Tag Archives: writing

A Different Kind of Snow Angel

A good snow meant one thing as a kid – FUN. We didn’t care about roads, power outages, or having to rush to the grocery store for OMG MILK, EGGS, BREAD…no, all we cared about was playing in the white stuff. Staying home didn’t make us roll our eyes, no siree.. staying home made us yelp with joy and dance with insanity. It made us….

DOWNRIGHT GIDDY.

We would willingly spend nearly 30 minutes putting on enough gear to go outside and dive into the winter wonderland. I don’t know about you, but one of my favourite things to do as soon as I stepped outside was to fall down and make a snow angel. I particularly loved doing this if we got to go outside while it was still snowing. There was always something so intensely magical about laying there, supported by inches of snow, slowly waving my hands and feet as flakes drifted down from above and melted on the few inches of my face exposed to the elements. Sometimes I stuck my tongue out to catch the flakes.

It’s funny how snow doesn’t mean the same thing now that I’m all grown up.

I don’t remember the last time I made a snow angel. Or went sledding, for that matter. I could have this past winter but I didn’t have the appropriate gear so I passed. I will have the proper gear this next year, however, and I can’t wait. (Disclaimer – I lived for nearly 20 years in the deep south where they don’t get snow often but they do get ice occasionally. Nasty, yucky ice.)

The snow this year was intense. I have tried to be humourous about it, but honestly, the past few storms have nearly made me weep. This year, I discovered my limit. Apparently when enough snow falls where the “removal” piles get so high it makes me claustrophobic is my limit. A lot of other people also hit their limits, I suspect. (Including a few folks I know who are expecting blizzard conditions tomorrow… my heart goes out to you, it does. Spring isn’t far away, you guys!)

Over the past week, the temps have soared, snow has melted, and more grass is visible than is covered by snow in most places local to me. The greenish brown landscape is almost alien at this point, given how accustomed we were to everything covered in white.

We hit another milestone today as well – for the first time in a couple of months, we can see our deck. Not just a few inches around the outer edges – the entire thing. At the peak of our snowy season, we had nearly 20 inches of snow covering our deck. Not anymore. It’s all gone.

Something of note here – turns out that snow angels aren’t just made by humans throwing themselves down on top of the snow.

They’re also made by melting snow – as a happy reminder that there is always someone watching over us:

snow angel

And that, people, is sometimes all the sign you need that spring is on the way. Well, that and a fleeting rainbow in the sky as the sun sets and clouds drift lazily on by.

Choosing Happy

Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product. 

~Eleanor Roosevelt~

Happiness is a direction, not a place.

~Sydney J. Harris~

Think about those quotes for a few minutes, letting their truth sink deep into your psyche. Sip your coffee, tea, juice, or water, and let it wash over you.

What do they say to you? How do they feel in your heart?

It is difficult to remember, in the depth of depression, that happiness is not a goal nor is it a place. It is instead, a by-product of life and more in the journey than in the destination. All too often, we focus on reaching a final ‘state’ and forget that our ‘states’ are instead fluid and are pulled with the ebb and flow of life.

I’ve written before about whether happiness is a choice. I did not believe happiness was a choice until I finally chose it. You see, happiness does not equal a constant cheerful demeanor. Happiness doesn’t mean everything is giggles and confetti.

Happiness, to me, is flowing with what life throws at you. It is knowing what to do when things turn negative, it is taking care of yourself in the midst of the whirlwind. Happiness is realizing that life happens and the majority of it is how you choose to react to it.

Let’s take, for example, a young woman in a grocery store. She’s in a rush to grab a few last minute items to cook dinner for her boyfriend. She runs around the store, grabbing the items, and goes to the front. All the self-checkout lanes are taken and she is left with choosing between two open registers with cashiers. One has a young mother with three children and a very full cart while the other one has an elderly woman with not much in her cart. The young woman chooses the aisle with the elderly woman. But the elderly woman is very chatty with the cashier and very slow with her wallet. She also decides she doesn’t want to purchase a few of the limited items in her cart so the young woman has to wait for a manager to come over and do a return. By this time, there’s someone in line behind her so she’s stuck and can’t go anywhere.

This young woman would have every right to be frustrated and angry. Instead, she takes a deep breath and enjoys the few moments of peace this has granted her in between her very busy job and the busy rush of cooking ahead of her. She looks around the store and notices the colours of balloons floating above displays for an upcoming holiday, she listens to the children in the aisle next to her giggle and play with each other as their mother manages getting all the groceries on the conveyer belt.

