Thankful

No surprise that in November, protocol requires me to write a thanksgiving post.  I love November because everyone acknowledges things they’re thankful for. Today that is me.

As much as I try to be Mrs. Positive Pants everyday, sometimes that is so stinkin’ hard.  It’s a little easier in November because lots of people try to be Mrs., Miss, or Mr. Positive Pants, and I feed off the positive energy like a leech.  So here I am, hoping to feed you some jolly juice, my fellow Leech, you.

There are the big things…family, my tiny home, my ability to pay for said home, friends, good weather…

I am so in love with my life, even as I struggle to make it better.  I think this is possible because I figured a few things out.  First of all, I know that I strive for worthwhile goals.  The past five years have been so enlightening for me.  In some aspects, I feel like I didn’t really start living MY life until then.  So now, I’m a 30-year-old goal seeker, and I’m just fine with that.  Sure I wish I would have been one of those people who figured things out in high school or something.  Who wouldn’t? But instead of dwelling on all the lost opportunities(which benefits nothing, I found out), I’m trying to make the time I have left so very meaningful.  Being a mom helped me realize how much I can squeeze into one day.  I told a friend of mine just recently that I didn’t know how lazy I was until I had Blue.  You don’t have to have a kid, however, to be aware of how you spend your time.

Secondly, I’m finally my own person.  I care about other people, true, but their words and opinions don’t rule me, and this…this is freeing in a way I never expected.  At Blue’s birthday party, I was able to tell someone close to me that I didn’t want multiple pictures of every, single gift as he “opened” it.  As someone who has been to multiple kid birthday parties, I didn’t want to torture my guests in that way.  There are so many other ways, like making them watch my kid splatter cake all over himself and others for twenty minutes while I hold the food hostage until he’s done. The point is, even though the person was obviously sad about not being a photographer for a day, It didn’t cripple me to tell them to sit down and enjoy the show. It’s my son’s party, gift time is awkward, and I didn’t want to prolong the awkward moment.  The end. I would have said nothing or worried my head off about what the person felt after I did say something 6 years ago.   

So, between a loving, supportive family, worthy goals, and being unabashedly Me, I am the happiest and the most thankful I’ve every been in my life.

I don’t want to lie to you.

Bad things happen.

To me, to people I love, to people I barely like.

But because of those Big Things I grasp like a winning lottery ticket, I am able to deal and still be smiling at the end of it.

When bad things happen to people I love, people I barely like, and even people I kinda don’t like, I try to be that supportive person I know they don’t have because, if they did, they wouldn’t be talking to me.

So there’s that.

There are little Happies, too!! Oh, good gracious, aren’t there!!

Today, my attitude completely changed because I popped a bag of salt and lime natural popcorn. It AMAZED me. Suddenly, I saw flowers everywhere. Birds sang on my shoulder. Bunnies frolicked in the breezeway.

And it dawned on me:

I could be this happy everyday if there was enough salt and lime popcorn in my desk drawer!

No. That’s not right.

I could be this happy everyday if I let the happy small stuff do their thing.

Let yourself laugh out loud at that funny quote, Mea. Don’t be a professional robot.

It’s okay that you like to scotch tape mailouts closed, Mea. You work in an OFFICE and don’t even have to pay for office supplies, so really, you’re a winner.

And if salt and lime popcorn can make birds sing, share.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Reassignments and Birthdays

Originally, I thought this Blog would be about strictly writing and/or how writing effects life.  Now, I’m realizing that the purpose of this blog has expanded.  I realize that life affects writing more so than writing affects life.  I don’t want to neglect the writing process or experience at all, nor will I as I discover new aspects and tricks of the trade; however, the question remains: how can one write about life if one is not living it?  So, maybe I created this Blog for writing–yes–but living is a huge part of that, so I see no reason not to document these experiences as well.  Which I have already begun to do…But now, I do it consciously.  Also, the name of the Blog extends nicely to the addition, so maybe it was meant to be all along.  I think it’s really neat to acknowledge growth as it happens, even if it is within ourselves.  I hope y’all don’t mind.  Maybe I’ll tag these types of post something like, oh I don’t know, “Life” so if you don’t want to read them, you can skip them.

*********

My birthday was at the end of July, and I had very low-key, sweet mini-celebrations which, I’ve come to learn, is the best way for me to celebrate my birthday–or any occasion for that matter.  I like being able to visit with groups of friends and family on different gatherings rather than rushing from one group to another at one large gathering.

So, Husband organized a gathering of some friends, he, and me to go to my favorite Irish Pub for dinner (mine food looked like this:)

And we had cookie brownies at our house after.  Great night!

The next weekend, I had a surprise dinner with my Mom and Dad.  My parents have 7 kids at their home, so to get just them for a few hours is a present within itself.

