Friday, January 31, 2014

Day 179 of 365: A Whole New World

A crazy thing happens when you dive headfirst into editing your own manuscript.

When you get wrapped up in a book, you can't help but be transported to that world. I remember being engrossed with The Road and genuinely looking at the sky, amazed that I could see the sun (and that it wasn't hidden behind a solid wall of smoke and dust and ash). When you edit a book, you get a very similar feeling, only more intense.

I wrote my first manuscript for three main reasons:
1) I had such an intense love for the independent book stores in Boston that I had to create a story set in one.
2) I had such an intense empathy for the characters that I was making up in my head that I felt like I would explode if I never wrote them down.
3) I had a Fiction Writing final project to complete and this was a great opportunity to get the ball rolling.

After years of hawking my manuscript to agents, I forgot what made that first manuscript so magical for me. All I could see was its lack of marketability. I edited the first chapter a million times, each time frustrated that my writing was clunky and the pacing was off.

And now I'm bouncing around, reading and editing a chapter a day (which is a lot more mentally draining than it sounds), and I'm hooked into this world again. I want to cry for the well-meaning guy friend who gets his heart broken. I want to simultaneously hug and shake the roommate. I can feel myself wander the aisles of a bookstore in the South End that does not exist in the slightest. It's to the point that I have to remind myself that there is no Katy Sinclair in the real world -- and if there is, she is definitely not the person I wrote about in my book.

(Although wouldn't that be INSANE if she were?)

I just have to be careful of diving too much into the world that I start reading the story knowing what is supposed to happen and not making objective changes to the wording and dialogue. But, still, it feels so damn good to be in love with my first manuscript again. If I don't even make it past the first round, this contest has already done me a world of good.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Day 178 of 365: The Heart of Winter Desperation

If there is anything I've learned during my tenure as a New Englander, it's that you never get used to the winters. No one ever does. We might build up a slightly better tolerance for the cold, but all of that gets lost when the temperatures dip below freezing. The world is covered in ice -- not snow, but ice -- and salt becomes a viable color for cars.

Quite frankly, it sucks.

November and December aren't so bad. The weather hasn't dropped to sub-zero, and we have a slew of festivities to keep us entertained. And then January rolls around. Big, ugly January, with even more blizzards and absolutely no festivities. And we muddle through January, always (and foolishly) believing that, once February hits, we will be okay.

Why, oh why, oh why do we do that to ourselves.

Right now is the heart of winter desperation. It's the end of January, but there is absolutely no relief in sight. At this point, even with Valentine's Day around the corner, we are just morose mambo-jambos (in fact, usually the understanding that Valentine's Day is right around the corner makes some of us more morose, but that's for another time).

Honestly, why do we do this to ourselves? If you look at how a human being interacts with the environment (no fur, but an ability to sweat), we were obviously meant for warm climates. But no, our ancestors knew everything and ventured out of Africa, swearing up and down that we could just sling a tanned bit of skin from that thing we just killed around our shoulders and be perfectly fine. Hey, we made fire, and a source of heat is all we need, right?

It's days like these that make me genuinely consider relocating to southern California. I'll deal with the brush fires and the potential life-altering earthquakes. Anything to get me out of this cold.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Day 177 of 365: The Trials and Tribulations that Every Writer Goes Through

The frustration over hack writers.
Everyone is a writer these days. Mention that you write and you'll probably get a stream of people coming out of the woodwork, telling you that they write, too. What have they written? Oh, nothing, nothing since college at least. But, man, the ideas they have in their head! Just wait until they get a moment to write them down, because the world is going to be flipped upside down!

It's frustrating because it trivializes what you work so hard to achieve. No, that's cool; interrupt what I'm saying to tell everyone you write as well. I'll just stand over here and find a wall to kick.

The scary fear that you might be a hack writer, too.
Who is to say that you are not that hack writer as well, swearing up and down that your shitty writing is going to change the world (or at least the lives of a good number of people), when, in reality, your drivel is sophomoric and dull? And getting your work published is no comfort; just look at Stephanie Meyer, EL James, Cassandra Clare. They could fill swimming pools with the money they've made from their books, and all three are considered blatant hacks by everyone from literary critics to that dude next door.

The ritualistic mutilation of your ideas as they go from your head and into print.
Dammit, this idea was perfect in my head, outside of any context or language or realm of believability. Why is it shifting and changing as I try to write it down? Why can't I get my character to sound realistic? Why does this suddenly suck? Am I nothing but a person who has good ideas in his/her head, but can't ever get them down on paper (see frustration #2).

The ritualistic slaughter of your darlings.
That hilarious bit of dialogue between two characters? It bogs down the story; axe it. That pivotal scene that sets all the other events in motion? Weak; rewrite it. That incredible character that you love oh so much? He is useless; delete him. That downright poetic description of the room? Too flowery; kick it to the curb.

The universal rejection by the powers that be.
Agents love your work, but "can't take you on as a client right now." Literary magazines enjoyed your story, but "feel it isn't a right fit for their publications." Website producers love how you write, but are going with someone who "has a different style and voice." You can cast the widest net and still get the same responses over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. You just want to shake everyone by the shoulders and scream, "GIVE MY WORK A CHANCE, DAMMIT!" Which you then rescind because you are constantly experiencing frustration #2.

The inevitable comparison to successful writers.
It's one thing to be 21 and looking at all those super-successful novelists with their millions. It's another to be 27 and realizing that some of those novelists already had their first book out by now. You turn on the TV and see the media saturated with people who are at least two years younger than you. It leaves you slumped against your seat, palms in the air, questioning your life and your choices (again going back to frustration #2).

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Day 176 of 365: An Un-Noble Yogi

I love yoga.

Okay, that's a bit of an understatement: I am obsessed with yoga. What was originally something I got into to counterbalance the stress of work (and the shame in being horrifically inflexible) is now a huge part of my life. So huge, that I am currently enrolled in teacher training, which means that, when my nose isn't smooshed into an anatomy textbook, I'm attempting to create my very own yoga sequence to teach.

However, there are some parts of yoga that I could never really jump into. I'm someone who believes that all the events in the world, all the war and suffering and pain as well as all the beauty and peace and happiness, is part of a much larger song and dance. Without obstacles and tribulations, nothing would've ever been created. No advances in art and medicine. No advances in evolution, period. I'm also someone with an irrational temper (meaning someone can cut me off and I'm okay, but I'll freak out if I stub my toe or forget a grocery item) as well as constant spontaneous thoughts.

As you can imagine, this makes it hard to digest certain sayings, like, "May there be no suffering in the world," or "May you only have good and noble thoughts."

Trust me on this one: my spontaneous thoughts are almost never good and noble.

For the longest time, I felt like there was a wall between me and the rest of yoga. I couldn't latch onto the idea of a mortal world without suffering, and the quest for a good and noble mind just left me feeling more like a putz. I went into yoga teacher training feeling like, even at the end of my classes, I would still have that wall between me and "real yoga".

However, I lucked out: within the required reading included a few books on life and spirituality (including Deepak Chopra's Seven Rules for Success and Shakti Gawain's The Path of Transformation). Both talk about the multiple sides of being human: the good and the bad, the things we are proud of and the things we're ashamed of. One of the main takeaways was this: we are everything. We are all of those traits: happy and sad, altruistic and selfish, passive and aggressive, social and antisocial. We have nothing to gain by telling ourselves that it is wrong to have "negative" qualities. In fact, sometimes those negative qualities are exactly what you need: sometimes you need to be selfish and take a moment for yourself so you can be better at giving to others.

Another takeaway was the understanding that everything happens for a reason. The pain that happens in your life isn't something you should look back on and wonder how you could've avoided it, but something you can learn from -- the same way you can learn from everything that happens in your life. A life without trials and tribulations would be nice, but that's not why we are on Earth. We are here to learn and grow and evolve, and that can't happen if there is nothing for us to overcome.

And like that, I felt that wall crumble. I might not be a "peace and love for all mortal creatures" yogi, but I don't have to be. I can be all about my asanas and pranayama and still recognize that there's a side of life that can be very difficult and painful (and it's not necessarily something we need to rail against to end).

It makes me wonder who else out there loves yoga, but finds themselves tuning out when the "only good and noble thoughts" topic comes up. If anything, that is more reason for me to get out there as a yoga teacher and spread the good (and bad) news.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Day 175 of 365: You're Done When the Gorilla Says You're Done

I have about 20 days to get my first manuscript ready for a submission deadline. To be frank, I felt like puking the day they released the submission dates. But the good type of puking, like, "Holy shit I'm going skydiving" puking.

I made a goal of one chapter a day until then. And I had been doing fairly well with that pace (albeit breakneck, as most of my chapters are at least 20 pages long and I've decided that I now hate how I had worded EVERYTHING), until I reached a scene that I originally enjoyed, but now realize it is weak and unbelievable as all getout.

So today is "rewrite this one particular scene" day. Given that I have been rewriting practically every sentence so far, this is more than moderately frustrating. The only positive is that it makes me thankful that no agent ever signed on for this particular project, as I would've been so embarassed to have my previous draft as an actual book.

I know I reference this quote a lot, but I always think about what Craig Ferguson said: Writing a book is like having sex with a gorilla. You're done when the gorilla says you're done.

I finished the first draft of this manuscript when I was 23. That was nearly 5 years ago. I have been on the edit train since then, even as I wrote/finished my second manuscript, even as I started writing my third (which is still only 2/3rds of the way done, but, eh, I'll worry about it after I submit my first manuscript). I have rewritten entire chapters, only to rewrite them again. I've made new characters, axed old characters, playing musical chairs with bits of dialogue, only to change my mind yet again. And all in an effort to submit it to a contest where I might not even make it past the first round.

