, I'm really just guessing after looking it up online).  And, growing on the tree, you can see the first buckeyes of the season!!

These aren't the delicious buckeyes that your gran makes though. (If you have never had peanut butter enrobed in delicious chocolate, you are missing out on a fantastic treat, and I suggest you make some, ASAP.  Recipe will be posted at some point in this blog, so stay tuned!)  These buckeyes are actually toxic, so don't eat them.  They like to hide in their little sacks until the squirrels get to them, and then you can see the shells littered all over the floor of the forest, much like black walnut and hickory nut shells.

Buckeyes look like nut sacks!
As I was wondering through the forest,  I came across another tree.  One that I wasn't sure of, until I sent a picture to a friend of mine who is much better at identifying trees.  I haven't seen one of these in a long time, much less a seed-bearing one.

An ash tree with seeds!
 It's an ash tree!  Ever since the Emerald Ash Borer swept through and devastated the ash trees in the area (including the 30-foot tall ash tree in my parents' front yard that I had practically grown up with), these trees are hard to come by.  I have big plans for this little guy.  I'm hoping to be able to come back to this park and harvest the seeds, and maybe sprout some of them into my very own ash trees!  How does one sprout an ash seed?  Hmm.  That's a good question.  I will have to do some research.

Another bunch of seeds I found are my favorite seeds of all!  These I call "Sproing-a-boing" seeds, although the proper name is more like Spotted Touch-Me-Not.  It is also called Jewelweed.  This awesome plant likes to grow in swampy, marshy areas.  At least, that's where it grows around here!  Its sap can be used to combat the itch of poison ivy.  When it gets wet, the leaves appear to have a silvery tone to them (hence the nickname jewelweed), which is something "magical" to show kids.

But the real reason I love these plants is because of their seeds.  They're tightly packed into a little pod, and then when the pod is ripe and touched, the seeds explode out everywhere.  And here!  I have a little video to show you!


 I sat there for about 15 minutes, touching all the ones that I could.  I usually wait till September to do this, but then find that one of the patches that I frequent has been mowed down.  I was so happy to see these little guys!  And there are still flowers on it, so that means they're still going to be producing seeds in a few weeks!  Hooray, I get to have more time popping jewelweed and giggling like an idiot.

Which brings us back around to the start of the path.  Most of those leaves on the ground are buckeye leaves, though I did notice some sycamores have started changing color already.  I can't wait for all the crunchy leaves underfoot and the fiery colors of fall to descend upon us.  As long as we get good weather (ie not too hot, not too cold, but perfect Goldilocks weather), this fall should prove to be epic.


You can tell where the buckeye trees live.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Over My Head

I woke up with an overwhelming urge to create this morning.  Great! I thought as I rolled out of bed, I can channel this creativity into writing!  So I went out to get breakfast and my coffee, sat down at my computer, opened my current novel, and . . . nothing.  I drank my coffee, ate my bagel, even put on my Pandora station (with In Tenebris, Within Temptation, Evanescence and Delain) to try to get myself into the mood.  But all I could think about was the medieval clothes that I had been researching the night before (do you know the difference between a surcoat and cotehardie?  I do.).

Apparently, my writing can wait.  I have an urge to make doll clothes instead.

I mean, how hard can it be?

When I was an overflowingly creative teenager, my mom and I used to go to a little store that always had severely marked down goods.  They had china dolls, and I went through phase where every time we went, I would buy a doll, since they were only $5.   I bought three of these pretty little ladies, dowdy clothes and all.

Esperanza and Jean.

It was never in the vision to keep them as the dowdy little girls that they are.  I was writing a short story series inspired by fairy tales, and they were to represent the strong, regal women who rocked in those tales.  I began a collection of remnant fabrics in order that some day I might be able to get patterns in order to make them the clothes they deserve.

The blue really brings out Esperanza's eyes.
Noble cloth for Jean.  Aaah, the colors!






















These lovely ladies were staying at my mother's house. I ran over to grab them and the fabric; she advised me to get a practice remnant of fabric, since most patterns are made for American Girl dolls, who are much beefier than my china dolls.  Brilliant, thanks Mom!  I happily ran to Jo-Ann Fabrics and found an awesome pattern.


Simplicity number 1134, pattern B.  Also includes fairy garb, in case I ever want to make them into glorious faeries or dress them up for Halloween instead.  There's a pattern for a cape, wings, and three dresses.  Hooray!

I skipped home, ecstatic.  Finally, my poor nekkid dolls would have their regal clothes.  Then all I would need to do is get some wire to wrap them a crown or a tiara or something.  Super creative, gave me something to do with my hands, and I would feel productive, because this project had been put on hold for a long time.

I don't have a sewing machine, but I've hand-sewn before, and I figured I could at least hand-sew the practice dress, figure out how to take it in, and then use my mom's sewing machine when it came time to make the real dresses.

