I don’t have anything very profound to say…

Like the title says, I don’t have anything very profound to say. It’s Sunday. Day of rest. I’ve been pretty lazy today, and I debated about even writing today. I’m trying to keep these good habits in check, so here I am. Since I don’t want to be boring and my day was less than exciting, I’ve decided to compile a list of 20 oddball facts about me. Some may be boring. Some may be interesting, some I think at least some people know, others some may not. It’s an exercise. So here goes…

  1. My very first job was working a concession trailer at carnivals and fairs. I spin a mean cone of cotton candy. I was fourteen or fifteen at the time. I did this in the summers for four to five years.
  2. I grew up around a lot of carnivals and circuses but never traveled or performed. Sorry to disappoint there. It did give me lots of interesting experiences and I grew up around tons of different people and creatures.
  3. I was born with a cyst on my eye. Had it been left alone, it would have grown to cover my eye and part of my face by now. It was removed when I was three and the only reminder I have is a scar.
  4. I’ve had five surgeries in my life. Four were before I was thirteen years old.
  5. I used to get the hiccups regularly in the rotunda room of the West Virginia capital building. It always happened. I think subconsciously I knew it would echo fantastically and my body just obliged.
  6. I have four tattoos and each one means something personal to me. I was almost thirty when I got my first. I’d like more, but I don’t have anything I feel I need to have done at this point.
  7. Despite my plethora of squirrel photos, wolves are actually my favorite animal. It would be my dream job to work with them at a preserve.
  8. I was an only child and my imagination would run wild. I made friends with the cobwebs when I was small and would cry when my mom would knock them down. Yes, they all had names as well.
  9. My husband and I were together for almost fourteen years before we decided maybe we should get married. We’ve been married now for three.
  10. I love doing genealogy work and I love finding the black sheep and oddballs in the family. (My favorite is that my great-great grandfather assisted in an axe murder.)
  11. I have seen a ghost and nobody can convince me otherwise.
  12. I have a weird obsession with cobalt blue glass
  13. I’m extremely quiet in crowds and while I’m getting to know someone. I promise I’m not a snob.
  14. I was on the cover of a catalog for Lowe’s when I was a small kid. Yes, the home improvement place. No, I no longer have any copies of it and that makes me sad.
  15. I lived out of a motel room for two or three years.
  16. I eat an obscene amount of peanut butter. Ask my husband. Better yet, don’t.
  17. According to my parents, I was backstage with my dad at a Johnny Cash performance when I was a baby and he picked me up. I have no recollection of this. I do remember hanging out backstage with Dr. Hook and Ray Sawyer thinking I was cute. Yes, I was still a little kid, not a groupie.
  18. I make my own spice blends
  19. I love to read. I learned to read when I was three and read Alice In Wonderland in its entirety in first grade.
  20. I have a teddy bear named Smacky. He’s pretty nifty.

So there you have it. I’m sure I could come up with twenty more. For now, I’m gonna go to bed.

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Writing… or the lack thereof

I’ve been thinking a lot about my post yesterday.

I read back through some of my previous entries and it really cemented the fact that I have already been doing what I proclaimed yesterday. Not worrying about a format, just posting what feels right at the time. Isn’t that how it always goes? You announce to the world that you’re going to do something only to find out that you’ve kinda been doing it already? That the only reason you don’t do it more is because of the limitations you’ve set on yourself?

Our brains can be fickle and strange things.

I’ve also been thinking about how I used to write. I wrote every day when I was a kid. Stupid little stories about things I knew nothing about. I had never been exposed to the fact that writers should research their ideas and “dammit, make them factual!” I was just writing with the innocence and ignorance of a kid and not allowing any kind of rules get in the way of what I wanted to put down on paper. Was what I wrote any good? I’m sure it wasn’t. I don’t think any of it has survived to the present time, and that’s probably a very good thing. The exercise itself was what I loved and lived for.

I wrote any and everything. Fiction, mock articles, I was on my Junior High newspaper staff and had two front page articles on the same edition. I wrote poetry like it was going out of style and published some of it into a book. I carried notebooks for spontaneous ideas and had pipe dreams about getting a word processor or *gasp* a computer of some sort that I could write with and not have to decipher my chicken scrawl later on.

