Thursday, October 31, 2013

Day 88 of 365: I'm Grateful for What I'm Not Grateful For

(This comes from a link my best friend sent, about writing down all the things you're not grateful for, but should be. Things that we consider flaws or shortcomings; things that we wish we could change. The idea is to make a list like this every morning, until you realize that you should be grateful for you as an entire human being (not just the few traits you label "positive").

I'm grateful that my brain goes in a thousand directions at once.

I'm grateful that my lips get horribly chapped in the winter.

I'm grateful that I'm still trying to figure out how to assert myself when people are taking advantage of my docile nature.

I'm grateful that I'm still trying to learn how to breathe when I see red and all I want to do is hit a table and stomp away.

I'm grateful that I get distracted easily.

I'm grateful my index toe is longer than my big toe.

I'm grateful that my knees injure easily and that I must wear knee braces when running distances.

I'm grateful that my spine is slightly curved.

I'm grateful that I hunch through my lower back instead of through my upper back and shoulders like the average person does.

I'm grateful that I can't leave any blemish alone on my face without poking at it at least once.

I'm grateful that I tend to take everything in at once and get overwhelmed instead of itemizing the tasks at hand and tackling them one at a time.

I'm grateful that, to this day, I hate asking people for something, even if it's for extra cheese on my sandwich at Subway.

I'm grateful that I am still learning how to forgive myself when I make a mistake.

I'm grateful that I sometimes take for granted all the wonderful people who love me, focusing too much on those who wrong me or how others have failed me.

I'm grateful that it took me way too long to write this list because I kept doing things like checking Facebook or Gmail.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Day 87 of 365: One Last Hurrah

If I haven't mentioned it enough, this week is purely a preparation week for NaNoWriMo. I'm making outlines and brainstorming what is going to happen when. I'm trying to schedule posts for my crafts blog so I don't have to worry about it for a solid month. I'm trying to get a last few rounds of edits in my second manuscript so I'll feel comfortable leaving it alone for 30 days.

And I sent my last query for my first manuscript.

Like I have mentioned before, I have little hopes for my first manuscript. The publishing world is tough enough for any book, but a book that deconstructs chick literature is not exactly in high demand. I might also have started seeing this manuscript the way a veteran agent might see it. I read over the first chapter and find myself editing every other line -- a first chapter that has probably been edited and rewritten three or four times by now (and that's only counting the major edits).

I wrote this book when I was 22, and it's safe to say that I've changed a lot as a writer over the last 5 years. I'd be a bit worried if I read over my old works and went, "Well, nothing to be improved here! My, I am an exceptional writer!" It's good to look over old work and shake your head in some way, the same way it's good to look over old high school photos and shake your head. The last thing you want to do is pine over your high school yearbook and marvel about your "glory days".

One of the best bits of advice I got from a writer was to not let the query process interfere with your writing. Or, at the very least, recognize that the query process will interfere with your writing, and do your best to find ways around it. Writing a first draft is writing with the doors closed (a line I've stolen a million times from Stephen King). Agent-searching is not only opening the door, but posting a neon sign above the house itself, inviting people to come in and openly reject your work. All you can think about is other people's reactions: if you're good enough, if you're marketable enough. Suddenly you're confined to what others may think of your work. This isn't exactly a good breeding ground for writing new material.

I only submit my first manuscript to one agency at a time anyway, so I figured I would get the November rejection out of the way early so I can focus on my third book. I'm essentially checking to make sure the oven is off before going on a trip, even though I know I hadn't baked anything recently. I'll have enough on my mind once November hits. It seems silly, given that I finished my second novel last December in the midst of everything happening at once, but I really want to do this novel right. If any of my ideas are marketable, it's going to be this one. So no half-assing.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Day 86 of 365: Outlining

So, I'm doing it. I registered my third novel for my third run of NaNoWriMo.

I've been doing my best to prepare for it. I know a "true" NaNoWriMo novel is one that is conceptualized, outlined, and written in full during November 1st and November 30th, but I'm of the belief that NaNoWriMo is exactly what you make of it. Whether you write a brand new novel, finish an existing novel, or even just get an idea off the ground, if you are just a little further along the writer path than you were at October 31, then you are, in my eyes, a winner.

But I want to outline I already have. I want to organize what has been essentially floating around in my mind and hope I can pull a few new ideas down with it. I'm writing out what I think will happen in chapters and filling in fake Calendars so I have a better idea as to what happens on each day.

It's a thrilling, creative experience. And I absolutely hate it.

It's not because it's tedious (quite the opposite, actually), or because it takes all the excitement out of writing (again, quite the opposite). It's because there are few things as perilous as the transition from an idea to a somewhat tangible storyline. Things that make perfect sense in our head becomes drivel in the real world. Ideas are changed, discarded, derided. It's one big exercise in killing your darlings.

And I think that right there is why so many people come up with ideas for the next Great American Novel, but never bring it to fruition. The ideas are perfect in our heads, devoid of the context of the real world. Then you have to write it out and something always shifts in the transfer.

But, regardless of how much it stings to kill off my darlings, I'm going in headfirst. November 1st is this Friday. My goal is the same as last year: 1,000 words a day, no less. If I do more, awesome. If I finish the book before the year is out, great. But I am not going to beat myself up if I don't. I'm also not going to beat myself up about how much editing I'm going to need to do. I'm killing enough darlings now; I can wait a bit before I kill a few more.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Day 85 of 365: Random Thoughts While Running for 2+ Hours

"I'm at the starting line, I'm ready for the horn...I am PUMPED. I could run ALL the races!"

"I'm running an 8-minute mile and getting passed like I'm standing still. Is this race course on the Autobahn or something?"

"I just got passed by a 12-year-old. This isn't working well for my self-esteem."

"I hate you sun. You with your shining too bright and being all hot. You're just going to swell up and burn up Earth someday anyway. I hate you."

"Come back from behind the clouds, sun. It's cold here without you. I didn't mean what I said before. Please come back?"

"Yeah, on second thought, if you could only come out when I'm in the shade, that would be great."

"This hill is a Heartbreak Hill. That hill is a Heartbreak Hill. Every @$#^ing hill that I have to run uphill on is Heartbreak Hill. Not sure if I'm motivating myself or admitting defeat."

"Who the hell gives runners water in Solo cups? We need tiny paper cups, so we can shoot back the water like a shot and toss the cup to the side."

"Why is there not a vodka shot service station?"

"Seriously, what is with these hills? Am I running or going on a hike?"

"Is this couple honestly bickering while running? How do they even have the energy?"

"I'm going to track down every single person who recommended tapering off before the race and clock them upside their skull."

"This is actually happening. I'm actually running a half-marathon. Looks like I can't wimp out halfway through."

"Please let me wimp out halfway through."

"Now I understand the importance of people cheering along the sidelines. These long stretches of no onlookers is killing me and making me reevaluate my life."


"I hate my shoes. I hate my knee braces. I hate my jacket. I hate my water bottle. Did I say that I hated my shoes yet?"

"I hate running. I hate moving. I hate legs. Fuck legs."

"I hate cement. I hate ground. I hate gravity. I hate ALL the things."

"Seriously, why is there not a vodka shot service station."

"I'm gonna puke. I'm gonna puke."

"I'm gonna pass out. I'm gonna pass out. I'm going to puke, then pass out."

"The mile markers are definitely off. Don't argue with me: I got GPS strapped to my arm."

"High-fiving a line of kids makes you feel like a celebrity. Period."

"It figures that Cake's 'Going the Distance' would come on during my last quarter of a mile."


"That was fun! Let's do it again! Oooh I'm dizzy..."

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Day 84 of 365: Pre-Run Ramblings

The last time I ran an actual race, I was a junior in high school.

I had quit the track team the previous year, after they tore up the race track to prepare for new construction. I decided it wasn't worth training the town over (or in the gym), so I did what all winners do and quit.

There was this wonderful Turkey Trot in memory of a girl who had been killed in an automobile accident. The Dreamcatcher Race, if I remember correctly. You could participate in the 1-mile "fun run" or the 5k. Being a sprinter, I chose the fun run.

I remember turning around where the regular racers went straight on. I remember doing my half-hearted jog back, marveling at the fact that the other runners were able to do this, multiplied by 3.1. How did they get there? I was exhausted just by doing one little mile.

Then, I went to college, and, thanks to how campus life operates, I technically had a gym membership. The Northeastern Gym was right on Huntington Ave, with glass walls facing the T-stop and the road that intersected Huntington. I would find a free elliptical and give routine exercise the old college try, all the while listening to Alkaline Trio and brooding over whatever boy was doing me wrong at that time. My only went sporadically after my freshman year, when my dorm was no longer right next to it.

I moved off campus by my senior year, to an apartment complex that had its own gym room. I would run 2 or 3 miles on the treadmill and be so damn proud of myself because I was running for a solid 25 minutes. Twenty-five minutes! That's like a sitcom length!

I transitioned over to outside running when I moved up to New Hampshire. I got up to 5 miles in one go before I gave myself shin splints so painful that I hobbled around for a solid week. I put a moratorium on running, waiting for the gumption to transition over to natural running.

That winter, I essentially started from scratching, going back to the gym and attempting to jog on the balls of my feet for a whole minute at a time. I finished the transition regimine, got back into the swing of things, and slowly built up my calf muscles, idly dreaming of one day running a marathon. Someday.

Then the Boston Bombings happened. Running took on a new meaning. I went to the gym and ran that night, surreptitiously wiping tears away while on the treadmill. The Saturday after the lockdown, I researched half-marathons, and signed up for Ashland.

I remember how daunting it felt. I would lose my mind over just 5 miles, and now I was going to run 13.1? I had until October, but I felt like I needed a whole lifetime to train. I started training, stopped, started again, got derailed by moving and vacations and injury, and somehow, through all of that, got to 13 miles on my own 3 weeks before the race.

