The most special things are the things that don't really belong anywhere but here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Being Sick

Well, it happened. I am currently experiencing the first of the Fall Crud. I feel achy and snotty and my head is in some chilly fog cloud. Being sick used to be something that I didn't totally hate-- assuming it wasn't putting me in too much physical distress. Dare I say, there could be nice things about being sick. But being sick as an adult is a huge inconvenience. There's not enough time in the day as is to get stuff done, and then when your body slows down, forget it. Reflecting on this made me think of sicknesses past, of all the various benefits and horrors that come When Germs Attack.

The Best: Cold Meds
I remember the first time I realized how great cold medicine was. I was probably 13. I was stuffy and feverish and felt like crap and then took some Tylenol Cold. Suddenly, I felt sort of floaty and very talkative. (Warning: may cause excitability in children.) I understood in that moment why people did drugs.

I'm very sad that cold medicine doesn't seem to do this anymore. They changed it. Now every medicine is either daytime, so it has none of the sleepy/happy stuff in it, or it's nighttime, so it has the thing that knocks you out. Nothing in between? What, am I supposed to do actual drugs now?!

The Worst: Barfing
Don't worry. I'm not going to write long paragraphs detailing various vomit textures. This is about the psychological aspect. You ever eat something and then can't eat it again because you happened to get sick afterwards? One day, I ate an entire bag of baby carrots while watching Rescue 911, threw up that night, and couldn't eat carrots for a year. Thanks for sharing? It's weird though when something non-food is ruined for you, like a song or a movie or a TV show.

In 7th grade, I got the worst stomach flu of my life over Christmas break. I feel like it lasted the entire break, which probably isn't true, but it went on way longer than it should have. My little sister watched a lot of WKAR, so one night as I was laying nauseous and miserable in my parents' bed,  the Wishbone theme song and sequence started playing over and over and over in my head. Nothing else would enter my mind for hours, despite my desperation for any other thought to come to me. Back and forth and back and forth Wishbone walked as I wondered if it was time to get out of bed and lay on the bathroom floor. To this day, I hate it. Show ruined.

The Worst: Being Sick Away From Home
A vomit experience that confuses me today is when I was about ten and went to my friend's birthday party. I had too much movie theater popcorn and threw up in the middle of the night all over my sleeping bag. I had to crawl over sleeping children to wake up her parents in the middle of the night. Her dad did not appreciate it. What I wonder now is why didn't I get up and go to the bathroom? Why did I just lay there? Don't you remember doing that as a kid too, just deciding it was going to happen where it happened? Anyway, I digress. There is nothing worse than getting sick or being sick while away from your own comfort space. I have a hilarious travel story involving diarrhea and a scoliosis back brace, but I've been told that I shouldn't tell that story to everyone, so I won't repeat it here.

The Best: It's an Excuse
My favorite thing to do is sit and stare at something: the TV, a book, the wall. Normally, I may feel like I'm wasting the day if I'm under a blanket watching VH1 Behind the Music marathons, but if I'm sick? Nah. That's to be expected. It's also nice if you're not alone in the house and you can make your voice real small and say, "Heeyy, can you make me some soooooup?" Justified laziness and being waited on is always a good thing.

The Worst: Depression
One night in the late 90's, my sickly cousin and my sickly self were talking on the phone.  Natalie said, "I want to go back to school and see everyone, but I also really don't want to go back to school ever again." I thought that was deeply profound and weird because it was exactly how I felt. You need to be back in the world again, but the longer you're away from it, the less enthusiasm you have towards any type of participation in life. It just gets worse the longer the sickness goes on. Also, with not enough happening in the day, there's less to fill your mind, which doesn't help.

The Best: Miscellaneous
I don't know why, but sweating profusely from a fever makes me feel very accomplished. Those white blood cells workin' hard! Also, something about the raspyness that occurs from a cold or flu is oddly satisfying.

The Worst: Nighttime
Night has never seemed so long, depressing, and dark as when you feel like crap and cannot stop coughing or the tickle in your throat won't go away or your head is throbbing or your stomach is churning. I'm not sure why the human body is like this, but I swear as soon as the sun starts to rise, it's like, "Okay, I'll just put a hold on these symptoms and knock her out." Then an hour later the alarm clock goes off. It's very mean and I don't appreciate it at all.

Well there it is, folks. The best and worst of being sick. As we enter cold and flu season, may you remember that the worst is universal and that there is always a bright side to how shitty you feel.

What did I miss? What would be on your list?

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Mental Resolutions for 2016

I don't know about you guys, but I feel like there's nothing more pointless than making resolutions about something you're going to do. I'm going to work out every day! I'm going to only eat sugar on Sundays! I'm only going to watch one hour of television a day! Yeah right like we'll maintain those habits all year. They look small, but actually involve MAJOR lifestyle changes, so you know, just forget it, I say.