But that's the beauty of writing. As my old professor once warned us, "You better love rewriting 100 times more than actually writing, because that's what you can expect if you ever try to publish your work."

As I see it, I'm appreciative of the constant edits. It means that I'm growing as a writer. I'm evolving away from the flowery bullshit that all writers seem to pick up in college ("but it's poetic and witty!" "no, it's obtuse and annoying."). I'd be worried if I looked at an old piece of work and went, "Yup! Perfect in every way! I would never want to make an edit to this!" That would mean that I've plateaued as a writer.

(This is part of the reason why they say to shelve your writing and work on something else before going back to edit it.)

So I've got an interesting three weeks ahead of me (for more reasons than just this book, but that's for another time). My fingers are crossed, but my expectations are realistic. And, really, that's all you can do -- until you have to start typing again, at which point it's probably for the best if you uncross said fingers.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Day 174 of 365: Why Cats Might Be Better Than Children

I had always imagined that 28 would be a sensible age to start trying for children. When I was a kid, 28 was so old that of course that's when you would have kids. As an adult, I see 28 a little more pragmatically: if it takes a few years, then, at worst, you start your family in your early 30s, which no one blinks an eye at. If it happens right away, then, at worst, you start your family as you toe into 29, which, again, no one blinks an eye at. But, the more I close in on 28, the more unsure I get about motherhood.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love children, but, like every other sound mind on the planet, I am petrified that I am completely and woefully not ready to children of my own. I have an extreme confirmation bias when it comes to every potential setback -- emotionally, financially, setting-plans-ally. "I can't get the dishes washed in a timely manner! Obviously this is a sign that I would be a terrible mother." "That sudden expense set us back financially! Obviously we cannot afford to have children."

Today, I was interacting with my cats, and part of me went, "Who needs children when you have cats?" And while that mindset has a solid place in Crazy Cat Person Land, it did make me think of all the ways cats are better than children. Which leads me too...

Why Having Cats is Better Than Having Children

Reason #1: Dealing with their (literal) shit is a lot easier.
As much as I don't like cleaning out the litter box, it sure as hell beats changing diapers. Grab an old plastic grocery bag, scoop some poop into it, and toss said bag into the garbage. Víola. And I'm only doing that once every other day or so. Compare that to every 3 hours (and compare a scoop to a blowout) and this is really a no-brainer.

Reason #2: Dealing with their (metaphorical) shit is a lot easier.
Having a cat who tries to steal human food, or meows in the middle of the night, or tries to dash out when you open the door, is nothing compared to what every single child goes through in the various stages of their life. Terrible twos, horrible threes ... obnoxious "tween"hood, adolescence, teen angst, teen rebellion, young adult "I'm an adult and can do what I want -- but can you give me money?" Again, a no-brainer.

Reason #3: Going on vacation alone is a lot less of a hassle.
Sure, I can leave a huge bowl of food for my toddler (and ask a friend to check in on them once a week to make sure they're not dead). I'll get a lovely call from the DCS, but I could totally do it.

Reason #4: I don't have to worry about their role in society.
Being a shitty mom not only affects my children; it affects the society around them. Think of all the people you know -- the messed-up, closed-off, emotionally-unavailable, mentally-unhinged people -- and think about how many of them came from crappy backgrounds. Even the more adjusted people I know can turn to their parents' way of raising them and go, "This right here is why I do X, Y, and Z, instead of the healthier A, B, and C."

And we all are going to do it. We will all fuck up our kids in a way that makes them resent us on some level, or swear up and down that they will never do that to their own kids. Meanwhile, I can call my tubby tabby a fat-ass and know that he won't grow up with an eating disorder. I can be too wrapped up in what I'm doing to give an affectionate cat the scratchies he needs and know he won't grow up a commitmentphobe.

Reason #5: It's a lot easier to accept when a cat is using you for something.
My cats love me about an hour before their usual dinnertime. And they love me when I come home and it's clear that I bought catnip. My black cat loves me when the weather is nice and he wants to go on a walk (which is something we can discuss much later). I recognize that they are simply using me to get what they want, and I am perfectly fine with it. They're cats. They're little shits like that.

However, it's heartbreaking when you realize that your own children are acting a certain way around you because they want a toy, or money, or permission to go on a trip with their friends. Hey, I birthed you! Dealt with your shit -- literal and metaphorical! I sacrificed vacations alone and fretted over how my every move with affect you! And you're going to pretend you love me so you can get a Hot Wheel? I know I should've gone to the ASCPA instead.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Day 173 of 365: How A Two-Mile Run Became the Worst Run of my Life

I was on a roll after completing my first half-marathon last October. I swore to myself that I would keep the distance running up, even as the winter winds came rolling in. I signed myself up for a 16-miler to keep myself on the right track, I purchased full-length running leggings and Under Armor turtleneck shirts and a little white headband to match. Six blizzards and four injuries later, I was no where near repeating my half-marathon performance, let alone 16 miles. It was a bitter pill to swallow, knowing I was going to -- most likely -- pull from the 16-mile race.

On a bitter, blustering day, barely a week until the race, I laced up my shoes, slipped on my headband, and stated, "It's time to go running again."

Even at high noon, the weather could not get past 0 degrees Fahrenheit. The weather report let me know that, including wind chill, the air was a welcoming -4*F. I figured I would be okay, since I had said gear on, which included my wind-breaking gloves. I would simply have to run a little faster than normal in order to raise my body temperature faster. I did my warm-ups inside, fastened my MP3 player to my arm, and went running.

I should have known things were going to go awry when my hands froze within the first two blocks. And I don't mean, "they were so cold, they were like ice!" I meant they were frozen. My hands were so cold -- even in my wind-breaking gloves -- that the digits of my hand stopped moving. Barely three minutes into my run, and it felt like someone had replaced my hands with porcelain replicas.

"No worries," I said to myself. "The first mile always sucks. I'll warm up soon and everything will be perfectly fine in no time."

But I never did warm up. By the half-mile mark, my hands were simultaneously numb and on fire. When I hit a mile and realized that the situation was only getting worse, I knew I had no choice but to turn around and go back.

There was only one problem: I was now a mile away from home.

If I'm feeling especially spunky, I can run a mile in a little under 8 minutes. I have no idea how long it took me to scramble back, as the need to get home as soon as possible was counterbalanced by the excruciating pain in my hands. That, and it felt like time itself stopped during the mile run back. I learned that afternoon just how relative time can be. E does not equal MC-squared -- unless the "M" stands for, "MY HANDS OH MY GOD MY HANDS" and the "C" stands for, "CHRIST ON A CRACKER I AM GOING TO DIE OUT HERE." (And "E" stands for "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" -- a.k.a the sound that started emanating from the back of my throat).

After a return trip back that could have rivaled Homer's in The Odyssey, I stumbled up the stairs of my back porch, opened the patio door with my wrist, closed it with my shoulder, and staggered into a warm room that was clearly not warm enough.

I am not proud of what happened next, but, given that my brain genuinely thought I was going to lose my hands, I feel no shame in admitting it. I didn't realize how much mental fortitude I was using to keep myself going until I made it out of the cold. Now in my kitchen, I felt my entire conscious mind collapse. All I could think about was how I couldn't move or even feel my hands (just the excruciating pain emanating from them) and there was no one around to help me warm them up. I bit at the ends of my gloves -- which did a superb job of breaking up the wind so it could seep into my skin in nice, bite-sized bits -- genuinely unsure where my gloves ended and my fingers began. I scrambled to the blanket on our couch, awkwardly shimmying my dead hands under the blankets and feeling absolutely, positively, no relief.

From the moment I closed that patio door and onward, I wailed like Nancy Kerrigan, only instead of a thug breaking my leg, the winter wind broke my spirit. I didn't so much cry as I cried out. The pain was so intense that I was past tears at that point. My stomach was so queasy from the whole ordeal that it wasn't sure whether to throw up or pass out; so, in a supreme act of benevolence, it gave me both signals. I removed my hands from the failure of a blanket, shoved my numb/fire hands under my arms, and stumbled into the bathroom, where I spent the better part of 10 minutes either dry-heaving into the toilet or laying on the cold tile ground. All the while wailing like my femur had snapped in half.

It is truly, truly, truly not a good look. On anyone. Especially not someone in a purple Under Armor turtleneck and spandex leggings with her hands in her armpits.

The only thing that kept me from completely collapsing into a paralytic state of panic was the fact that my fingers still had color in them. So while they felt dead, they weren't dead just yet.

After a little while I could bend my fingers into my palm. I continued to warm them up as best as I could, all the while mentally reciting all the Dos and Don'ts that I remembered for dealing with frostbite (don't stick them under super-hot water, don't rub them together, don't plan on playing the piano any time soon...). I knew I was on the mend when my dry-eyed wailing upgraded into standard tear-filled sobbing. Which eventually turned into a slight whimper as I finally got enough dexterity to get out of my running clothes and into a warm shower, after which I packed on the layers of clothing, crawled under the covers of my bed, and read until I fell asleep.

You know that feeling you get, after you burn your tongue on a hot beverage, and your tongue then reacts to the world in a different way? That was what I felt in the pads of each and every finger and thumb afterwards. Every touch and sensation felt oddly skewed and distant. Anything that was even remotely cold sent a sudden and violent shiver up my spine. Even as the day turned into night and into the next morning, my sense of touch was different. If there were every a way to translate that copper taste in your post-burnt tongue into touch form, this was it.