It's been a nutty ride, but it's not over yet. I still have to run the race. I still have my 16-miler. I still have the Boston 10k in June. And I still have Chicago in October. Nothing to do now but put one foot in front of the other one.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Day 83 of 365: 16-Miler

It figures that the just days before my first (official) half-marathon, I find a 16-miler race a few towns over from me.

I have been looking for races between now and next year. Half marathons to keep me from getting soft and potentially backing out of the Chicago Marathon. I was excited to run the Quincy Half Marathon, only to learn that the 2013 half marathon was the last one.

However, during my search, I found the Derry 16-Miler: a run that is considered a "Boston prep" race (aka, if you're training for the Boston Marathon, you better run this race in preparation). It's in the middle of January, with elevation that could turn Heartbreak Hill into Amicable Breakup Hill. It's definitely not for the weak-minded.

And I signed up for it as soon as I could.

I'm not afraid of the Ashland Half-Marathon. After running 13.33 miles, I'm more afraid of an unexpected injury or *knock on wood* crap weather. So now it's time to up the ante. Sixteen miles. Aka a marathon minus ten miles.

Adding three miles to my longest run between now and January isn't exactly a challenge. But continuing to train during the winter is. Running for hours on end when all you want to do is stay inside and drink hot cocoa is.

But, again, I'm not afraid. I like taking on these physical challenges and proving, time and time again, that I can do it. That I can run on a natural run. That I can run over 13 miles. That I can do the more advanced yoga poses. That I can sling a sword (and that's not a euphemism).

I get to wake up bright and early tomorrow, drive an hour and a half to Ashland, where the original Boston Marathon started. I'll run like a maniac, hopped up on ibuprofen and Gatorade chews. Then I'll dive head first into my favorite type of "Greasy greasy cheesy cheesy salty fatty greasy," food (aka Johnny Rockets food). Then I'll take a long, long, long bath. Then I go on my recovery run the next day.

Then, the training begins again. See you at the finish line.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Day 82 of 365: Self-Taught

I cringe -- downright cringe -- whenever I hear about someone being "self-taught".

Every once in a while, you'll find a music prodigy who taught themselves how to play the guitar and piano and drums, or an academic genius who taught themselves geometry and calculus. Usually, you get people like the drunken brother in The Wedding Singer, strumming madly at a poor guitar like it is being punished, all the while shouting, "Self-taught! No lessons, Dad!"

Teaching yourself something is a pretty treacherous road. It's essentially like writing a book and refusing to let other people review it for you. Maybe you'll land every step perfectly. But, more often than not, you are going to miss your own flaws and end up in a worse place than you were before.

In some ways, my tai chi instructor going on hiatus worked out to my benefit. The yoga studio I worked at contacted her about teaching tai chi, and she sent them my information. But, because she's been on hiatus, I haven't had any tai chi lessons myself. Life threw everyone into chaos at roughly the same time: I was quitting my job and prepping for a cross-country road trip (as well as house-searching/closing on a house), and she was changing jobs and studying for her CPA. I was halfway through a new form when all this happened. As a result, everything got dropped, and it wasn't until I was recommended for the tai chi job that I even got back into practicing the form that I teach to others.

After a few months of teaching tai chi, I decided it was time to get back into the swing of things with my half-learned form. I studied the videos that my instructor had sent me until I got a good feel for what I had already been taught. But that only got me roughly 2/3rds through the form. Tai chi has so many subtle shifts and nuances that it was impossible to try to teach myself what came next.

It didn't help that, as I searched for more and more videos to give me different perspectives on the form, I came across a sword form that I fell in love with. My husband bought me a proper tai chi sword when we were in New York's Chinatown a few years back. My instructor taught me a few "ooh and ah!" sword tricks, but saved any forms for a future date. I decided that, while teaching myself the rest of a higher-level form was out of the question, I could at least teach myself a base-level sword form.

I go into this knowing full well that I could be completely botching the form. Even with my background firmly planted in tai chi, I can only imagine what I'm missing as I compare my steps with the video steps.

And that's why it's so important to have someone else teach you. Someone who can objectively tell you where you are going wrong. A peer to review your work and let you know where it bogs down or where it gets confusing. While we can be our own worst critics, we can also be our biggest fans. There was nothing I hated more than being told I was doing a portion of a form wrong, especially when I swore I was doing it right. But I needed that attack on my pride to make me realize that there are no points for "forging my own path" if I'm just moving my legs and arms around with no meaning.

While I'm out of options until my instructor gets her CPA, I'm excited for the day when we can start up classes again and she can teach me the rest of the form -- as well as point out what I'm doing wrong with the sword form. Last thing I want to do is pull a William Hung and declare that I've had no formal training. All that would be missing is Simon Cowell going, "Well, I can see that!"

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day 81 of 365: Polyamory

My best friend posted an article yesterday about polyamory and open relationships. It was the first article I've seen in a while where the attitude wasn't of, "Monogamy is unnatural; open relationships are the only way!" It came out and said that open relationships are incredibly difficult, that without set rules and communication things can go awry, and, even then, a relationship can quickly descend into jealousy and bickering.

I personally cannot stand the idea of, "infidelity is natural!" As if base desires are a hall pass for being a scoundrel. It's also natural to attack someone who is barging in on your territory, but it's still illegal to shoot a guy because he cut you off in traffic.

And hey, maybe I'm a bit sensitive because I've had a nasty history of boyfriends having wandering eyes, but "fidelity is unnatural" is a shit excuse.

"Monogamy is unnatural." Maybe it is; maybe it isn't. But you know what is natural? The desire for our partners to be monogamous to us. The jealousy when we feel that the person we care about cares about someone else. And that's where most open/polyamorous relationships fall apart. Someone gets jealous, someone isn't as willing to share, someone feels like they need to "get back" at their partner for dating so much.

Because, regardless as to how "natural" sleeping around is, jealousy is a lot more natural. We are jealous, territorial creatures. Our partners are no exception.

The writer of the article admitted that, in a perfect world, she'd just get to sleep around while all of her partners were loyal to her. And maybe that's the default emotion. Which would make sense: what better way to pass on your genes than by having a bunch of different partners who are loyal to only you?

But, the same way we'd go to jail if we slugged someone for cutting us in line, society doesn't operate on the base instincts. If you expect/want your partner to be monogamous to you, then you need to be monogamous to them in exchange (unless you're a serious toolbag). I don't really care about how "unnatural" it is. We certainly enjoy our other, certainly more "unnatural" aspects, like cars and A/C and modern medicine.

One of my new favorite shows is a docu-reality show about polyamorous couples. It doesn't take long for the people in the relationships to start getting jealous, start liking one person in the "family" over another, start wishing for a bit more monogamy on the end of their lovers. I don't doubt there are people out there where polyamory works perfectly for them. But I doubt the "naturalness" of polyamory. I doubt it a lot.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Day 80 of 365: Writer Burnout

I have this blog, my crafts blog, my second and third manuscript, a few desperate stabs for my first manuscript, my essays for Thought Catalog and my newest writing venture.

Some days, I'm amazed at what I can accomplish. I'm submitting stuff to Thought Catalog, writing for my third manuscript, sending out queries for my first, creating entries for my crafts blog, and even editing a piece or two.

Other days, it is brutal murder just to get one of these entries out.

There is an ebb and flow to writing that is not unlike manic-depression. Some days you're going a mile a minute. Some days you're going a mile an hour. And I think the hardest thing is to accept that some days you're Speedy Gonzales, and some days you're the turtle from the Geico commercial.

I feel blessed that I have this time in my life to really devote myself to writing. Aside from teaching tai chi, going on the occasional go-see, and marathon training, I have time to work on my manuscripts, see what I can sell off, and see just how far down that writing path I can get before things like motherhood and actual adult living.

But, because I recognize how valuable this time is, I get so frustrated when I can barely write an entry for the day and nothing much else. I recognize how many writers could kill to not be stuck in a full-time job and I get so annoyed that I can't be punching out 1,000 words a day -- especially when I was able to do that roughly this time last year, but with a full-time job and figuring out my various demo classes.

It takes a moment, but I have to realize that writing is like dealing with a wild gorilla: you only get as much control as the gorilla decides you get. Craig Ferguson makes a similar reference, but in a considerably much cruder manner. And I can do one of two things: get pissed at the fact that I don't have control over a wild gorilla, or find ways around it. Find ways to go with the flow. Find ways to shovel words out when I feel like I'm knee-deep in murky swampland.

I don't know where I'm going with this, aside from the obvious, "Holy shit, writing takes a lot out of you." But I'm in an interesting time in my life. And I need to take full advantage of that. This is something I dreamed about, especially when teaching got to be a bit rough. I just need to recognize that it's okay if I don't write a whole novel a day. Writing isn't exactly like punching numbers in a machine. Some days I'm going to write (or edit) an entire chapter. Some days I'm not. To borrow from yesterday's entry: writing's a practice, not a perfection.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Day 79 of 365: Of the Path

I have a bad habit of rambling about tai chi during my classes. My students haven't complained about it yet, so I'm not too, too worried. But I know how I am when my yoga instructors get chatty, so I'm trying to keep it to a minimum.

Yesterday, I was rambling about the idea of "tai chi masters". Because, to be frank, those don't exist. The term "tai chi master" was most likely coined by some dude in America with a background in karate (where you sneeze the right way and suddenly you're a master). In tai chi, there is no master, because there is no mastering. "Mastery" essentially means that you know all that there is to know, and there is always something else to gain from tai chi.

As I told my students, tai chi is a practice, not a perfection (a term I stole from, like, 101 different yogis). There is always something new to learn and understand about the form. You can never perfect tai chi; you can only go further down the path. And when you are on that path is irrelevant, so long as you are going forward.

Another thing I ramble in my classes is about the overlap between tai chi philosophy and life philosophy. Like redirecting an opponent's energy and momentum to your own benefit (instead of going at the opponent head-on and hoping you can overpower them). And, in this case, the idea that where we are on whatever path we're on is irrelevant, so long as we're going forward.

