Of Writing Muscles

I haven’t written a plot driven story, poem, limerick, or really anything since I graduated. And it’s already been a year and a half since that momentous event occurred.

Recently I discovered that while my ability to ramble has not faded, my fiction muscles were defiantly out of shape.

When I first sat down at my laptop I was ready to kick ass. After all, in the past I’ve written fantastic stories on two hours of sleep and within extreme time constraints. So obviously this was gonna go well:

Anchorman - Big Deal

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The first draft was nothing more than awkward, unnatural dialogue. No imagery, limited movement, and hardly even a purpose. It was deleted.

So I decided it was best to start over. Now that the initial creative process kinks were out-of-the-way it was just a matter of accomplishing the task at hand:

Anchorman - Fight

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The second draft was much better, but not improved enough to make me say, “Good job self.” Most of this version will be deleted.

Now I’m embarking on draft three. If all goes well, this draft will be on par with the stories I wrote when I had only an hour to throw together a 2-5 page exercise to discuss during class. At this phase it feels a bit chaotic. However, now I’m invested, and turning back to the la-de-da world of binge watching Netflix is no longer an option. Sadly, this draft will most likely also join the scrap heap:

Anchorman - Regret Decision

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By draft four, maybe just maybe, it might be good enough to share with the internet. Because if by the fourth draft I still haven’t got my writing muscles back into shape, that would be a true travesty:

Anchorman - Glass Cage

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I think what I need is a writing group to keep me accountable. Whether they be strangers via the online universe, or people I may or may not know who live nearby. I need someone to give me a deadline and a reason to stare a computer for hours a day. Initially I will hate them for making me enter the treacherous love/hate world of writing. But when I finally have a tangible (and awesome) story that I can hand to a group for discussion, all I’ll be able to say is:

Anchorman - Love You

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They say that, “You’re always your worst critic,” but I’ve always thought I was decently awesome. So if I say it sucks, trust me when I say it’s a shitfest that’s not ready to be viewed by anyone. However, when my writing is once again impressive …. I shall show it everyone:

Anchorman - Jump for Joy

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Of 7 Things No One Tells You When Diagnosed With MS

Dancing With MS

I may have MS, but I can still dance to the fullest.

At the ripe old age of 21 I noticed the left side of my forehead was numb. Not the kind of numb where if someone were to stab me in the face I would feel nothing, more so the tingly kind of numb that we all experience when our foot falls asleep. Like many, my first thought wasn’t, “Hey! Something serious is wrong.” Rather my mind was more along the lines of, “That can’t be right, maybe it’ll feel normal if I touch it again … nope. How about now?”

The numbness lasted for several days, so my primary physician referred me to a jack-ass of a neurologist, a man with zero social skills and not an ounce of empathy, but at least he sent me off to have my first of many-many-many MRIs.

Here’s what I was told before going into the giant tube, “It might be Multiple Sclerosis, or it might be a severe migraine,” you can guess which one I was hoping for. But alas, it wasn’t a migraine. And as my robot doctor proceeded to tell me all about my disease, with all the medical jargon he could muster, I fell into shock as my world went silent.

Its been roughly 5 years since that terrible day, and now I’m living a very happy life. Being forced to be so aware of my mortality at a young age has given me a thirst for life. It’s made me more actively seek out the activities that make me happy, people who are on fire just to be alive, and not limit myself because I have a condition. But it took me awhile to get to this point, so if you or someone you love is still struggling, please be patient and/or offer support.

Here’s what no one tells you when you’re diagnosed with MS.

  1. People say the worst possible things:

    The most common thing I hear when I tell someone that I have MS is, “Oh my friend/parent/aunt/etc has MS, he/she is in a wheel chair now.” Other common variations include details about how their loved one is in too much pain to do anything or that they lost their vision. Sometimes they confuse Multiple Sclerosis with Muscular Dystrophy and look at me with curious eyes.

    A lot of people will assume that any and every health issue I have is MS related. They mean well, but their ignorance does drive me crazy. I’ve learned to calmly say, “No, this has nothing to do with my MS.”

  1. Don’t be afraid to fire your doctor:

    My first doctor was terrible, so my family put our feelers out there and now I have this badass doctor. She’s personable, she’s intelligent, and she can rock a pair of combat boots. Find someone you’re comfortable with, don’t settle for who you’re initially referred to.

  2. Shock and depression is natural:

    When I was first diagnosed I swear I could feel death creeping in through the cracks around my door. The truth is, when told you have MS (or any other disease) suddenly your mortality feels real. Not just in the “we all know we’re going to die someday” way, but in a way that forces you to acknowledge that your finish line may be sooner than you expected. What’s important is remembering that your life is not over, and if you need help – reach out.