I'm not against resolutions though. I've just changed the way I approach them. MENTAL resolutions are my thing for 2016 and beyond, and here are the four big ones I want to work on this year:

#1) Expect Nothing

I'm sort of cheating, since I also had this resolution last year, but it's a great one, and it's not one that you can ever really be done with. Our culture is outcome oriented, and for good reason. Without that, who would ever work hard at their job or at school? Who would ever maintain their bodies, their homes, their cars? But there's a flip side to that. I'll expect something bad to happen in a particular situation, so I won't do it at all. Or I'll expect something good to happen, and when it doesn't, I'm really disappointed. In certain situations, you have to remind yourself to expect nothing-- just have the experience. This one is so hard. It's a practice. Actually, all of these are. Hence, resolutions.

#2) Get Over Myself

I feel like this one covers so much ground that I can best explain it with a story. When I was in fourth grade, my friend and I played with our classroom chess set as if the pieces were dolls. They were rich, waring families on a checkered island. It was so fun. Anyway, during free time, our teacher let us play in the hall. I knew that the fifth graders were going to leave for recess and they'd walk past us. They'd probably wonder what we were doing and laugh or make fun of us.

So, I developed an ingenious idea of how to stay in control of the situation. I said things like, "We know we look stupid, keep walking," and, "We know this is weird. We know we're lame," literally the entire time the fifth graders made their way outside. As if they cared more than anything about how I looked. As if I needed to apologize for being a nine-year-old using my imagination. As if I were were going to be attacked by them and needed to attack myself first to avoid social humiliation. And yes, we did get a few weird looks, but none of those kids mattered. I wasn't friends with the fifth graders. I never talked to them. And maybe the looks were actually caused by my self-deprecated ramblings. Either way, who cared what they thought?

So anyway, as an adult, I want to discontinue any and all forms of everything I was doing to "protect" myself in the hallway of Dimondale Elementary that day. Make sense?

#3) Find Balance Between Being Informed & Losing My Mind

I've gotten a lot better at guarding my brain over the years. I used to watch a ton of Cold Case Files and Datelines and click on every disturbing news story that entered my feed. And then one day, I realized that I was convinced the world was a terrible place, that all people were evil, and that terrible things were going to happen to me at any moment, even though nothing that bad had happened to me my entire life. And now today, with terrorism and random violence touching the previously safe parts of our world, it's easier than ever to go insane.

So when it comes to my own state of mind, my own daily happiness, I need to remember that whatever beast I feed is the beast that grows. I don't want to be ignorant and uninformed, but I don't want to be scared of the world either. Taking pause before I watch or read something to really ask myself if it's a good idea is a start. Surrounding myself with positive news, art, and comedy will help as well. The truth is that most people are good and that although tragedies do happen in the world every day, tragedies don't happen in most people's individual lives every day. It's not all bad.

#4) Forgive Myself for Disappointing Younger Versions of Myself

I think when most people think about where they previously thought they'd be at this point in their lives, they shudder a little. My eyes have actually sprung open, almost in a panic, thinking about this as I try to fall asleep. My life isn't bad at all, I'm just not where I wish I was. What actually feels worse though is that I'm not where fifteen-year-old Brigette wanted me to be. I'm not where twenty-year-old Brigette wanted me to be. I need to try to let go of this. No one can go back in time and just be different. No one can just know things about life before they have experiences that help them know it. Regret is almost like magical thinking, like if we dwell long enough, time travel will be possible. It's not. But that's okay, because the thing is, our younger selves aren't even here, and you can't actually disappoint someone who doesn't exist. Besides, their understanding of adulthood and reality was not accurate. Growth is neither simple nor linear, and hey, we're not dead yet.

In case you can't read this, it predicts that at 30, I'd be a housewife with either a "little" or a "white" picket fence.

For some people, maybe the mental resolution thing is harder, but checking in with my thought patterns is a lot easier than getting on a treadmill, and I think ultimately, more helpful. Will I be peaceful and zen like as I weigh in at 700 pounds next year? Hmm, I don't know. We'll see.

So what about you? What are some mental resolutions that you hope to carry with you into the new year and beyond? I'd love to hear what everyone has to say, so please share!

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Now that Halloween is over, the fall season is starting to wind down. I have mixed feelings about this, because as crazy as I am for Christmas, fall is my favorite season. It didn't used to be, but then in my mid-twenties, something happened. I feel like it happens to most white girls-- maybe it's the pumpkin spice lattes-- but suddenly, I loved fall. I loved it more than anything. I loved it more than I loved certain people.

I don't want this post to be about the obvious. I could go on and on about the cozy scarves, the pretty colors, the just right temperature, and the yummy beverages, but I want to write about the weird-ass things that happen in my brain come fall, because that's more interesting, right?

#1) Happy New Year

I miss that windbreaker too.
Since I teach, I've never really been off the school calendar for more than a year, so the new year for me is not January-- it's September. As soon as the back to school commercials start, I drool at the Mead Five Star First Gear. I walk past the folder and pencil aisle at Target and fight back tears. I want to buy ALL the Lisa Frank things. ALL OF THEM. I guess I technically could. Who would stop me? Who would ever know?