Then I opened the pattern sleeve and pulled out the super delicate pattern.

Let me back up a scooch; I am no stranger to patterns.  My mom has been sewing for longer than I have been alive (she says since she was twelve, so that's what. . . forty-three years?).  She made at least four of my Halloween costumes, both of my prom dresses, a bunch of Easter dresses, and matching outfits for us to wear to Disney World (which was perfect; in case six-year old Cat Lady got lost, she could just look for the person who matched her!).  Mom's no slouch around a sewing machine, let alone patterns.  However, I have only cut out about two people-sized patterns in my life, and I have less experience with a sewing machine than an Industrial Revolution scholar.

I didn't let this information daunt me.  I'm good at building things according to directions, I'm really good at using my hands, and I was pretty sure that I had absorbed sewing knowledge through osmosis, because obviously, how hard can it be?

Um.... what?
I may have been a bit ambitious with this project.  Just a bit.  Still, I figured out which pieces I needed for my dress B (numbers 1, 2, 3 and 5), and cut out the pattern according to the directions, which I read but didn't necessarily understand.  But come on, I've put together book cases, cupboards, birdhouses, and even Lego sets even though I didn't completely understand how to get them arranged.  I'm a very spatial person, apparently.

As I pinned the patterns to the fabric, I remembered that the little triangles need to be cut out otherwise I wouldn't be able to figure out how to align my fabric.  Look, I did learn something through osmosis!  I cut out the bodice and the skirt, thrilled that I had even remembered to place the solid line along the seam.

Then it came time to put the pattern together.  Uh oh.


Yep, I managed to hand-sew the shoulders of the bodice together, and then I pinned the rest together because I wasn't sure how to exactly connect everything.  I didn't worry about sleeves yet for this process, since I have heard sleeves are a bitch to set into the hole properly.

I sure hope this is right!
Even more excited with my creation, I decided to grab Esperanza and try the thing on her, just to make sure that this teensy tiny pattern was the right size.


Mother... she was right.  The chunky American Girl dolls are way more solidly built and bigger than my china dolls.  They have bigger heads too, from what I remember.  I think my dolls are sixteen inch instead of eighteen as well, if that makes any difference.

So I called my mom to whine about how I'm not sure how to do anything, but how I just really want my dolls to have nice clothes.  We have a date for Saturday, and she is going to help me decode the pattern jargon, resize everything and put together a dress.







 Jean and Esperanza will just have to wait for the clothes that they deserve to wear.








I can't wait to finish this project with some guidance.  I feel like, if I can do this, I'm one step closer to making my own clothes.

I guess it's back to my novel in the meantime.



Saturday, August 22, 2015

99 Problems

I got 99 problems but dollas ain't one.

Cause I don't have any dolla dolla bills, yo.

I guess it's my fault for going to college and getting a liberal arts degree.  If only I had gone into chemistry or computers, I would have a steady, well-paying job by now.  I wouldn't know the struggle of trying to pay bills on a part-time job.  At least the only "student loans" I have are with my parents.  At least I have a well-paid boyfriend to lean on.

Gosh, now I don't know whether I am being sarcastic or bitter.

I literally feel like I am a teenager again, only this time it's not an elusive boyfriend that I am chasing.  It's a job.  I am unsure whether all this stress is coming from trying to shove myself into some kind of mold that I obviously don't belong it, or from obsessively worrying about the future.

How did I clarify the boyfriend situation you ask?  Well, I did the most reasonable thing.  I got desperate.  Obviously that attracted all the right kinds of guys to me and I wound up with the pick of the litter! (There's that sarcasm popping up.)  Nah.  I didn't get my first kiss until I was seventeen, and then my first boyfriend came along the summer I turned eighteen.  He was wrong for me in every single way, it only took about six months to figure that out, but being the jellyfish about confrontation that I am, it took another year to break up with him.  But that wasn't the only breakup.

See, my first job was at a summer camp.  I was fifteen when I started working there, when I fell in love for the first time.  Not with any boy (though that was not from lack of trying), but with the experience.  I'd never been camping before, despite feeling the call of nature thrumming in my veins.  It was everything I'd hoped it would be, plus so much more that I wasn't expecting.  Smelly tents that made my lungs hurt whenever I breathed too deep around them. Raccoons breaking into my tent in the middle of the night and destroying my tube of toothpaste (quite possibly one of the most terrifying experiences of my life).  Waking up to a daddy-long-legs creeping across my face (and subsequent waking up the entire sub-camp with my siren scream).  Running through multiflora rose and poison ivy patches.  Getting eaten alive by mosquitoes.

It sounds like an awful experience, but I loved the job so much I never wanted to leave.