I thought I was a “writer.”

Then came later adolescence and “learning the rules.” You can’t do this, you can’t say that. Write out three instead of 3. Don’t overuse commas, but dammit, don’t forget any either! (I still struggle with this one) All of the minutiae that ends up being pound into our heads that “good writers do.” All so we can claim to communicate 900% more effectively than the average primate.

I’ve let myself become scared to death of “the rules.”  Don’t cross the street against the light. Do not remove this mattress tag or the feds will come and bludgeon you to death with a rubber chicken. Yep. That’s me. So, when I learned “the rules of writing,” I took them to heart. I guess I put the fear in me that if I didn’t research everything, ensure that my grammar was impeccable and my punctuation was on spot, something terrible would happen. In adopting that mindset, something terrible *did* happen.

I stopped writing.

I started worrying that I hadn’t outlined my story properly. I worried hadn’t researched properly and someone could poke holes in my stories and theories. I then began to research what I wanted to write about to the point where I just didn’t care anymore. I blamed it on “writer’s block,” but I don’t think I’ve ever been out of ideas really, I’ve just been afraid of this process that I have perceived as “the law of writing.”

My sophomore year of High School has also bubbled to mind and the teacher that I had then.

I feel like I need to put a little backstory in at this point. Because of severe anxiety and depression issues that surfaced in adolescence, I was eventually granted acceptance to county sponsored home study. We’d tried switching schools, adjusting my classes, I just simply could not function “in school.” It was required that I have some sort of schooling, so we went through the processes of applying and having my doctors vouch that there was a real problem, and thankfully, it was approved. Each year, I had a one-on-one teacher that I met with for a few hours of class time three days a week and I thrived academically this way.

Sophomore year, I had a teacher that I really didn’t feel that I “clicked” with as much as some of the others. She was nice enough I suppose, but we butted heads on a lot of things. One thing that this teacher prided herself on was teaching language arts. At least the “rules” of it all. And she enforced those rules with an iron red pen. I learned the do’s and don’ts. But it was okay, because she encouraged me to write and I liked writing.

Every year, the county did a student publication-slash-competition for junior high and high school aged students. I had been published in it once before in seventh grade, but no prizes or accolades were awarded. Heck, I was happy just being published. I decided that I wanted to try again. I  had written a story that I was proud of and I thought it had a shot. I stayed up late one night revising it, getting it typed up on our old manual typewriter and I proudly turned it in the next day for submission.

I’ve forgotten a lot of the story, but it was a folk tale. None of my characters had names, they didn’t need them. My main character spoke with Appalachian dialect (which I heard a lot of growing up amongst my family. I still use words and phrases today that I get odd looks over) and the story didn’t exactly end on the happiest of notes.

When I next had class, the teacher could not wait to return the story to me. At first, I thought she had been involved in some sort of horrific accident and my paper had been bled all over. Everything was red. So very red. Red ink slashing through words, phrases, making suggestions… nothing had been left untouched. She explained that she could not, in good conscious turn my story in as it was written.

I only half heard what she said as she explained how the dialog was “awkward,” how “nobody talked like that” (except that they do), how much better the story would be if we at least knew their names and for heaven’s sake- give them all a happier ending- it was so depressing! I was in shock looking over the revisions. I wasn’t even mad, I just wanted to cry.

Still, I wanted to have a submission, and a teacher knows best, right?  That evening, I set about retyping the story. I made sure that I made every edit and change that she had issued forth. Characters got names, they spoke proper English and I found a way to make the end more positive. Finally, I had finished it and sat down to read the new and improved version.

And…

It was no longer the story I wanted to tell.

These weren’t my words. I didn’t know these people I had written about. These characters hadn’t lived the same lives that brought them to the point I wanted to make. My voice was gone. It had been replaced with someone else’s. The teacher’s. This was her story. Not mine. Using her exact words, I decided I could not in good conscious turn this story in for submission.

It was late, but I sat back down at the typewriter. Aside from grammatical and punctuational errors I had made in the first draft, I made the decision to retype my story, as I had told it the first time. The dialect came back, the characters once again were anonymous, all of it all went back to the page.