I have done a lot of dumb things in my life, but this little stunt definitely tops the 2014 list so far. I learned just how important insulation is, even if you swear that you'll warm yourself up running 6 - 8 miles. And, as I learned the hard way, there's a reason why athletes wail like that after a major injury. Only I was too stupefied to even muster out a, "WHY?!" during my ordeal.

And to my neighbors: I'm sorry you had to hear that/Thank you for not calling the police. The last thing I needed was to explain my idiocy to armed personnel with two frozen hands under my pits.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Day 172 of 365: The Irrational Rage Button

Like a proper Irish person, I have a horrible temper. If I really think about it, I probably have the worst temper out of the majority of people that I know.

A lot of people would hear that news, scratch their heads, and go, "She has a temper?" For crying out loud, my grandparents-in-law call me gatita (little kitten). And that's because most people don't ever see my temper. Like a proper Irish woman, a lot of my temper is either brought about by my own actions, or internalized, where it can fester ("into mental illness", as Marge Simpson once said).

I'd say I could count the number of people who have witnessed the full brunt of my temper and still have a few digits left over to proclaim peace (ironically).

It's a skewed type of rage. Asshole swerves around me on the highway and nearly causes an accident? My go-to reaction is to call him a douchecanoe, laugh at the fact that "douchecanoe" is quite possibly the best insult ever, and go on with my life. Stub my toe when I'm trying to get somewhere? RAGE.

Truth to be told, it's not even a temper. It's more like an irrational rage button that gets pressed at seemingly innocuous times. I can listen to Boehner tell America why his little tantrum with the government shutdown was "for the country's best interests," and be frustrated. I can have my earbuds in, walk past something that catches the cord, have my earbuds pop out of my ears, and I will see red.

In fact, if you want a sure-fire way of pressing my rage button, figure out a way to pop my earbuds out of my ears when I least expect it.

If that doesn't point out the skewed nature of my temper, I don't know what will. Family member doing something shitty? Well, that sucks. Music that flows like magic through tiny wires and into my ears no longer in my ears? DEATH TO EVERYTHING.

If I get right down to it, my irrational rage button and my OCD button are pretty much side by side. While I don't have full-out OCD, I have obsessive-compulsive tendencies, and one of those tendencies is an extreme inability to handle a change in plans. Any plans. I could be writing an email, have someone come up to me to talk to me, and only half-listen as I continue to type (because dammit this is an email and I planned on finishing it and fucking a this will get done). My husband has this same inability, and we find solace in the fact that we're not the only crazy ones out there who genuinely need a moment to recalibrate our brains when even the tiniest change takes place.

And that's what's happening when I stub my toe while walking, or have my earbuds pop out of my ears. I have a plan, albeit a small one: walk from point A to point B, listen to the music in my earbuds. A disruption of that, especially a disruption that I could've avoided, jars my OCD side, which causes the irrational rage button to be hit with a fevered intensity.

I've been trying to find ways around the irrational rage. Usually this involves a lot of yoga breathing. Which works ... unless another Unplanned Thing happens immediately after. Then I'm essentially looking at the situation, going, "No! I did that thing with my breath to not be mad! This can't happen in immediate conjunction with the first Unplanned Thing! HULK SMASH!"

Oh well. Baby steps.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Day 171 of 365: Who You Are

Please do not change who you are.

Please do not look at these men -- these men who take in what they can when it benefits them and walks away when it stops -- and decide that it means you are unlovable. Please do not mistake that fire in your heart for a burning in a building, something that needs to set off the fire alarms and the sprinkler systems and be put out. Please do not think for a second that a careless man is somehow an indictment on you.

Please do not change who you are.

You are the poetry that shows beauty in the tragedy. You are the enthusiasm in the most mundane. You bring a passion to the everyday and God help anyone who mistakes that for insanity. You are all that you are, good and bad, up and down, negative and positive. You are human, capable of the whole scope of experiences and tastes and explanations. Do not feel that you have to subdue all that you are because of the hurricane that resides with the rest of the weather.

Be that hurricane! Let them choose the easier girls. They are after the McDonalds, easy and convenient and unsatisfying. They'll learn. They'll learn even the easy girls have nuance. They'll learn even the easy girls are difficult, with their wants and desires and opinions, and they'll move on once again. Because there is no easy in love. There is no easy in being human.

It is not love to go after the girl who simply giggles at jokes and admires silently and acquiesces -- all in the name of low maintenance. It is not love to be with someone who never shows the side of themselves that isn't the calm serene spring. It's selfish and careless companionship and it's destined to be doomed.

Embrace your storm! You will find nothing to gain by berating yourself. There is no prize, no metal, no achievement in telling yourself that it is wrong to be sad, or angry, or jealous, or insecure. There is nothing awaiting you if you decide to drop your pursuits and desires in the name of "cute". You are all of that, the same way every one us of is all of that. If a lover complains and steps away, embrace that it just wasn't meant to be.

Be open to love, be open to communication, be open to another's feelings and emotions. The rest are details to be fulfilled and complemented when the right one comes along. And he will come along. Let his storm feed your storm, not in a way that enhances destruction, but in a way that brings out the natural power. You are exactly what someone is looking for, somewhere.

So please, do not change who you are.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Day 170 of 365: My Mother's Voicemail: A Rendering

When it comes to nice people, my mom probably tops that list. She was exactly that nervously-optimistic mom, signing me up for ballet classes, but ringing her hands over the possibility that she was pushing me to do certain activities. She was the one who read Dr. Spock and always corrected herself midway through a scolding: "I'm upset with your actions. Not you." I don't think there is a single malicious bone in her body. Mention something in passing and she'll spend the next day making that situation happen, or getting whatever it was that you mentioned that needed. She's the type of woman who will tell you she loves you, even though you can tell it is awkward for her to say those words due a less-than-affectionate upbringing. But she says it, because she does love you and she always wants you to know that.

That being said: she has absolutely no filter.

You know how some people say, "I have no filter!" and you know that's a bold-faced lie because there is definitely some stuff that they keep locked in their brains when talking to people. Even if it's just little stuff, like, "Did I leave the oven on?" or "My shoes are a little uncomfortable" it is still kept internal. That is not the case with my mother.

This is the woman who, when I called to announce my engagement, replied with, "I heard somewhere that 50% of all marriages fail." And she wasn't saying that because she hated my fiancé/now-husband. She genuinely just remembered that statistic and saw nothing wrong with bringing it up casually. The same way people will mention going somewhere and someone says, "Oh, I heard they have really good roast beef there."

Calling my mom is a strategic operation. I cannot call just when I have something else to do, or if I'm on the road, or if I'm feeling extra antsy. Usually, I plan talking with my mom around a tedious, time-consuming cleaning project, so I am guaranteed to have someone to talk to for the entire project. Even if I'm calling to confirm a time/day to have dinner together, I need that extra bit of time. Because you never know what she is going to say, or for how long.

I got back from teaching tai chi yesterday to see a voice message on my landline (because no matter how many times you tell someone from a previous generation that your cell phone is the primary phone, whereas the landline is a backup, they'll treat your landline like primary and cell phone like backup). But primary reason for the call was to let us know that the weather was turning and to maybe reschedule dinner. The message itself was at least 10 minutes long. There is no other way to explain it other than try to recreate that wonderful message:

"Hello, **** and Abby! This is Kathy, Abby's mother, ****'s mother-in-law, as you, well, already know... I just wanted to call you to tell you that there is a snowstorm coming into Massachusetts later this week and I, uh... well, you guys are very familiar with snowstorms, living as far up north as you do. But it's not that far up north, so it's probably about the same. But, anyway, the weather is going to be pretty bad, so I think it would be best if we wait until February to see each other and have dinner. Your father and I can have the roasted ham that we were saving for dinner tonight and then I can go to the store and maybe get a roast chicken for when you come and visit. They're usually on sale this time of year and I'll just get one after we have the ham. But ham is sometimes on sale as well, as we really like the brown-sugar glazed variety. But if we have ham tonight, we'll have chicken when you guys come visit.

Also, I changed my mind about your old stereo system. The one that was in your room, with the remote control? As you can recall, your brother brought it down to the living room to replace my old radio and I didn't like it one bit. As you already know, I love my simple radio and didn't understand why we were replacing it. I didn't realize how nifty it was to be able to change CDs like that and I really like it. So if it's okay, I think I will keep it in our living room for now. It's nice using it for dinnertime -- because, you know, it is always nice to have music playing during dinner. Not TV, like some people do. Especially not like some restaurants do. We -- your father and I -- like music, but not too loud, as we learned. Your stereo can get very loud.

So, yes, the weather: let's wait until February because there is another snowstorm approaching.

I also wanted to let you know that I'm visiting the dentist this afternoon. As you know, I had a tooth crack a few years back, and my dentist at the time -- Dr. Novac, who was also your dentist as a kid -- filled it in. I guess that was only good for a year and a few months, because I need it filled in again. Which I guess is okay. I like my new dentist and it is a shame that Dr. Novac already retired, but maybe it is for the best because his filler didn't last that long. But I'm going in this afternoon and that should be fine. The only setback is that it will change when I walk Sabrina -- because, as you know, she really needs her walks. She has so much energy and she really likes when she has a mission to do. So we've been walking to the Tedeschi's with her little carrier vest on and she's been bringing back cartons of milk. Because, your brother, y'know, he really likes his milk. He's a growing boy and growing boys need calcium! I know you like to take Sabrina to the - uh - what is that park's time? Esker Park, yes, and let her off the leash, but this way works better with me.