I would watch my fellow counselors go off to college and find more permanent jobs, but I just wanted to keep working there forever.  The job was pretty much ideal.  Room and board, playing with kids all summer, some manual labor, being in nature pretty much 24/7.  I got to change kids' lives by giving them someone to look up to, by showing them that being weird was all right.  I had someone approach me this year when I attended the final campfire, and he told me that he had been in my sub-camp the last year I worked there and still had the award that I had given him, even though it's been eleven years.  In fact, I thought I would keep working there forever, but things turned out differently, and I acted very immaturely.

We faced a lot of restructuring in the summer of 2004; our camp master was taken away, the program director was no longer "one of us" and so it was easy to blame him for everything that went wrong.  I remember grumbling, "That's not the way we usually do it. . ."a lot that summer.  I was so caught up in feeling cheated out of a position that I was certain I deserved (nature director), so blinded by my emotions that I didn't even want to deal with the changes.  And so, when I finally broke up with my boyfriend (who also worked at that camp), it just seemed logical to not return.

At this point, eleven years later, I have just started to realize how this affected my idea of career and jobs.  I thought I would never find anything as good, as ideal, as this job.  I thought that having the job of your dreams meant that you got paid a pittance.  I thought that change meant only bad things.

These things are called "limiting factors".  Because I came to believe them through the evidence of my own actions, I created them.  Just like when I was a teenager and was obsessed with getting a boyfriend, but because of the limited pool of males I hung out with, believed that I would never get asked out... because I never did (well, once, but he only asked me out as a joke.  I wonder if that affected my beliefs.  Hmm.).  So now all these beliefs that I have about finding a new career are making it that much harder to find a new career.

In my last post, when I talked about being unable to see things in front of your face, I didn't mention that a lot of this is because of limiting beliefs.  We don't believe that things are anything but coincidence, and so they are not.  To quote one of my favorite movies, "Humanity took a good idea and, like always, built a belief structure on it.... I think it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier." (Ten points to Ravenclaw if you can name that movie without looking!)  To change your belief is incredibly hard, unless something kicks you in the back of the head.  You literally have to sit down with yourself and work through why you believe what you do, why it's wrong, and then prove why it's wrong.  Even then, your brain will automatically go back to that original belief unless you take the time to correct it.

Spiritual work can be exhausting sometimes, but it is so incredibly rewarding to do this process.  At least, I think so.  I believe that is what my last years at summer camp taught me:


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Synchronized

Have you ever experienced synchronicity?  Some people choose to call it coincidence.  I don't believe in coincidence; ever since college, I believe that everything happens for a reason.

Some people don't believe that everything happens for a reason; they chalk their experiences up to coincidence and move on.  Like, when you are thinking constantly about yor best friend and your phone rings; it's her.  Or when you pick up the phone to call your mom and then your phone rings-- and it's your mom calling you.

It doesn't seem like much to those who are outside of your perspective.  Most of the time others don't even notice things that you find coincidental.  That's because our perceptions of the universe are all different.  We see things differently and different things have meaning to us.

For example, I notice little things in nature that no one else sees.  I watch red-tailed hawks at the park when no one else looks.  I see fish sitting close to shore when no one else notices.  I watch turtles slide into the water before anyone has realized that they're there.  This is because I have basically trained my brain to notice these things.  They are important to me.  I will do my happy dance if I see a hummingbird on my porch or a wood duck gliding through a pond.

Perhaps there are things in your life that you notice that no one else looks at.  Maybe you find loose change that has spilled on the ground.  Maybe you notice people's rings when you hand them their money or coffee.  Maybe you even see repeating numbers a lot when you look at license plates or the clock.

Maybe you are wondering how on earth you can afford a haircut and then bam! a stylist from down the road comes into your business and drops off coupons for a free haircut.  Or maybe you're wondering, "Who gets sick in the summer?" because you never do, then bam! you catch a headcold from hell.

These types of events are coincidence to some, but I believe that they are a synchronization of the vibrations from our inside world into the outside world.  Here we go again, more Law of Attraction stuff!  But I'm telling you, I have seen so much evidence that this is true.

We build our own realities based on the information that we are given throughout our lives.  For example, a child who is constantly rejected by her peers, teachers, family and strangers because she is too "loud" or "emotional" will learn through experience to shut down emotionally.  A child whose parents teach him that sports are awesome is far more likely to enjoy them than someone like me, whose parents didn't give two figs about watching sports (for which I am completely grateful).  These experiences shape who these children become and what they find as important.  This will also shape what they view as coincidence or not.  Maybe the boy's favorite team only wins when he doesn't wash his socks, so he believes that if he doesn't wash his socks all season, that team will win (and then they do).  Okay, that's not really a coincidence, but you get the idea.

I keep a journal of all the coincidences that happened every day to me.  Sometimes things don't happen immediately; you could be waiting weeks or months before it pops into your reality.  This is because you may not be paying close enough attention.  It could be passing in front of your face and you would never know it.  Have you ever been driving, and at one point you are 15 minutes away from home, and then all of a sudden you're at your garage and don't know how you got there?  That's because your conscious mind was lost in thought, but your subconscious mind was paying attention to the road.  So even though you aren't paying attention, you are still able to react to things as you normally would.  