Being 27 (and being surrounded by people in their late 20s and early 30s), I hear a lot about what is "supposed" to happen at this age. Marriage, kids, a house, a steady career. Like everyone's path has clearcut milestones that must be crossed or else the rest of the trip is worthless. And I hate that. Yes, I'm married and have a house, but I still feel as unprepared to have kids as I did when I was 23, and, God help me, there are few things as unsteady as being an independent contractor (which, in the eyes of my agency and the studio I teach at -- at least for tax purposes -- that is exactly what I am). Not to mention my dreams of being an international bestseller by 25 was gone by the time I hit, gee, 26. But, again, where I am on that path is irrelevant, so long as I'm going forward.

So onwards I go. Writing like a madwoman. Allowing myself to be as frivolous as to attempt a modeling career resurgence at 27. Teaching tai chi when it technically pays less per billing cycle as teaching full-time did. Tending to my house and my animals and experiencing all that there is to experience. Milestones be damned. Life is a practice, not a perfection.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Day 78 of 365: Unnatural

There are few things that annoy me quite like when people say things like, "People aren't meant to run marathons."

Yeah, you're right. People aren't meant to run marathons. They're meant to run a fuckload more.

Our ancestors once hunted down animals by running them into exhaustion. This could last days -- days -- spanning miles upon miles upon miles. Some point to the fact that the messenger in Marathon, Greece, died after declaring their victory, as why marathon running is unnatural. Or at least that's how the legend goes. I say, the messenger most likely suffered from dehydration or heat exhaustion. In a world of Gatorade and breathable running clothes, this is less than an issue now.

I hate it because it gives people the type of false out. Say you don't have the time. Say you have horrific joints. Say you have a medical condition that renders it impossible to do more than the most basic physical activities. Say you just don't care about running. Go right ahead. It's honest, it's (varying levels of) viable. Marathon training takes a lot of time and work and care and mental effort. It's not easy. Saying that it's not worth risking injury to someone is a perfectly okay and honest out.

But to say that it's unnatural is not only false, but it makes it sound like people who marathon train are somehow in the wrong. Like marathon trainers are on par with mad scientists, trying to do what can't and shouldn't be done.

It's just a huge pet peeve of mine when people try to pass off anyone's hard work -- runner or otherwise -- in such a dismissive way. Trying to pretend like any achievement is an aberration. And it's easier to act like making the grade or starting a company or finishing a book is abnormal than it is to admit that anything of worth takes hard work. Hard work and sacrifice and a touch of risk.

Not to mention we certainly love all our actually "unnatural" phenomena, like cars and AC and modern medicine.

If it's not noticeable, I have a thing against people who are so stupidly pro-mediocrity that they have no qualms about sitting back and making excuses and even deriding others for actually getting shit done. Mocking intelligent people won't make you smarter. Dismissing artists won't make you more creative. And criticizing runners won't get you in better shape. Go out and do shit.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Day 77 of 365: One or the Other

I've been simultaneously working on my third manuscript while editing my second. I have learned something very important:

I can have a writing day, or I can have an editing day. But I cannot, for the love of God, have both.

There's a simple reason why you can have one or the other: you can either be in a demolition mode or construction mode. You can have a hammer and nail -- or a sledgehammer. Bad things will happen if you go in with a mindset of demolition and tear down brand new drywall -- or if you go in with a mindset of construction and naively hammer away while the wrecking ball loads up.

*Cough* please excuse me for a second: I CAME IN LIKE A WREEEECKING BAAAAALL...

' Sorry. Had to be done.

Anyway. I learned that even the idea of rewriting shouldn't be anywhere in your mind when writing your first draft. You know it's an inevitability, but right now this is your baby. This is your perfect little baby who is just starting to learn to walk. You want to cherish and nurture this moment, no step back and go, "Yeah, but look at that duckwalk." As Stephen King would say, you are writing with the door closed. This is your moment. No one else's.

Likewise, when editing, your mind has to be as cold and calculated as a killer's. Because that's what you're doing: you're killing your darlings. You're deleting words and ideas that you slaved over, because you recognize that these darlings actually trip up the story at large. You kill off the details to save the bigger picture.

*Cough* excuse me again: [in her best Spock voice] The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

Man, what is into me today?

There are few things as nihilistic as trying to write when your mind has been busy destroying and rebuilding sentences left and right. Likewise, there are few things as unproductive as trying to edit when your mind is busy adoring all the little creations you made.

So, my mind is made up: I can have an editing day, or a writing day. But I After one-too-many days of leaving my third manuscript after hating every single sentence I typed out (and one-too-many days of reading over my second manuscript, pretending like it's perfectly fine the way it is when we all know that's a dirty lie), I am putting my foot down.

Writing in the blog doesn't factor in, of course, since this is almost entirely stream of conscious. As made clear by my Miley Cyrus/Spock moments.

Now there's an image: Spock as Miley Cyrus. You're welcome, everyone's brain.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Day 76 of 365: What's Your Excuse?

Yesterday I had a fit modeling gig. Not to be confused with fitness modeling. Fit models essentially try on samples for the designers so they can make adjustments before they have a finished product. We are there to see how the clothing fits.

This was actually the first time I had ever dealt with fit modeling. I got the email and expected that I would be doing fitness modeling. So I made sure to get a good gym run in before the gig, only to be trying on slacks and dresses. If anything, working out was to my detriment, as my muscles were slightly swollen. Great if you're trying to show off killer legs and bad-ass abs. Not so great when you are suddenly an inch bigger than your measurements (as one of the ladies continuously pointed out *sigh*).

The misunderstanding of fit/fitness reminded me of an article I read recently, about a woman who had to apologize after releasing an ad. In it, she kneels by her three beautiful sons, aged 3, 2, and 8 months. She wears nothing but a sports bra and bike shorts, showing off her incredibly toned body. Above her is the caption, "What's Your Excuse?"

The woman has been under fire for "bullying" and "fat-shaming". And I just cannot get it. Yes, usually when you see a thin woman on an advertisement, the message is, "Being unrealistically skinny is important and the only way to live life." As a size 6 model who gets turned down for work because she's not skinny enough, I recognize how damaging the onslaught of girls with 16 BMIs on your television sets can be.

But here's the thing: she never said, "Why are you fat?" or "Why aren't you as skinny as me?" She simply asked: what is your excuse. This is a mother of three, with a full-time job, who is in incredible shape. Not just skinny. Muscular. Fit. Athletic. To me, seeing a woman proudly display her muscles isn't saying that it's time to get skinny. She's saying it's time to stop with the excuses and be healthy.

I know it's out of vogue to call obesity for what it is. But let's call a spade a spade: no one is better off getting obese. People come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties. We're slender, husky, curvy, lanky, etc, etc. And "healthy" is going to look a lot different on each of those people.

But that's the thing: healthy. They can get from Point A to Point B without getting out of breath. Their blood pressure isn't making their doctors sweat. They are active and they eat right (and in the right amounts). And, let's be blunt: people aren't healthy. If you're lucky, you find someone who goes to the gym 2 or 3 times a week. But still eats way too much junk. Or sometime who watches what they eat and considers taking the stairs instead of the elevator their "workout for the day" (and hey, avoiding the elevator is a great way to add a little exercise in, but it is not a standalone exercise).

I respect the hell out of people who say that they struggle in a society where most jobs involve a lot of sitting and most grocery stores carry a whole lot lard and salt. What I don't respect, however, are people who sit back and complain about how "this is just what people look like now," and how we as a society, have to accept it. Mhmm. Sure. Let me tell the people in Europe (where obesity rates are as low as 8% in some countries) that this is just how things are now.

And, obviously, no one should be treated unfairly, no one should be ridiculed, simply because of their bodies. Everyone deserves respect, regardless of age, creed, skin color, weight, and so on. But that doesn't mean we have to shy away from any message that promotes putting in that extra bit of work to be healthy. The advertisement was for every person who never exercised because, "I'm too busy," or "I'm stressed out." If you don't work out because being in shape isn't a priority for you, then hey, your life, your prerogative. I ain't here to change that. But, like the ad suggests, most excuses don't justify an unhealthy lifestyle.

But that's the problem: you suggest getting in shape, you suggest eating right, and suddenly you're "fat-shaming". As if making the body a little more efficient turns you into the Cheer Choreographer from Bring It On. What a terrible world we live in where we ignore the concept of treating everyone fairly, while lashing out at those who weren't being unfair in the first place.

Like with politics, you don't have to be a fitness nut to want to eat a little better and get out a little more. And it's not fat-shaming to advise others to attempt a healthier life as well. Personally, I can only hope I have enough drive to ignore the excuses after I have children and get into as incredible shape as this woman did.

(BTW, I emailed the main designer, apologizing for the change in my measurements. He seemed unfazed by the whole thing, so hopefully I didn't burn a bridge by burning some calories)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Day 75 of 365: A Few Thoughts on NaNoWriMo

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo if you're exactly that type of person. I've been getting emails from the association in an attempt to pump me up for the upcoming month. Emails with things like, "Dear Writer, Please write me - Love, Your Novel."

Last year's NaNoWriMo was a phenomenal success. I took a book that I had been trudging through for a year and blasted out about 58,000 words in November, plus an additional 20,000 words over the first week of December. I had a lot going against me: my computer's hard drive fried (which resulted in a solid week of pen-to-paper writing, without the guarantee that the rest of my novel was even still around), work was being a special brand of stressful, and I was gearing up for my brother-in-law's wedding. Granted, this meant I spent roughly a week in Florida, waking up extra early so I could get my 1,000 words in by poolside (even though I was wearing a sweatshirt and long pants by said poolside), but there was still so much going on that I'm slightly shocked that it all came together in the end.

