The Deathbed Reveal

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Connect the Dots.” This is such a random prompt suggestion that I just had to try it…turn to page 82 in the book nearest you, take the third full sentence, and work it into a post somehow. Very interesting. As it so happens, the nearest book to […]

Love the Skin You’re In

I was not aware of this until late Tuesday night, but apparently there is a photo challenge making it’s way across the social networks at the moment. Depending on whose Facebook or other social status update you click on it may be called a number of things…the ones I’ve come across are “Zero Make-Up Challenge”, “Love the Skin You’re In Challenge”, and “All-Natural You Challenge” amongst others. Regardless of what it’s called, it’s always the same: take a photo of yourself without any kind of make-up or enhancements, do not modify the photo in any way (like using filters to make your skin a nicer color or something), and then post that photo for the world to see. The idea is to promote a healthy image of yourself and to show that beauty isn’t the result of make-up application or Photoshopping. After posting your own un-made-up, unaltered photo, you’re supposed to nominate others to take up the challenge as well. The whole thing is taking off like wildfire, and recently my cousin nominated me, so I shared this photo – taken first thing in the morning right after waking – on my Facebook feed:

I particularly like the big black circles under my eyes. :P
I particularly like the big black circles under my eyes that prove I barely slept that night. πŸ˜›

For myself, this challenge wasn’t a huge deal because I never wear a lot of make-up anyway. Every so often if I’m going to a party or a wedding or something I’ll add a bit of mascara and maybe some eyeliner, but for the most part I only ever wear lipstick, and only that because I find it detracts from how pale my skin is. It’s not necessarily that I don’t think I look nice wearing make-up; I’m just one of those few women who is way too lazy to give a damn. I like being able to be out the door in 2 minutes. Spending an hour in the bathroom meticulously working on my hair and face just isn’t how I like to spend my time.

Despite the “lazy as hell” part of that confession, I honestly think it’s a good attitude. After all, the fact that I’m not willing to spend time on things like make-up proves that I’m comfortable in my own skin, right?

But it is a difficult attitude to have, for sure, and I didn’t always think that way. I can remember back in junior high I used to obsess over the state of my hair. I always wore it in a ponytail, which you’d think would be pretty simple, but I couldn’t allow a single hair to be out of place. It would practically kill me if there was even a single little bump in the way my hair sat, so I would meticulously comb and comb and comb until every stand was perfectly flat against my head, and then I would hair-spray the crap out of myself to make sure it all stayed in place. When I would pull the ponytail out at the end of the day my hair wouldn’t even fall…that’s how much hair spray I would use.

Unfortunately when we’re younger and stupider it doesn’t really matter what anyone says…almost every one of us obsesses over our looks. One kid might sulk in a corner, insistent that they’re ugly and that there’s no point in even trying, while another will spend hours each day making sure that every little thing about their appearance is absolutely perfect. I think you’d be hard pressed to find many teenagers who can just get up in the morning, brush their hair, throw on some jeans and a t-shirt, and honestly believe that they look great. Even the boys I went to school with would spend all morning and half a bottle of hair gel to make themselves look like they’d just rolled out of bed looking gorgeous. No matter how much we try to convince kids that they’re all beautiful in their own way, they don’t believe it because that’s part of being a kid.

The bigger issue, I think, is when those attitudes follow you into adulthood. If you’re in your own place, with a career, possibly a spouse and some kids, and you still feel that you have to spend vast amounts of time and effort making yourself look “beautiful” every day, well…that’s a bit depressing. And that’s why I love this challenge. That photo of me up there might not be me at my best, but it’s me. The messy bun on top of my head is there because I’d rather snuggle with my husband for a few extra minutes in the morning instead of jumping right up and rushing off to the shower. The dark circles under my eyes are signs of loving my daughter enough to drag my butt out of bed at 2 am to go get her a drink. The lack of make-up shows that I have better things to do with my time than make myself “pretty” just to hang around the house. That’s me in that photo, through and through, and I have no good reason to try and be anyone else, thank you very much. πŸ™‚

So how about it, ladies and gents? Are you willing to take the challenge? Post an unaltered photo of an unaltered you on your blog or social network site and link back so that I can see your commitment! πŸ™‚

It’s a Bug’s Life

I have a confession to make. I can hide it no longer. I am a Clutter-Bug.