We have a choice in the way we respond to external stimuli. One of the most popular things I hear people with disabilities or mental health challenges say is that they may have x,y, or z, but x,y, or z doesn’t have them. It truly is the best way to view things because when x,y, or z doesn’t have you, it doesn’t have power over your mind which means you know how to handle it.

And as we children of the 80′s remember, knowing is half the battle.

The Gift of the Sun

When was the last time you looked up into the sky as if you were a young child, in awe of nature, believing everything up there was pure magic?

I do it at least twice a day. Sunrise and sunset.

Throughout the rest of the day, sometimes a cloud pattern or group of birds will catch my attention but it is the sunrise and sunset which capture my soul.

This morning, I awoke to a blushing sky, pale pink expanding across a barely lit atmosphere as the sun caressed the wisps of clouds drifting through the atmosphere just beyond the trees at the edge of the field across the road. Pale pink gave way to a golden glow, setting the naked trees afire, eventually dancing across the icy snow at their feet.

A lone black bird soared to one of the larger trees, settling in the highest branch, clinging hold as the wind waved him to and fro. Traffic echoed just below, an invasion of the solitude of the dawn cascading across the sky.

Most of the morning was filled with blue, then this afternoon, the clouds expanded, obfuscating the joy promised us by the bright blue sky in the midst of a dreary winter. But the evening sky apologized for this infraction, providing a spectacular range of colours as the sun nestled into the other side of the world.

Corals, reds, purples, blues, greys, they all mingled together just below the houses at the edge of the field, the sort of sunset which one can only witness with eyes and not capture on film.

Although I have bemoaned the existence of a sub-zero winter and being buried in far too many inches of snow, it has brought some of the most phenomenal sunrises and sunsets I have ever witnessed, including those I saw as a young child growing up near the beach.

Witnessing a sunrise and a sunset is a gift. It is sheer magic. Both a re-affirmation of life, of finding the beauty in the littlest things. It’s as if our entire day has a bookend of amazing art on either end. To ignore it, to not take the few minutes it exists and stare at it as if you are four years old again and the world is made of magic is foolish.

If I don’t take the time to do witness the beauty that is the sunrise and sunset, my day feels empty. The colours fade so quickly, the magic even faster. Sometimes I may sleep through the sunrise (who doesn’t on occasion), but on those days, I am sure to take in the state of the sky before I do anything else – even reach for my phone. The sky is the first thing I focus on when my eyes wake in the morning. It’s also the last thing I look at before I go to bed – I look for stars, for the moon, for clouds… and now that I am sleeping with the blinds opened, if I wake in the middle of the night, I get to see the moon as it drifts through the onyx sky.

Do yourself a favour this next week. Take the time to look up at the sky with the wonder of a child who hasn’t been jaded by the responsibilities of a fast-paced world. Breathe in the artistry and beauty right in front of you. Drink it in, commit it to memory, to your heart. For if you carry beauty in your heart, there won’t be room for much else.

Struggling to Find Discipline

This next week, I have a lot of writing to do. Writing which is not for this blog. I am managing content at another blog and then at the end of the week, auditioning for Listen to Your Mother.

It is a bit frustrating then, to be sitting here with a ideas hiding in the shadows, refusing to come out and play nicely. Right now, it doesn’t matter. But it will matter once the week gets rolling. This past week has been a busy one which has not allowed for much beyond the normal hubbub of daily life. I skipped writing one day this past week, in fact. I have let it go, missing writing that one day, because well, I couldn’t go back and fix it. The sleep was lovely at least.

It’s funny when you start writing on a daily basis how much a part of your life it becomes. Writing is like breathing for those of us who hold it dear to our hearts. It changes your soul, your pattern of thinking. It allows you to see things differently as life swirls around you.

Right now, the thing which frustrates me most is the lack of direction in my writing, the scattered subject matter. I took the time to pull together an editorial calendar but have yet to stick to it which is disappointing to say the least. I believe the primary issue with this is that I rarely look at the calendar. Instead, I just write when the mood strikes rather than planning ahead. Scheduling my writing would perhaps help with this issue. That way, at least, I wouldn’t be sitting here, at 10pm at night struggling to reach 500 words.