Cut to ten years from now. My husband keeps pestering me about a room that I always keep locked in our mansion. What's in the room? Why won't I ever let him in? One day, while I'm at a speaking engagement with The Queen, he picks open the lock with a butter knife. Thousands of Lisa Frank pencils, book bags, and folders fall out. They never find his body.

The thing is, new school supplies carry a sense of possibility. The colorful folders reflect the emotions you hope to feel throughout the year. You imagine how fun it will be taking notes with metallic gel pens. These days sit in the pocket of "new," far away from January, when you're freezing and tired and hate life. Maybe you'll love winter this year! I mean, you won't. But in the fall, there's the feeling that you could. Fall means "this is the year life could be perfect," because most of it hasn't happened yet to prove to you otherwise.

#2) Associations & Reactions

This was a big deal for me.
Every fall, I get flashbacks of other people's houses from childhood-- my friends' houses and people my parents knew. My mom's friend Mary Beth-- I think of her blue brick kitchen. My friend Sarah-- I think of the mud room at her parent's house. I see fall decorations these family friends used to have. I remember coming inside rosy-cheeked after playing outside.

Years ago, when I had my first apartment, the most exciting thing was decorating. I decided that I would be one of those people who had fall decore. So I bought this door hanger, and you would've thought I was on something. I just stared at it all day, feeling the greatest sense of satisfaction. My space was now like the "other people's" space. I don't even know what that means. It's not like we didn't decorate at my own family's home, but that's what went through my head.

At some point, because decorations are reusable, you stop buying them, but it's harder to stop buying clothes. Every fall, I seem to forget my lack of money and closet space. I get an insatiable urge to buy navy and cranberry colored sweaters-- ivory sweaters are okay too. A few weeks ago, to keep myself from shopping, I watched footage of dead malls on YouTube for like, an hour. I guess it fulfilled my shopping urge and my nostalgia at the same time? This is so weird. Why am I fascinated by this? I COULD WATCH IT ALL DAY.

See the Justin Bieber-The Office connection

#3) The Yearnings

Before I wasted time looking at the dead mall stuff, I Googled "clothing catalogue 1994." It's true that I crave nice new sweaters every fall, but I crave the old school stuff too, which is dangerous. It seems deeper than nostalgia though, more like my brain is grabs onto this canon "adult" image and says, "Remember how the grown ups were on commercials? Your turn!" I want to wear oversized purple and turquoise coats and giant cable-knit sweaters from Mervyn's. I long for stretch pants that perfectly match the color of my shirt. I want to cut my bangs straight across my forehead, curl them, and say things like, "I just LOVE my Chevy Lumina! With AT&T's long distance family plan, I know exactly what to bake for Grandma Sue this Thanksgiving!" Very dangerous indeed.

Luckily, my other yearnings won't affect my social life quite as much: Hot beverages must be consumed at all times; if The Lawrence Welk Show is on, I need to watch it; I don't understand football or care about it, but dozing on the couch while it's on is a must; Double Double Toil and Trouble staring Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and The Worst Witch need to be on rotation, but I already wrote about Halloween movies here, so, moving on.

The pretty leaves are almost gone, and the air is getting chillier, but the greatest thing about fall is that it  always comes back. Next year, once again, the intense flame will ignite in my brain where I long to wear bad 90's clothes, drink something hot, and remember other people's houses. I can't wait!

What is YOUR favorite season? Don't tell me the obvious reasons why-- tell me the weird ones.  What's it all about? Have you ever bought something REALLY ugly because you were confused about what decade it was? Do you have a secret room full of Lisa Frank paraphernalia? Let me know! I won't judge.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Epiphanies at the Michigan Writing Workshop

On September 12th, I went to the Michigan Writing Workshop in Livonia hosted by Chuck Sambuchino. I'm not going to go into the lessons that he taught us from 9:30-5 pm (yes, he talked almost the whole time. He's amazing.) I'm gonna touch more on the aha moments I had, and there were two pretty big ones. All I can say is, thank god I attended.

Aha #1: Agent = Helper, not God of Fortune

To say I was freaking out before this conference is an understatement. I was pitching my novel to agents face to face for the first time ever, and I wasn't feeling too confident.

I've been querying agents off and on since 2013, so you can imagine how many "no's" that equals. I believe in this project fiercely. You would have to tear it out of my cold, dead hands if you wanted me to just toss it. But it's an indistinct genre for an indistinct audience, and it's hella long. I have at least ten revisions saved on my computer. I hired an editor. I changed my query every few agents. I watched my friends get new jobs and move and get married and have kids, all while I obsessed over this thing. I've often wondered if everyone I know pities me, if they scrunch up their noses and whisper, "Oh, bless her heart. Maybe soon she'll grow up and put her energy somewhere more productive." Any aspiring novelist knows EXACTLY what I'm talking about, I'm sure.

So it's easy to mistake the agent as the one who's going to give you validation, who's going to tell you it's all been worth it, that your work is amazing and that you matter as a person. But that's like expecting a labrador to be a panther. It's just not what they are. (I know, that's a terrible metaphor. I'm Sorry.)