What the hell is a Clutter-Bug, you ask? Well, what does it sound like? My life and my mind are filled with clutter. Mountains of it.

Don’t mistake me for a hoarder, although material possessions are a little bit of the problem. Physically I do have a lot of hoarder-type clutter around my house. I have an entire shelf on my bookcase that is nothing but blank notebooks I’ve never used, and there’s a whole stack of drawers in the dining room that are filled with good old fashioned junk, like rubber-band balls and dead pens. I have a bit of a hard time throwing stuff away, even when I know there’s no point in keeping them.

But the type of clutter that I’m talking about is the kind that distracts, the kind that disguises itself as disorganization and generally messiness. There are almost always clothes on my bedroom floor, for instance, even though we have a hamper in there. I leave my phone, my tablet, and my Playstation Vita wherever I happen to be when I’m finished using them. There are books on top of my headboard that I haven’t touched in weeks. There are boxes of baby clothes sitting in my hall that I simply haven’t bothered to put away, even though it would take five minutes to cart them down into the basement.

I seem to have a mental block that consistently keeps me from ever putting anything away, thus cluttering up my house. It’s an illness. A terrible, debilitating illness.

But it goes further than that, because clutter can be mental as well.

For instance, in my closet there is a huge stack of jeans taking up a good three square feet of space. None of them fit. They vary between being a size or two off to being so tiny that I would have to get liposuction and a stomach staple to ever have a chance of fitting in them again. And not only are these jeans clutter in the literal sense of taking up space and never being used, they’re clutter in the mental sense because I have to think of them every time I look at them. Every time I open my closet I see this stack of jeans and they make me miserable just for the sheer fact that I know I can’t fit into them. I know I could fit into them if I worked really hard and restricted my calories and stuck to a daily exercise regimen and completely stopped drinking anything other than water and so on and so on and so on…you see? Mental clutter.

Most people do this kind of thing to themselves to some extent, but I, my friends, am an expert. I am the Queen Clutter-Bug. May all lesser Clutter-Bugs bow before me.

Original pic via photoalbum.davison.ca
Original pic via photoalbum.davison.ca

For another example, I have this habit I call “self-fulfilling failure to fulfill”. Basically, I have a mental list in my head of all the things I want to do, or need to do, and no matter how many things I am able to cross off the list I manage to add twice as many more. In this way my list is never complete, and my internal list-maker starts twitching like a drugged-up jackrabbit. It doesn’t matter if I’m working my ass off or sitting back and trying to relax, I have this never-ceasing mental clutter of half-finished to-do lists gumming up my brain.

It’s a horrifying condition for a writer because while I should be writing and working on my platform, I’m instead obsessing about a million other things. I can’t get any writing done around my husband or daughter because I’m so easily distracted by everything they say or do. I can’t get any writing done in my own bedroom because I can’t stop thinking about that basket of clothes on the floor or those damn jeans in my closet. When I do get around to writing I’m plagued by a thousand non-work-in-progress-related thoughts like whether I should be planning some blog posts in advance to give myself more time, or whether I should scrap this fan fiction stuff and just concentrate on my original work, or should I log onto Twitter and see what the other writers are doing? It’s a constant barrage of voices in my head yelling at me about everything except what I’m supposed to be writing about.

“Why aren’t you more active on Twitter? How do you expect to gain followers when you never say anything interesting?”

“Why are you focusing so much on this stupid supernatural romance stuff…it will probably just ruin your image for when the zombie horror novel is done.”

“Oh crap, did I write a blog post for tomorrow? Crap, I didn’t… Crap crap crap!”

It spirals on and on, until I have so many thoughts in my head that I can’t pick out any one particular one. And then I get very, very tired. Queen Clutter-Bug begins to slow down. She crawls into a dark spot and the other Clutter-Bugs swarm around and begin to eat her.

Image via science.kqed.org
Original image via science.kqed.org

But there is hope! Or so I’m told. There are cures for rampant Clutter-Bug-ism, such as meditation, relaxation techniques, and – if you’re a particular kind of person – alcohol. Scour the internet and you will find a million different suggestions for calming the shouting voices in your brain, the ones that keep you from ever being calm or satisfied. There are methods, if only one chooses to seek them out.