And, uh, yes, so let's reschedule for sometime in February, because we are going to get hit with a snowstorm this evening and into the next day and the weather is just really bad right now and I'd hate for you guys to have to drive in it. Although I'm sure **** is a great driver. And you are, too, Abby. Both great drivers, and with lots of experience driving in the wintertime. But we still should reschedule.

Okay, I think that's all for now. We can reschedule for February. Call me when you get this. Okay, I think that is all I wanted to say. Okay. I love you. And, uh, I'll talk to you later! Okay, uh, bye!"

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Day 169 of 365: My Electronics, My Way

A few weeks ago, my phone ate pavement. This wouldn't have been so bad, had I had the protective case on it. But, since I take my phone out of the case regularly in order to slip it into my armband and go running, I tend to get a little lackadaisical when it comes to putting it back on.

This wouldn't have been such a bad oversight, had I not watched my phone go skipping across the parking lot like a stone over a pond just the month prior, after stepping out of my car, not realizing that my phone was on my lap. And yes, it was sans case then, too. And I had sworn to myself after that, that I would always remember to put the case on.

This resulted in the spiderweb-cracked screen that everyone has seen at least someone with. Which would've been okay, had my phone not ate pavement a third time. Last Thursday proved that, even with the protective case, the third time is always a charm. The screen was dead. Thankfully, I have insurance on my phone, which grants me one replacement a year (with a $100 deductible of course >=( ).

That replacement finally came in the mail last night. At the request of my husband, I gave him the honors of setting up my phone. There was some important software that he wanted on my phone -- especially before the phone tried to update its own software. He fiddled around with my phone until he got done was he needed to get done. He handed the phone to me, letting me know that my phone was mine. And not just "here is your phone back" mine, but actually mine -- meaning Samsung or Verizon didn't have final say on my phone anymore.

I've never been a fan of technology as a trump card over human logic. Maybe I've watched the Terminator series too many times, but I fear the day when Skynet becomes aware. It's why I like Androids over iPhones. I like having that extra bit of control over my phone (with widgets and SIM cards and independent battery packs, oh my). But, even then, the amount of control you have over your phone is crazy limited. There are apps you can never uninstall (at least with the phone in its original state/software), there are things that the provider or the manufacturer will have control of (and you never will).

And said provider/manufacturer will go out of their way to make sure you don't have that control. They'll have updates for phones that are purely there so whatever routing people have done is null and void. They have whole teams dedicated to making the phones as "unhackable" as possible.

To me, it just doesn't make sense. I don't buy a bag of flour, take it home, and realize that I can only bake bread and make pancakes with it. There's no limitations on how I can alter a certain shirt. If I buy an electronic, it's my electronic. If I don't want that shitty Blockbuster app (aww, remember Blockbuster?), then I should be able to get rid of it. And maybe I should just be wearing tinfoil hats and calling it a day, but there's something unnerving about the amount of control they can have over something we use every single day.

But then again, I am part of the problem. I'm just happy that I have a phone back. My biggest concern wasn't whether or not my phone could get routed, but whether or not I could sync my progress on a re-install of my Zombies, Run app (good news: it can. Advice for those who play Zombies, Run: get a ZombieLink account and sync your progress often. I went from having to start all over to only being one run behind in the game -- and if I had synced after that run, I would be completely up to date). So, yay, apathy. At least I have a husband who is on the ball about things like this.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Day 168 of 365: I Have No Words

It's a day that we first hoped would never come, then braced for it's inevitable arrival, then held our breath, hoping against hope that every delay meant a miracle. And now it's here and I have no words.

I've known her mom since I was in elementary school. She was always the quick-witted mom, the mom who took everyone in as her own. You enjoyed going to her house because it always meant she'd have something fun planned. She was the cool mom without being the "cool mom". You couldn't help but love her like she was part of your own family, because she treated you like you were part of hers.

This is all ironic, in a way. I had a brief phone call with my best friend yesterday, giving her what writing advice I could give when it came to writing about the anniversary of her own mother's death. She was feeling stuck and stagnant and I told her that sometimes just writing down whatever words come to mind is the only thing you can do. Stumble forward with whatever you've got until you land on exactly what you need.

And that's exactly where I am now. Writing down whatever words come to mind because I honestly feel stagnant in every other category. I don't know what I can say, or what I should say. I wish I knew the exact words to eulogize her, to find some poetry in this sadness, but I have nothing. The news has stunned me into silence.

It's a helpless feeling, knowing someone you love is going through all this and you are basically on the sidelines like a defunct coach, shouting whatever supportive words you can and hoping something makes a positive difference. And it's a selfish feeling, bemoaning the helplessness when it's not your mother who is gone. Your mourning is a sliver of a fraction of what she is going through.

And you just wish you could find the right things to say, to write, to...anything. But sometimes you just have no words.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Day 167 of 365: How Far We've Come

A former high school classmate of mine posted pictures yesterday of our 2005 senior year festivities: our senior cruise, our barbecue, and our graduation ceremony. It blows my mind that I'm almost 9 years out of high school -- and that our 10-year is just around the corner (that is, if we have a 10-year reunion; I trust Weymouth to host a high school reunion as much as I trust Weymouth to rid itself of its opiate problem).

It's interesting to see these pictures and see who has changed and who looks exactly like they did in 2005. And some people do: just from lurking on Facebook, I know that the person in those 2005 pictures and the person in their respective Facebook profiles are almost identical. Others don't. I know I'm one of them. Honestly, aside from the fact that I'm always the tallest person in the picture, there is nothing that I have in common with that girl from 2005.

For one, I went blonde sometime in high school. I fell into the "blonde is beautiful" trap, grabbed some blonde-from-a-box, and took on the blonde persona for a whopping four years (until my sophomore year of college, when I finally wised up). It wasn't a good look. And, to be honest, neither were the looks post-blonde, when I'd dye my hair all shades of brown, black, and auburn, all in an effort to balance out that time I peroxided my hair to shit.

I was also a lot bigger than than I am now. I was never chubby, not by any stretch of the imagination (except for the modeling world; but then again, I'm still considered chubby by the modeling world), but 2005 me had a solid 20 pounds of who I am now (and that's even after factoring in all the muscle from running/strength training). I had a rounder face that I was super self-conscious of, which meant I only half-smiled, tucking the corners of my mouth into the sides of my cheeks and making me look even mousier and unsure than I did before.

And then there's the makeup and clothing styles. I can't rag on the fashion and style trends of the early 2000s too much. There's enough ridiculousness going on with current fashion trends. That's not what really makes the difference. The striking contrast lies in the intent behind the styling. I wore what I thought was cool. I wore what I thought made me look better than the oafish nerd that I was. I had zero self-esteem, and that showed in how I presented myself; especially in how I tried to hide that fact. Granted, my fashion stylings aren't the best now: between teaching tai chi and going to yoga classes, I'm in perpetual yoga-pants-and-tank-top mode, but it's my mode, that I wear with pride. I put on a coat of mascara, not because I wished others wouldn't see me as ugly, but because I enjoy how my eyes pop with a simple bit of makeup.

The amount that I have in common with 2005 is slim to none. Not just on a physical, but on a personal and mental level. I let romantic slip-ups ruin me. I wondered what I was doing wrong to have guys cheat on me, or dump me for their exes. I believed that I deserved nothing good and everything bad. Every step was an unsure one.

I'm still learning. I'm still trying to figure myself out, what makes me tick, what drives me forward (and what I can do when I find roadblocks). But it's a far cry from where I was in 2005. It's a far cry from where I was in 2010. Or 2011. Or even 2012.

During my most recent run, I encountered a pretty steep downhill slope. I did all the things you're supposed to do: go as flatfoot as possible, lean my body forward, and -- most importantly -- I ran without being afraid of the forward momentum. Halfway through, I couldn't help but laugh. It figured I would find a life philosophy while attempting to pick up speed and get rest at the same time: don't be afraid of the forward momentum.

If there is ever a 10-year anniversary, you can put your sweet ass I'll be there. Former student on the outer rungs of the social ladder transformed into a agency-repped model, writer, and one of the few people who properly "got out of Weymouth". And even if I didn't have the aforementioned, I'd be walking in a completely different person.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Day 166 of 365: Test Shooting

Today was my first test shoot through the agency. The studio was a five-minute walk from my old university and, even with the crappy weather, I still enjoyed driving into Boston and going through my old stomping grounds.

I couldn't help but chuckle at how life can come full circle. Back in the day, I lived on one end of the orange line, took said orange line to the opposite end, all the while trying to catch up on classwork, keeping on eye and ear out for when the train reached Northeastern University. And now, here I was again, going from one end to the other, nose in a textbook, ready to get off when the train pulled into the Northeastern campus. Only this time it was an anatomy textbook and I was getting off at Ruggles only to walk in the opposite direction of campus to a photographer's studio.

Maybe it's just some version of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon going on, but I love it when life ripples back like that. Like when I saw a former student -- we'll call Kevin -- and his mother. Kevin was in my room when I taught in the Boston area for a grand total of two weeks. He was violently opposed to being in school; so violent that his tantrums and screams actually drove me to tears in the middle of class one day (lest anyone think that preschool teaching is all ABCs and snuggles). But there he was, with his mom, laughing as they raced to cross the street to catch the bus in time. I was maybe two weeks out from quitting my job in the Boston area, and I couldn't help but remark on how different he was when he wasn't being separated from his mom for the first time ever. Like him, I was infinitely happier outside of that particular classroom as well.