  3. A lot of times it’s hard to tell if you’re having a symptom flare up, or if you’re just working yourself too hard. And if you have a new symptom, promptly tell your doctor.

    For me, the most difficult symptom to decipher was fatigue. There’s a big difference between MS fatigue and just being sleepy. Since I was still in college at the time I just assumed I was tired from staying up late for school. But no matter how much sleep I got I was still constantly tired, which led to me becoming irritable and unpleasant to be around. Eventually, I told my MS doctor what was going on and she said that it was probably a new symptom so I should get an MRI to see if there are any changes. Which leads me to ….

  4. If a drug is not working, change it:

    Initially I was on Copaxone, which is a daily injection. Giving myself a shot everyday was torture, made even worse when I tried to use the autoinject pen thing that was supposed to make the process easier. I would cry for an hour trying to will myself to push that damn button. And my MRI showed that it wasn’t working, in the year that I was on it, I had 4 new legions appear in my brain.

    So I switched to Tysabri, which is much better for me mentally as it is a monthly infusion, and a nurse is there to hook me up to the IV. Since being on this drug I’ve had no new legions, and one of them actually got smaller.

    Find the drug that works for you not just physically, but mentally as well.

  5. Be active:

    My MS doctor loves that I’m active. That I dance. That I go to the gym. Remaining active is a huge factor in slowing MS down.

    After the shell shocked part of being diagnosed, I had a whole new level of drive to dive head first into the dance scene. Maybe it was because everyone was telling me how they knew people who couldn’t walk anymore, or maybe it was because I had a new appreciation for my life. Either way, I wanted to dance my heart out for as long as I physically could.

    Find an activity that you enjoy, whether that be dance, sports, hiking, or jazzercise. Just be sure to pay attention to your body, I’ve found that when symptoms start to flare up it’s usually because I’m pushing my body to hard. So I have to make sure that I’m being healthy, and giving my body rest when it needs it.

  6. You can live your life just as full as everyone else.

Of the Lunch Book Club

Book Trail

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Today I decided to spend my lunch on a little grass patch known around here as, The Village Green. A small lawn surrounded by the city, where a variety of outdoor events are held during the summer. My sole motivation was to try to lessen the extremity of the tan-line forming on my feet – courtesy of the Saltwater Sandals I wear practically every day. But I had a book, Jam by Yahtzee Croshaw that I’ve been intending to read for ages, and a cold soda – so I was content to sit in the sun.

When I first sat down I was alone on the patch of green.

About 10 minutes later I looked up and noticed two girls sitting on a bench across from me, silently reading side-by-side.

After a terrifying bee distracted me from my delightful book, I spotted towards the end of the row of benches that another girl had just sat down and pulled out a book.

Behind me, a man kicked off his sandals and was opening a book of his own.

As I sat on the grass, almost all the benches were becoming occupied by fellow readers. And a couple of people had joined me on the grass. The only noise was that of the cars driving by, and the soft chatter of two girls who were on a picnic date.

My new reading friends and I remained at The Village Green together for almost an hour, until one by one we got called back to work, or the sun was too intense to handle.

Just call us the Lunch Book Club, I hope we meet again.

Of Who Done It? Tale of the Kitchen Felon.

 

Nicole and a Stuffed Doggy.

Here’s a picture of one of my besties staring down the camera with a stuffed dog in her dress. Her quizzical, but stern face, pretty sums up the emotions of the words below.

Every day, when I walk into the kitchen, I have the same thought, “Where did all these dishes come from?” I’ll do the dishes at night, and by 6:00pm the next day we’re out of glasses, there are piles of dirty plates (not rinsed off, mind you), pans on the stove top, and bowls in the living room. It’s baffling.

So I’ll sit there and ponder how many of these are mine. Here lies a typical day:

Breakfast: none – who has time for breakfast?

Lunch: frying pan, spatula, plate, knife, glass

Dinner: pan, stirring spoon, bowl, fork, glass

Total: utensils = 2, cooking stuff = 4, plates = 1, bowl = 1, glasses = 2

If all three of us created the exact same number of dishes, then that would account for 30 dirty things next to the sink. But it would mostly consist of small stuff, which could easily fit into one load of dishes crammed onto our drying rack – sadly, we don’t have a dish washer. It doesn’t explain how literally all of our forks and glasses disappear. Or where the stack of 10 plates comes from. Or why there’s always gross stuff stuck to the inside of 5 pots/pans – seriously roomies, rinse your dishes, don’t make me drawn a penis on your face with a sharpie when you’re asleep. And it certainly doesn’t explain why I end up doing an average of three loads of dishes regularly.