Both agents I talked to liked the premise. Both agents were terrified of the length. They gave me honest and helpful feedback, both during the face-to-face sessions and one in a follow-up email, and because of that, I can say that I now have a plan. Like a real, actual PLAN. You may not get an agent at a conference, but you will get feedback, and you will have a more clear idea of what your next move should be. I wish I had known that going into the pitch-- I probably would have slept a little easier the night before.

Aha #2: Don't ask yourself if your first page is "good" or "bad." Ask yourself if it's competitive. 

Without a doubt, the most valuable--and suspenseful--part of the conference was Writers' Got Talent, or as I prefer to call it, American Idol for Writers. Chuck read our first pages, and as soon as the agents would stop reading if it were in their slush pile, they raised their hands. Over the hour and fifteen minutes that this was done, I think only three or four people had their first page read the whole way through. Some people only had two of their sentences read before hands were raised. One person's didn't even make it to that second sentence.

It was brutal.

Here's an exaggerated reenactment:

Chuck: (reading) It was a cold and blustery day when Toby died. I had just buttoned up my red coat from Hollister, and I couldn't stop sneezing.

Agent #1: (raises hand) Yeah, I feel like this prose is a bit off. Instead of telling me that she buttoned the coat, show me that she buttoned the coat. Instead of telling me that she sneezed, let me feel the sneeze. I just didn't feel the sneeze as a reader.

Agent #2: Opening with the weather is just really cliché. We see it done way, way too often.

Agent #3: Why should I care about Toby and the fact that he's dead? Why should I care about this main character? Character development needs to be more apparent in this opening, both for the main character and for the dead, rotting corpse that is Toby.

Okay, it wasn't exactly like that, but at the same time, it was. It was your creative writing workshop worst nightmare.

After about three pages, Chuck had heard too many grumbles, and he stopped to address the audience. I told these guys to be tough on you, he said. They're not doing you any favors by being dishonest. True. We stopped our grumbles. Agents are looking for a reason to say no-- they get tons of queries every day.

I very quickly went from praying they would pick my page to praying that they wouldn't. And then they did. I thought my heart was going to beat up out of my throat. Chuck made it about a paragraph in before hands were raised. The agent who spoke was-- I shit you not-- the first agent I ever queried in 2013. I had never heard back from her. "Everything's just kind of in the main character's head," she said. "I skimmed every paragraph, and it's still like that." She was the only one who said anything. I was like, really universe?!

I was very attached to the way I opened my novel. It foreshadowed stuff that was going to happen at the end, and it also tied into how book two ends and how book three begins. (Of course, explaining that rationale to an agent would be the dead giveaway of an amateur.) So then the battle in my head went like this: "I think the beginning is good. If I change it, that's like saying it's not good, and it's also selling out. So I can't change it."

By the end of Writers' Got Talent, it was starting to dawn on me that thinking about things in the subjective terms of "good" and "bad" is the quickest way to block anything that could lead to your next step. Ask yourself instead if that beginning is competitive. Out of all the books someone sifts through during a rainy day at the book store, what's going to make them stop and focus on yours?

One tip that Chuck gave us was to mosey through the aisle at Barns and Noble and just read the first page of books in our genre. So the other day I ordered myself a pumpkin spice latte and did just that. I noticed a trend.

Most first pages have:

1) A first sentence (or two sentences) that sets the tone, and it's almost ALWAYS related to a character.
2) A brief description of setting-- like, no more than a paragraph.
3) Dialogue

I still like my opening, but maybe it's not competitive. I think it's easy when you're a writer to forget that there are a million other people trying to do exactly what you're doing. I think it's easy to read your favorite books or the classics and think that your stuff is just as good, if not better. We forget how big the writing world is and how much amazing stuff is being done. What worked twenty years ago wouldn't be enough ten years ago, and that wouldn't be enough today. It's fiercely competitive out there, which is challenging for people like me who don't have a competitive bone in their body.

I think the biggest lie we tell each other about artistry is that talent is rare. What's even more damaging is if you hear this repeatedly as a kid-- which I did. It makes you think that you're almost entitled to recognition because you have this thing that no one else has. Well the truth, kiddos, is that while you may have a voice that's unique to you, talent is not rare. Talent is everywhere. And you aren't entitled to anything.

Maybe that idea wouldn't end up on a motivational poster, but the sooner we accept it, the sooner we can actually get something done.

A Final Tip: Stay Until the End

Around 3:30 or 4, I was done. I was exhausted. My body was coming down from the stress of the pitches, and my ego was shot from the comparisons it was making all day-- well at least my writing is better than THAT person's! Ugh, that first page was SO much better than mine, etc. etc.-- but the woman next to me said to stay to the end because that's when the good stuff comes, and I'm glad I listened. With all the technical publishing stuff out of the way, Chuck talked about his own experiences and hit some important points, like staying curious and open as a person--that's how connections happen--and not giving away too much in your writing; mystery is your friend. So if you plan on going to a writer's conference, stay until the end, even if you feel like you're about to melt into a puddle on the floor, because the closing might pick you up a bit.