Again, I might be looking for these moments so much that I actually start creating them myself (why did I choose the trainride to read my textbook, if only because I knew that I was getting off at Ruggles and decided -- consciously or unconsciously -- it would be like old times?). But I'm okay with that. I live for that type of sentimentality. Those moments of retrospection and reflection. When everything seems to make some weird type of sense.

So, pseudo-Baader-Meinhof or no pseudo-Baader-Meinhof, I love that it happens. I love when things come full circle, even if I end up trudging five minutes through freezing rain, showing up at the studio looking like a drowned rat.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Day 165 of 365: This is What Happens

This is what happens when you send your sick kid to school loaded up on Tylenol.

This is one of those stories that I will probably never forget, even after the waves of time dull every other memory of my tenure as a preschool teacher. I was a Pre-K teacher at the time, and a fairly normal class day. Exactly four hours after drop-off, however, one of my students went from his usual, lively self, to a lethargic, morose mess. I checked his temperature: 102*F. I did what I usually do in that situation: I set up a place for the boy to sit down, gave him water to drink, and fished out the Big Binder of Parent Phone Numbers to call his mom. As was my usual protocol, I explained to my student that he had a fever and that I was calling his mother to she could pick him up.

His reply is what cements this memory for me:

"You can just give me Tylenol instead."

I put down the class phone and looked over at the sick student.

"Could you say that again?"

"Just give me Tylenol. That's what my mom did this morning."

"Were you sick this morning, too?"

"Mommy said I had a fever, but Tylenol would make me feel better. It did!"

This wasn't exactly a new situation for me. Throughout my time as a teacher, I watched as perfectly happy children suddenly crash and burn four hours after drop-off. A few of the parents expressed shock that their child got so sick, so suddenly (and, to be fair, a good portion of those parents probably had no clue their child was sick and it was just coincidence that they went from happy to sick four hours into school). One parent tried to explain away why he couldn't pick up his child, saying, "Can't you just give her Tylenol until I'm there?"

I fully get it: when you have to work, you have to work. I've worked at companies and corporations that were very unforgiving when it came to leaving work because of a sick child. Ironically, places like schools can be the most stringent about this matter, even as we call up other parents and tell them to pick up their children. It's a tough world out there; a tough world with a failing economy and a cost of living that is far outpacing salary growth.

But look at what you're telling your children when you do this. When they come to you with a fever and aches and pains and you rush to give them Tylenol so they can be shuttled off to school -- what type of message does that send? While you might not be overtly saying, "I don't have time for this. I'm going to drug you up and send you off anyway," the idea is still there. Being ill doesn't mean you take the time to get better; being ill means you have to hide it and pretend you are perfectly fine, even if it means crashing (and potentially getting everyone you come in contact with sick).

Pumping a child full of Tylenol, sending them off to school, and getting annoyed when the plan fails (and it inevitably will), teaches children that they always need to be on. There are no more sick days. There are no more days you can take for yourself to recharge and feel better. I'd go one step further and say that it teaches children that they should be ashamed when their immune systems aren't foolproof. This mentality -- that will inevitably lead to burnout with adults -- is setting children up for a burnout all of their own.

Furthermore, it's teaching children that the needs of others are negligible. Who cares if you are contagious; there is work to be done! Who cares if your sick child gets a whole room of children (and teachers) sick.

This post needs to end on a positive note: while I dealt with the Tylenol Crash more times than I'm happy to admit, I've other dealt with parents who would call the school to let the teachers know that their child was feeling under the weather. The child might not have a full-blown fever yet, but the parents wanted to give the child a chance to rest and feel better (and not potentially get everyone else sick). I know not every parent will be able to have that opportunity, but it makes me so happy when it happens.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Day 164 of 365: Made Up

Go-see days tend to take up the majority of my time. Although the go-see itself will be 5 - 10 minutes, the amount of time it takes for me to get made up, drive to the location (or drive to the nearest T stop and take the T in), and get back home, half of the day is already gone.

Getting made up for a go-see means fussing over my hair, fussing over moisturizer, putting on concealer, foundation, power, eye shadow, eye liner, eyebrow pencil, and lipgloss. It means finding the absolutely perfect outfit for the go-see ("upscale casual", as they put it). And it means hoping to God nothing gets smudged in the process.

It's a pain in the butt -- and yet this is exactly what a lot of women do every single day. In a way, I'm thankful that my "other" job is that of a tai chi instructor. No one expects their instructor to come in wearing a nice blouse and a full layer of makeup. And I'm thankful that I have the confidence to walk out of the house with mascara and chapstick and consider that enough.

But then again, why do I even have to put on mascara? If you think about it, what is more absurd than coating the protective hairs on the edge of your eyelids? Sometimes all it takes it a moment to really think about what we do in our everyday lives to realize how ridiculous it is. In order to be a standard definition of attractive, I cut and remove some hair but condition and brush out other hair. I slap various textures of paint on my face and then hobble around in footwear that is elevated by toothpicks.

Oh, and I'll slip various types of metal around my fingers, wrists, and neck. And I'll place some more metal in holes that were punched in my ears a decade or so back.

How absurd human behavior is when you really break it down. It's only normal to us because we were brought up believing it to be normal. It reminds me of the story of the Nacirema tribe (which, if you haven't read about them, I suggest Googling it).

Sometimes I go on go-sees and fulfill the Zoolander stereotype by forgetting what my last name is. Other times I go on go-sees and wax philosophical on the human condition. Life is funny sometimes.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Day 163 of 365: Don't Listen to the Pretty Girl

Don't listen to the pretty girl, because how could she ever relate? What does she know of suffering or pain? Don't listen, for her qualms are the very definition of First World Problems.

Don't listen to the ugly girl, because what could she possibly say that would hold your interest? And even so, she's just saying it to make up for her lack of physical attractiveness.

Don't listen to the skinny girl. Skinny bitches don't know how good they have it. Whatever problems they are facing are not nearly as bad as they think they are.

Don't listen to the fat girl. What could she possibly know about proper body image when her body isn't the societal ideal?

Don't listen to the girl who wears makeup. She cares way too much about her appearance to have anything worthwhile to say. She's as vapid as the compact holding her powdered concealer.

Don't listen to the girl who doesn't wear makeup. She doesn't care about how she presents herself to the world, so why should we care about what she has to say?

Don't listen to the optimistic girl. We've had enough of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, thank you very much.

Don't listen to the cynical girl. Obviously she's going through a breakup, or on her period, or whatever.

Don't listen to the girl who had a difficult past. She's damaged goods. No one wants to hear about how her daddy issues shaped her views on gun laws and health care and immigration.

Don't listen to the girl who had a secure, stable upbringing. She's way too soft to have any proper opinion on anything.

Don't listen to the artistic girl. Artistic girls are crazy.

Don't listen to the pragmatic girl. Pragmatic girls just wish they were boys.

Don't listen to the outspoken girl. She's just trying to compensate for something. Besides, who has time for all that blather and babble?

Don't listen to the soft-spoken girl. If she really had something important to say, she'd be more outspoken about it.

Don't listen to the career-minded girl, the career-ambivalent girl, the girl with a five-year plan, the girl who doesn't have it all figured out, the girl who follows the rules, the girl who rebels, the girl who refuses to be labeled or the girl who understands society's impulse to label everything. I'm sure you can find a reason to ignore them perfectly well on your own.

Besides, why should you listen to me?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Day 162 of 365: Just Letting It Go

Alright, so now would probably be a good time to talk about my frustrating back-and-forth with a particular karate dojo.

Once upon a time, the yoga studio I was working for was going out of business. I hit the ground running, trying to find a replacement studio/gym to work at. I had one huge thing going for me: there are very few tai chi instructors out there, and I was taught by someone who was born, raised, and trained in China, in traditional Yang-style Tai Chi. But I had one thing going against me: New Hampshire is White Town, America, and if the physical exercise isn't something western-friendly like karate, then you're in for it (even yoga has a rough go at it up here, as evidence by the yoga studio going out of business). So while I didn't have to worry about competition, I did have to worry about people being interested in the first place.

Enter this particular dojo. I contact them and get an immediate response. We meet, we talk about when a good time would be for a class... he shows me around the dojo and comes up with this great promotional idea for the class.

And then: radio silence.

No, it was worse than radio silence. I found myself having to send two emails out for every bit of communication: one email to say what I needed to say and another email to check in on the guy, wondering why he hadn't responded. Suddenly, the great promotional plan was completely petering out. It was very clear that the guy had no interest in my class anymore and was going through the motions. He kept going around in circles with me, often alluding to the fact that the idea of a tai chi class was getting such a tepid response on his Facebook page.

My last email was sent out last week, detailing a brand new plan for a new class in his dojo. I haven't heard back, and -- honestly? -- I hope I never hear back. This is an exhausting song and dance. And while I'm willing to deal with the frustrations because more classes = more money, sometimes you have to know when enough is enough. Much like many interactions in life, sometimes you have to recognize when you're getting a bum deal, when the person on the other side isn't holding up their end of the bargain, or is dragging you down, or doesn't reciprocate what they need to reciprocate, and just walk away.

Thankfully, I did end up finding a yoga studio to teach at. One meeting, a few emails, and everything was quickly put into place. The owner has even worked with me to help promote the classes and get people interested in trying out tai chi. There are definitely worse things to have happen to someone whose place of employment goes out of business.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Day 161 of 365: A New Way Of Looking At It

Running yesterday turned out to be a lot more fruitful than I anticipated. I ran 6.5 miles, kept my average pace below 9 minutes per mile, and, aside from a sore left calf muscle, I'm feeling great.