Another issue is that I am terribly old fashioned when it comes to writing notes and keeping a schedule. I adore pen & paper for this sort of thing. My editorial calendar is currently only in Google Drive. Perhaps if I took it and transferred it to my planner it would help. But then again, I haven’t been using my planner either so who knows.

One of my biggest weaknesses, folks. Discipline. I get things done right when they need to be done (and sometimes after). I have always been this way. I am struggling to improve this but in the meantime, I get angry with myself when I miss deadlines or don’t stick to a plan I have set for myself.

I am determined to change it this year, this issue with discipline. I intend to push myself harder than I have in the past and hold myself more accountable to my deadlines and tasks I have agreed to accomplish within a certain time frame.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Do you also struggle with the discipline needed to stay on course? What do you use to motivate you? To push through the procrastination stage into the “get ‘er done” phase? Leave your best tips in the comments below. I need them to make this the best year I have ever had – no more excuses!

 

Sunday Reflections

The dryer hums upstairs as it spins clothes in a vortex of heat, drying them after they have spun through water and soap. Such a simple thing and yet, part of the rhythm of daily living these days. I shudder to think of the arduous task of schlepping the laundry to a river or lake and scrubbing it down with a rock or other accoutrements. Yet at the same time, I cannot help but think of how much more social the act of taking the laundry outside one’s home was back then. I assume it is much like going to the laundromat today although with the advent of technology, it is infinitely easier to lose oneself in a game of Candy Crush or on Twitter and Facebook. If you’re scrubbing clothes with a rock, however, it is a bit more difficult to ignore someone attempting to strike up a conversation.

Pondering this, the movement of society away from an integrated close-knit community to an online integrated close-knit community has me wondering why this has happened and what a profound effect it may have on some of us. For those of us who prefer not to be out and about (or are not able to be out and about), it is a wonderful thing. But it can also be a double-edged sword as it enables us to stay home and not interact with society at large, providing an excuse to continue our hermitesque lifestyles without seeming odd.

We are bombarded with negative headlines, danger lurking in every corner, things cropping up here and there. Our anxiety rises, we grow fearful of attending large events so we stay home and watch it from the comfort of our living rooms, interacting instead with others doing the same via the Internet through hashtags, status updates, and check-ins to whatever program we may be watching at the moment.

When I was younger, my father once told me to avoid growing cynical. I try very hard to keep an open mind and a child-like wonder at the world but at the same time, balance it with a strong street smart common sense awareness of what might be lurking around the bend. It is a constant battle inside, wanting to desperately to believe in the fairytale yet seeing the shadow of Gepetto just behind the satin curtain. Isolation from the world at hand will do that to a person.

I am realizing, with a resounding crash this morning, while I don’t think I am terribly cynical, I have succumbed to my fear of the world out there. I am happier browsing Amazon than in a store. I am happier in my car than in the parking lot of the chosen destination where I usually have to talk myself into getting out and walking inside. I am happier lost inside the melody and words of my favourite songs through headphones than I would ever be at a loud, raucous concert.

Perhaps this is simply how one ages, growing to appreciate the silence and solitude of a simple life as if it were a fine wine or an aged brandy. Maybe this is the old age “get offa my lawn” version of growing weary of the ridiculousness of the life out there. Or perhaps this is a knee-jerk reaction to the horrible situation at our previous residence and I simply have not pushed myself hard enough to overcome it. Whatever it is, I am caught in between wanting to fix it or wanting to embrace it.

My entire life, I have always been shy. I do not long to be the center of the party or live a public life. (Yet, here I am, blogging – go figure!) I have always preferred the quiet to the loud. Preferred activities? Curling up with a good book, writing, listening to music, watching movies, chatting and laughing with a few close friends. Part of me often yearns for a larger group of friends but the rest of me quietly whispers “we can’t handle that.”

Blogging is one of the few places I feel comforted. For awhile, this did not feel like my safe space because I did not know what to say. I felt as if I were the prodigal daughter, unable to return home because I had changed. But I realized those changes fit this blog and to not share them, to not offer a glimpse into how drastically my life changed and how I now fought to deal with these changes would be hypocritical. And thus, I returned. There was no celebration, no sacrifice of the fatted calf, just words filling the little white box every day.

A new voice has been found and this morning, this morning that voice called to me as I sat in our living room, alone, watching children run back and forth outside in the snow, laughing and playing. Starting to type, I exhaled, and the negativity ensnared in my soul fled. For the first time in a long time, I realized, there was nothing wrong with me this morning other than needing to turn a valve to let the words flow freely from my brain.