Or if you’re like me you can find your own release; little joys that keep you from going utterly insane. How do I dispel Queen Clutter-Bug? I do things that are completely against her nature. I purposely pick something that I know is material clutter and I toss it in the trash, sighing pleasurably all the while. I snuggle up with my daughter and watch cartoons – great brain-blanking animations that somehow keep your mind from thinking about anything else. I watch B-movies with my husband – films so absurdly terrible that you can’t help but just sit and laugh the world away.

My methods may not be ideal, nor might they work at all for someone else with similar Clutter-Buginess issues. But we all must deal with our issues in our own way, and for me these things are Clutter-Bug Raid.

Which reminds me, my mile-long mental list includes spraying some Clutter-Bug Raid. Excuse me, I really must get to that ASAP.

Accountability Tuesdays – Week 27

So here we are, on the first week of the second half of the year. It’s time for another accountability post, and I’ve got a confession to make.

That confession is: I have almost nothing to report.

I have done almost no writing, absolutely no editing, I’ve been eating terrible amounts of junky food, and the only exercise I’ve gotten is chasing the baby around. In fact, I’ve really got pretty much nothing of note to report.

Do you want to know why?

Because I’m home. I’m home for a while, with no threat of leaving again any time in the near future, and I’m enjoying it.

I know I can’t slack off forever, but I’ve been having a blast just being mommy and wife. You want to know what I’ve done this past week?

I arrived home on Wednesday and spent the rest of that day just rolling around with my daughter, enjoying the way she turns into a little barnacle when I come home.

On Friday my husband and I packed the baby into our car and we went shopping. We bought presents for my father and his mother (birthdays coming up), grabbed a stuffed Big Bird and Zoe for the baby (which she became extremely attached to), bought some games and fun stuff for ourselves, and picked up a couple of things that we can put away for the baby’s birthday or Christmas.

The next morning, on Saturday, we drove down home for the niece’s birthday party, where we ate barbecue, Ninja Turtle cupcakes, and ice cream cake while the kids had an absolute blast in the pool.

Sunday we took the baby to the parade for the Festival of the Strait (where she received a ton of candy), then I took her to the recreation grounds where she absolutely lost her mind in a giant Disney Princess bouncy castle with a huge slide inside, and in the evening we took her to the free concert after which she “ooh”ed and “ahh”ed and giggled like a maniac at the fireworks.

And yesterday we recovered by staying inside and relaxing.

Doesn’t that all sound awesome? Because it totally was. And during none of it did I worry about writing, editing, eating well, or exercising. Perhaps I should have…but I didn’t. So you’ll excuse me (I hope) when I tell you that I wrote a grand total of 1010 words in the past week, did not so much as glance at any editing, and probably gained a pound or two worth of ice cream cake.

Sorry, I was busy enjoying LIFE!

girlsswimming
Pictured: Life Being Enjoyed

With that said, I do know that I’ve got to get down to business at some point (even if I have a ton of other things coming up…wedding…visits…more festivals…), and with that in mind I have a few things to mention.

First of all, I’ve gone on a bit of a learning kick. I know that my zombie apocalypse story isn’t the “next great American novel”, and I know that I myself still have a ton to learn about being a good writer, so I’m taking it upon myself to start actually doing the research. I’ve purchased three books to start myself off with:
Kristen Lamb’s Rise of the Machines
Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way
Stephen King’s On Writing

From Kristen I hope to learn how to build a viable author platform (which, a year ago, I didn’t even know was a thing). From Julia I hope to learn some tricks and exercises to make myself a better, more efficient writer. From Stephen…well, I just hope to learn something because I love his writing and in case you haven’t notice, he’s been a wee bit successful.

I’m halfway through Kristen’s book right now, and already learning a lot, so if anyone has any suggestions for some other craft books I might want to read after these three, please feel free to let me know!

The second thing I want to mention is a bit of a vanity thing…upon publishing yesterday’s post I noticed that today would mark my 300th post on this blog. It may not be one of those super-satisfying numbers like 1000, but this is a big deal to me. A few months ago I surpassed a year of doing this blog, and now I can officially say that I’ve written several hundred posts. How awesome is that? Maybe I have a little bit of persistence in me after all!

fireworks

And with that, I bid you adieu for the day. I have a lot of things to do, the least of which is definitely not jumping on my daughter’s bed and helping her cuddle all her Sesame Street characters. Ta!