The only drawback is that this run reminded me that my feet have gotten soft -- literally. All the calluses I had built up from running have diminished, and I finished that run wishing I had put more Body Glide on my feet.

On a related note, I've recently been using the metal contraption my husband created for chin-ups as a type of jungle gym. Given that I am forever six years old, I'm actually shocked that it took this long before I started hanging around with it (...literally). It's been a lot of fun, throwing my body over the bar and hooked my knees into it and just being a complete goofball. The only drawback here is the same drawback with running: my hands are way too soft.

I find five distance red marks on each hand after my first jungle gym session: four small lines at the base of my fingers and one long line underneath the first line in my palm. My first thought was my cousin-in-law, who rows for her university and has calluses in the exact shape of the oar handles on her hands.

I can't help but think of how our society views calluses. Women pay exorbitant amounts of money to get pedicures -- not so they can have pink toenails, but so they can soak their feet and have them exfoliated and get rid of all that nasty "toughness". And it makes sense: societies value things that, in some way, reflect a type of wealth. Calluses on the hands and feet usually connote a blue-collar job. So, the same way the Victorian Age valued pale skin, we value soft skin (but tanned and in-shape bodies, which makes for an interesting double standard...)

I might be on a pro "every body is awesome" kick thanks to my yoga classes, but I see my calluses the same way I see my "bulky" biceps and my "wide" runner's legs: all of this is just external proof of an internal toughness. I'm not saying I'm Ronda Rousey levels of tough, but I'm a lot tougher than I was when I was 20, 22, 24, even 26. I'm finding ways to tell that nagging voice in the back of my head to shut up. I'm finding ways to be more assertive, to push my body forward, to be stronger physically and mentally.

I don't plan on un-jungle-gymming any time soon. The same way I don't plan on un-running any time soon. And I welcome those calluses with open (albeit sore) arms.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Day 160 of 365: Let's Try This Again

So after weeks (or at least what felt like weeks) out of commission, today is the first day I can attempt running again. The injury on the top of my left foot is gone. I've been doing unmodified yoga and tai chi to start, followed by a bit of Zumba, and now I think I'm ready to attempt running again (at least running without re-injuring my left foot). I know that, since I do a natural run, I can look forward to cramped calves this evening and tomorrow. And, given that the Derry 16-Miler is only two weeks away and I am still hoping I can do 6 miles, there's a really good chance I'll have to pull out anyway (guess that "Failure's always an option" speech only has so much power).

The easiest thing would be to look at all this running and go, "You know what? You injure yourself way too much when you run. It comes with way too many setbacks. It's time to give it up."

And to them, I say, "Hush."

If there is anything I've learned in the real world, it's that everything comes at a price. Everything will have something you have to give up, or compromise, or reevaluate. In fact, even sitting around doing nothing comes at a price. It just so happens that the price you pay doesn't feel like much, but is actually the most detrimental in the long run.

I've ranted a million times about why I run, and why I won't shut up about running. I find peace of mind. I get into the best shape of my life when I consistently run distances. I love that I can go out onto the road and run for an hour straight and consider that a "light" run. I love that I'm already planning out my springtime half marathons. I love that I told my best friend that, if she had the gumption to move to Chicago, I would have to gumption to run the Chicago Marathon, and I refuse to let that fall by the wayside.

Sure, it would be easy to not run. It would be easy to not write my third manuscript. It would be easy to not edit, not constantly put myself out there only to get rejected, not to do anything that will make me look like an ass (most likely). But I do it anyway. Because life is too short to do anything but that.

So I'm off to lace up my shoes for the first time since just before 2014. I'll probably be huffing and puffing and have some of the worst running times of the last couple of years. But I'm doing it anyway, because it sure as hell beats the alternative.

Now, let's try this again.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Day 159 of 365: Falling in Love with the First Again

Without going into too much detail, there's a certain thing I want to submit my first manuscript to. It's frustrating, because the rules/submission times are never announced until the very last minute, which makes editing and preparing a real bitch. But what can you do? The publishing world isn't fair and traditional routes have proven fruitless.

I've been trying to edit from the beginning onward and it has been a tedious process. I've read the first chapter so many times, I'm sure I could recite the words in my sleep. I've broken down the first chapter so many times that it has lost all flavor for me. Suddenly, I was reading the first chapter with the same mindset that the agents probably had when they rejected it: this is just okay, there is nothing that I love about it, better luck next time.

And, like that, I stopped editing. I gave up before I even began, before I could even submit anything. It wasn't until I got a notification about a FAQ for the impending contest that I forced myself to try again. Only, this time, I would edit a random chapter at a time. I'd stop fretting over the first chapter and see how the eighteenth chapter is faring.

While the continuing chapters were getting marked up just as much as the first chapter, I found myself getting lost in the story again. I felt for the characters that once felt as real as my own family to me. I finished chapters wanting to read more and had to stop myself from just reading it like a regular novel, sans analytical mindset.

It was like falling in love again with your very first love. All the joy and trust and belief in this manuscript had faded with the years. And now, reading it again, I feel the exact same way I felt when I was 23 and finished writing the last page of the manuscript. I feel like this manuscript could really do something if people just gave it a chance. And I haven't felt that way for a long while.

I won't be delusional and say that anything will come of this contest. Given the number of submissions, there's a good chance I won't even make it past the first round. But, at the very least, it has renewed my passion for my first manuscript and helped me appreciate it like I haven't appreciated it in years.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Day 158 of 365: Female Athletes

Yesterday, fighter Matt Brown said that female fighters are boring, and that, if he has to pay money to see them fight, they should at least be topless. His reasoning is, the women's bantamweight division in MMA/the UFC doesn't deliver a lot of knockout hits -- and somehow this is proof that women should not be fighters.

I'll be the first to admit that there isn't a lot of knockouts in women's bantamweight. There's also not a lot of knockouts in men's bantamweight. The lighter the weight class, the less a likelihood there is of knockouts. They are smaller bodies. Their biceps will literally not pack a punch the way a heavier person could.

But we still watch those fights. There's a reason why the UFC has weight classes all the way to flyweight and doesn't just focus on the heavy- and super heavyweights. Because every weight class brings something to the table. Every weight class showcases a different emphasis on certain skills. I wouldn't expect "Might Mouse" Johnson to fight the same way Cain Velasquez fights. Everyone brings something different to the table. And it's unfair to single out women's fighting and decide that it's not entertaining because they're not knocking out people the same way a middleweight could.

But I don't fault Matt Brown for this thinking. We were all raised to believe that professional sports was a boys' club. We all grew up with the NFL and NHL and MLB and MBA. We all grew up knowing at least one male professional athlete's name, regardless of how often we actually watched sports. This is what we were raised with, this is how our minds formed, and this is the foundation of all our judgments when it comes to athletes.

And we are human. We naturally judge those we deem "outside" of the club harsher than those who are already in on it. You see it everywhere, from socioeconomic statuses to race to gender to sexual orientation. Remember how harshly President Obama was judged during his first presidential run? Remember the things he could not get away with that seemed to go under the radar when it came to McCain? And if you aren't familiar with Marissa Mayer (CEO of Yahoo) and her criticism after having a child, I suggest you Google that real quick.

And that is perfectly natural. Our ancestors survived because we were overly critical of the outsiders. If you were outside of the "club" -- even if you technically weren't a member of it yourself -- then you judge on a different level. You let confirmation bias set in. You let every transgression be proof that you shouldn't have trusted or invited them in the first place.

It's natural. But what's important is to take that step back and recognize that there is no objective reason to have this mindset. That there is no empirical evidence that supports the idea that female athletes are somehow less entertaining than male athletes. Because that's the big thing here: not whether or not women can be pound-for-pound as strong or as muscular as men; but if women can be as entertaining.

And I have been entertained by female fighters. I'm honestly shocked that Matt Brown can say that after the Rousey/Tate fight, which was fast-paced and technical and brutal and downright beautiful in the execution of fighting styles and maneuvers. I have seen boring female fights -- and I have seen boring male fights. The only difference is that people walk away from the boring male fights criticizing the male fighters as individuals, whereas people walk away from the boring female fights criticizing female fighting as a whole.

And, really, who is to say that females lack knockout power: one of my favorite knockouts of all time happened in the strawweight division (which is 115 pounds for those playing the home game) of a different MMA franchise.

And then there's the problematic attitude of, "Make it sexual to make it entertaining," which is a rant for another time.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Day 157 of 365: "Short Story": A short story

Today I submitted my short story "Exceptional Women" to its first literary magazine. Much like much of my submissions, I don't expect much. But there's a weird glee with this one, if only because I haven't written a short story in years. Years.

I think the very last short story I wrote was for my creative writing class during my second semester of my senior year. During my agency-hunt heyday, I submitted that particular short story to anyone who would accept it. And, much like my first manuscript, it was denied across the board.

I believe in the fluidity of writing. Some days, you're going to want to write a poem about something. Some days, you will want to write an essay. Others, you'll just want to write an opinion piece. And again, some days you'll want to work on a novel.

(Speaking of: I'm finally kicking my butt in finishing my third manuscript. One page a day until I finish the bloody thing. No more procrastinating.)