I may not be the most social person in this concrete world, but I am valuable, I matter, and I am a fighter. Some days will be harder than others. Some days will leave me knocked out flat on the ground while others have me floating in the heavens. It’s the days in between that matter. The days when I put my nose to the grind and do the dirty work to earn the awesome days – and the days when I pick myself up off the ground to try again.

And so, life moves forward, filled with rhythmic sounds of every day necessities, like the humming of the dryer upstairs spinning clothes in a super heated vortex.

Everything in Life Is Writable

Sylvia Plath Quote

Everything in life is writable about, according to Sylvia Plath. Everything. Every breath you take, every move you make, wait… that’s…not…I’ve digressed.

Today was held such promise but it ended up as a day where I did not get much accomplished beyond making dough in the kitchen. Sure, I eventually put sauce, pepperoni, and cheese on one of the doughs (mmmm.. homemade pizza, anyone?) but aside from that, I may have read a grand total of 10-15 pages in one of my research books and taken a whopping half-page of notes.

My brain is a bit fried from the heavier stuff earlier this week. Switching gears from intense analytical reading to simple comprehension is a bit like taking an F1 driver out of his race car and telling him to drive Monaco in a Flinstone-mobile. He’s gonna wonder where the hell the knobs and gears are, right?

That’s the catch with the writing lifestyle, I suppose. Switching gears all the time. The book I envision is comprised of a range of subjects. Some of the reading I am doing is just for background purposes as I hate discussing anything unless I fully understand it. Writing a book means I damn well better be able to comprehend what I am discussing. So, reading it is. A lot of reading. Balancing that reading is proving to be tricky, however. What is even trickier is balancing the reading/researching/note-taking with blogging. Oh, and chat. Mondays are crazy around here. Chat, worksheet development (which I think I am going to move up to the weekends, actually, to get a jump start!), and then advocacy. Phew.

I promise I am still taking good care of myself. I practice what I preach.

The quote I started with – about how everything in life is writable about – it caught my eye because it is important for me to remember that just now. At the beginning of the year, I promised a more intimate view into ME this next year. I realized over the past year that one of the reasons I stopped writing was because frankly, I lost sight of who I was as a woman, as a writer, as a blogger in my own space. Sure, it was mine, but I felt like a stranger in my own home. I was no longer who I was when I started the blog. Should I continue? Should I rebrand? (I still struggle with rebranding – I may do that one of these days yet, that one is still up in the air).

Turns out that I just needed to sit down, crack my knuckles, and remind myself that yes, everything in life IS writable about – it’s just a question of having the guts to do so, as Sylvia says. I still get to choose what I share with the public at large, but there is nothing to writing – all you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed, according to Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway also claims one should write drunk and edit sober, solid advice if you ask me, actually. Nothing quite like really lowering your inhibitions and then sitting down at a typewriter to bleed. Of course, your blood might be tinged with scotch or whisky. But a bit of proper editing and you’ll be good to go, right?

A blogger I met when I first arrived on Twitter wrote these hilarious posts about lessons she learned over the past week. Sadly, I don’t read her blog much any more but really need to get back into the habit because she’s a hilarious woman. In the vein of “everything in life is writable” and the spirit of lessons I’ve learned this past week, here is a short list of things I’ve learned this past week (some the hard way):

1) Never, ever, ever, EVER grab a hot glass casserole dish without oven mitts protecting your hands. Because if you do? You sit down on the floor, grab a beer, take a long gulp whilst staring dumbfounded at the oven:

Epic Dinner Fail

Lessons learned: Wear oven mitts. Don’t make complicated meals when you’ve had less than five hours of sleep. Inadequacy and failure taste delicious when they take the form of sushi.

2) There is such a thing as too much damn snow. I lived in the deep south for nearly two decades. Despite growing up in Jersey and spending my teen years in the mid-Atlantic, I haven’t seen the white stuff for a long time so I am still like a little kid whenever it crops up. Now that I am back in the Northeast, it’s been fabulous to see all the snow. Until the past month where it has managed to snow no less than a zillion times every damn week. Right now, we have about eight inches of the crap on the ground. It’s topped with a coating of a quarter of an inch of ice. It’s gorgeous, yes. But I NEED SPRING.

Lesson learn(ing): Patience, grasshopper. Lots and lots of patience. Also, lots of cruising Flickr for pictures of beaches, spring flowers, and sunshine.