Example from my own life.

I recently got a new car.  Its payments aren't more than I can afford, since I had been "overpaying" on my last loan so that some of the money could remain in my savings account (I transferred payments from that savings account to the car loan).  I am paying more than I wanted to since now I can't put the extra money into savings, it all goes into the car loan.  I freaked out after I bought it because how could I pay this much for this long on my current pay grade without a) going back to work at Starbucks, and b) putting any money away for savings?

I worried about this for all of June, then one of my friends got a full-time job and called me up to ask if I could substitute for her at an awesome little nature-based preschool.  "Um, duh!" I replied.  (Kids plus nature equals happy little cat lady).  I managed to make more than enough to cover my first car payment.  There's the Universe, showing up just when we need it most, even though I wasn't paying attention or even conscious of it.


Start a journal of all the "coincidences" in your life.  I bet you'll find more than you were expecting!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Let it Go

I am an anxious perfectionistic, sensitive person.  Everything must be perfect all the time and if it's not, I get cranky.  Well, I get cranky and worried.  Well, I get cranky and worried and blame myself for everything that's going wrong.

This is why I always get so frustrated when I read Law of Attraction blogs.  "Just let it go.  Relax, and the Universe provides."  Granted, I have seen this in action.  I have been on the receiving end, and I am incredibly grateful that I can see how things work.  It's just sometimes (well, a lot of the time) my little anxious friend waves to me, greets me like he hasn't seen me in years, and hops on my back for the next six months.

The combination of anxious and perfectionist do not go well together.  I worry if my money will run out before the end of the month.  I worry how I will handle old, unresolved situations as they come back into my life, begging for resolution.  I worry that my blog posts are terrible and no one will read them.  I worry that people see my "I see Faeries" bumper sticker and use it against me while complaining about my driving.  I plan everything out for the novel that I'm writing (seriously, I have developed an entire world) but don't write the actual novel because what if it doesn't do justice to this world?  I'm a planner, which is the perfectionist side of me, but because I worry that I won't be able to execute said plans, I fail to do them, because not even starting is better than messing up even one tiny detail.

Then comes the sensitive part of me, the one that takes everything to heart.  If something goes wrong, I blame myself.  Every time I lose a game of Carcassone, I'm too stupid.  If I can't come up with a good plot point for a story, I'm not creative.  If I can't follow my extremely detailed weekly life plan, I'm too lazy.

Needless to say, it's hard for me to just "let it go."

Thanks, Britney.
And yet, that is exactly the advice that everyone seems to give; not just Law of Attraction blogs, but people in general seem to tell anxious people like myself, "Don't worry about it," "Don't focus on it," and (my personal favorite), "Relax."  I even find myself telling others this same advice, but I guarantee you that those others feel just the same as me when I get that advice.

I don't even care about feeling in control of the situation.  That's not what the anxiety is about.  I just want to think far enough ahead that I can adequately prepare myself for the all the feelings.  Aaaah, the feels.

Because I am a sensitive person (which I did not know until recently), the highs are amazing.  I get crazy.  I laugh loud.  I have to be shushed and told to use my "inside voice" or (my personal favorite), "Calm down." 

 

I can throw myself into a high just by watching the orb weavers making their webs on the back porch, or feeding the ducks from my balcony.  I know that I am extremely lucky to have this quality.

On the flip side, though, comes the boo-hoos.  I literally sob my face off at the end of nearly every Pixar movie (let's not get started talking about "Up").  Seeing someone cry is enough to toss me down the emotional stairs and make me sniffle (reasons why I should have been an actress...).  I feel the bad things equally as deep as the good things.


This means that I have had to learn to control my reactions, which I think is what makes me worry so much.  I am not so much worried about the outcomes of events, but of my reactions.  What if I alienate people around me by bursting into tears?  What if I act like a two year old who has just been told that she has free reign in the candy store for the next five minutes?  No, I can't do either of those things, because my deep-seated feelings makes others uncomfortable (things I learned as a youngster through all my social interactions).

Letting go is not something that I can always do.  I battle with myself constantly, ping-ponging between "chill the hell out" and "freak out, cause everything is shit!"  Luckily, this seems to balance itself out.  Sometimes.  And I have learned some things lately that help me to see the bigger picture.

Signs from the Universe are all around us.  Whatever we focus on, we get more of.  I kept seeing 11:17 on the clock (instead of 11:11), and became (slightly) obsessed with numbers.   Now, I try to keep track of the times that I see repeating numbers. (Like right now.  It's 1:11pm).  I fully believe that these numbers are signs just for me.  Anyone else might chalk it up to coincidence, but I don't believe in coincidence.  I see them everywhere; license plates, mileage on my car, time on the clock, the minutes that a song on my CD has been playing, the time I clock out at work.