But of course, no one is guilty. When we discuss the dishes, everyone claims to have only used 3 dishes – 7 tops. Maybe we have a magical dirty dish fairy. Or maybe the hermit downstairs, comes up to use our kitchen when we’re not home. Or maybe one of us, if not all of us, are sneaky liars.

It’s like when I was little and the towel bar broke in the bathroom. My dad sat everyone down to see who broke the towel bar. No one fessed up, everyone had the same face of, “Jeepers! I don’t know.” To this day the towel bar mystery has never been solved, but I’d place money on my brother Eric. I just have this feeling that he’s the guilty one.

I have a theory that I’ll never have a clear answer as to who the dishes monster is,  but I have a hunch  …. not that they’ll ever fess up.

Of No Coffee Mornings

Today a nightmare happened – I didn’t have time to make coffee before work. Gasp, shudder, tears! all the tears!

Basically like this, but with less dancing:

Without a little personality-in-a-cup to supply some joy, the morning stretched on and on. No coffee morning’s are the worst, and the free tea in the office is not a satisfactory substitute. It’s not awful just because I’m a caffeine junkie. Or because I did not go to bed at a decent time, so the fact that I woke up at all is a miraculous achievement.

Coffee equals sanity. It allows for brief moments of me time before diving back into the detail focused office atmosphere.

But on my lunch break, I made some coffee, and now my insides feel like this:

My jumping off a haystack.

Me jumping off a haystack.

 

 

Of Shopaholicism

Let’s talk about the reality of shopping. Shopping can function as an addiction, torture, a release, a momentary escape, a pick-me-up, or even a reward. It’s many things, there’s a reason the phrase retail therapy exists, but the equation is always pretty much the same – unless you have lots of money, which I do not:

Shopping Texting Conversation

Side note: ponder is my second favorite word. The first being heathen. A pondering heathen, in my opinion, is the world’s best phrase.

The catalyst that begins a shopping adventure can be pretty much anything: maybe you’re feeling sad, your wardrobe is unappealing, you need a pick me up, you heard of a sale, you’re in a rut, you’re bored, there’s nothing on TV, all your friends have recently acquired new things, your mom’s in town, it’s payday…

The reason doesn’t matter. To be a shopaholic is essentially to understand that you don’t need new things, yet it feels like you do. Sometimes shopping is like finally scratching that itch in the middle of your back only to have another itch pop up elsewhere. Temporary euphoria.

I consider myself a former shopaholic. And I can honestly say that any excuse is a good excuse to buy something shiny … in my case, most likely a new dress.

I say former because I no longer use my credit card on a weekly basis for things I don’t need. However, when I do go shopping, I have the same mindset as I did back when I used shopping as a means to not be stuck at the parents house:

  • I shop by myself, I’m not a huge fan of having to care about what looks good on someone else – I’m a selfish shopper. Plus, shopping solo is much more efficient.
  • I’m wicked good at finding a sale. My record? A dress for $15 in 10 minutes. Proof that you don’t have to spend all your money to buy something new and pretty.
  • I have a strict, “If you don’t absolutely love it, don’t buy it!” policy. Because if you debate even for a moment that you’ll wear whatever it is, odds are it’ll be in the back of your closet for all of eternity.

So while shopping isn’t considered an admirable hobby, at least it got me a great credit score and a closet full of pretty things that are starting to bore me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of Beauty From Illness

Dakota Fanning

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When difficult times arise, the core essence of who we are comes out. With my family, it all came down to love. It glimmered around us like our own private rainbow. For as the tulips began to bloom in the spring, my grandma started to fade. Her body attacked by bacteria on her pacemaker and seeped into her blood.

I would describe Grandma’s love as fierce, a powerful force driven by her love for Jesus and the genuine desire to ensure that her family is taken care of. She has this ability to know if I need something, whether it’s a few bucks for gas or a toothbrush, she’s always looked out for me. A practical love.

I went to visit her during my lunch break. I was expecting her to be like sick people in movies, suffering but still coherent, with a good chance that they’ll be okay in a week or so.  When I walked in the hospital room, she was being spoon fed by Grandpa, her fever so high that even being fed like a child was difficult. Her forehead was sticky as I kissed her. I’d never seen her vulnerable, and to me, that was the hardest part. I tried to hold myself together, tears threatening to pour from my eyes. I got up to wash my hands, checked my watch, tried as I could to not completely breakdown in the room. For my struggling was not what mattered, we were there for Grandma, but we needed to be supportive for Grandpa.