3) My handwriting sucks. I am ascribing to the Luddite method of note-taking for my book. I bought a lovely 400 page journal and scribble in it, complete with references and everything as I take notes, write thoughts, etc. When I physically write something down, I am more likely to remember it than if I type it into a computer or into my phone. Once I fling it into the ether, it is also flung far, far away from my head. Don’t even think about suggesting Evernote. I’m already scheming ways to print out PDF’s of documents I desperately need to read because yes, I don’t want to read them online. I want to feel dead trees in my grubby non-environmental friendly hands. Because dammit, it’s just not a book unless trees have shed blood for it. Remember Hemingway? We’re bleeding here as authors – and I fully expect the trees to sacrifice too. And no, I do not care how politically incorrect this makes me – I am a FIRM believer in REAL BOOKS. MADE OF DEAD TREES.

Lesson learned: Practice my handwriting whenever I get a chance. It’s already improving. I can *almost* read it when I go back over my notes now. It’s either practice or apply to med school.

4) Just because a cat looks comfy and happy doesn’t mean they want you to pet them. No, sometimes? That means they’re stalking your hand, waiting for it to wave just in reach of their very sharp teeth.

Lesson Learned: Kick the cat off the damn couch if I’m typing. Or eating. Or moving my hands in any way. Because OW.

5) Breakfast really IS the most important meal of the day. I suck at eating breakfast when I am tired. Which, frankly, is most mornings. So I end up making myself coffee, taking my meds, fixing an English Muffin (this morning, it was a toaster strudel), with the intent of fixing myself some sort of protein once I’ve dragged myself out of the zombiesque state I tend to live in for the first few hours after opening my eyes. Thing is, lunchtime hits before I know it and OOPS. There goes breakfast. I eat light for lunch too because I got used to skipping it as well (back when I was eating a bigger breakfast) so then I want to eat ALL THE THINGS by dinner. If I eat ALL the things at dinner (and after dinner), I wake up with heartburn. I don’t want to wake up with heartburn so I need to get breakfast. We ordered a toaster this past week that has a little egg cooker attached to it so I am hoping this will enable me to eat a healthier breakfast. I have no excuse to not cook an egg along with my muffin now. NONE.

Lesson learned: Eat breakfast to avoid heartburn. Because heartburn wakes me up at 330 and then I don’t get any sleep and then, well – see item #1.

There you have it folks, my week in a nutshell.

Here’s to a better week, better lessons, less bleeding (or is that more, because I want to write? I dunno!), and DEAD TREES! YAWP!

Things I Don’t Know But Want To

I started writing when I was six years old. My first piece was one sheet of wide-ruled paper, written in blue ink. The topic? Organisms. If I close my eyes, I can feel the paper, smell the ink, and even see the encyclopedia (yes, people, I am old enough to remember a time when we did not Google. We Britannica’d.) My second piece was an eleven page short story (front and back, so really, 22 pages) about a brother and sister who were kidnapped and lost in the Australian outback. Yeap, I Britannica’d for that piece too.

We all have certain topics in which we are interested over others, don’t we? Over the years, my interests have varied quite a bit. Thanks to the development of Google, it is terribly easy to cram any sort of peripheral information in my brain these days. I remain selective, however, and try to stay away from the “fluff” but still find myself caught up in it.

In no particular order below, are things I wish I had bothered to learn about/do during the course of years gone by or want to learn about/do in the future:

1) Gaelic – I have always wanted to learn how to speak this language. Even before we discovered there is Irish in the family history. Perhaps it’s my fascination with all things Arthurian. Yes, I know Gaelic isn’t associated closely associated with it (at least, I think that’s the case – I am half asleep at the moment and I have had a couple of beers. Be gentle.) I know this is something I can remedy. Maybe one day I will.

2) Beef Wellington – I want to learn how to cook this. Not because of Gordon Ramsey but because it’s allegedly such a culinary challenge. There’s not much I can’t do in the kitchen but this is one of the few things I haven’t gotten around to trying.

3) Why people watch the Kardashians. On second thought, maybe this is something I don’t want to know.

4) Who the hell decided it was a good idea to send professional athletes to the Olympics for team sports like hockey and basketball. Talk about stealing an amazing opportunity from deserving non-professional athletes….what a crock of bullshit. In case you need a refresher course in how amazing a team of amateurs can be, look back at the Hockey team the US put together for Lake Placid. Sure, Dream Teams are lovely but they defeat the spirit of the Olympics in my humble opinion.