So now, I turn it to you. How have you felt after leaving a writer's conference? Any ah-ha's? If you've never attended one, what's the worst (or best) writing workshop you've ever been in? When and why do you feel resistant to making changes in your writing? I want to know, so please share!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

One Woman's Journey Through Her Junk Drawer

Most humans on planet Earth have at least one junk drawer, and if you're anything like me, more than one. Often times, junk drawers are full of things you need, but don't have specific places for, like scissors and chip clips, but what about the drawer full of stuff that you don't need, the stuff that holds no practical purpose besides the fact that you just can't let go? That's the journey I'm taking you on today.

Exploring: the top drawer of this beautiful wooden chest purchased from an antique store in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Supposedly, it was found in an old mansion. I hope it's haunted. Objects can be haunted.


- I'm starting with the most important: a bow from my favorite shirt in 5th grade, which got spaghetti on it and fell off. 5th grade was fun. It was right before everything went to hell. I can never get rid of this.

- A million letters, mostly from my friend Beth, filled with every little thing that happened in our lives. We wrote each other wonderfully pointless and long winded letters for years, and we need to start this up again.

- Two tickets from separate American Idol concerts. At one, I almost died.

- The ticket from when I saw Conan live in Chicago. Almost died from love.

- Physical therapy exercises, which I never always do.

- Old Christmas cards. My favorite comes from my friends Anne and Matt, who win at everything.

- A letter to me written by Mom's friend when I was first born. She tells me I'm precious. She tells me I kicked a nurse and then clenched my fist "ever so slowly." Mom isn't friends with this lady anymore.

- This PSA

- A million buttons that I will never sew on my shirts once a button actually falls off.

- A scrap of paper where I wrote "Tennyson & Keiser- Maur." Here I am, finally listening to it again years later, thanks to my note. The song isn't by itself on YouTube, but someone made it the background of a Rockefeller Christmas Tree video, so listen to it while you read the rest of this, or something.

 -Broccoli and Cheese Man cast photo. I need to talk about this for a minute.

Yes, Dad is wearing a pompom on his head.
I think I've mentioned this before, but when I was about nine, I became really obsessed with Barney. One day, while my friend Chelsea and I played with sidewalk chalk, we created a character called Brocooli and Cheese Man, a man just like Barney the dinosaur, except he was not a dinosaur, but a man made from broccoli and cheese. I'm not sure what his purpose was. I'm guessing to help kids be healthy? He was magical.

Feeding farm animals
The summer before fourth grade, I got it in my head that I needed to write a script and shoot an episode of Broccoli and Cheese Man. My long-suffering father was the star. I had selected specific friends for specific roles, and they were all game. Unfortunetly, our video camera broke, so we decided to take pictures and have it be a picture book. There's a segment where we got in the pool, but it was raining, so Mom took the pictures from inside, and most are just of the window screen. But then we danced and fed farm animals, which is unfortunately fortunetly preserved.

Every now and then, I come across one of these pictures, and they're so horrifyingly embarrassing that it's like, how can I NOT put them on the internet? (Yes, there are more. No, I could not find them.)

Back to the list:

-A Puffalump Keepsake book, recorded by Mom. Proof that I was always real creative.

- For a time, big sister Liz, cousin Natalie, and I pretended like we were news reporters. Here's several gruesome fake news reports NOT written by me, thank you very much.

-A children's book, The Freshest Milk, the Smoothest Smoothy, written by Abigail Alena Bishop Lavine. I had a very rich imaginary life with my dolls, as I've documented here, and this book was about my doll son. Things to note on the author page: I make sure to say my three year old lives with her father. "Book marm" is one of my jobs.

- A doodle from summer '97 involving a story line from Days of Our Lives that Natalie, Liz, and I found hilarious. Can't get rid of this.

- A flyer from when Michelle Obama came to visit Las Vegas in 2008. I walked my class downtown to see her instead of teaching, because even though Dr. Kempner said it wasn't okay, Dr. Middleton said it was. ("This is HISTORY!") Obama paper dolls are in the desk, too.

-Envelopes containing predictions my friends and I made for ourselves and each other in 2008 to be opened in 2012. They depress me greatly. There's another envelope with new predictions for 2016, which I accidentally glanced at, and already I'm depressed again.

- Note from Dad, addressed to "clever, magical Brigette" from "logical and wise Wolf Pop." This was either attached to a fairy statue or my cat tarot deck he gave me for Christmas-- don't remember.

-Aura pictures, palm reader notes, and personality tests. How would I know who I am without all this data? I need to talk about this for a minute. I repeat myself a lot in this thing, but I don't think I've ever really touched on my family's obsession with the supernatural. It's honestly odd that I haven't.

There's too much to say about all of that, but the palm reader experience stands out in my family's supernatural journey. We walked into this lady's house thinking we were gonna get swindled and quickly realized we were wrong. The readings were so accurate that one of us would often say "oh no, I don't think that's true," and everyone else would look at each other and mouth "yes it is!" She knew about things that happened to us at certain ages, told us stuff about our health, and different struggles with our personalities. She told me I was Neptunean, that I was not of this earth and just didn't belong here. Accurate.