Dad cooked some amazing smoked chicken, okra, and rice and gravy.  I only have a picture of the chicken, though.

And mom made my all-time favorite sushi.  The kind I grew up on.

I love this picture because you can see her hands making it in the top right corner.  Completely unplanned but adored.

It’s so easy to convince yourself that you are under-appreciated, unloved, unspoken for.  Thanks to all my loved ones who took the time to tell me differently.

Epiphanies, the Hero’s Journey, and a Nerd

I discovered something this  morning.  It just came to me as I was rushing out the door to go to work.  It was something I already knew but hadn’t put into words, something so glaringly obvious that I feel pretty dumb for not realizing it sooner.  I can think of a thousand excuses why I haven’t  figured it out or why I haven’t practiced the lesson–my parent-diagnosed ADD makes my brain wonder; it’s not on my list of to do/remember today; pregnancy makes my crazy and forgetful–but at the end of the day the truth of the matter is that, well, I’m scared.

My thought was this:  If you don’t stop thinking about the possibilities after you get your book done, you’ll never get your book done.

I focus too much on the future.  And a happy future it is in my mind.  No one rejects my manuscripts there.  No one tells me my writing lacks originality, vision or a believable plot.  In my head, I motivate young women to believe in themselves, I present literary role models, and I move people.  But it’s the Real Life equivalent of whether to live inside the Matrix or break free to live in Zion.  Living in the Matrix is way more comfortable than the fear infested city, but it’s all lies.  Everything that happens in the Matrix is meaningless, as exciting as it may be, because it never truly happens.  As I write this, I begin to realize that this doesn’t just apply to my writing but, sadly, many other aspects of my endeavours. I’m so happy with the results of the project I’ve concocted in my head, that I don’t finish things in Real Life.  This is a detrimental pattern that is eating up what’s left of my life, a problem so easily pushed aside as “priorities” rear their ugly heads that it would be easy not to address it.  But, now, I see that if I continue to push this out of my line of vision, before I know it, I’ll be dead without much to show for my life.

In my mythology class, I introduce the students to Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey. (Book: Hero with a Thousand Faces )  One part of the Hero’s Journey is the “freedom to live”.  In (super) short, once the hero returns to his/her known world after the initiation, if the hero is able to live in the present without regretting the past and anticipating the future, he/she will have acquired the “freedom to live”.  Joseph Campbell popularized the idea that mythological themes and lessons are universal and that they can be implemented in our own lives in order to better ourselves.  I teach this to my students.  We search for truth in the worlds of gods, monsters, and heroes.  Have I ever even tried to change my own life? Have I ever really tried to be proactive rather than reactive?  Or have I just done as little as possible so I could SAY I have no regrets, rather than pushing my limits so at the end of my life I can really BELIEVE it? Hmm…  Honestly, I have some soul-searching to do.

*****

But enough of that drama.

To leave you with something uplifting and fun, here are…

Everyday Words that were Invented by Famous Authors!

For example,

Happy Wednesday!!

On Showers, House Elves, and Basements

I thought with Husband away for the week, I would be able to pour words on paper.  HOWEVER, I’ve squandered my alone time catching up on all the Husband-unfriendly movies/shows that I’ve wanted to see.  I still have tonight, Thursday, and Friday to reinstate my self-control. Will I prevail or sink miserably in the lake of self-pity?  Tune in next week to find out…

On Writing—

I get really good ideas in the shower.  The problem is…I am in the shower, without pen and paper.  And even if had access writing utensils, I’m covered in water.  So I’ve pondered ways to solve this problem (none of them very good):

-A voice-activated recorder.

*The sound of the shower would initiate recording.  Also, I sing there.  Loudly.  Tonelessly.  Nobody wants to hear that, not even me.

-Have Husband or house guest accompany me to bathroom and jot down inspirations.

*Unfair and impractical.  Plus, what if Husband is unavailable or I don’t have company?  Back to square one…

-The best option I have so far is–duh, duh, duuummm–Employ a house elf.

*I think we all know the problem with this option, but just in case…  *whispers* They don’t spell well.  Besides, I’m a muggle.  I can’t hire one anyway.

Thankfully, I do remember the idea of an opening scene for another book idea.  It’s plot is developing.

Side Note:  I have folders dedicated to each book idea, so I can write it down and tuck it away until the appropriate time.  I have a feeling I would combine all my characters’ traits if I tried to write more than one novel at a time now. Maybe when I’m more practiced… I just imagined a nebulous, cloud-like character blob, a concentrated fog hovering in my fictional little town.  *Mea shutters* Definitely one book at a time for me.  My attention deficit tendencies writhe in agony, but I will not yield.