I bought breakfast this morning, and paid $4.44 for it.  I saw 999 on a license plate on the way to work.  Thank God for these signs.  Ever since I decided that I wanted intelligible signs from the Universe, it has provided (I'm pretty sure it was trying to communicate with animals before but I wasn't really paying attention... more on that in another, later post).  You have no idea how balancing it is to get reassurance from the ether.

"Am I going to suck at my interview?" I wonder.  Then some dick driver cuts me off, but instead of getting angry, I look at his license plate, and it has 111 in the number section.  "Will I have enough money to get through till payday?" I ask myself.  Then I check my phone.  It's 15:55 (yes I use military time).  "What am I supposed to do with my life?" I think, lying awake at night.  The clock next to my bed flips over to 22:22.  Meaningless to most people, but extremely reassuring to me.  I like to believe that these numbers mean that I am on the right path, heading in the right direction.

I don't know if I have a point that I'm getting to here.  Wait, I do!  My point is to have faith.


Having faith that things will work out may not take away all the boo-hoos, the worry, the perfectionism, the need to control things, but it does make it more possible to bear those things.  Even with all the negativity that my mind keeps pulling me into, I can surround myself with this idea that things are getting better, that I am doing all the right things. Then the boo-hoos don't last as long, and I can get up off my couch, look outside, and dance around because a hummingbird came to visit my back porch garden.

It doesn't matter what you have faith in, be it Jesus, the Universe, humanity, (or even Cthulhu), just that you have faith.  Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and remember:

(I am so making myself this mug for Christmas)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Poem

I have been feeling rather negative lately, so I took some initiative and tried to capture my power as a creator.  Here is what I came up with.

I can choose to dance
on the silver wings of the cold moon, each step
a new star in the night's velvet blackness.
I can choose to wander
lush and misty forests, replace
the gnarled undergrowth with springy
moss, while the sun winks down at me
through the dense emerald canopy.
I can choose to fall in love
with a dashing young gentleman, despite
his too-pointy nose and strict sense of honor;
I can mourn his untimely death, even though
it be by my own hand.
I can choose to lay on the scalding sands
of the beach, under the sun's jagged hot edges
while my skin crisps into bacon
even though I sit in my bedroom, merely
a seashell rolling with the ocean's waves
held to my ear.

All this and more I weave
tangible sigils through emotional magic
swirling dust vortices that cloak
mystic fire.

I am a writer.  Though my outside world
is a small part-time job,
piles of procrastination,
towers of mispronounced words,
my inner world runs deep
neurons alight like crystalline stars
in the blackest coat of night.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Relax

I used to go out to the local lake/national park near where I went to college. I would lay out at the beach, absorbing all the sunlight I could while my friend swam.
My favorite place to relax
It looks deserted in these pictures, but there were times that you couldn't find a parking spot, or even a spot to lay down on the beach because it was so full of college students.  Even then, it was still relaxing.  I like to think that the trees absorbed a lot of the sound, that the sand and the grass and all of the trees nearby absorbed a lot of the heat, that the breeze from the lake kept everything so cool.

The beach.
This was maybe a five minute drive from civilization (neighborhoods anyway), and right around the corner from the highway. It doesn't look like it. It looks like a lake in the middle of nowhere.  Surrounded by trees and a huge hiking area, this was the place that I went to relax and recharge my spiritual batteries.  I came to associate tanning at the water's edge with relaxation.

Aaaah.  I feel better just looking at this place!  It was great for cloud-gazing too.  There were the fluffiest clouds I'd ever seen right there!

When I moved away from my college town, I longed for a place like this, where I could go to relax, absorb some vitamin D, and forget my worries.

My apartment complex has a pool, so I thought that would be a great place to relax.

This pool gives me a headache.  It stresses me out. There are always so many people there that I feel like I'm on display.  Granted, the pool is much tinier than the lakeside, so everyone is crammed in on top of each other.  Sometimes they play incessantly annoying pop music over the speakers, which is not exactly relaxing to me (unless it's all Britney Spears, then I'm totally on board).  I usually go once a year before I remember why I don't like it and then opt to stay home instead.

But recently, I went out to one of the parks in town that I work at.  This park is not in the middle of nowhere, it's in the middle of a suburb.  You'd think that means that there are tons of people who visit, but really not many people know about it.  It looks desolate and lonely from the entrance, which is sandwiched between two houses, but once you walk down the path, you see the wetland spread before you and amazement settles in.

I love going to this wetland, except for the mosquitoes.  They tend to come out in droves (it is the perfect environment for them after all), but Wednesday, it was different.  A bright and sunny day, not humid in the least, and I went to the park.  I sat on the boardwalk path in the shade of a leafless, dead tree and watched the damselflies and dragonflies dance for about an hour.