The thing that's striking about palm reading is that it's a science. There is no psychic stuff going on, no channeling. The reader herself said she had no supernatural abilities. YOU could be a palm reader. And so could YOU! And so could YOU!

Did you know that the points in your hands have to do with the planets? And that you can also read people's irises, but we don't do that in America much, and the irises look like the universe? And have I ever showed you this HD picture of orbs I took at a grave yard years ago that also look like the universe? Ghosts collect in a parallel universe and the universe is in your hands and eyes. The planets are in cahoots with your personality and your life and this is actually something you can MEASURE! IT'S SCIENCE!

Anyway, what's happening? There's stuff in my junk drawer?

-Okay, one more item, my grad school ID. My face is almost completely rubbed away. When I pulled this item out, I actually paused and recoiled. It's is absolutely terrifying. I mean *I* must be the ghost who haunts my wooden chest, right? Okay enough with the ghost stuff. ENOUGH! I'm shutting this whole thing down!


The stuff we save for no reason is to preserve memories of relationships-- relationships with other people, and our relationship with ourselves, different parts of ourselves from different times. It's all about full integration. We go about our daily lives and have our jobs and our titles, or lack there of, all the while trying subconcousily to hold together a narrative about ourselves, and the junk drawer symbolizes that part in our brain where memory holds love and identity and security and consistency. Did that sound smart? I literally just wrote without stopping like a stream of concousiness. I have no idea what I'm saying.

Take the Junk Drawer Challenge! Find a drawer full of impractical things and tell me what's in it. How far back do these items go, and why have you kept ahold of them? What relationship are you trying to preserve? What would you lose if you actually were to throw the thing away?

OR dump the entire drawer on your head, put it on social media, and then challenge a friend to do the same thing and donate money to a disease! Definetly do one of those two things, and as always, let me know how it goes!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

7 "Inspirational" Mantras That Are Actually Ruining Our Lives

Every now and then, I see inspirational quotes or sayings that really speak to me, but most of the time, I just find them irritating. I always thought it was because many tend to over-simplify things, but then one day, I realized it was bigger than that; these mantras that we hold dear in our American lives, these sayings that we wear proudly on our shirts and slap on our cars as bumper stickers are actually ruining our lives. We think they give us inspiration, but they're acutally just incredibly unhelpful, the opposite of what we should really be telling ourselves. With this in mind, I took some time to correct many of these cliche inspirational mantras and make some crappy brilliant posters of my own that you can put on your walls to replace the life-ruining ones.

#1: "Dream Until Your Dreams Come True"

Such a beautiful thought, right? It reminds us of twinkling starlight and Disney movies. But here's the dirty little truth on this one: dreaming has to lead to action, or else it's useless. You know how much time I've spent dreaming, both while awake and while asleep? If  dreams could convert into some type of currency, I'd be living in a palace eating gold.  I've only accomplished like, three things in my whole life. This mantra ruins lives because it ends too quickly, leaving out the most important factor that makes dreams come true. Yes, dreaming time is a very important step in creation and change, but you can't just say there.

Mantra corrected:

"Work Until Your Dreams Come True"

#2: "You Can Do Anything You Set Your Mind To"

Can you? I'm pretty sure no matter how much time I spend reading about astrology, I will never work for NASA. I don't think everyone has the physical body to be a gymnast. Just because you love music doesn't mean you're creative enough to compose a symphony. I think this mantra can ruin lives when people start to feel bad about what they haven't accomplished, like they can't do this or that because they haven't worked hard enough. Maybe you just weren't meant to do it? Maybe you were meant to do something else. We all have different skill sets, different brains and potentials, and that's a good thing.

Mantra corrected:

"Test Your Limits, Then Know Them & Focus On What You CAN Do & Get Really Good At That"

#3: "Everything Happens For A Reason"

This one gets tricky because it bleeds into religious territory, and I don't want to shut down anyone's beliefs, but I struggle with this one myself. Some things DO seem meant to be. Others are too horrible to be worthy of justifying some grand plan. I get nervous when people act like EVERYTHING is pre-destined because I'm like, "Do you ever watch the news???" How will these people deal with truly terrible shit that happens in their lives, as it most likely will at some point? I'm not talking about losing a job or a break-up; I'm talking about death and illness and natural disaster and political unrest. I worry for these people. I think it's dangerous to think that fate or God or the universe makes everything happen. At what point are you absolved of responsibility? At what point will you be mad at God for what he supposedly did to you? I gots to much to say on this one, so I'm just gonna leave it at this before I start spewing off my own spiritual beliefs.