It’s really the poetry that suffers from lack of writing apparatus in the shower.  I speak the lines, feel the rightness of them in my bones, and then immediately forget them.  I can’t help but think that it was the most amazing thing I’d ever write, and that it’s gone.

Do ya’ll remember the episode of “That 70s Show” when the characters think that they come up with the most incredible ideas while they are, um, sitting in a circle in Topher Grace’s basement?  Then, they record their conversation, and it’s all so very stupid?

I just applied that to me and the poetry/shower paragraph… and laughed.  So. Hard.

Later, PenPals!  Too, cheesy?  Yeah, I’ll work on that…

Learning Curve

Husband has been sick since last Wednesday, and yesterday, he started feeling better.  I’m a much more content person now that he is smiling and mobile.  I can do all the stuff that needs to be done at home, but it’s much more fun when we do it together.  When I got home last night, he was in the middle of cooking a batch of Caribbean Corn Chowder, looking all sumptuous with his cutting board and recipe and enameled cast iron pot.  I joined in, dissolving bouillon cubes and peeling sweet potatoes.  Our pups were running in and out of the open back door.  It was such a nice night.  We also cooked a batch of Sopa de Lima (Lime Soup), which I highly recommend.  Why so much food?  The soup goes in Ziploc bags, and we freeze them for handy meals during the week.  I love our little life.

On Writing—So, I’m discovering that I have learned so much since I’ve started writing a year and a half ago.  The writing from then to now on FirstBook is, gently put, unrecognizably the same person’s hand.  Unfortunately, that also means that as I am re-reading what I’ve written, I’m finding the plot is stable, but the delivery is poo.  I’m basically starting over.  Last week, I drastically rewrote and extended the main character’s introduction to her female counterpart and setting, developing their friendship in a truer-to-life way.  Also, I changed the scene setting and dialogue of the initial meeting between the female and male main characters.  What this means is that of the approximately 30,000 words of completion into the first draft I vainly announced in a past blog, I’m happy with 6,353 of them, give or take.

This is a hard realization.  Stranger still, I’m surprised at my reaction to this epiphany.  I am having a really difficult time being sad about this.  I think it’s because I REALLY, TRULY love what is happening in these scenes.  The result of the last few weeks’ writing has shown the most potential than anything I’ve written before.

So I’m not as far along as I thought (hoped)…  So I may have to rethink my deadline…

What I failed to insert into my formula when I created my deadline was the learning curve.  I am LEARNING how to write a proper novel while in the midst of writing.  I have online authors whose blogs I follow because they are so generous and kind to share HOW they write.  I’ve learned and continue to learn so much from a (paid) course developed by an author that helped with my organizing my ideas, developing good plot, and understanding my creative self. My writing partner is amazing and offers encouragement and comfort.  I’m finding my voice and my style as an author.  I’m BECOMING an author.  The transformation is in process, people.  I’ve hit novelist puberty with this project.  By the time the revisions are through, I’ll bet a nickel I’ll be in novelist early-adulthood.  Any takers?

Experience Vs. Experiment

So, I’ve had a rough week at Full-Time Job and, in an attempt to make me feel better, someone told me that this present situation will make great research for character development in future stories.  My first reaction was, “Way to link something that I am not enjoying as necessary to something that I do enjoy!”  On further analysis, I’m mildly concerned about potentially losing touch with reality.

Let me explain.  I have no problems whatsoever with cannibalizing real human characteristics to bring life to characters.  After all, every fictional character’s personality is a mix of direct and indirect encounters between other people and the author and how the author processes those encounters, deriving (among other things) personality traits, lie tells, and quirks.  My concern lies with my ability to live in my head so completely that real people become nothing but research and real problems become plot points.  I don’t know any authors, but I wonder if it is possible to be so consumed that you live life as if everything is an experiment and you are the observant, detached scientist.

I suppose being aware of my hermit-esque, mad-scientist ways will allow me to monitor the progression, but in future, I’ll make attempts to immerse myself in humanity for the experience rather than the experiment.

***

On writing:

I’ve plotted out six more scenes and I really like the depth the book is taking on.  I thought, at first, it was pretty elementary, but now it is surprising even me. I look forward to finishing the rough draft.  My favorite part of my creative writing undertakings has always been revision…and I’m getting so much closer.

I hope your ventures are taking shape as well!

Good luck!

Healthy Level of Selfish

Past experiences created a phobia of being considered selfish by others.  The experiences were small acts that compiled and converted into a paralyzing fear, like a Mighty Morphin’ Power Ranger.  I have theories of why, some ironic and some accidental, but defining those does nothing productive.