"Exceptional Women" -- much like my first manuscript -- was originally just a story that I had circulating in my head. Most writers can empathize with this: you listen to a certain sequence of songs too many times, or you just let your mind wander too much during a car ride, and suddenly you have the beginnings of a story in your head. It's a story you don't even plan to write down, but you can't stop meandering through the maze, wondering how this will play out. This particular short story started after listening to a string of songs and imagining a woman who has her entire life in order -- until she gets the call from his fiance's mistress. The original story focused entirely in what is simply the flashbacks in the written-down piece. And I played around with it again and again -- and usually during times that I was supposed to be focusing on other stuff, like driving, or yoga -- until I woke up early one morning and realized I was going to explode if I didn't write out this particular sliver of the story.

I fully recognize that part of the reason why I wrote that story was because I've been reading a collection of superb short stories (Always the Love of Someone - Hugh Lawrence. I found an editor's copy at the Brattle Book Store a while back, but I think this is available somewhere online.). And that's perfectly okay. The last poem I wrote was during the intermission of a poetry reading with Buddy Wakefield. Stephen King even promotes the idea of letting other writers influence you to write in this particular medium. You read, you get inspired, you write, you read again, you continue the cycle, and, through that, you find your voice.

So I don't expect much to come from "Exceptional Women". Everyone and their brother is a writer these days. Everyone has a short story that they swear makes them sound genius. But I'm glad that I'm at least attempting to get my other work out there. And you never know when something actually clicks and you find yourself with a new audience.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Day 156 of 365: What is the Universe Trying to Tell Me?

I've been focusing a lot on the scientific portion of my teacher training. The reason is twofold: 1) I had never taken an anatomy class before and am desperately curious about the ins and outs of the human body, and 2) My best pre-tai chi martial art memory is from an instructor who gave me advice in "real life" terms. I had been attempting a version of kung fu and the other instructors would give me advice on certain moves, telling me it would open up my chi. I didn't have much of a belief system in internal energy at that time, so the advice went in one ear and out the other. It wasn't until two or three classes in that I had an instructor tell me to do something because it opened up my chest and made it easier to breathe and get oxygen into the body. For some reason, that bit of pragmatic reasoning stuck with me and I want to teach my own tai chi (and someday yoga) classes with the same type of, "Yes, there is a mystical side, but it's okay if you want to focus on the more empirical benefits."

But I digress.

While I enjoy my anatomy textbooks (even though I don't enjoy trying to remember the key terms for when a certain muscle does a certain thing at a certain time...), I have also been reading slightly more "hippy" books. From Deepak Choprah's "Seven Laws of Success" to a book by an American woman who adopted an Indian name, I've been reading about pure consciousness and pure potentiality and things happening for a reason.

Now, some of this I love. I'm a huge fan of Jung and the idea of the collective unconscious, and a lot of this falls into his teachings. But some of it is a lot harder to swallow. Like taking in every action and reaction and going, "What is the universe trying to tell me?"

Yesterday, I couldn't find my keys. I finished up my class and my keys were no where to be found. They weren't in my purse, in my coat pocket, and the doors to my car were locked. I wandered up and down the parking lot, looking for a big red lanyard that is impossible to miss, all the no avail. I tore apart the yoga studio and emptied my bags three times. Nothing.

Instead of getting upset about the lost keys (particularly the lost lanyard, which I've had since orientation week before college. It's so old that the "Northeastern University" print has long been worn off), I told myself, "What is the universe trying to tell me with losing my keys?" I figured it was a better way to use my brain energy than to quell the rising panic over losing my keys (which is my typical MO: panic, freak out, cry, then feel silly for panicking), so I genuinely wondered. What are the benefits to losing these keys? Is the world trying to tell me to slow down a little bit? Is this a reminder that I need to be deliberate in everything I do? Am I supposed to stay in this town longer than I meant to?

I didn't find the answers, but it did keep me calm until a student called me up, apologizing profusely, telling me that she had accidentally grabbed my keys, thinking they were her own (since she also has a red lanyard with a hiker's clip).

And who knows, maybe that was the answer: keep calm and think until it works out. Maybe there's something to this new-age thinking after all.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Day 155 of 365: I Learn What I Don't Know

Today is my first day teaching at the new yoga studio. In some weird way, I'm going in with more nervousness than I did with my very first class. It's always nerve-wracking, starting over in some place new. But it's more than that. I've been wracking my brain, trying to figure out how my first class will run, even though I've done a "first class" over 4 times now.

And why? Because the more I learn about anatomy and alignment, the more I realize I know nothing about anatomy and alignment.

Tai chi and yoga are two different beasts. Even though there are some parallels, everything, from the breathing to how you move your body, is different. Which includes the attitude of injury prevention. Chinese martial arts cares very little for injury prevention. I hear the horror stories of how my own instructor trained in China and I cringe. And while I teach my class with an emphasis (or even over-emphasis) on modifications and safety, I'm still going at it blindly. The more I learn about safe alignment and injury prevention, the more I realize I know shit about both.

On a related note, I swore I knew sun salutations like the back of my hand. In vinyasa/ashtanga yoga, sun salutations are how you warm up the body in the beginning of your practice (it's the forward fold -> plank -> up-dog -> down dog -> forward fold, (at least for Sun A) for those who have taken yoga before). Then I tried reciting the cues for an audience. Somehow that confident voice in my head came out shaky and unsure once it hit real life air.

All I know is that I've got a long road ahead of me. One of the lessons I tried to teach my preschoolers was the idea that it's okay to say you don't know something. And that's what I have to do. The first step is admitting you have a problem -- er -- that you don't know something. Which isn't easy to do, especially since we live in a world that glamorizes the concept of just naturally knowing it all (look at all the shows that have "prodigies" manning the technology or working behind the scenes in the lab; rarely do you see main characters who are so adept at their field because they spent decades working and perfecting their craft). It's why everyone loves Guitar Hero, but few people will actually try to learn guitar. Why admit you can't tune a guitar for shit when you can press five buttons and pretend?

(For the record, both my Guitar Hero guitars and my guitar-guitar are collecting dust.)

But still: the first step is admitting I don't know it already. From tai chi, to yoga, to even my writing. It's the only way I'm going to get better at all three.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Day 154 of 365: For the Week Ahead

It's feel weird, not going to class today. It's crazy how quickly I fell into the routine of going to the studio to spend all day talking about alignment and anatomy and philosophy. On the plus side, it means that, if I ever do a month-long immersion program (for the off chance I train up to the 500-hour level RYT), I could probably handle going to school every single day for a full 6 or so weeks.

As much as I would enjoy taking the week to just process the classes (and get ready for the next set of homework), this week is going to be packed. I start my new tai chi classes this week in my new yoga studio. My schedule is only slightly different than the previous studio and I'm still teaching two classes a week. It's a different payment setup, but still one I am way more comfortable with than the other studio's setup (where you pay an absurd amount of rent for your allotted hours in the studio and then fuck all with everything else). I'm supposed to be meeting up with a dojo to finalize an additional tai chi class, although the process to get everything ready there has been drudgery at best (but that's a rant for another time). I have my first modeling job in over a month this Friday, with a potential test shoot this weekend.

And then there's the great editing journey with my essay book. It is bloody hard not to skim over it, say, "Good enough!" and submit it. I promised them the end of the month, though, and I can't just half-ass it and pass it in like a high school project. I'm starting to get a little sick of my essays, but, eh, what can you do. That's how the editing process works. Edit and edit and edit again, until you could recite passages in your sleep.

But, again, I love having too much on my plate. I love having to jump from reading this textbook to reading that essay to editing this passage to writing that passage. It's going to be weird, starting up the tai chi classes again, especially since yoga training has taught me what I don't know about teaching physical things to people, but it will be nice to be back in the swing of things again.

The only thing I have to keep in mind is not looking at everything I have to do and going, "Well, let's watch a YouTube video instead." When you have everything to do, the knee-jerk response is usually, "do nothing."

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Day 153 of 365: Scared as all Getout

Yesterday's class was a success. I found that, even though it took a second large iced coffee to keep me awake, the all-day class went by pretty swimmingly. I like my teacher's sense of humor, and I like that my favorite instructor (who is also the owner of the studio) is right alongside her as a bit of an assistant. I really enjoyed learning everything from what constitutes and assist versus an adjustment to learning the ins-and-outs of a proper sun salutation. The course is exactly my cup of tea: I'm a vinyasa yoga lover who toes into ashtanga yoga every once in a while, and this class teaches yoga in a vinyasa format (with slight emphasis on ashtanga).

Today, we all have to lead a sun salutation as if we were a teacher. In April, we have to lead a 15-minute class. Before August, we have to log yea-many hours teaching hour-long classes (in community settings, like a rec center, etc, for either dirt cheap or free, aka "practicum"). Our teacher mentioned this and we all latched onto it, talking about when we had to do what and by when. She shifted the class discussion, saying that we can worry about that in April. She then said, "Besides, who hears this and gets nervous about teaching?"

And my hand was raised.

It's a frightening prospect for me. Shit, teaching tai chi still is frightening for me. In a way, I'm thankful one studio closed and another took me in, because it meant starting over and learning from my mistakes. I'm nervous as all getout to teach yoga, if only because it's another brand new chapter, another thing I have absolutely no idea how to do.

But that's how you get it done. That's how you figure out where your limits are. I take pride in the fact that I step out of my comfort zone and, by doing so, expand that comfort zone, giving me a little more space to do what I please. I'm nervous and scared to go out and teach yoga (not just as practicum, but in real life, post-graduation), but I'm ready to face said fear.