5) Morse Code. There was a period of time when I had this crap memorized but somehow I lost it. We’ll blame reality TV.

6) Sign Language. I used to know quite a bit of sign language, but again, somewhere along the line, I lost most of this knowledge. I need to remedy this. As for blame? I got nothing.

7) How to cook Asian cuisine. I’m slowly learning the flavour combinations but am definitely more at home with Italian or American food. But life begins beyond your comfort zone and all that. One things I’ve realized about Asian cuisine is that it is not that dissimilar from Italian cooking in theory – it really is all about getting comfortable with flavour profiles.

8) Deep Sea Fishing. Yeah, I’m not sure I would even make it out to sea without vomiting but hey, you don’t know unless you try, right?

9) Who is responsible for Stonehenge. It’s always fascinated me, Stonehenge. Again, I think this goes back to my unhealthy obsession with all things Arthurian and Druid. So many theories, so little real fact. It’d be a blast to really dig in and find out more.

10) Why the hell cats insist on sitting on your keyboard while you’re typing. Not that this is happening right now or anything. At least I can still move my fingers.

What are some ridiculous or serious things you wish you knew or want to do?

2014 State of the Blog

Today I finally did something I have wanted to do since starting this blog.

An editorial calendar!

YES!

I have all my weeks planned out through the end of the year.

I cannot begin to tell you how absolutely awesome this feels.

My next big goal around here is to clean up the blog – minimize and streamline tags and categories, redesign, and in May, go completely self-hosted. Maybe even start Vlogging. EEEEEEK. I have BIG goals this year and even better, I AM going to achieve them all and then some.

My sole goal today, as was noted in my post yesterday, was to make it to the gym and sit in the hot tub. I made it to the gym but the hot tub was closed. No idea on when it will be open again but it doesn’t matter because this week’s weather, well, according to R2D2′s severe weather alerts, I wouldn’t make it to the gym unless we had a Tauntaun on the back deck anyway.

Speaking of crappy weather, today’s weather was cloudy yet surprisingly warm. We hit a balmy 48F today and I drove home from the grocery store with the windows down. Crazy? Perhaps. But when you have been in the middle of Hoth for the past several weeks, 48F is a tropical heatwave, baby, and begs for you to ride with the windows down with the tunes blasting because baby, that’s spring.

It’s a new month, a new year, and I have started it off the best way possible with this new habit of writing every day. I should warn you, however, I plan to start working on my book this month and won’t be blogging AS much because my words will be going there instead of here. I hope to have some guest posts for you but that’s going to depend on some serious participation from you, the readers.

For this month’s schedule, the theme is, of course, Love. This week, we’re focusing on things you can do to show love to yourself (get your mind outta the gutter!), next week, your child, the following week, your partner, then the last week will examine extended family. Don’t worry, we’ll be examining healthy boundaries as part of this series too. If you have a piece that would fit into this topic, feel free to send it to me at mypostpartumvoice (@) gmail with “FEBRUARY SUBMISSION” in the subject line. It’d be fabulous if Perinatal Mood Disorders were somehow involved but it’s okay if it isn’t so feel free to submit if you have a great post about love for couples or parents without the PPD aspect. We are human too, after all.

March’s theme will be “Spring” and focus on the rebirth which comes with the season. We’ll be examining Light therapy, Vitamin D, Getting Out and About with Baby, Renewal, and Alternative Therapies. Again, feel free to send any guest posts my way.

I’m also looking for guest hosts for #PPDChat all the time so if you are interested, let me know. All I ask is that you be somewhat familiar with Twitter (even if you’re not, I will take the time to help you learn the ropes).

On that note, and I will mention this again, I’m seeking some awesome people who have been through the hell that is PPD to join me as part of a #PPDChat Brain Trust. You’ll be volunteering to help promote, brainstorm, and organize upcoming #PPDChats as well as possibly help moderate the FB Group. I am completely flexible with whatever your schedule allows as I know life can get very hectic. So if you are interested or know someone who would be a GREAT fit for this volunteer opportunity, send them my way!

Stay tuned for more updates about the editorial calendar and other exciting upcoming announcements. My word this year is ENGAGE and I am absolutely determined to get this party started!