Accountability Tuesdays – Week 26

Two things to mention before I get to the heart of the matter today. First of all, it’s week number 26! That means I’m halfway through the year! And while I’m nowhere near where I would need to be to be on track with my million word goal, I’ve written more in the past six months than in the previous 2 years combined! But more on that later.

The other thing I want to mention is that as you are reading this I am packing up my last couple of bits and bobbles from the control room at work, chucking it all in a backpack, and awaiting the bus that will return me to camp where I’ll giddily await my plane home. My last plane home. That’s not to say that I won’t end up back out in Alberta for work in a few months or so, but for now I’m heading home with nothing on the horizon except spending quality time with my family and maybe enjoying a number of alcoholic beverages from the comfort of my back deck. Look upon me and be in awe, for I am officially ON VACATION!

Okay, that’s enough of that. πŸ™‚

Health and Body Image Goal

I’ve been a bit on the ins and outs with this goal, unfortunately, but I’m still not doing too badly. As I mentioned last week I did, in fact, drag myself to the gym and try running on the treadmill. It wasn’t ideal, but acceptable. I figured that’s what I’d do until my stomach felt better. But then my stomach felt worse. I don’t know if it’s the actual physical exertion that’s bothering me, or if it’s the camp food (which, thank god, I won’t be enjoying any more of any time soon), or if I’ve been suffering from some as-yet-diagnosed condition inherited from my sickly parents (love you guys, really :P), but I’ve hardly been able to stand leaving my room in the morning and suffering through the bus ride to work, never mind exercising on top of that. Luckily, about two days ago, my symptoms seemed to subside and I’ve felt halfway decent since then, so here’s hoping all will be well when I get home and try to run around my neighborhood again.

All that said, I’ve still been managing to eat pretty well. I’ve had a cookie here, some pop there, but for the most part I’ve been eating decent food (or as decent as it gets on camp) and not too much of it. I haven’t weighed or measured myself recently because I doubt I’ve lost anything during my refusal-to-exercise days, but I’ve recently had an unusual number of coworkers tell me that I look like I’ve lost weight, so I’m just going to go ahead and say, “Woohoo! I look like I’ve lost weight!”

Editing Goal

I have a stupid, STUPID confession to make. I did try to get some editing done this week, I swear, I really did. But when I finally took out my tablet and opened up the files I transferred there for editing purposes, I discovered something idiotic. Of the four different word-processor-ish apps I have on my tablet, none of them open rtf files. Guess what format all my files are in? After two days of searching for an Android program that DOES open rtf files (for free, because screw that, I’m not paying for an app that I only need for a week) I gave up and admitted defeat. Apparently the world of tablets and smartphones does not believe in the existence of rtf files. So the editing will have to wait for this coming week. Grr.

1,000,000 Word Goal

I have been writing like a maniac this week, mostly due to my rediscovery of 750Words.com. I don’t know what it is, but I love just typing and typing and typing and watching the word counter go up. It’s addictive. Over the course of the week I’ve written blog posts, typed out a few scenes for Returning Hope, did a couple of writing exercises, and did a little bit of free-writing (i.e. writing whatever came to my head as it came to my head). Through all of this combined I managed to once again beat my best week score with a total word count of 16556. In addition to that, I’m happy to announce that I’ve reached a yearly total so far of over 165,000. Again, it’s nowhere near where I need to be for my goal, but it’s a heck of a lot more than I normally would have written, so I’m proud. Revel in my pride! Only six months to go to try and boost that total up as high as I can!

And with that said, I plan to spend the next several hours in the lounge at camp, with my feet up, reading A Dance With Dragons, and waiting for my final flight home. See you soon, Cape Breton!

The Most Vicious of Vicious Cycles

I have a confession to make.

I decided to take a day off from blogging today so that I could try and get some cleaning done. Our house is in a bit of a shambles, you see, and I hadn’t vacuumed since Niece was here on the weekend, and the cat’s puked in the basement again, so I thought since I had no blog posts planned in advance that I would take the day off and focus on the homestead instead.