The only shady spot to sit!
I felt ridiculously calm.  I wanted to run home, change into my bikini, slather on some sunscreen, grab a towel and come back out to lay in the sun and watch the bugs.  It felt so alike the beach that I used to visit that I could have cried.

Dragonfly on a lily pad

Even though there were occasional sounds of neighborhood kids yelling, and even though this swamp is normally infested with mosquitoes, I couldn't get over the unshakable joy that permeated me.  I was in the sunlight at the water's edge, with nature surrounding me.  I felt like I had come home after a long travel abroad.


The sounds of insects was better than pop music.  The wind rustled through the leaves.  A great Blue Heron crashed through and landed on a tree on the other side of the pond (which I have never seen and pretty much thought was the coolest part of the day).

Not the best picture, but he's in the tree, right where the leaves break the sky horizon.  You can barely see the S of his neck.
Is it any wonder that I think this place is better than any pool?

Obviously, this place is not for everyone.  If you dislike insects or nature, you would probably find this place stressful and gross.  But I encourage you to find what makes you happy.  Where are you best able to relax?  Perhaps, like me, you revel in nature.  Perhaps a public pool is totally your jam.  Maybe you have a pool of your own, or you like to ride horses, or play basketball, or run for ten miles.

The point of this post is to listen to yourself.  Find what relaxes you, what instills a sense of wonder into your being.  Take five minutes out of your day to put down your phone, step away from your computer, and immerse yourself in an environment that you can relax in.

The only moment that matters is right now.  Why spend it stressed out?

Damselfly say "RELAX!"

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Difference a Week Makes

Another nature hike happened last Wednesday.  I went out to my favorite park in the city and walked around to de-stress during work.  It was a beautiful day.  If I don't get outside on those beautiful days, I have no one to blame but myself.  I am a naturalist, after all.  Isn't it my job to explore the parks and see what I can find?

I always find awesome things, despite the mosquitoes, and the heat, and the sweat.  (No, I haven't yet used bug spray this year, and I don't really want to; otherwise I would miss out on some awesome insects!)  

Solomon's seal fruit!
I found several fruiting plants, and a few others that have burst into flower.  I didn't see any turtles or ducks though, which made me sad.  I was hoping for more wildlife, even though every time a startled frog jumped from the sound of my footsteps, I started a little bit.  There are a lot of frogs because there are so many lily pads for shade!

Today is another beautiful day, so I went back to the same park, and I noticed a few subtle changes.  This may not seem like much, but to me, this is part of the intricate natural dance, and it leaves me in awe.  Some things happen so fast, like blood root flowers that only come out for one day, and others take forever, like oak trees flowering and then fruiting.

I like to document the things that happen quickly, because it does show that the environment is a constantly changing place.  I probably should start my own nature journal.  (In fact, I have just now planned to start it in September, on the first day of fall, and attempt to do a nature journal for the whole fall season).

Some things haven't changed much, like these lily pads.


Lily Pads last week
They're still growing nice and tall, though the lack of rain this week has left them looking slightly less like a steaming jungle, and has given them some yellow "age spots" (as I like to call them).  The drying trend of summer is continuing.
 
Lily pads this week
I don't remember seeing this tall plant near them though.  This is jewel weed, my absolute favorite plant of all time.  Not only do the juices inside help relieve the itch of poison ivy, but the seeds form into little spring-loaded seed pods that burst when touched.  I can spend hours just wandering through a patch of jewel weed and popping the seed pods.  I am very much looking forward to fall and seeing this plant (which is as tall as I am) fruit.

This button bush was probably the first thing that I noticed upon coming into the park last week.  It had a ton of flowers all over it.  They look like fuzzy dandelion heads, but they're actually clusters of hundreds of flowers in each bundle.

Button bush last week
Look at the difference a week has made!  This is really the plant I noticed this week when I went too, because I was expecting it to still be flowered.  Notice how all the flowers have fallen off.  I'm pretty sure this is the same bundle from the original picture, just from a different angle.

Button bush this week
Super duper cool.  I love to see little changes like this.  I especially love to point them out to kids and ask, "Why do you think this happened?" and then listen to the answers that they come up with.  Sometimes they are spot on, sometimes they get the answer horribly wrong, but I like asking them what they think because they are then able to puzzle through the answers instead of having the answers handed to them.

Gets their grey matter engaged in the process that nature is going through.

On my way out from the park last week, I saw these pink flowers.  I have no idea what they are; they're growing on a vine.  It looks like a grape vine but it's not.  I think they look like little smurf hats or fairy bonnets.  Yay, fairy bonnets!

Fairy bonnet vine?
I tried to key them out using my tree key identifier (I use the V-Tree App), but it had nothing listed.  It must not be a woody plant then, but a green seasonal one.  May have to break out the wildflower guide again... if I can find it! 