In the way that Grandma is fierce, Grandpa is sweet. From the glimmer in his smile, to the way he hugs you like he’s never seen anyone so wonderful, Grandpa is without question one of the cutest people to ever grace this planet. He’s gentle, caring, and truly kind.  He’s so humble that I don’t think he’s ever realized the effect that he has on the people in a room, for I’ve never met anyone else like him.

Watching Grandpa look over Grandma, he’s sweet nature shining in his eyes, was possibly more heart-wrenching than watching Grandma suffer in her bed. But I can honestly say, I don’t think I ever witnessed the power of love until I watched them in the hospital room. People always think they know what love is, usually defining it by putting someone else first, compatibility, and the willingness to work through difficult times. All of this is true, however, understanding that you may never see your partner again, and doing everything you can to ease their pain and tell them how wonderful they are – that’s love in the rawest form.

There was something beautiful about how my family functioned. Our personal lives were put aside with the understanding that Grandma and Grandpa came first. We gathered around Grandma every day, ate our lunches in the hospital cafeteria, did what we could to help – which was essentially just to be there. We were all hopeful that the operation to remove the bacteria ridden pacemaker would go smoothly, but we also understood that this could possibly be the end of Grandma’s time on this Earth.

When I got the word that Grandma made it through the surgery, I took the first real breath I’d had in days. I was crying and laughing, the walls of trying to maintain composure finally cracking. Though sadly, we weren’t through the worst of it, at least, not yet.

Grandma’s fever was still on the rise, making her uncomfortable and delirious. I went to visit her on a particularly bad evening; she tossed and turned, groaning in agony, trying to rip her temporary external pacemaker off her body as it sat uncomfortably on her chest. It took an hour or so for her fever to drop enough that she could open her eyes and see me. If there was ever a time that it would be totally acceptable for someone to be selfish, it would be then. But she looked at me, told me how precious I was, and informed me that she had leggings for me back at the house.

Grandma’s true character is selfless. She barely complained, whenever she was coherent she would make sure that we were all well fed, she’d talk about her beautiful family, and how she doesn’t know what she’d do without us.

Now it seems like Grandma is through the worst of it, however, she’s still gonna be in the hospital for at least a month as they wait for the bacteria to completely leave her system. But even through the hardest times, the one thing that really stood out was how much my family loves each other.

And I’m not just being biased, even the doctor’s made comments.

Up! Movie

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Of 25 Years of Knowledge!

Lighting the Candle

Lighting the Candle

Today is my 25th birthday, which means I’m due for a quarter-life-crisis anytime now.  Most importantly, I can officially rent a car anywhere in the United States without being forced to pay extra extensive fees. My last God-given American right till I can get Senior Discount.

Over the last 25 years I have come to acquire much knowledge, 25 of those nuggets of wisdom are listed below.

Mime smoking the candle

Mime smoking the candle

Enjoy:

  • Always get paid to go to the bathroom when at work. It’s strangely satisfying. Don’t go on your break.
  • Being rejected sucks, but it’s better than pining.
  • There’s no such thing as Sunday’s best. You can wear nice clothes whenever the Hell you want.
  • God doesn’t hate people. God loves people. So whoever, or whatever your God, or lack of God is – just be happy.
  • In terms of coming out, there is no “right” place to be, go at your own pace.
  • Whales are the best creatures, but they shouldn’t be held in giant salty bathtubs.
  •  You’re never too old for children’s movies.
  • Dance is the best thing ever.
  • “It is perfectly acceptable to watch TV all day,” Nick Miller (New Girl).  I concur, so long as it’s not EVERYDAY.
This is kinda burning my face.

This is kinda burning my face.

  • Don’t be a hipster. Just…. don’t. It’s not cool to complain that other people are only just now discovering something awesome – it’s douchey.
  • Do what you have to do, don’t let pride get in the way of moving forward. Like, if you need a job but can’t find anything other than fast food – take it and keep looking for something better.
  • Don’t waste time on one-way friendships (aka, when you do all of the work and they constantly bail or cancel on you). In the end, it’s never worth it.
  • There’s no need for closet fandom. Don’t be ashamed of your tastes.
  • Go on mini adventures.
  • It’s super lame when people have to get drunk in order to have the balls to do something.
  • A pent-up kiss is a dangerous catalyst.
  • When hiking make sure to venture off the standard path. See what happens when you make your way through the brush, maybe you’ll find a hidden paradise.
  • Cliff jumping is terrifying but exciting.
Wax burned my hand