31 Days of Writing Down, Only 334 To Go

The month of January has been awash in words with some of them thrown into the public arena, others, held close to my heart. It has made a difference this flood of words. Even on nights I did not think I had anything in me, I somehow managed to dredge 500 and then more up from the very depths of my grey matter.

I started this month a writing weakling. People threw hefty words at me as I walked by them in the snow, laughing at me because I was not writing. But now? Now I get to throw the words around as if they are weightless.

Lessons learned, teeth gnashed, eyes burned by glaring white screens, space deeply analyzed as I stared into it whilst brainstorming, and my Spotify account nearly imploded as it massaged my brain with inspiring beats.

Lesson 1:

Don’t ever stop writing. So many nights, I would write 100-200 words then get stuck. So I would delete my progress and start over with something else until I broke the 350 word mark. The issue here was that instead of just writing, I was paying attention to my word count. I don’t look at my word count as I write any more. I just write. I don’t stop. I keep writing until I run out of something to say then I conclude my piece. It’s just like when I go to the gym. If I go regularly, it gets easier because my muscles are getting the exercise they need. Same with writing. I feel my brain changing (as weird as that sounds) and my thought process is more fine-tuned than it was at the beginning of the year. I find myself looking at things and wondering how I can write it.

Lesson 2:

Every single thing in your life has a story. Yes, every single thing. Even the computer, tablet, or smartphone on which you write. Or the pen & paper. Whatever you use, there was a human effort which went into creating it and wherever there is humanity, there is a story. Even where there is not humanity, there is a story. Seek the story. Write the story. Be open to the story. If you are not open to the story, you might just let the story meant to be YOURS pass you by. Always, always be ready to write. In order to do this, you must always write. See the first lesson.

Lesson 3:

Define your boundaries. What, for you, is comfortable to include as potential topics for writing? How personal will you allow yourself to get? Writing is spilling your soul to the world, it is getting on a stage in a stadium filled with millions of people (even if that many people don’t read your writing, it sure feels that way, doesn’t it?) who are waiting for your words. Choose them wisely, be ready to handle criticism, opinions, and people who will hate you for what you say. If you are not ready to handle criticism or hatred for something you want to write? Write it to get it out but don’t put it on the stage for everyone to say. It’s okay to not put everything out there.

Lesson 4:

Write with confidence, conviction, and authenticity. It’s okay if you don’t know who you are right now. All that matters is where you have been, where you are, and where you are going. Life, as Tom Cochrane put it, Is A Highway. The people going your way will find you and relate to your story. If you write with confidence, conviction, and authenticity, your story will carry the weight of truth and have an impact. Yes, you can do this even if your journey is shaky and undefined. As long as you’re honest about where you’re at in your journey, you’ll have authenticity. Writing with anything less is bullshit.

Lesson 5:

Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes better. Perfection is bullshit. Perfection is something we all aim for but always, always miss. When we practice, we grow stronger, we get better, but none of us are perfect. We may execute with skill, we may narrow the margin of mistakes, but none of us strike perfection. But wait, aren’t there athletes who get perfect scores? People who get perfect scores on the SAT’s? 100′s on tests? Yes. But I guarantee you they are not “perfect” people. We are human and to be human is to err. Accept this, hold yourself to the standard of the best you have to offer instead of one of perfection, and constantly practice to maintain the standard of the best you have to offer and you will come out ahead with less stress, less guilt, and less disappointment than those who constantly aim for perfection.

Lesson 6:

Have fun and be able to laugh at yourself. Some of the best stories come from stupidity, don’t they? When we have let our guard down completely and let ourselves do something absolutely ridiculous. Instead of getting angry, laugh at it. Write it down and flip it into funny. If it weren’t for my mother instilling the skill of laughing at everything, even the horrible no good things, I think I would have broken into a zillion pieces like the Death Star a long, long time ago in a galaxy far away.

Lesson 7:

Write what you know but research what you don’t and write about that too. The best thing about writing is that we get the opportunity to continually educate ourselves about new subjects. We get to poke around in different aspects of life and morph into subject matter experts about everything, anything, and maybe like Seinfeld, nothing at all. We are fans of the known knowns, the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns. They are all fields of potential stories, pieces, and posts. Seek them out, write about them in your voice, and stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone.