More pink flowers from last week
 This week, most of the flowers were gone, to my dismay.  All that was left were these sad droopy flowers.  I had gotten so excited to see pink flowers in July.  Most of the flowers I associate with July are white (Queen Anne's Lace) or yellow (Goldenrod), so seeing pink flowers made me think it was spring again, even for just a moment.

Flowers this week
These vines have started the process of fruiting (which is what happens when the flower petals fall off).  I will have to check back in a few weeks to see what kind of fruit this plant bears.

Lack of flowers this week
Now just imagine, if a plant can change this subtlely in a week, how much can people change, ever so subtlely, in a week?

Sunday, August 2, 2015

On Writing

I went to college for creative writing. Believe it or not, I wanted a degree in film, but my parents probably wouldn't have paid for that, so I decided to major in something that would be really easy for me; English. I have called myself a creative writer ever since I was twelve, and I knew that I was good at it. People told me I was good at it, and there were times reading my own writing that I would get goosebumps. I figured I could probably skate by to get my bachelor's degree (which is something I didn't particularly want to do but I didn't want my family hounding me about the opportunities that I'd miss out on if I didn't get a BA), and then the world would be my oyster.

Well this oyster is almost impossible to shuck with a feather quill. Big sigh. But I got to thinking about it, and I don't think I would have done anything differently. I fell in love with poetry because of my English classes. I realized just how much I like puns (I am irrevocably my father in that regard) and wordplay because of poetry classes.

Even reading the same stupid story three times with three different professors who analyzed it in the same way (Bartleby the Scrivener) made me realize how much better of a reader I was becoming. And because of reading, I was becoming a better writer. Although I can no longer enjoy writers like P.C. Cast and Laurell K. Hamilton, I find myself drawn to incredibly complex and visual language, used by Jacqueline Carey, Brandon Sanderson, Juliet Marillier (seriously some of the best fantasy writers). I have garnered a deeper appreciation for the genius of Shakespeare. I found new poets that I am in love with (Clare Bateman, John Keats, and Denise Duhamel). I read things that I probably never would have picked up on my own ("The Faerie Queene").

So what can I do with this? Well, the first step is obviously to start a blog. Check! Second step: make sure you actually write in that blog. Check! Third step: wait for the cash to flow in.

Wait, that's now how internet blogging works? Damn. I need to rethink this get rich quick scheme.

The problem with being a writer (at least my problem) is that there is so much more to compete with. I used to write for escapism, for entertainment, because I hated watching commercials on the Disney Channel. I wrote because I hated my life as a teenager and wanted a way out, and using imagination was the best way to get that. I wrote because I read a book every week. My mind swirled with exciting plots, places, wars and characters.

Slowly, I have fallen away from writing. It used to be easy to sit down in front of a blank Word document and fill it up. It used to take everything I had to keep my thoughts in check while hand-writing scenes and character cards. I still love the thrill of new ideas and great plot devices and building the world that my characters live in, but it takes a lot of gumption to actually harness those characters and get them to tell me their story. I content myself with building the history of the world rather than taking an active role in shaping it because sometimes, writing the scenes gets boring. I just recently had a zombie novel come to a screeching halt because they went from shooting zombies in the head to talking and explaining the plot. Instead of breaking out the whip and urging myself through, I simply gave in and closed the computer and didn't look at the document again.


I used to think that writing was about a story eating away at you until you couldn't stand it anymore, you had to write it down, and once that feeling went away, you didn't have to look at the paper anymore. Thanks to college, (and the wonderful 20/20 of hindsight) now I know differently.

It's about writing those boringly awful scenes, even if it means getting the tequila out, and every time you pause longer than 10 minutes you take another shot. It's about powering through the technical things like where to place descriptions and what the hell is the difference between affect and effect again? It's about no matter what, sitting down in that chair and thinking about these characters, even for just fifteen minutes a day. That's why they had us write all those boring papers. That's why they made us read some really awful pieces of literature.

Writing comes along as this beautiful hippie muse, and you follow her down into the enchanted forest because she ensorcells you with her smell and her hair, but then she floats away on the breeze and leaves you with naught other than a peanut butter sandwich and (if you're lucky) a strong cup of coffee. It's up to you what happens next. You can either 1) turn around and leave (but let's face it, if you leave you might never see the muse again), 2) stay where you are and cry because you're scared and it's getting dark until the muse returns to lead you deeper into the forest, only to leave you once again, or 3) make your own way through the forest and if you ever see that muse again you tie her ass up and haul her through with you.

Creative writing degrees aren't about learning how to have the talent to write; they're about learning to sit the hell down at the desk and, even though you might feel like giving up on that story, keep going anyway. Through boring scenes and awful plot holes, keep plugging away until your story is born.