The next day, I handed it back in to her and she began to read. The blood drained from her face and I could see the anger welling up as she realized what I had done. She spit and sputtered asking me what I was doing. That there was no time now to rewrite the story that it had to be submitted that afternoon! She began to panic. Why, this story was  just as “awkward” and “badly written” as the first time! She demanded to know why I hadn’t used her “constructive criticism.” I shrugged and told her, “I liked it better this way.”

Finally, she conceded and said she would turn it in but to not be surprised and not to complain when it wasn’t even selected for publication, let alone winning anything.

A few days later, I read in the newspaper that I’d won second place in the short story division and was the only sophomore selected that year for publication.

Anxiety be damned, I  accepted my invitation and went to the awards banquet where the judges congratulated me on my creativity and for writing something “completely different.” The first place winner couldn’t make it, so they asked me to read an excerpt of my story instead.

Oddly, the teacher never wanted to discuss any of this. Wonder why?

And yet, somehow, years later, I have lost that confidence. I have let rules and opinion and all of the “shoulds” override my creativity. I don’t tell the stories I have to tell, in the voice I want to use. Like my characters, people all speak in different ways, and none of them are wrong.

And sometimes, it’s good to have something a little different.

 

Habit…

I’ve become a creature of habit. For the first time in my life, they’re good habits and truthfully, I don’t know where they’ve come from. I’ve certainly had habits before, but most of the time they’ve been not so good. Nothing terrible. I bite my nails. Or I did. More of a nibble now and again these days. I’ve even been told some of my worrying is out of habit. I guess that makes sense.

I think it all started because my dishwasher sucks.

About a year, maybe two ago our old dishwasher gave up its mechanical ghost to, well, wherever it is that dishwasher ghosts end up after their final rinse cycle. The landlord sent maintenance to put in a new one. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but I’ve come to believe that the bits and pieces of equipment making up said dishwasher would have been better suited to have, oh I don’t know, been a blender. Or a sporty race car. Heck, maybe even a robotic ballerina. Instead, the hopes and dreams of all of the pieces-parts were dashed when they realized that they were destined for the life of a dishwasher.

I’ll be honest. It would depress me too.

To make a long story a little shorter (though not by much) I gave up on the sad piece of machinery and finally decided to leave it alone to brood in the corner and think about its existence. I now do my dishes by hand. It was a struggle at first, but now it’s become a necessary part of my day. I listen to music as I clean them, happy that they’re actually getting cleaner than they were in my severely disappointed with its lot in life dishwasher. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. It kills my back, but whatever. It doesn’t take long. I almost enjoy the task.

Of course, not constantly having a sink full of dishes makes me want to wipe the counters down as well as the stove. Might as well make sure the floor is swept. And if I do the kitchen, I *have* to do the dining room since they are connected. In short (again, not really) my house has become the cleanest it’s been in ages. I’m the mouse that has been given a cookie and it all fits together and that’s just how it is. Granted, I don’t clean top to bottom every day, but it feels much nicer to keep things in order.

So habit number two. I’m picking up after myself better. I’m a slob. I always have been. Not the nasty sort with melted what I think might have been cheese at some time encrusted upon the breast of my shirt worn proudly like a war medal… just… messy. Unorganized. I’m still unorganized in some ways, but it’s getting better.

Habit three. Since doing the dishes kills my back, immediately after the task I take the time to unplug, go get in the tub and have some relaxing me time. Sometimes I meditate. I’ve used more bubblebath and facial masks in the past few months than I ever have. The important thing is that I’m taking my time and taking care of me for a little while. Not just a quick shower and back to whatever needs to be done. That feels really good. I’ve created a routine. I use body lotion and moisturizer now! Wow! Who knew what regular use could do? Ok, ninety-nine percent of the world knows this, but hey, it’s new to me. And I love it!

Habit four. (Which in reality probably predates some of this, I just happened to think about it after I typed out “three.” It’s my blog. I say it’s “four”) I get everything ready for the next morning. Coffee maker filled and timer set for when I get up. Dishes together for breakfast, any pans ready that I might want to use.  I make sure I have Chad’s lunch ready to pack for him to take to work the next day. I also make sure he’s got clean clothes and that I haven’t spazzed on laundry and he’ll have to wear his holey drawers on meeting day. And yeah, I like doing that sort of thing. He’s perfectly capable of fixing a lunch or keeping tabs on his laundry, but for some sick, sad reason, I like the fact that I’m helping his world be a little less stressful. Have you seen him in the morning? You’d thank me for that.