And now, I'm off to zoom to class before I'm too late.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Day 152 of 365: First Day of School

Author's Note: Remember that writing exercise I did, and how I was moved to write it because one of my own main characters affected me so deeply that I had to plagiarize an essay and write it from her perspective? That short story is not only finished, but up on Medium. Check it out if you have the time:

Every time I've returned back to school -- be it after a co-op internship or when I took night courses -- I always would quote Billy Madison. "Back to school, back to school, hope I don't get in a fight." But that just seems a little silly when you are talking about yoga. Yoga students are probably the last type of people to get into fistfights at school. Unless you're talking about yoga students in LA/Hollywood, because cocaine is one helluva drug.

It's becoming painfully obvious that not only did I make a bad choice in never taking an anatomy class, I must've fallen asleep during ninth grade biology as well. Maybe even seventh grade natural science. Oh well. I'll chalk it up to the public education system and move on.

It really is crazy that this is finally happening. From a Pinterest board, pinning every international immersion program, to researching local classes, to finally this. I am in for a busy 8 months. On top of classes/homework, we have to attend various workshops independently (in order to get a more well-rounded education), which will eat what little time I have left.

This is an uncharted path in my life. It's a good thing I'm a fan of new, unexplored paths in life.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Day 151 of 365: It's All a Bit Messy Now

I have six pages of textbook reading to do, and, after that, I am finished with the pre-class homework. It's been interesting, finishing homework in a week when every other student technically got three weeks. But it was somewhat reminiscent of my undergrad days, when that amount of homework was just what you got in between classes, especially if that class only met once a week. I have a quasi-understanding of what I have been reading and watching and I'm psyched for classes to start on Saturday. The teacher running the coursework reminds me of one of my bridesmaids (and actually looks a bit like her as well) and I know her snarky humor and laid back attitude is going to make even the more tedious parts of anatomy and physiology and yogic philosophy entertaining.

There is only one part I am not looking forward to: the introductions.

Every knows how the beginning of classes first plays out: we introduce ourselves, saying our name, where we're from, why we're taking the class ... and, in the case of night classes/continuing education, "what you do". The general idea is that, since you're taking these nights and weekend classes and we're all adults, we all have careers. This person is a receptionist, that person works in insurance, etc.

If I were being honest, I would have to explain that I: 1) Model, and 2) Write. There's something mildly unnerving in the answer, "Well, I teach a few tai chi classes [which, let's be real here, is already an unorthodox way to get a paycheck], I also model and I've been trying to sell at least one of my manuscripts while finding other avenues to make money from my writing."

A lot messier than "dental hygienist".

But you know what? It's also a lot more interesting. Yeah, I have practically no proper "career", and instead divide up my time between teaching/practicing tai chi, modeling (although less so now that it's winter), writing, and housekeeping (because keeping a house clean is way more involved than keeping an apartment clean) -- as well as dividing up my time in more selfish ways, like learning Spanish and reading and training for a marathon (which, at this point, has hit the skids, but thankfully I have 10 months to not suck at running). Yeah, things are a bit messy right now. But this is the good mess. I like this mess. Truth be told, things were way messier when I worked as a preschool teacher, working myself past maximum capacity, coming home crying because the stress was getting to be that much. It's just, to the outside world, I didn't look messy. I was a full-time teacher running parent workshops and writing progress reports. Obviously I knew what I was doing.

So maybe I'll start my introduction with, "I'm Abby, I've been doing yoga now for almost three years, and it's all a bit messy right now. But that's okay."

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Day 150 of 365: Meaning

Sometimes it's hard to stick to the idea that everything does happen for a reason.

I hold strong onto the idea that every thing -- every minute, little thing that happens is part of a much larger song and dance, spanning backwards and forwards in time in a way that we cannot even begin to understand. I believe in the domino effect of our actions and I believe that sometimes our most important action will simply to be the catalyst for a completely different set of actions.

It's hard to hold onto that sometimes. It's hard to look at the child soldiers in the Congo and the civil war in Syria and go, "Yup, it's all for a reason."

I got a call this morning from a close friend. Our friend's mother has been battling cancer for a year or so now. There have been moments of hope, moments of desperation, moments where we swore it would all get better and moments where we prepared to make funeral arrangements. Yesterday, the doctors told her that her body was no longer responding to chemo and that she had pneumonia. Because of the chemo treatment completely wiping out her immune system, she has been given days to live.

It's something that I haven't fully processed. This is the fourth friend whose mother was diagnosed with cancer in the last two years. Only one of those mothers is now in remission. Two are gone, and I fear it's only a matter of time now.

Again, it seems really silly to compare genocide and torture with the course of one person's life ending by quasi-natural reasons. But it's the same idea behind, "It's sad when a village of people dies. It's tragedy when I stub my toe." This affects me personally, and therefore makes it 1000x worse.

I think the hardest part of believing that it all happens for a reason is the idea that our lives might have a smaller purpose than we can even fathom. That the ripples are so tiny in the great scheme of things that it doesn't matter that each eventually weaves it way around everyone else's. What if this death's only meaning is to shape one person's particular way of acting, so that they act in a different way around this other person, who goes off and does this or that thing, and so on and so forth. What is more frightening: that it has no meaning or that the meaning is so small and complex that it's almost harder to process than nothing at all?

It's been snowing heavily this morning. The birds from the forest have been dancing around my backyard, pecking through the snow for whatever food they can find. Morning doves and cardinals and sparrows and finches. They all look so beautiful as they desperately search for food against the white backdrop. A few of them probably won't survive the storm. And the others birds won't be burdened with wondering why -- if there is a why -- they are around when the others are not.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Day 149 of 365: New Year's Hopes

I cannot stomach New Year's resolutions. Aside from the fact that they're usually too vague and broad to be accomplished ("Lose weight" -- oh, ok), the idea that you have to wait until a somewhat arbitrary dividing line to make changes about your life is ridiculous. Now, don't get me wrong: I love using that arbitrary dividing line as a time of retrospective and thinking about the future, but resolutions should be something that happens spontaneously, and by constantly being aware of what you say and do. It's the Benjamin Franklin approach to life, but that's for another time.

That being said, I have no New Year's resolutions. I haven't since high school. But what I have been doing for probably 5 years now is a list of New Year's goals. Every December 31st, I make a list of goals I'd like to accomplish before the next year. I also reference the previous list of goals and see what I accomplished and what didn't get accomplished.

And while that list is fairly personal and I don't ever post it publicly, here are a few of those goals.

I hope to finish my yoga teacher classes and become a 200-hour RYT. Training to become a yoga teacher is a lot more than doing a ton of sun salutations and talking about how we all need to be peaceful creatures (actually, one of the yogic philosophy textbooks I have talks about the absurdity of trying to pretend we can repress the aggressive side of us and suggests embracing that "dark" side of us without judgment, which I believe I actually ranted about a while back). There's a huge emphasis on anatomy and physiology. And, from what I've been doing in the pre-class homework, I really don't know the first thing about anatomy and physiology (including the painfully simple cells -> tissues -> organs chain of command/complexity). But I have learning a ton about parts of the spine (and further confirming that my spine is completely farked) and I'm excited to learn more. It's going to be an intense 8 or so months, but I'm ready for it. This is something I've wanted to do ever since I started doing yoga. I want to walk away from this ready (and legally able to) teach my own yoga classes.

I hope to continue my Spanish learning. It's a painfully slow process (even slower when you accidentally go a week or more without doing a few Rosetta Stone lessons =X but I'm getting there. It helps that my husband has a working knowledge of basic Spanish, so I can always reference him when I'm stuck on something. The goal is to finish the entire Rosetta Stone classes by the end of the year, but I'll be happy if I can just keep up the pace of 2-3 lessons a week.

I hope to finally run that marathon. I woke up with a lingering pain still in my left foot, which let me know that I'm not running for yet another day. It's incredibly, undeniably frustrating that injury is just the name of the game after the age of 25, and it only becomes more prevalent in said game the older I get. But it's the Chicago Marathon or bust. Or, if that is not possible the New York Marathon. In a perfect world, I'd get up to 20 miles by June and sign up for both (since they are about 3 weeks apart from each other) but, in a perfect world, I would've worked my way up to 16 miles in November. Regardless, I don't want to close out 2014 without that marathon.

I hope to finally finish that third manuscript. It's 2/3rds of the way complete and it drives me a little crazy that I haven't touched it since NaNoWriMo. I planned on taking a break from it, but I didn't plan on having the break take this long.

I hope to finally do something with my first manuscript. Be it submitting it to novel-writing contests or just self-publishing it, I'm tired of my first born (so to speak) collecting dust. I've been slowly revising the book, its pitch, and its query, and my fingers are crossed that I luck out with one particular avenue.

I hope to continue doing what I'm doing. While trying, 2013 turned out to be a pretty incredible year. And one of those reasons was because I was willing to step out of my comfort zone. Recognize when a job wasn't for me and try something completely new. Stick my neck out and try the modeling thing again. Submit my work even when I was getting rejected across the board. Continue submitting my work, even when people were reacting to my essays negatively (because the joys of going viral means that you're totally going to attract people who just don't like it/you). Put my nose to the grindstone and write like a madwoman for NaNoWriMo. Decide I'm going to run a half-marathon and then do it. Decide I'm going to finally do a pull-up/more than 2 push-ups and then do it. I just want to continue doing what I do, because, so far, it's been working out for me.

So we'll see what 2014 brings. If 2011, 2012, and 2013 were an indication, I'm in for a very interesting year. Things never stay stagnant with me for too long, and I pride myself on my adventures, so let's see where this year takes me.