I've been going back and forth on whether or not I want to jump in with my recent novel. I've learned that writing this particular manuscript has been like tiptoeing around a maze. The only time I can shoot ahead is when I know I have a clear path before me.

However, I felt like my second manuscript was the book that would never be fully written, forever stunted at Chapter 3. And now I'm in the process of editing it.

There's a lot of freedom in knowing you have to churn out a certain number of words of day, regardless of quality. You stop being such a perfectionist and you just write. And, while it's frustrating to edit work that was written so fast that entire words are missing, there's something comforting in knowing that you are never killing your darlings.

I might use NaNoWriMo to work on a different project (while slowly making my way through my third manuscript's maze). It's not a novel -- I doubt it would hit 50,000 words -- but it's something I want finished by January. So, we'll see. The nice thing is that, with the hubbub of moving and settling the house over, I've gotten into a nice habit of writing. Let's see what I can keep up in the upcoming months.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Day 74 of 365: I'm Not Afraid

I remember when I accidentally ran 6 1/2 miles.

This was before I ran with my cellphone tacked to my arm. When I used my 2008-era iPod and tracked my distance online, long after the run had ended. I had a vague idea where I was going, went on my run, expecting a challenging 4-miler. I ran, I struggled, I felt like my legs were turning into jelly, but I finished.

I got home, tallied up my score, and learned that, somehow, I had ran 6.55 miles.

I was at the very beginning of my half-marathon training at that point, working my way up to a whole 5 miles on my new, natural run. I thought about how exhausting and frustrating and demanding the run was. And then I thought about how, somehow, between that point in May and October 27th, I needed to double that. In fact, my half marathon would be exactly twice what I had just run.

That was the first time I regretted registering so early for the half marathon.

Somehow tackling 13.1 miles felt like some elusive goal, one that I would never actually see. I felt like October 27th would come and go and I would be forced to take a step down and participate in the day's 5k "Fun Run" instead. But, somehow, I added on the miles. I was addled by injury and blisters and a supreme lack of time. I learned that I not only needed knee braces, but anti-chafing cream, blister-resistant socks, and earbuds that don't pop out of your ears after the first gust of wind.

But then, last week or so, on my very last long run before the race, I hit 13.33 miles. I ate an entire sleeve of those Gatorade "chews" during said run. I drank 24 ounces of water somewhere in between all that "chew"-chewing. And, weirdly enough, I felt perfectly fine afterward. I took a shower, ate a lot of pasta, and went about my day. My knees were a little sore the next day, but that was the extent of my injuries.

And while I love I get to calm down a bit for now ("tapering off" as they call it -- a drop in the number of miles you run in order to reduce the chance of injury just before the race), a little voice is still in the back, poking at me like a second grader trying to start a fight, and reminding me of one little bit of information:

"You know, you'll have to double that distance if you are going to run a marathon."

Way back in June, my best friend got laid off from her guaranteed-but-mind-numbing job in Boston. She had been talking about moving to Chicago someday, and getting laid off seemed like the push forward that she needed. As much as I wanted her to stick around in Boston, I knew that she had outgrown the city. There are few things as scary as packing up your life and shipping out to a city you've only been to once before. I told her that, if she had the gumption to move out to Chicago, I'd have the gumption to train for the Chicago Marathon. On July 1st, she boarded a bus to Chicago, and I attempted to get a run in while in Colorado.

(Spoiler alert: I got two miles in and thought I was going to suffocate and die.)

The Chicago Marathon is a year from now. Almost exactly. The 2013 marathon happened just this past Sunday. And while 13.33 miles was exhausting to the point of delirium, I'm not afraid. I went from the girl who patted herself on the back when she ran a whole 5 miles to having her 5 mile run days count as "downtime" days. I have pushed my average distance from a okay-for-an-American 3 miles to an impressive-unless-you're-Kenyan 8.

The ultimate goal is, by springtime, to push that average up to 12-15 (while focusing on 5 mile runs with sprint intervals over the winter, because no one wants to be outside running in January weather for two hours). Then, sometime around June (just in time for the heat waves), start upping the ante until I'm at 20 by September. For a first-time marathoner, 20 miles is were you cap it until marathon day. But, then again, according to some training schedules, a first-time half-marathoner is supposed to cap their training at 10. So it's safe to say that there's a good chance I won't rest on the schedule's laurels.

It's hard to say exactly what will happen between now and next year. Heaven knows, last October, I couldn't have imagined that I would be where I am now. But I do know one thing: when it comes to marathon training, I'm not afraid. It's going to be challenging. I'll probably get injured a ton. But I'm ready. Bring it.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day 73 of 365: Resonance

As someone who has been publishing her art in some form or other for years now, I'm used to a bit of feedback.

The feedback would usually be in the form of comments. Sometimes they were baseless flattery. Sometimes they were baseless criticism. Sometimes, like in the case of YouTube, they had nothing to do with what I was doing and went right into commentary about looks, religion, politics (honestly, someone should write a paper on how quickly YouTube comments descend into bickering about religion and politics, on even the most innocuous videos).

Thought Catalog has an option where you can contact the writer. The message is then sent via email to the writer. The writer can then opt to write back, which is sent to the commenter's own email. I've received a few of these emails -- usually from people with suspiciously bad grammar, a tendency to throw in random slashes and lines in their typing, and an uncanny ability to relate to every single one of the points I made in an essay ("I too am training/ for my first half marathon and I am - 27 years old also/!!") It doesn't take much to realize that these are messages sent out in hopes that I'll reply, giving them my email address, and opening the floodgates to have them spam the ever-living shit out of me. So, I ignore them.

Then, yesterday, I got a different time of email. Instead of it being from someone whose name I can't find on Facebook, this person had a real gmail account, linked to a semi-active Google+ account ("semi-active" being the important characteristic, as no real person has a proper, active Google+). No slashes or dashes or second-year-ESL English. Just a regular, heartfelt email.

In it, the lady talked about how she has been contemplated quitting teacher for a while, but felt like she was guilted into staying. She couldn't articulate to her friends and family exactly why she needed to quit, even though she loved her students and loved watching them learn. But reading my essay helped put her own thoughts and feelings into words. She told me that she felt like sending the essay to everyone she knew so they could finally understand why she wanted to quit such a "noble" pursuit.

Now, maybe I'm just delusional, and this is just a more clever version of these emails. But, if so, they deserve my email address. Small price to pay for being reminded as to why writers write (and put their stuff out there for others to read).

I'm going to be blunt: if you write -- and publish your writing -- for any other reason than to hopefully resonate with a reader, help put into words what other people have been feeling, inform or clarify an idea or an event or a portion of the human condition -- to explain or create or create a catharsis for an emotion -- than you are a selfish twat of a human being on level with Stephanie Meyer. I would love to get paid handsomely for my writing, but, more importantly, I want people to take what I have to say, to read what I have written down, and have it affect their lives in some way. I want people to read my novels and come away with a slightly altered understanding of something. I want people to read my essays and realize that, very much so, they are not alone in their experiences (or that everyone's varying experiences have the same common core).

After a few false starts, I have been using this post-full-time-job downtime to write, and write constantly. Sometimes I write a little more in my third manuscript. Sometimes I write yet another essay. Sometimes I work on a certain writing project that is far too much in its infancy for me to talk about publicly yet. And sometimes I just write about my day, on top of writing an entry in this blog.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Day 72 of 365: Hot Yoga

I hate hot yoga.

Specifically, I hate Bikram Yoga.

It's fad yoga, it's unnecessarily uncomfortable, it's potentially dangerous to do, and its leader is a megalomaniacal pervert who uses his cult following to proposition and assault unsuspecting girls.

I seriously hate Bikram Yoga.

I hate that, because it's the latest fad, it's what people turn to if they are interested in yoga. People who have no background in what yoga entails enter a 105*F room and proceed to sweat and dehydrate and exhaust their muscles, not understanding when to refuel, when to rehydrate, when to replenish electrolytes, when to call it a fucking day before you pass out.

I hate that the people I know who "tried yoga and hated it" all tried hot yoga. I get some reassurance when said people try a different style of yoga and realize that it's not all about stuffing yourself into a sauna and putting your ankle by your ear, but, usually, people try hot yoga, hate it, and give up on yoga as a whole.

In a similar vein, I also hate yogis who get so wrapped up in their western-Hindu-quasi-spirituality that they drive away people who simply want peace of mind alongside a more flexible body.

But not nearly as much as I hate Bikram yoga.

I recognize that Bikram yoga will go the way of every fad exercise: Jazzercise, Tae Bo, P90x. The only difference is that I've yet to hear about anyone pressing charges against Billy Blanks for indecent assault. No one went into Tae Bo because they were interested in Taekwondo and figured this was the best path. No one ever needed to worry about deplenished electrolytes in the middle of a Jazzercise class. There's no cult of personality surrounding the creator of Zumba. At least I don't think so.

These are things I think about as I toe into the idea of teacher training. Almost every instructor I know grimaces when they hear about hot yoga, and, after a few years of practicing vinyasa yoga, I understood why. I twitch when a friend or former co-worker talks about yoga, only to mean hot yoga or Bikram yoga. Thanks, but no thanks. I'll do my own thing. Far, far, far away from Bikram.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Day 71 of 365: Be Kind To Your Children's Teachers

Be kind to your children's teachers.

Be damn kind to your children's teachers. If you drop off your child in the classroom, say hello. Compliment the new decorations. There's a good chance he or she worked off the clock to make the room festive. Remind your children to listen to their teachers. To respect their teachers. And don't forget to respect them yourselves, because if your kids see you act disrespectfully -- even at home, even on the phone to your friends -- then they will, to.

Be understanding to your children's teachers. Don't be that parent who points out a typographical error in a newsletter. Understand that the newsletter was probably typed up at midnight on a schoolnight, with tired, bleary eyes desperately trying to blink away the exhaustion. Understand that, much like the decorations, she's doing this on her own time.