Lesson 8:

Let the things which interest you seep into your writing. I am happiest when I relate something to another topic about which I am passionate. Like last night’s post when I related A Knight’s Tale to PPD or another post earlier this month when I took a Star Trek Episode and related it to PPD as well. Or this post where I have already mentioned Star Wars, Donald Rumsfeld (Known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns), Tom Cochrane, and Seinfeld. Letting your interests in shows the real you, directly relating back to the whole authenticity thing we have already discussed.

Lesson 9:

Write fiercely. Words are your friends, not your enemies. Repeat this to yourself a few times. It will matter at some point because sooner or later, they won’t want to cooperate and you’ll want to pull your hair out. Instead, close your eyes, put your hands on the keyboard, and type for a few minutes until it clears and you have tamed them. Find a topic which stirs your soul and dedicate your deepest pieces to it. Make a difference. Writing well is a gift, not one everyone has. Sure, anyone can write words, but only a few of us are blessed enough to be able to manipulate words in such a way which makes the reader feel as if they are sitting across from us at a cozy coffee shop. Don’t throw that gift away.

Lesson 10:

Learn how to accept compliments. As writers, we are our own worst critics, aren’t we? The grammar isn’t right here, I misspelled a word, oh crap there’s a comma out of place, I should have used this word instead of that one, etc. See Lesson #5 about practice making perfect. Practice makes perfect in this situation too. Say thank you and nothing more. Be humble. No one likes a smug snooty writer. If someone interprets something in a way you didn’t mean for it to be interpreted, remember that people bring their own language to your writing, seeing things within you may not. It’s okay – it’s what makes reading and writing such an intimate experience.

I thoroughly enjoyed these past 31 days and I hope you did too. I was going to go through my posts and see just how many words I wrote but I didn’t because it’s not about the word count. It’s about actually doing the work.

Thank you for sticking with me for 31 days.

Here’s to 28 more.

See you tomorrow!

PS. Wil Wheaton just put up this great short post about his process. I’m sharing the link because it shows that all of us are different in what we need to write and how we write. Maybe that’s lesson 11 – using your own method. Go read his post, it’s a short but good read.

What Would Your Trophy Say?

“It’s psychotic. They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity.”

~Mr. Incredible, The Incredibles~

Ah, good old mediocrity. The goal for which everyone aimed, right?

Not really.

In the sixth grade, I completed in the school’s spelling bee. If memory serves correctly (I’m getting old and yes, there is truth to the old adage that brains stop working as well once you hit a certain age), I won the class competition which is what placed me in the school’s bee.

I won the school’s spelling bee.

Don’t ask me what word I spelled to win because I don’t remember.

I remember, however, thinking winning was kick-ass, especially because I was one of the younger kids in the school. I beat the older, (and I thought smarter), kids that day.

I did not make it past the county spelling bee, however, despite studying my ass off. The other kids there were simply better at spelling than I. (I know, completely shocking, right?)

I have the trophy stashed somewhere, probably in a box long gone, to be honest. Who knows. It is a symbol of victory, of not settling for anything but the best.

I also played soccer as a kid. Our team did not win a lot of games, we definitely did not win regionals or go to any sort of championship. At least, I don’t remember us doing so. Know what we all got at the end of the season? A tropy. For mediocrity.

That trophy, while pretty, is completely worthless. Sure, it has my name on it and is a symbol of a lot of physical exertion over a few months, but meh. There is no victory attached to it therefore it means nothing.

We do not need to reward people for mere participation. For just showing up. Awards are meant for people who go above and beyond expectations, who fight like hell to do their very best and dedicate their lives to be the very best they can be at what they do.

Trophies don’t go to people who half-ass it. At least, they shouldn’t.

I think anyone living with a mental illness who battles through their days just to survive, however, should have a damn trophy. Because that? IS HARD WORK. Getting out of bed, doing what needs to be done, making plans, living – that is damn near impossible for someone with a mental illness. Doable, but damn near impossible without an extreme exertion of energy, both physical and mental.

It is a well-practiced tango between mind and body – convincing the brain to properly control the body to do what it needs to in order to accomplish the most base tasks like eating, showering, cleaning, etc. Same days? It’s more like the hokey pokey – you put the left arm in, you take the left foot out, you do the hokey pokey and you shake it all about. If you’re lucky, you fall asleep and start all over again, praying that your mind & body are back in sync the next day.

If you created a trophy for yourself or someone you loved who struggled with a mental illness to inspire/empower them, what would it say?

Tell me down below!

I’m gonna have to give some thought to what mine would say. Stay tuned for that update!