Now I’m looking for new ways to develop new habits. I’m trying not to push it. I’ve asked myself, am I established enough in all of this “new” that it won’t feel like I’m piling more “have-tos” on myself? I don’t want my day to be one big routine. I’m a Sagittarius. We get bored and distracted easily…

SQUIRREL!!

Oh sorry. Ok, where was I? Ah yes.

I’ve asked myself, what do I need to do? Well, I need to move more. I’m happy to report at this writing, I am sixty-five pounds lighter than I was this time last year. That’s just from going back on the di… er sorry “lifestyle changes” that my doctor has prescribed. That, along with finally getting help for my lupus has made a tremendous difference in my pain levels and movement. I have joined a thirty day exercise challenge online. It’s a small group and so far it seems like it will be a good plan of action. Just fifteen minutes of something a day. Yoga, stretching, walking, whatever. Just something. I can do “something.” I’ve even made a chart with little bird stickers to reward myself for doing “something” every day. I’m apparently either a sucker for bird stickers or still a three year old at heart because I look forward to the reward.

Yes. I’ve been told I need help. I like to think I’m just “eccentric” at times.

This brings me to the other thing that I hope to make into habit, and thats getting back to writing and my blog.

When I started this, I had no real plan other than more or less as a journal. I figured I’d just sit down and write like I used to. At this point, I have about 30 posts that I’ve started and either chickened out on actually posting or never bothered to finish. It’s all been stuff I’ve forced or involved things that I realized I wasn’t ready to put out there for the world. That’s okay, it’s still written. I don’t have to share everything. I get that. However, I’m not even doing any of this with any regularity.

I have discovered and have recently had to admit to myself that I hate journaling. No offense to anyone who feels drawn to it. You do you. I just never have really clicked with the concept. Maybe I’ve had too narrow an idea about what journaling is. Who knows. I recently started seeing a new therapist and that’s all she wanted me to do was journal. I was to write down every horrible, negative, downright awful thing I’ve lived through and that has gone through my mind. And then I was to go back and highlight the journal entries in bright, meaningful color coded swatches and tell myself that it’s not so bad, really. That all of the yellow words are things that could be discounted for being an immature state of mind, that all of the pink things were from people I didn’t even know… and all of the blue words, I don’t even remember what the blue words were for. The whole project made me feel more stress than I initially did walking into her office. I’m sure this really works for some people, but for me, it didn’t. She didn’t know how else to help me if I didn’t journal and color. And here we are.

So if I don’t “journal” what do I write then? What *is* this Blog about? I dunno. What day is it? Is it raining? I’ve decided it doesn’t have to be about anything. I don’t have to have a format. I think breaking that idea from my mind will help. If I feel like posting a photo of dryer lint. Guess what? IT’S FRIGGIN SHOW ME YOUR LINT DAY!! If I feel like talking about how I feel about something, I can do that too. And I have *so* many stories in my mind. Things that have actually happened. Not talking the traumatic sorts of stories, (necessarily), and certainly not fiction, but the kind of stories and experiences that come up in conversation and at the end someone says “you need to write that down!” I get told that a lot. I’m kind of thinking this would be a good place for that kind of thing. (Getting pepper-sprayed at work, the time Uncle Jerry’s chimp decided to shave his brother, what happens when you chug ten Jug-O-Juice on a hot day… ok, maybe not that last one. I feel ill remembering it.) They may not be long, they may even be handed down, but that’s okay too. I can tell a story and that’s what I need to start doing more often.

I’m not going to promise that I’ll be writing every day any more than I’ve promised my exercise group I’ll be doing an hour of high impact cardio per day. I’m going to take it at my own pace and see what I feel like day by day. Barriers of what this “should” be removed from my mind, maybe it will be a little easier.

We’ll see what happens.

Oh, and I’m not sure if anyone even reads this, but throw things my way if I’ve told you a story you want me to relate or know of something I can ramble on about. Sometimes I just need a prompt.

Here’s to hoping you’re sick of me very soon, and hopefully more good habits.