Be realistic in your expectations. Your children's teachers are doing all they can to make sure everyone gets a quality education. That those who need individual education plans will get individual education plans. That those who need a little extra help will get that extra help. But he is one teacher amongst upwards of 45 students. If your child is getting a D in a subject, don't yell at the teacher. Don't demand an explanation as to why your child isn't making the grade. Help your damn child. Study with him. Work alongside the teacher; see what you can do to complement the day's lessons. Don't have the time or energy to help turn that D into a B? Then don't expect your child's teacher to, either. You might've had a 45-hour work week; your child's teacher has a 45-student classroom (and probably a 60-hour week to boot).

Stop it with the snide remarks. Teaching is not babysitting. Teaching is not a part-time job. Don't like how kids are taught to take tests? Take it up with the school district. Take it up with your local, state, federal politicians. Support government officials who campaign against standardized testing and universal, cookie-cutter lesson goals. But, for the love of God, do not use that against your children's teachers, or any teacher. Odds are, they are just as frustrated as you, being forced to go down such a formulaic route that sucks all the joy out of learning.

By the way: "those who can, do; those who can't, teach"? Nah, kid. Those who can, do. Those who can't, criticize.

Show your gratitude. Your teacher could be in any other job, with better pay, fewer hours, and considerably less stress. A job that doesn't force her to attend hours upon hours of workshops -- usually on the teacher's dime, and in their free time -- in order to keep their job. With the burnout rate as high as it is, it is small wonder if any teacher can stay at any school for longer than 5 years. But your children's teachers are there. Working tirelessly, usually with administration breathing down their backs, usually with parents who drop their kids off at 6:30 in the morning, pick them up at 5:30 that afternoon, and still make the joke that teaching is a part-time job. Show that you acknowledge and respect what they are doing.

Tell them this. Sometimes the only time a teacher hears anything from a parent, it's in the form of a complaint. Sometimes a formal complaint that will go on the teacher's record, sometimes over things as tiny as a typographical error or shoddy penmanship (you laugh, but I've seen it happen). Thank them. You don't have to buy them presents on Teacher Appreciation Day, but you damn should write them a Thank You note. Have your child help you write the Thank You note, if not write a note as well.

Be active with your children. Sometimes the best, kindest thing you can do for your children's teachers is the best thing you can do for your children themselves. Care about their field trips. Attend their Open Houses. Ask about their day and work with them if anything is the matter. For the love of God, get off your damn cell phone when entering the school.

Be kind to your teachers. If you go in with a low image of them and the education world at large, if you go in already expecting the teacher to mess up the education of your young child, if you go in with any type of improper attitude, you are doing a world of damage.

They are not miracle workers. They are not there to raise your children in place of you. They are not there to move mountains, even if they wish to. They are your partners in education. They will do whatever is in their power to provide instruction and guidance during school hours (and sometimes beyond). They will lay the foundations that only the nurturing from the child's guardians can build from. They will set the base that only life experiences outside of the classroom can continue from. They will butt heads with administration, advocate when no one else is advocating, and sacrifice more than any teacher should sacrifice in the name of their students.

So you better be damn kind to your children's teachers.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Day 70 of 365: Missing the Boat

I got a very amusing phone call from one of my oldest friends yesterday.

There had been a bomb scare at my old high school on Friday, followed immediately by a bank robbery a mile down the street.

This is not the amusing part.

My friend's younger sister is currently a para-professional at the high school. Because of the bomb scare, she got a chance to talk with the substitute teacher in the room she was working in. Turns out, the substitute teacher is also a graduate of our high school, but from the year before my friend's (and mine) -- something my friend's sister noted when she heard the graduation year.

The substitute asked who the older sister was. Upon hearing her name, the substitute replied, "I remember her! She was friends with Abby."

"You know, I used to date Abby, back in high school."

My friend had been very clever in keeping the substitute's name to herself until that very moment. While I had had a string of high school boyfriends (remember that thing I said about not believing in long-term relationships when I was 20? The fact that I went through boys like water in high school somewhat built that belief), I had only dated one guy from the class before mine.

We'll call him Ben.

Ben went on to talk about how he had seen my pictures on Facebook -- particularly those from my modeling page. He then told my friend's sister, "I really missed the boat on that one."

To say Ben wasn't the perfect boyfriend would be a bit of an understatement. But, as high school boyfriends go, he was about on par with a good chunk of his peers. There were lies and wandering eyes, self-serving actions and words that were said regardless of their weight. I was Taylor Swift before Taylor Swift was a thing. All I needed was a guitar to spill my teardrops onto and I could've had a platinum country album waiting for me.

But, truth be told, if we all had our high school misdeeds held against us even into adulthood, most of us would be paralyzed by embarrassment or guilt or shame. Heaven knows I wasn't exactly Mother Teresa in my teenaged years. We actually reconciled two or so years later, when I was a freshman in college. He apologized for being a dick and he actually admitted that he still had feelings for me. At this point in my life, I was wrapped up in an ugly, one-sided pseudo-relationship with a rushing to-be-frat-boy (that I mentioned a very long time ago. Did I also call him Ben in that post? Apparently I like the name "Ben".), so the news was vindicating, validating, but little much else. My heart was so tied up that I almost chuckled at my high school "romance".

(The same way I'd look back on that frat boy time and chuckle at my naïve freshman-year "romance", but that's for another time).

So, in a way, hearing what Ben had recently said wasn't all too surprising for me. What did surprise me, however, was that nearly 7 years after we had reconciled (and he had made his big reveal), he was so readily able to talk about how he had screwed up/missed out.

I know how it's going to make me sound, but I don't really care: I fully recognize that I'm living out every outcast nerd's dream. People really didn't give me the time of day in my hometown. It got a little better in high school, but not by much. I simply went from the butt of jokes to...nonexistent to the "important" cliques. Boys that I had crushes on would find out I liked them and head for the hills. Does wonders for your self-esteem, let me tell you.

Then I graduated, started modeling, got signed to an agency. I slowly figured out how to dress and do my makeup (and while, at 27, I'm still learning, I have come a long way from when I was 15 and wearing blue eyeshadow). I traveled, went on adventures, met the man of my dreams, and got married in a castle (by a castle, but still...) I morphed into the person I knew I could be all along, and a lot of people who derided me are now following my modeling page. I was the person who looked forward to her 10-year reunion, because, unlike many, I didn't peak in high school.

There is something fitting, however, when you find out about the regret certain boys who didn't treat you right still have. I don't get that from every guy who treated me poorly (while frat-boy eventually apologized for how he treated me, I've yet to hear about any actual regret. But then again, I don't exactly have my ears out for it in the first place), but it's nice when it happens. Any girl can tell you that, no matter how pro-women-power, anti-Disney-princess, "We Can Do It!" you get, nothing destroys your self-esteem quite like a lover scorning you. Or even a would-be lover. You feel like there's something wrong about you -- like there's some unlovable. It doesn't matter how things actually are, because that's how it feels to you. So, to get a little vindication, even after a decade (wow, a solid decade since I dated Ben. How about that for feeling old?), is nice.

Granted, all it gave present-day me was a good chuckle and a chance to catch up with a friend whom I haven't talked with since the housewarming party. But part of me wanted to jump into a time machine, whisk back to 2004, and relay the news to 17-year-old me. And give 17-year-old me a high-five. *Edit - Turns out I called him Daniel. Guess I don't like the name as much as I thought I did.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Day 69 of 365: A Word or Two About the Shutdown

I don't consider myself a political person -- in that I feel like what I do should be the general baseline for continued citizenship. I think every person should be aware of what's going on and speak out when things aren't going properly. It doesn't matter if you're a capitalist, a socialist, a libertarian, a liberal...fiscally conservative, fiscally liberal...discourse and debate is what keeps things from falling into the status quo. Few things irk me like those who brush off those who keep up with and have opinions on political matters, saying things as dismissive as, "I didn't know everyone suddenly got their degree in political science." You don't need to dedicate your life to the ins and outs of every bill and law (and personal life of politicians) to care about how your country is run.

We are now in the heart of Week 2 of the shutdown. Most likely, we will see a Week 3. And a Week 4. Maybe even more. I honestly don't see it resolving anytime soon, and I honestly don't see the resolution being something that would actually help America.

And I haven't talked about it until now because...I'm exhausted by it. To be honest, how anyone can watch the news and not feel this nagging, nihilistic, depressive voice ring loud in your ears is beyond me. One of my friends calls it GFS: Government Fatigue Syndrome. When you have been bombarded with all these near-crises and empty threats and each side calling the other a nazi or a communist and you just end up numb.

Because, really, if I thought about it, I would get angry. I would get more than angry. I would be infuriated. Look at what these essentially-toddlers are doing to our country. Look at how they are destroying our international reputation (like it was in such a great position since 2004 anyway). Look at how they are driving nearly a million people out of their jobs, simply because they had the audacity to take up a job with the government. Look at how they are cashing in their paychecks while paying military servicemen with IOUs.

And, honestly, I don't care about anyone's feelings on Obamacare/Affordable Care Act. It sets an ugly precedent to hold the nation's budget hostage until an act that has already been passed into law is defunded. It's the little kid who locks himself in his parents' bedroom and threatens to break all the fragile items, unless his parents change their minds about summer school. Even if ACA would be a horrible, horrible, social-life-threatening decision, acting in such a way will almost guarantee that your parents will shove you off to summer school. And maybe military school after that.

But the real thing that bothers me -- the real thing that makes me want to Hulk Rage -- are the people who are shrugging their shoulders are going, "Well, the shutdown doesn't affect me!" Great. Absolutely great. Much like the Japanese Internment Camps didn't affect my grandparents. Just because it doesn't affect you doesn't mean it isn't causing real damage. Because, thanks to the shutdown, Head Start, Meals on Wheels, WIC -- all suspended indefinitely. I've already touched upon the 800,000 people who are either without a job or working for free, all the military people who have been furloughed or continue to risk their lives for a promise of a paycheck (because promises is how you make rent, am I right?) People can't get loans. Our food isn't being inspected (ooooh, doesn't affect you, you say? Enjoy your potentially-food-poisoning-inducing sushi, asshole).