And now I’m here telling you about it because I needed to get this out:

Cleaning sucks. It’s the most futile task known to adulthood, especially to an adult who has a toddler and two particularly idiotic cats. The second I clean up the cat puke, one of them decides to “go” outside their litter box. I vacuum my daughter’s bedroom and two minutes later she crumbles a cookie all over her floor. I throw in a load of laundry, and god help me, the stuff still waiting to go in the wash seems to multiply exponentially. For the love of puppies, I can literally see a new coat of dust appearing before I’m even finished wiping away the old dust.

And here’s the thing…even if I’m diligent, even if I forsake spare time, writing time, and playing with my daughter, and I work my ass off to get the house sparkling…by the time I get from one end of the house to the other, the first end has gotten dirty again. Between baby messes, evil cats, and no end of hair and fur on everything, there is just no way to get ahead. And that’s not even taking into account all the organizing and purging that needs to be done.

So with that said, I implore my fellow bloggers, writers, and the random other people reading this post:
How the hell do you do it? Help! HELP! I’m losing my freakin’ mind!!!!

Balance? Ha! Baby, the world is tilted!

A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.

97. Finding life/writing balance

I’m going to confess something here: when I first read the words “Finding life/writing balance” I nearly died from the gut-wrenching laughter/hysterical crying that occurred. I may have gone just a tiny bit insane from reading those words. It’s okay now. I had a peppermint-Kahlua-spiked coffee that my husband made me and all was well. But it was touch and go there for a moment.

In all seriousness, this is something that I’ve been struggling with for years, and to this day I haven’t figured out how to manage it. Additionally, over the past year of blogging I’ve come to follow quite a few very talented bloggers/authors and it doesn’t really seem as though they’ve figured it out either. I’ve even Tweeted with writers – published and otherwise – who seem to react to the topic with the same mad hysteria/life-crushing misery as myself. It just doesn’t seem to be a subject that many find they have been able to work their minds around It’s one of those things…like trying to get a moment’s peace with 20+ members of immediate and extended family having a shouting match in your home. Possible? Maybe. Likely? Not really.

Finding a balance between life and writing is one of those mysterious things that most people don’t believe is possible…like leprechauns. Or unicorns. You’d like to believe, you really would, but in your heart you know it’s a pipe dream.

Okay, so maybe I’m being over-dramatic. Perhaps it is possible to find a balance, but I personally don’t know anyone who has managed it.

The problem is that most writers have a heck of a lot of responsibilities aside from writing. Many writers will tell you that the only way to truly become a successful author is to suck it up, grit your teeth, and focus 100% on your writing, even if that means that you’ll be destitute for a while during the interim. And while part of me agrees with that, it’s not exactly as simple as being willing to make life hard on yourself in the short-term for the hope of long-term gain. After all, people have important responsibilities. They have families, children, mortgages, car payments, other assorted debts, and any other number of things that require them to have an income that stems from something more stable.

So immediately we have that disconnect. We have the day-job life, and the writing life. Now add in a couple of other aspects of life that many writers have to deal with… In addition to the day-job life and the writing life you might have the mommy/daddy life, the (ever elusive) social life, the household-chores-and-errands life, the “I desperately need to lose some weight before I die of a heart attack” life, and so on and so on.

Personally, the only way I’ve been able to “balance” life and writing is by sneakily combining the two. When I’m at my day job I write between tasks and during breaks. When I’m in mommy mode I’ll pluck out a blog post (sometimes a sentence at a time) whilst braiding ponies’ hair and making Leonardo beat up Michelangelo. Sometimes I’ll pluck out a few words whilst keeping an eye on supper, or I’ll save a couple of sentences on my iPhone while waiting in line at the supermarket. And since it’s pretty much impossible to write while exercising, I’ll use that time to mull over a scene in my mind, which doubles as a way to distract myself from the burning pain all throughout my body.

(I’m not going to comment on my social life. It’s silly to comment on things that don’t exist.)

And that’s my two cents on that. If any of you other writers out there ever find a better way to “balance”, I submit to you that it is your duty to share it with the writer community (in the form of a comment on this post). πŸ™‚