I am now out of college, married, have been six and a half years at my job, and finally have realized that it is okay to dedicate some effort to me. My husband is a great support.  I don’t think I could have begun this journey without him. And as it gets harder, I know that I’ll be looking for him on the sidelines for the extra boost I’ll need.  This thought formed through this process: People will eventually get the guts to start being what they have dreamed of being, to start trying what they have always wanted to try, BUT they will try a lot sooner and stand a lot firmer for longer if they have someone who believes in them staring them in the face.  I also think there is honor in being a starer.  I hope Husband considers me his starer, as he is mine.

I’ve learned a few lessons in my life post-college.  Some of them being:

  • My professional life is necessary to fund my personal life; it is not my personal life.  I will perform my job with dignity, competence, and civility, but I will not alter my character to “fit in” the social aspects of the workplace.  If that is the only way to have “friends” in the workplace, I will happily consider myself ostracized.
  • I am as much of an adult as the forty-something-year-old employee in the next cubicle and am not inferior because of age.  (Southern culture doesn’t really address how to transition from being the one to say “Ma’am” and “Sir” to being the one called “Ma’am” or “Sir”.  We’re on our own with this lesson.)
  • I would rather have someone else tell me “no” than to tell myself “no” by not even attempting to do the thing in question.

And my latest lesson:

  • There is a healthy level of selfish, an ideal medium between selfish and selfless.  A lean toward either side, however, can make you a doormat or a bitch.

It’s being aware of and acting on your needs, recognizing and plotting how to achieve your wants, and basically, being better to you.  How easy is it to focus on catering to others wants than to figure out yours?  Much, much easier.

I have one stipulation.  I will not veer from my moral code to accomplish my goals, which means that I will not hurt, steal from, lie to, or otherwise negatively impact others during my pursuit.  This is non-negotiable.  On the other hand, if others are offended by me while I am morally conquering the world, ehh.

Can’t please ’em all.

Praise and Improve

Hello! I’m super tired today from reading the new Cassandra Clare book all. Night. Long. (Sixteen word book review: lovely world, great plot, identifiable characters, hopeless with a smidge of hopeful, wretchedly equal love triangle) I hope I make sense today.  Actually, that’s a hope renewed daily.

I adjunct teach English classes occasionally at a local college. For my students, one of the most dreaded parts of the class is decompression questions given after a large assignment.  They groan and put their heads in imaginary nooses and kick the stool beneath them.  But eventually, they finish the task.  The questions aren’t difficult.  For example:

  1. What was the most difficult part/aspect of this project?
  2. What are you proudest of in this essay?  Why?
  3. If you were to write this paper again, what would you do differently?
  4. Is there anything else you’d like to say about this paper?

But the more classes I teach, the more I realize that students in my small, southern town hate, I mean HATE, to check themselves.  They would rather be buried in wet cement than say, “I am proud that I was able to use the word ‘superfluous’ correctly in the third paragraph of my paper.”  That is bragging on oneself, and that is the job of other people standing next to you in a conversation.  It’s as if there is some sort of psychological dilemma when someone looks within and finds something he/she likes, let alone something he/she doesn’t like.

I get it.  I fight this curse daily.  I grew up in a Southern/Japanese hodgepodge culture.  Mix those two together and, basically, I (as an individual) don’t exist.

BUT… Then there are the students that used the assignment for its purpose:  to grow from the writing experience. Those students look at their work as if it were a stranger’s and discover legitimate strengths and weaknesses–things to praise and improve.

Honest self-evaluation can be used for more aspects of life other than writing, but for our purposes…writing it is.

Teaching self-evaluation skills is soooo much easier than practicing them.  It’s really hard to congratulate yourself because of something that came out of your head. It’s something you can take pride in as sole proprietor.  Likewise, the mistakes are yours alone.  We are humans.  We make mistakes.  Sorry if I pooped on someone’s dinner plate with that bit of information, but truth is truth.  Also, we are not perfect.  (There goes dessert.)  So, can’t we deduce that there is always room for improvement?  We, as self-evaluators, label the need and then…well, we work on that area in current and/or future projects.  Bettering our writing. Bettering ourselves.

Point:  Self-evaluations are a vehicle for being honest with yourself, a vehicle which I have found useful in my writing (and my life).  I’m learning that an objective, unbiased eye—from sentence structures to mood and beyond—produces better results for me.

Hint:  It’s more effective if I do not blow smoke up my ass (My first draft is perfect. Revisions are for amateurs.) and if I do not rip myself a new one. (I can’t send this out.  It’s 90,000 words of horse poo. The respectable authors in my genre should start an annual tar and feathering ceremony to punish other authors who try to camouflage horse poo as literature, and I should be the first on their list.)

Your peer revision partner(s), writer’s group member(s), and/or your mom will, hopefully, help you if you lean too far to one side or another on a given day.

Just something I was thinking about…