And here is one way it affects you: this is the start of something scary. Lack of bipartisan cooperation has been on the rise for years now -- let's go so far to say for over a decade. This right here is the crowning achievement. And I see two things happening: a government overhaul the likes of which this country has not seen (at least since the Revolutionary War), or a country that collapses economically under its government's own asshattery. One of the two. One of those, I would like to see happen. One of those, I see happening instead. I'll give you a moment to figure out which is which.

And see -- this is why I haven't talked about it until now. It's exhausting, it's frustrating, it makes me rage in a way that I do not like raging. And it gets me no where. Elections aren't for a long while. It's painfully clear that the American voice is being ignored.

So there you have it. My words on the shutdown. And, like Jon Stewart, I think I'm going to stop talking about the shutdown now. Because it really is one of those things that is so inane, so maddening, so disheartening, that any time spent on it is time wasted.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Day 68 of 365: Thought Catalog and Blah Blah Blahs

The biggest upshot to my 365 blog is that I'm never without a steady stream of essays-in-waiting.

I don't know what it is about the Gen Y culture. Maybe it's because we grew up reading David Sedaris. Maybe it's because we're all self-obsessed and would rather write about ourselves and our experiences than about made-up characters (or other real-life people). But, as a whole, we love essays. The main character in Girls is an essay writer, hoping to make it big with her stories about herself (and if there were ever a show that best embodied the self-centered nature of Gen Y "artists", that show is it).

I loved the idea of essay-writing. Ideally, I would write essays the way David Sedaris does: anecdotal stories of my past told him an absurdly humorous way. But, truth be told, ideas came and went and, while they played out in my mind while waiting for the T or being stuck in traffic, they never made the jump to the concrete world.

Then, I finally wrote, "Teaching: A Noble Quit". If only because I desperately needed to sort out the complex emotions that leaving the education world behind brought. I decided to submit it to Thought Catalog, even though the site had way more than its fair share of creative writing majors who wanted to be the next ~big essayist~.

Much to my surprise, it was published the next day. And it caught on a little bit. A few teachers (and former teachers) talked about their experiences in the education world. A week or two later, I started up the 365 Blog, and wrote out my blah blah blahs until they made a semi-cohesive post.

They are not all winners. I will be the first to admit that. But, every once in a while, I find one that I like enough to polish up and submit to Thought Catalog. A few got rejected. A few slipped through the cracks. But a few more got published. By the third essay, I got an email from one of the producers, telling him to start submitting my essays directly to him. I sent him my "27 Things I Learned by 27" and it became my most successful essay to date.

It feels good, knowing that I'm toeing into "frequent contributor" territory with the magazine. And, really, it's all thanks to my 365 Blog. While I still feel like I'm drudging through swampland with my third manuscript (I write a page or two and downright feel my brain collapse under the strain), I feel like I'm becoming a little less scattered with my thoughts. I can break down the blah blah blahs until they're no longer random emotions and thoughts, but an actual idea.

And sometimes that idea is absolute bollocks. And sometimes the idea is worth submitting to other places.

Feel like reading slightly edited versions of this blog on Thought Catalog? Follow me on my writer's page at:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Day 67 of 365: Onwards and Upwards

It might've been a bit premature, but I sent out my very first query for my second manuscript.

To say my second manuscript has been hanging out on the back burner ever since my NaNoWriMo whirlwind would be an understatement. I knew editing the book was going to be a bumpy ride. Given my manic writing sessions (and my tendency to type a completely different word than what I was thinking), I knew the proverbial red ink would be flying.

Also, I wasn't sure if I was ready to break down a book about the childcare world. Partly because I'm still a little tender from leaving the education world behind. Partly because I know that the market isn't exactly champing at the bit for a book about daycare centers. Because I have logged at least 100+ man hours editing my first manuscript, only to realize that my pipe dreams of bestsellerdom are exactly that: pipe dreams.

But, as I've mentioned before, I still cast my net out from time to time, the same way a janitor keeps buying one last lottery ticket. The odds are against me, but I can't help but hold out hope that maybe -- just maybe -- I'll luck out this time.

To be honest, I went a little backwards with my second manuscript. Instead of editing it, editing it again, having my peers read it, polishing it up, and then writing a query, I started editing it because I had already figured out how to write its query letter.

For those who haven't spent time around agents or would-be novelists, a query is a glorified cover letter that sums up your book, your publishing experiences, and why your book is obviously going to be a hit. Like regular cover letters, they are about as fun to write as a title deed. And, for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to start my query for my second manuscript. I came up with one sentence: "All Anne ever wanted was to be a teacher." Which is about as clichéd and uninspiring as they can get.

Then, in the middle of a yoga class's savasana (aka the resting pose after a sequence), it finally came to me. Granted, it came at the expense of ~letting go of all my thoughts and emotions~ like I'm supposed to in savasana but, oh well. I go to that particular yoga studio at least once or twice a week. I'd manage.

I scribbled down what I remembered into my little purse notebook (a staple of any pretentious, would-be writer) and, like that, I was off.

Now, sending out the query is a bit premature: I'm only 1/4 of the way done with my first edit. I've probably gone through 4 or 5 rounds of edits with my first manuscript and I still don't consider myself completely done. But it feels good, knowing that I finally have this ball rolling. Granted, I might be Sisyphus, and the direction the ball is rolling is downhill, but at least there's some movement.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Day 66 of 365: A Little Tale About Milo

When it comes to intelligence in a feline, Salem cannot be beat.

Whether it's because he developed street smarts living as a stray for the first 6 months of his life, or he's just naturally gifted, having Salem is like having a small, furry 3-year-old in the house. He's a complicated cat with complicated emotions. He's figured out how to open handled doors. He understands that it's warmer under blankets and will join us in bed on cold nights. He can jump so far and so high that he's impressed anti-cat people. His predatory skills are why we've never had a mouse problem in any place we've lived. I've seen him find a darting mouse, dash sideways, and land with one paw on the head, the other on the butt. Salem is a smart, smart, crazy smart cat.

Milo, on the other hand, is a blithering idiot.

I love my little guy. But, holy cow, is he not a cat. He can't even jump on things as high as the kitchen counter. He doesn't even know how to paw open a partially-opened door (in fact, he'll just butt his head against it until the door it full shut, then meow pitifully). As I've said on many an occasion, he's my dumb little chihuahua. I love him. I absolutely love him. I love his squeaky meow and the fact that he likes following me from room to room. But, man he is dumb.

Milo got into the habit of meowing out at night. It wasn't too late at night: we would feed them their last meal of the day, go upstairs, turn out the lights, and an hour later hear Milo. We tried to figure out why he was meowing. We figured it was due to the moving, but it was only at night. And almost exactly an hour after their last feeding. It wasn't until my husband got up, went out to the top of the steps, and called Milo's name after a series of meows did we understand why he started going this.

Milo, upon hearing his name, trotted up the stairs like a happy little elf, followed my husband into the bedroom, hopped onto the bed, and purred his little heart out.

The little bugger was crying because he had no clue where we were.

He always eventually figured it out -- I've found him on our bed every morning since the move-in -- but, every single night, he had a moment of, "WHERE ARE THEY?!" And who knows that long it lasted without our intervention.

So, like the proper crazy cat people, we fed the cats, went upstairs early and, when Milo would cry, we'd call out for him, and he'd follow our voices into the bedroom. Every single night. As if our bedroom changes on him.

Last night, I decided to skip the meowing and just bring him upstairs with us. He spent a few minutes with us before promptly returning downstairs. I looked over to my husband and went, "If he meows at midnight again because he doesn't know where we are, I'm going to lose my mind."

Within minutes, Milo returned to the room, this time with his teddy bear in his mouth.

Milo has this tiny cat toy that he has had since he was adopted. It was originally a stringed toy, but the string broke years ago. The fabric is dirty and thin. The eyes are missing. I bought him a replacement teddy, but he wasn't having it. His teddy is his favorite toy. When we moved, his love for the teddy bear increased threefold. He even brought the bear with him from room to room to room for the first three weeks.

Milo trotted into the room, dropped the teddy into the room, and proceeded to pay attention to us yet again. I nearly fell out of the bed from the cuteness attack.

I know this is an I Can Haz Cheezburger post, but oh well. That was stickin' cute. That he wanted to be with us at night, but first he needed to get his bear. A bear that he's had since he was 7 weeks old. A bear where no substitutions will compare. A bear that he plays with, tosses in the air, cleans, carries, pounces -- essentially treats it like a little kitten brother.

It's cute, dammit. And I feel stupidly lucky that I have two sweet, loving cats with adorable personalities. Even if one is technically as dumb as rocks.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Day 65 of 365: A Few Words About Dieting

I've been reading excerpts of Nick Carter's memoir Facing the Music (And Living to Talk About It). Excerpts, instead of the entire thing, because I've heard some pretty damning things about the book and I figured I was better off reading what I could online for free before investing $25 on a book that is only out in hardcover right now.

So far, I have to agree with the reviewers. The style of writing is exhaustingly monotonous. It's repetitive. It doesn't reveal anything that any fan wouldn't already know. It dives into self-help. A lot. In fact, I'd say the book is 1 part memoir, 9 parts "self-help". And I hate self-help books. They tend to be the same droll in different wording, and they never address the actual issues at hand (and, let's face it: if you're reading self-help, you'd do yourself a world of good to get outside help as well).

One of the things I read threw me for a loop: in a section about nutrition, Nick Carter talks about avoiding (or at least limiting) apples because they are high in calories and sugar.

Erm, what?

Maybe it's because I talked about crap eating yesterday, but that just got me angry. Because I've heard it before. I've heard tons of "nutrition" websites talking about avoiding fruits because they are actually "bad" for you!