Wax burned my hand

  • Long distance friendships are difficult to maintain but they make for lasting friendships – texting and Facebook help. As an added bonus of your long-distance BFF, you’ll always have someone to gossip with, since most likely they will never actually meet any of the people you talk about. Or if they ever do visit, they’ll already know so much about your buddies that they’ll act like old friends. It’s a win-win.
  • You can make any summer dress into a winter dress by adding leggings, a jacket, and boots. Fact.
  • Truly hating someone or holding a grudge is a wasted emotion. Channel that angst somewhere more productive and less bitchy.
  • If you need help, ask for it.
  • People have way more sex on TV than any single person I have ever known in real life.
  • No matter how embarrassing, awful, or weird the event was – at least now you got a great story.
  • Embrace whatever phase of life you’re in. Before you know it, everything will change again, and all you’ll have left of right now is some memories – and maybe a trinket or two.
Bye bye candle

Bye bye candle

*Sorry, I was forced to use bullet points because it wouldn’t let me insert the pictures without restarting the numbers from zero. But I swear there’s 25 things – count if ya don’t trust me 🙂

Of Attempting Success

Me Being Awsome

“Do what you have to do.” – Sarah Luna (aka ME!)

I’ve never been one to say, “Here’s my super challenging goal, and dammit if I don’t succeed.”

I’m much more likely to say, “What I’m doing right now is no longer working, I think it’s time for a change.”

When it’s time for that change, I move quickly. I’m often surprised by how much I can accomplish when actually I put in the time and effort. I know, shocking right? Then once I’m at a place where I’m comfortable again, I’ll stay there, until I have to move on. It’s a slow ladder, but it’s a happy ladder. And though I’m frequently less well-off than I’d like, I seem to do okay. I still have my friends, family, dance life, and I manage to eat. I still have my goals, my dreams, and my ever-increasing to-do list.

I’m great at doing what I have to do: If I need a job, I’ll get a job. If I need to write, I’ll write. If I need to get stronger, I’ll get stronger. And since the number one thing that pushes me to aim higher is a desire to not fail, here’s my current crossroads: I can either scrape by working one job but never have any sort of cushion, or I can put active effort into pursing my dreams of becoming working writer and look for some freelance writing jobs.

This is exactly what I’m doing. It’s just an added bonus that I also love what I’m doing. And truthfully, this blog post functions as a contract to both myself and anyone who enjoys my writing, that I will submit those applications and start writing that book that I’ll probably have to self publish.

I think all writers can agree that being a good writer is about more than stringing a bunch of words together to meet the criteria. It’s about diving in headfirst and hoping for the best.

So here’s to hoping for the best!

Of Wishes for 2014

Congratulations everybody. We survived another year. High-5’s all around!

Make a Wish

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With 2013 in the past it’s time for the world to start proclaiming that this year they will go the gym. Eat better. Read more. Watch less Netflix. Ultimately, be less of a self-centered-jerk than before and actually take care of themselves.

The problem with resolutions is that there’s no accountability. Nothing’s gonna shatter your world if you break your vows – other than personal disappointment.

If you skip the gym you’re not gonna have your Internet taken away. No one will ground you if you decide to make a freezer pizza instead of healthy food for dinner. Your boss won’t fire you if you spend your evenings watching Breaking Bad instead of reading Steinbeck.

So in reality, it’s really only the highly driven people who have resolutions that function as more than just wishful thinking.

I could say that I’m finally gonna write a novel. Odds are I won’t make much progress until next December when I realize I’ve done nothing all year.

I could say that I’m gonna watch less TV. But I LOVE TV!

Perhaps this year, my savings account will actually have savings in it. That is until bills show up.

In theory, all these things could be my resolutions that I will inevitably fail to accomplish. Along with: cook more, do the dishes right away, improve my punctuality, etc. But the truth is, unless I magically morph into a super driven human, none of those things will dramatically change in 2014.

Which made me think, what’s the ONE RESOLUTION we should all make? Something realistic. Something insightful. Something exciting.

Aka, something that us victims of habit actually stand a chance at accomplishing.

If I think back through 2013, it’s not the things I did that I want to change. It’s not the television, staying up too late, going on mini-road trips, or spending hours in a fort playing games. It’s the things I didn’t do: the chances I didn’t take, the applications I was too lazy to fill out, and the people I wasn’t fully honest with.

So my resolution this year, my only one, is to be a little bolder and hope for the best.