Mantra Corrected:

"The Universe is Not Shitting On You; Good Can Come From ANY Situation"

#4: "Dream Big" and/or "Expect Great Things"

Trust me, dreaming big will only lead to feeling like a failure. Dream small, achievable dreams that can increase as you meet goals. Instead of expecting great things, expect nothing. This was my only resolution for 2015, and I've got thirty years of reasons why. Our culture has a problem with expecting great things, and honestly, I think it's our downfall. We are all encouraged to expect above-average lives, which can turn into feeling like we are entitled to great big things. Not good things, comforting things, or pleasant things, but GREAT things. When we don't get these things or they're not GREAT enough, we feel bad about ourselves, resent each other, and again, hate God. That's sad. On the contrary, when you don't expect great things, or really anything, I think it's easier to see more of the good. You're not distracted by what this "should have" been and you can just appreciate what it is. Hopefully.

Corrected Mantra:

"Do Your Best, Expect Nothing, & You May Be Pleasantly Surprised"

#5: "Don't Worry. Be Happy!"

This is similar to "be fearless" or "be confident" or "choose to be happy." I think these ideas ruin lives because no matter what anyone says, you cannot control how you FEEL. YOU CAN'T. Why do we keep insisting that you can?! We can choose what we focus on, with effort. I would like to emphasize again WITH EFFORT. We can choose how we act and how we treat each other, but we cannot control what we think or how we feel. I can't just not worry. I can't just be happy. And you know, sometimes you have to worry. I can't pay my bills! That makes me worried! I should do something about that. Nah man, just be happy. Okay! Now I'm homeless. So stupid. I'm not saying we should be slaves to bad feelings, but they require management, not rejection.

Mantra Corrected:

"Notice When You Are Focusing Too Much on What Makes You Worry & Make Time To Focus on What Makes You Happy"

#6: "Live Life With No Regrets"

Okay, out of all the life-ruining mantras, this one is by far the worst. Living life with no regrets is the stupidest idea we have adopted into our cultural consciousness. Regret is the result of learning. Learning is an important part of being a person. Regrets are often accompanied with pain, and if our culture is anything, it's one dead-set on numbing and rejecting pain, to the point of fetishism. But Oprah herself would tell you that the only way out of the pain is through. "Live life with no regrets" not only glorifies the rejection of reflection, growth, and responsibility, but it also diminishes how hard it can be to make choices. Respect the decision-making process that we all go through in life and have empathy with yourself when you struggle with it; everyone does, and that's called The Deal You Got When You Agreed to be a Human Being.

Mantra Corrected:

 "Reflect Heavily On Your Regrets, Then Move Forward & Make Different Choices"

#7: "Live Life to the Fullest"

What does this even mean?! Whose idea of "the fullest" am I supposed to be following? Usually, this mantra is accompanied with pictures of mountain climbers in foreign lands or something that involves Eat, Pray, Love-esque soul searching. Your life is full if you've gone to a lot of places and met strange people and made impulsive decisions, never mind if they were "mistakes" or not. (Oh yeah, they weren't mistakes. Live life with no regrets.) Am I supposed to feel bad about myself because this all sounds awful? Being physically active and making small talk with strangers are two of the things that I hate the most. It also just looks like a lot of emptiness to me. Our culture tells us that a person who backpacks across Europe making surfacey, sexy relationships is living a fuller life than someone who stays home taking care of her family who she loves & counseling her friends over the phone, and I think that's gross. I guess if you value adventure and new things, then fine. But I value relationships and naps and art and pie.

Corrected Mantra:

"Define Your Values & Try To Live Them Out Fully Every Day"

So what do you think? Have you ever followed or tried to follow one of these cliches and felt like you were a failure at life when you couldn't make them work? Did you used to like one of these ideas and now find it annoying? Are you mad at me for how I defined these mantras and want to defend them? What annoying mantras have I missed? I know there's a million of them. Sound off!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

We Wish You a Creepy Christmas

Well, tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and we all know what that means: lots of baking, last minute shopping, wrapping gifts, practicing how softly you can cry in anticipation of the family gathering
where Aunty Muriel will ask you why you've never brought a man to one of these things, etc., etc. It's also when we revisit our favorite holiday stories and listen to our favorite holiday songs. Have you ever taken pause though and really heard the lyrics, really thought about the details? If you did, you may realize that some of your Christmas favorites are actually kind of creepy, or at least have the potential to be.

#1: "Baby, It's Cold Outside"

No one hates this song more than my big sister, Liz. To her, it may as well be called "I Spiked Your Drink and Won't Let You Leave." The girl sings, "Say what's in this drink?" The guy repeatedly sings, "Baby, don't hold out." Her drink is probably just alcohol right? Maybe a kind she hadn't tried before, a cocktail if you will, and it's stronger than she expected. But maybe not. Maybe my sister is right, and it's filled with roofies. Should this song be updated? Maybe the dad and brother show up the next day with a shot gun? Maybe a jolly prosecutor enters the scene with a twinkle in his eye? Should we not joke about this?

If you have to listen to this song, just make sure it's the Haley & Casey version.

Does anyone remember that movie All I Want for Christmas staring Thora Birch? I loved that movie when I was little, and Thora's duet with Lauren Becall was the first time I remembered hearing "Baby, It's Cold Outside." I thought it was cute. But the whole thing is about convincing a girl she should stay at your house so you can hook up, and a grandmother is singing that to her granddaughter? Why? Just why?