Here's the issue: yes, fruits are high in sugar. Natural sugar. Good sugar. The sugar, you know, we need? You know, the reason why a drop in blood sugar is a bad thing? You need sugar. The same way you need sodium. You just don't need processed sugar, or the absurdly high amounts of salt, in food.

If you're big on the paleo diet, you know just how vital fruits are. Our ancestors ate a ton of fruits and vegetables. You don't have to believe in the paleo diet to recognize that eating like this probably shaped how humans evolved. Fruits are good, and any nutritionist who tells you that you should avoid fruit should have their practicing license revoked.

Maybe if you're just gorging yourself on apples and grapes and bananas (and not exercising) and wondering why you haven't lost any weight, I can see recognizing that your intake in general is too high and you need to cut back on the apples (and vegetables, and grains, and proteins). And hell, at the end of the day, I'm not a nutritionist, so I'm just saying this based on my limited education on the subject.

But this is one thing I know: very few people are in a position where too many apples is even an issue. Two out of three Americans are considered significantly overweight. One of out three are morbidly obese. Only 15% of America's population gets a sufficient amount of exercise each week. Americans eat, on average, 156 pounds of granulated sugar every year. You tell the masses that apples are bad for them, and you're not helping their nutrition one bit. You'll get people who avoid apples because the internet told them to, only to dive headfirst into a SnackPack because, "Hey, it's only 100 calories!" Yeah, and processed sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, but you're right: the SnackPacks are the way to go instead.

I cannot stomach these types of "findings". This comes from the same pool of nuttos who told us to eat a carb-only diet, only to turn around and say that carbs were bad (and to be avoided at all costs), only to turn around yet again that carbs are good, but in moderation. It's no better than the fad diets and the cleanses. All it does is distract and confuse people who genuinely want to eat better and be in better shape.

My advice? Eat intelligently. Fruits and veggies and proper portions. Lots of physical activity. If a fifth grader can't read what the ingredients are, it's probably not as great for you as you want it to be. And, for the love of God, don't listen to a pop star with a poorly written memoir.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 64 of 365: Runner's Diet

Half-marathon training has absolutely destroyed my diet.

And by "diet" I don't mean, "counting calories, Slimfast Shakes, and gumming celery sticks LOL!" I mean my actual way of eating.

I've been on a health food kick for the last couple of years, which only got more intense when we moved to Nashua and a Trader Joe's was right down the street from us. When I ran 3 to 5 miles on average, I would end my runs thinking, "Well, that was refreshing! I would like to eat an apple or a salad and continue on this healthy living practice."

After my training runs, I have only one thought on my mind:


I guess that's the difference between burning 400 calories and burning all your calories.

It didn't help that we moved 30 minutes up north, where the local health food shop is exactly the type of organic grocery store that everyone hates. It also didn't help that, in the midst of micro-renovating the house and packing up the apartment, we ate a lot of delivery, a lot of take-out. And it also didn't help that I started hitting the longer distances around this time as well.

Take, for instance, a few days ago: I ran 7.64 miles, went grocery shopping, and downed an entire bag of Cheetos in one sitting. And not one of those, "travel sized!" bags. I mean the kind that technically has 7-9 servings in it. Granted, it was Trader Joe's brand, baked Cheetos, but Cheetos all the same. I'm not nearly delusional enough to think that, just because I bought it at Trader Joe's, the food is suddenly good for me.

I've been trying to get back into the healthy food for fuel attitude, but it's difficult when quinoa takes 15 minutes to cook and the bag of potato chips is right there.

I'm not beating myself up over it, as a 12-mile run burns up 1500 calories (and probably a bit of fat, too, given that a little protein bar in my left hand is not going to magically give me all the calories I need to run an additional three miles). But I'm trying to make a more conscious effort of eating decently. Eating whole foods and avoiding processed crap (because sodium benzoate doesn't giving a flying shit if I've been running for the last 2 hours).

My half marathon is now less than 3 weeks away. With any luck, my running schedule will included three more half-marathons (including the Boston Half Marathon), the Chicago Marathon, and the Boston Marathon, spanning from today until April 2015. It's ambitious, but if there were ever a time to test my physical limits, this is it. And may all the Cheetos and chips wait for me at the finish line.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Day 63 of 365: Tai Chi Me

I've talked about Model Me: that part of my personality that never truly comes out unless I'm modeling or acting. It's a vibrant, assertive, confident side of me that runs wild and unfettered. A side of me that I've been trying to integrate into my everyday life, but with staggeringly slow success.

I've been teaching tai chi for the last month or so. I always go into each class a little unsure, only to lose myself in the form and find that a solid hour has already passed. Whereas my own instructor taught me the form at an intense pace (which I loved, but I can see how off-putting it can be to other Westerners), I go slowly. I break down each move. I put everything into simple terms and provide "cheat cues" to remember what part of the body moves at what point. My voice drops a decibel or eight and I provide instruction in a way that has been described as melodic -- almost like a lullaby.

I've noticed that there is something different about me when I teach tai chi. Different than when I taught young kids. With the kids, I was always high energy. Even when I was trying to curtail a tantrum or help a kid go down for nap. My heart was always going a mile a minute and I developed a habit of constantly darting my eyes around the room, even if I was paying attention to just one kid. With tai chi, I'm calmer. I'm more patient. I go with the ebb and flow and laugh off whatever stumbles occur. I feel like I'm in the middle of the best yoga class ever. I'm so irritatingly peaceful that I feel like I could take a nap immediately after class, even though we all worked up a steady sweat.

I've decided to call this Tai Chi Me. And, like Model Me, it's something I hope to actually integrate into my day-to-day life. It's reassuring to know that I can be that calm -- and I don't need a yoga teacher to guide me into that feeling -- and I can be that understanding. It forces me to take a step back and laugh at how I must be outside of modeling and tai chi/yoga. Really, who is this quiet, passive girl with neurotic tendencies and an Irish temper?

It's why I've been seriously considering my yoga studio's teacher training in January. I have until the end of the month to decide, as deposits are due by then. Part of me has been shying away from the idea, if only because the cost of the classes and textbooks and the workshops can be as high as $3000. But something in me keeps tugging me back to the idea and I cannot shake that I'm supposed to be in this year's class. I know everyone and their cousin wants to be a yoga teacher these days, but, if tai chi is any indication, teaching yoga will only expand on that peaceful side of me. Not to mention I love teaching adults -- people who actually want to be there -- and being able to concretely see the progress that they are making.

In a perfect world, I'd get a scholarship for a one-month intensive training session in Costa Rica or Peru. Most likely, I'll be doing the "nights and weekends" training in good old New England for 6 months to a year. Regardless, I'm excited for what the future will bring, and only time will tell if Model Me and Tai Chi Me and Yoga Me just meld together in regular, everyday "me".

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Day 62 of 365: The Combat Zone

For the first time since we closed on the house, my husband and I had an actual date night. We went to our favorite restaurant and enjoyed the comedic stylings of Ralphie May. Before and after the show, my husband and I meandered around the downtown area. I pointed out where my old orthodontist worked (a building now owned by Suffolk University). We wandered the streets and looked up at the buildings and -- to be very honest -- felt a low and lingering sadness.

The downtown area has a huge place in my heart. It was the only place I knew well when I was a kid. I knew Filene's and the Common and Tremont St. as well as neighborhoods in my own hometown. When I grew older, I discovered Brattle Books -- particularly their outside library of $1 books -- and fell in love with the store so much that it became the base for the bookstore in my first manuscript. My husband designed and purchased my engagement ring at a jeweler in the downtown area. Save for the neighborhoods that surround Northeastern, I'm hard pressed to think of an area in Boston I adore more.

But, somewhere along the line, downtown Boston started slipping. Businesses moved or went out of business and large storefronts were abandoned. And, instead of lowering prices and accepting new companies, buildings remained completely vacant, as no one could afford the absurdly high rent. The old Filene's building was torn down for a mega-complex...a mega-complex that ran out of funding immediately after demolition. A giant hole gated off by a chainlink fence has accented Downtown Crossing for the last 5 years.

There are still signs of life. Suffolk has purchased buildings left and right and, while I hate that the buildings lose their individual flavor as they become yet another hall at a university, I'm happy that they are being used and maintained. Emerson purchased the Paramount -- a gorgeous theatre that had fallen into disuse over the last couple of decades -- and the neon lights shine once again. But still: you toss a stone from the Paramount and hit 3 buildings that don't have a single office or store operating in them.

I can't help but worry that this could turn the downtown area back into the Combat Zone. Somewhat like Times Square before Giuliani, the downtown area was once filled with sex shops and peepshows. Drug deals and prostitution ran rampant. Then, in a move is dwarfed only by Times Square's overhaul, the downtown area changed. Strip clubs were zoned out. Real estate developers swooped in. Residents in Chinatown went toe-to-toe with street crime and, with the help of increased police force, helped curb the crime rate. Universities and colleges started buying buildings. The RMV moved in. A movie theatre was built. And suddenly the downtown area was where college kids went for 19+ clubs and tourists went for shopping (and to visit Ben Franklin's grave).

Now, do not get me wrong: I have a pretty libertarian view on the sex business. If you prostitute yourself (or care to seek out prostitutes), then that's your prerogative. It's going to happen no matter what, and the only sensible thing to do is legalize it and regulate and keep the women safe in licensed brothels instead of on the streets with pimps. I'm the same way about drugs. Best way to stop organized crime is the legalize what people are trying to buy anyway. But, obviously, neither of those things are going to be happening anytime soon in America, so drugs and prostitution and crime are going to continue to go hand-in-hand, and I hate the idea of a neighborhood I know and love going into such disrepair that even the college students vacate out and drug dealers come back in.