Now I understand why so many writers drink; it's not to fill the aching deep void in their souls. It's because without the lubrication of alcohol, one cannot stand one's own first drafts.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

I Like to Believe it's Magic

I hit all the green lights on the way home from the store yesterday.  All of them.  I started thinking about how nice it would be to just get home, and so I decided to manifest that energy.  And I did it.  I couldn't believe it.

Call it coincidence if you like, but for me, there is no such thing as coincidence.  I firmly believe, through evidence garnered over the past seven months, that we do indeed create our own realities.

I started the year in a pretty bad place.  I was working two part time jobs, and barely making ends meet every month, even though I was working a total of 45 hours between the two places.  Misery permeated me.  This may have had something to do with working a drive through in terribly chilly weather (I am a flamingo, not a penguin!), but I wasn't happy.  I loved the people that I worked with, but I really disliked the job (working in food service is about as awesome as you think).  I continued down in this negative spiral, and because of this, my toes kept ramming themselves into doorjambs, cat litter trays, baseboards... pretty much anything that had a corner, my toes would find it.  This was a daily occurrence, sometimes a multiple daily occurrence.

Then one day, I walked into a cat litter tray hard enough to break my little toe.  I couldn't walk on it that night, I could barely walk the next couple days.  Broken toes hurt.  If you've never had one, you have no idea how much you use your feet every day, just by walking.  All the ligaments and tendons and muscles in your feet are connected.  I was relegated to crutches for at least a week, and I couldn't work at Starbucks with crutches.

I managed to get two blessed weeks off of my Starbucks job.  I didn't have to go to bed with the sun, or rise in the pitch-blackness of January's 4am.  I didn't have to monitor my caffeine intake after 2:00pm for fear that I wouldn't get to sleep at 9:00 (sleep is extremely important to me).

I decided to try something new.  I'd been dabbling with the Law of Attraction since I saw "What the Bleep Do We Know?", and had read The Secret recently, and started following Teal Swan and Abraham Hicks on Youtube, but never truly applied the concepts to my life.  So I decided to start.  Because I was unable to see all the things I was truly grateful for, I decided that I wanted to being a gratitude journal.

I began writing in it on January 18th, 2015, and wrote in it religiously, every night before I went to sleep.  I wrote down what feelings I was experiencing or had experienced throughout the day, as well as 10 things I was grateful for.  They started off as being "in the moment" things, like how much I enjoyed getting kitty kisses, or how warm my blankets were in the cold room.  That was fine, because I literally could not see the bigger things.  I was blinded by my own negativity.

Over time, it got easier.  That's because I literally rewired my brain.

We tend to get caught up in a negativity spiral.  It's easy.  You're having a bad day because Starbucks ran out of Pumpkin Spice.  You had to wait in the drive through line.  Someone cuts you off in traffic on the way to work.  Your supervisor is a hard-ass and wants you to work extra hard.  Your significant other gets mad because you have to work late.  Your cat pukes on your favorite shoes.  Everyone on Facebook is having a magnificent time in their perfect lives.  You stub your toe getting into bed.  You're in a foul mood when you go to sleep, so you're probably not in the best of moods when you wake up.  Then it happens all over again.

Even the news does this.  Negative headlines draw more people than fluffy and positive ones. If you are talking with your friend, and said friend starts complaining, you begin to complain too.  You commiserate together (my Starbucks friends and I did this a lot whenever we were out together off work time).  It's easier to see the bad things and dwell upon that mood than it is to change your brain and look for the good things.

But now, because I have been noticing more and more positivity in my life, I have come to acquire more and more positivity in my life.  Even though my car got totaled in June, I kept my sense of humor.  I tried to think of positive things.  Even though that day seemed like it would undo me, I pushed onwards.  If I let myself get caught up in the bad feelings, I would never break free.  It wasn't easy.  Dealing with releasing negative things never is.  But I have overcome a lot.

Does that mean that I am 100% happy and positive all the time, no matter what?  Hell no, I'm not a robot, I'm a dang human!  But I do consider myself, over all, a happier and more positive person now than I did even three months ago.

So what does this all have to do with getting all the green traffic lights?  It's easy.  The happier you are, the more good things you attract to you.  We are like magnets (although I really, really hate this analogy because magnetic poles attract opposite magnetic poles so it doesn't work in this situation but I haven't been able to think of a better comparison yet); we attract things to us.  Have you ever heard "Your vibe attracts your tribe"?  Why do you think celebrities hang out with other celebrities and millionaires with other millionaires?  It's not just that they have things in common to talk about.  It's that the brain waves they put off, their "vibration" is attracting those others to them.  So if you put out good vibes into the universe, you get good vibes back.  And once you start turning those vibes into intentions, you get the manifestation of those intentions.

So I was feeling good coming home from the store yesterday, and decided that I wanted only green lights at the seven traffic lights between me and my apartment.  And I got seven green lights in a row.

We are all magical like this.  You just have to believe.