No way is that Thora Birch's voice.

#2: "Santa Baby"

Sometimes I wonder if stores knew how much of my business they lost by playing "Santa Baby"  if they would still insist on playing it at all. I really can't express how much I hate this song. First of all, I am not a fan of grown women singing in a pouty, baby-way to be sexy. Why is it sexy to sound like a baby? Can anyone please explain this to me??? (Actually, do I want you to?) I also just hate it when women entice men by acting like they have some sort of mental deficiency and all they want is presents, so like, there's that.

The only type of santa baby I approve of.
Most disturbingly, this grown woman-baby is basically singing about how she wants to do Santa. Santa. He's old, by thousands of years. He's not the healthiest. He's already married to Mrs. Claus. He lives in a cold, remote location. He's magical, but decides to go down chimneys instead of just putting elf dust on the door handle and walking inside, and his soul purpose for living is to give children toys like a kindly grandfather. This young woman wants to get it on with that guy. Does she need MEDICATION?! "Santa Baby" is actually a song about a mentally unstable woman with a fetish, which is fine, I guess, but not while I'm buying my mom a sweater at Macy's.

Wait, this movie was a thing?
#3: "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"

I had no problem with this song, but again, Liz ruined it for me. I always thought the song was about how the Dad dressed up as Santa and the kid didn't know it was his dad, and he saw his mom and dad kissing when he was supposed to be asleep. This is what the song is about, right?

Liz decided the song was about a kid who caught his mother having an affair and to deal with the trauma, he told himself that this other man was actually Santa Claus. This is quite a stretch, but Liz feels so passionately about her interpretation that it makes me wonder if there's something to it.

#4: The Nutcracker 

Uncle Drosselmeyer, right? It goes without saying that he's creepy. We know he's magical and weird, but I never really understood why he had to be so sinister at the same time. If Clara didn't really dream all of that, and Uncle Drosselmeyer really made her shrink to the size of a mouse and endure a battle with toy soldiers, then that's just messed up. But that's not really what bothers me about him.

I've seen a lot of different versions of The Nutcracker over the years, and I swear I've seen performances that involved some version of the Nutcracker turning into Uncle Drosselmeyer, or Uncle Drosselmeyer cutting into Clara's romantic dance with the Nutcracker and having a solo where he danced with her. I haven't seen these versions in a while, maybe because producers caught on to the inscesty vibes (after what, like a hundred years?) but I never forgot them. Uncle Drosselmeyer makes me very uncomfortable, and he should not be trusted around children.

Does anyone remember this claymation Nutcracker that was on TV in the 80's? We had it on tape, and I loved how cool the claymation looked, but it also terrified me. About a year ago, I saw the opening on YouTube and was horrified that my parents ever let me watch it in the first place. It was like I suddenly had a crystal clear understanding of where 90% of my anxieties and fears originated from. Ladies and gentlemen, this is why I'm crazy:


#5: "He sees you when you're sleeping/ He knows when you're awake"

No further explanation needed.

We're gonna go with these.
#6: Okay, I don't remember what this story is called, and it's been told so many times that I'm not even sure of its origin, but when I read it, I  sunk into a deep depression that I thought I would never climb out of:

This woman is shopping for presents and it's almost Christmas. She sees two little kids trying to buy a pair of heels for their mom, but they don't have enough money, so the lady buys the heels for them. The kids are so excited. "Oh, thank you!" They say, "Our Mommy is sick and dying, and she'll look so pretty meeting Jesus in these shoes!"

If you're the type of person who thinks that story is sweet, inspiring, or heartwarming, then don't ever talk to me, ever. I'm not kidding. Even writing that out just now upset me.

#7: There are some non-cannon Christmas songs That are depressing as well. I swear this was a Kenny Rogers song, but I can't find evidence of it: "The Last Silent Night." It's about a family who sang "Silent Night" every year, and then the mother got old and was dying and they sang "Silent Night" for the last time. Cheerful, no? Honorable mention goes to Barbara Mandrell's song, "Born to Die,"which includes the lyrics, "Sweet baby Jesus/ you knew you were born to die." I thought he was primarily born to spread light to the world and that's the point of Christmas, but whatever.

#8: Love Actually

To half of my friends who love this Christmas movie, I know I rant about how much I hate it all the time and it annoys you and I'm sorry for that and I'm sorry for repeating it now, and actually, I can't do a better job of ripping it apart than the people who did the "Honest Trailer" video below,  so I'll just say a few things: It's depressing. It's boring. It's not Christmasy. Snape cheats on his wife. No matter how many times people make me watch it, I don't remember half of it. You should take that seriously, because I remember being bottle fed and having my diapers changed and I'm NOT kidding.

This SNL Love Actually spoof that was cut for time is very much worth watching as well…

I feel like there's so many more that I can't remember, so you need to help me out. What other Christmas songs and stories are secretly creepy, depressing, or just send a strange message? Would you like to defend any of the above items that I criticized, or add to the criticism? Tell me your thoughts, and please, have a very merry Christmas!