I have faith that the downtown area won't go down that route, but it's still sad to see what the area has become. I just hope that, when I have kids and are showing them around the city, they won't be seeing vacated buildings and a hole in the ground, but a proper, thriving, Downtown Crossing.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Day 61 of 365: The First House

By a bit of luck, I broke 12 miles yesterday. I set out to run only 11 miles, but I'm still unfamiliar with the intricate network of neighborhoods and I had decided to go with a completely new route. I got made a wrong turn, misread the directions I had cryptically scribbled on the palm of my hand, and ended up adding an extra mile to the mix.

I picked the route I did because I learned (from driving, interestingly enough) that one of my longer running routes was incredibly close to a road I will call Cornelle Blvd. I changed around a few directions and added a trek to Cornelle Blvd and back, even though it meant taking a route that I finally knew by heart and turning it on its ear.

I got lost, got sore, felt the new, tender skin on the bottom of my foot sing and sizzle with every step (normal women pay good money to get the tough skin on their feet sloughed off. I get frustrated when it happens naturally). I quickly learned that the "hop, skip, and a jump" in a car was a two mile, uphill trek on foot. But I kept on going until I crossed town lines, turned right onto Cornelle Blvd, and ran past 34 Cornelle Blvd.

It's seems a little silly to put so much effort into passing a house, but 34 Cornelle Blvd was the first house. The very first house we officially looked at, on our very first outing with our realtor.

Our meeting with the realtor was considered preliminary: we were test driving her as a realtor as much as we were test driving these houses. Although we really didn't need to meet with any other realtors. On top of coming fully recommended by two of our friends, she had an appreciation for sarcasm and cynical humor, which is essential if you are going to spend more than 10 seconds in a room with my husband.

The house itself was lovely. We spent the car ride back talking about how we liked the house, how we could definitely see ourselves living in a house like that, how we wouldn't mind if that was the house we ended up buying. It was not the passionate excitement that we were hoping for, but only time would tell if housebuying would ever result in such a feeling. For all we knew, searching for a home could be as cold and pragmatic as finding a bank to get a loan from.

We held out hope. Even as we went to house, after house, after house. After we listed about 80+ homes, only to find out that half of them would close before we got a chance to see it (one house went on the market on Day 1, went on our list on Day 2, and accepted an offer on Day 3). We went into absolutely beautiful houses -- houses anyone should be happy to be living in -- and felt like things were just a little off. The layout was not to our exact specifications. The living room bled too much into the kitchen and eating areas. The neighborhood was too cookie cutter and formulaic.

We almost went back to Cornelle Blvd. After visiting about 35 homes in person, Cornelle was still at the top of our list. We didn't love it, but we liked it. A lot. And maybe that would be enough. It was definitely better than a good portion of the houses we had found (some houses were in such a state of disrepair that we took one look at it and went, "Well, this was fun.") But, for the amount of money a house costs, we weren't ready to settle. Especially since we had out apartment until November (and, as we learned, the fees and penalties with breaking a lease with them is enough to cripple anyone financially).

And then we found the house we live in now. The colors were off, the decorations were gaudy. It had a basement garage instead of a first floor garage. But it was home. We had a good feeling coming in to the visit -- a feeling that only intensified as we went from room to room to room. It wasn't perfect -- heaven knew we would spend a lot of money to repaint 80% of the interior and end up storing away 90% of the decorative things they left behind for us -- but it was love. We asked for a second visit, if only to keep ourselves to impulsively making an offer on the spot. We drove home, trying to find rational reasons why this house was our house, only to find ourselves quickly descending into pumping our fists to "Cotton Eye Joe" and eating celebratory ice cream.

I didn't initially set out to find such a comparison, but I couldn't help but see the parallels: the way I discuss the house search is almost verbatim how people discuss the dating world. She likes him, but she doesn't love him. He wouldn't be upset if she was someone he ended up marrying. Maybe she should go back to a previous partner; he was always the one she liked best, and she has been dealing with nothing but losers as of late. And maybe that's what the dating world is -- settling with whatever you can find, that that euphoric moment of realizing you found something incredible only happens in books.

And this is why the divorce rate is so high. So many people who look around and go, "Good enough," because they don't have faith that they'll ever find better. People in unhealthy relationships who decide that a marriage will solve everything -- and, hey, we have the rest of our lives to figure out how not to make each other miserable! And then that house that was literally right around the corner will get passed by, and you'll never get that exciting first date, or that moment of realization that you've found your match. And you'll never pump your fists to "Cotton Eye Joe" and eat ice cream to celebrate.

Maybe I'm not one to talk: I met my husband when I was a few months shy of 20 -- and at a time when I didn't believe in marriage or long-term relationships -- so I never had to worry about the adult dating pool, or that anxiety over whether or not the person you are dating is the person you'll start a family with. The idea of marriage and long-term plans came organically, like watching the leaves change color and fall to the ground. There was never a moment where I had to look around, shrug my shoulders, and go, "Good enough, I guess."

But still, I ran by the house yesterday, looking over at it as much as I could without literally running myself off the road. It really is a nice house: a little farmer's porch to one side, large bay windows in the front. The realtor sign is gone, and I can only imagine who eventually put an offer on it. It's a house anyone should feel lucky to live in. But it wasn't the house for us. Something I know with even more certainty as I compare it to the house I have now, a house that is over 6 miles away but, in some ways, just right around the corner.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Day 60 of 365: King's Campground

It seems fitting my last entry included a poem about King's Campground. A crappy poem, but a poem all the same.

I had a gig yesterday for SportRack. I was pumped that I had finally nailed a job through my newest agency. The only drawback? The shoot location was on the coast of Connecticut. Call time? 9:30 a.m. And, since it was essentially a fitness shoot, I was in charge of hair and makeup, and I needed to arrive ready to shoot.

The shoot itself went quicker than expected. I spent a few hours hoisting up and down a kayak from an SUV and carrying it off to the shoreline, all the while acting way too happy for the amount of strain I was putting on my shoulders and back. But it was worth it, just to be on the beach again. I spent an additional hour after we wrapped just walking where the ocean met the sand, taking my own set of pictures and listening to Maria Mena's "I Always Liked That" on constant repeat.

I had to stop for gas halfway through my trip back to New Hampshire. I pulled off at a little gas station over the Massachusetts border, only to realize that I had pulled off in Douglas, MA. Which is next door to Sutton, MA. Which is home to King's Campground.

I haven't been to King's in years. Years. In fact, I haven't been there in almost exactly 8 years (give or take a week). Part of me hesitated: I had left Connecticut at a good time and, for the most part, had been avoiding any rush hour traffic. This excursion would almost definitely land me in prime rush hour traffic time. But I knew I had to: there was no telling when I would be in the area again, and I would kick myself if I let something as practical as traffic affect a trip down memory lane.

I checked to make sure I still had battery life in my camera and went onwards. I thought about all the things I would want to photograph: the general store, the pavilion, the little house on the hill that I had sworn someday I would buy.

I drove down the little roads, twisting and turning and passing by all the familiar sights: the waterslide park that we went to a grand total of once, the store set up by the local farm, the set of signs that told drivers where each campground was.

And, off in the distance, stood King's Campground. Where a lifetime of memories had been made. Where I had my first encounter with an emu (thanks to the petting zoo). Where I had my first encounter with love. Where I swore I would return someday, in some fashion.

There stood King's Campground: a total disappointment.

The general store was closed already for the season. The petting zoo was gone, the fences torn down, the chicken coup and stables long gone, replaced by more camping sites. The owner's home across the street -- a place that was just so cool when I was a teenager -- revealed itself to be a simple ranch house, with a little inground pool surrounded by a chainlink fence off to the side. The roads felt more narrow than I remember. The lake didn't have the same splendor. Even the house on the hill was just a house: a feeble cape with a broken screen door and a cracked driveway.

I continued driving down the road, reliving the areas that I one biked or walked every single day. The areas were still lovely, but lacked that profound emotional response that I would get as a teenager, and were further dulled by the fact that I now lived in a town similar to Sutton, so little roads with farmhouses was nothing new for me.

In a way, it was fitting that King's seemed so painfully common upon revisiting. Everything about King's had a larger than life feel when I was younger. From the boy I was madly in love with to the girl who he would cast me aside for (and I was wildly jealous of). From the cool clique that I was never fully accepted in to the misfits who took me in as one of the boys to the neighbors who lived just outside the campground limits. Everything seemed so much more important than me. The same way that I can check in on the people from the campground and see that there was nothing inherently incredible about them -- the same way I can check in on my first puppy love and chuckle and wonder what I ever saw in him -- revisiting King's Campground removed the glamour and showed the place for what it actually was. A nice campground, but a campground all the same.

I remember when I was 18 and still trying to completely sort out my feelings. I knew my time at King's was coming to an end and I felt heavy. The idea of leaving King's meant leaving behind years of friendships and relationships and enough time alone along the small town roads to make any introvert happy. And it meant leaving the certain boy, a boy that I was no longer in love with like I had before, but a boy that still held such a huge piece of me. Leaving King's meant putting the final nail on a coffin that had been buried years before. And while I was okay with it, it still weighed me down. And now I drive by King's, the memories and emotions tied to the land feeling as airy and ethereal as the clouds above me.

I stopped by the farm store on my way home and picked up a few items that my family always seemed to get. Jumbo eggs that you can never get in the regular grocery stores. Fresh apple cider. I said my hellos to a little calf taking a nap in a fenced-in area by the store. And I made my way back to New Hampshire, listening to all the albums that were so profound for me when I was 16.

And, before I knew it, I was back over the border. Back at my house. Nursing a sunburn and finding the energy to teach my tai chi class. I was hours away from the beaches on Connecticut and over an hour away from the campground. And now, as I write this, I have Maria Mena's "I Always Liked That" again on constant repeat, remembering the endless nights at King's, dodging curfew and telling crude jokes under the pavilion, with the same peaceful pining as the memories of the waves in Connecticut crashing on the shore as I dipped my toes in and looked off into the horizon.