Before the Cocoon

If you’ve read my last couple of posts here you’ll notice a reoccurring theme of embracing change, finding yourself, and releasing fear. Fear is usually the hardest step for me to get through. Occasionally, my fears have morphed into pathetic levels of foot dragging or worse, complete avoidance. At least the foot dragging slowly leads somewhere. Avoidance, unfortunately, likes to be my favorite blanket. It pretends to be there for me, protecting me from the scary realities that are right outside my door. The truth is, avoidance is actually the abusive lover that distracts you with sweet nothings as they slowly strangle you. Okay, perhaps that’s a little dark, but seriously avoidance is a pain in the ass. Another reoccurring theme in my life is that every time it seems to be going well, I should actually be bracing for impact because the big bad is heading right towards me. In an effort to be more positive and take things as they come, I let my guard down. I didn’t look for the other shoe to drop, and damn if I didn’t get knocked on my ass. From 2008-2016 I was a stay at home mom. I loved being home with my babies. It was the best time. Last year, we took a huge chance a moved our little family from Tennessee to Vermont. Not only was this a huge change, but I then went back to work as my youngest went off to Pre-K. We handled the changes well and dealt with the variety of bumps that came after we settled in. Granted, I missed my time as a stay at home mom, and the “Mom Guilt” leveled up, but I enjoyed my work (and talking with adults). Now, one year later, the job I enjoyed is no more. I’m in the exact position I was in when we first moved here, only now I’m questioning everything. I have never expected life to be easy (I have way too many experiences to keep me from being that naive) but I would LOVE a script for what to expect next. Starting over is a challenge. I’m weighing what I want to do versus what we need as a family versus realistic options. Needless to say, I have no clue where to go from here, what choices are right, or what really makes sense.

What do you do when you are lost in the in-between? How do you find your direction when you’ve been thrown for a loop?

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That painful emotion: Hate 

    Let’s discuss hate for a moment. Why, you may ask? The sad truth of the matter is hate is becoming the number one emotion expressed in recent years. It is depressing, oppressive, and painful to witness. Every day we see a landslide of examples of hate, so much hate, and so many ridiculous reasons behind it. The reason I’m diving into this today is one of the many posts floating around Facebook book that shows someone’s status saying that they hope the Pride Parade gets treated like the Boston Marathon, clearing referring to the bombing. Who in their right minds wishes that kind of pain and devastation on someone else?! It’s infuriating. It has got to stop. I have never understood how people can be so comfortable wishing ill on others. It has never made sense to react to things you don’t agree with, with hate and malice. Hate is a double-edged sword. You will strike others but you will also cut out the most humane pieces of yourself fostering that kind of emotion. I have decided one of the things that allows hate to continue its killing spree is complacency. We want things to be better and more positive. We are sickened by the horrible acts we witness in the news and social media, but what the hell are we actually doing to change any of it? We are all couch warriors. Spewing more hate at those who have committed heinous acts, instead of figuring out real solutions.

     Why do people think it is okay to not only spewing verbal assaults, but to also physically assault those people, places, ideals, and beliefs that differ from our own? Why are we so lacking in tolerance? Why have our differences become the perfect excuse to be vile human beings? How do we look at ourselves in the mirror each morning and believe we are doing well? When did shaming another person become celebrated? When did degrading and berating someone become the cool thing to do? When did vile behavior cause more pride than humble behavior? Why are we so scared of the ways in which someone can love another person? Why are we threatened by someone’s personal choices in living their lives? Why do other faiths scare us? Why is it acceptable to say “My religion is the only true religion”? When did we become so egotistical as to believe we know all of the answers? Why is hurting someone so much more pleasurable than caring for them? Why must different mean warzones and violence? Where they hell did our tolerance and compassion go?

     Now I’m not trying to sound holier than thou because I can guarantee I’m just as guilty for wanting change and not being sure what to do to make that change happen. I’m far from perfect and actually will never strive to be perfect because it’s a trap. It’s a guaranteed failure, but that’s a conversation for another time. Today our focus is hate, and based on the news reports it’s the headliner every single day of our lives. Constant shootings, bombings, protests that get violent instead of remaining peaceful, people ripping each other apart in online forums, children being vile and nasty for the sake of building their YouTube audience. Whatever the case may be, we are bombarded by hate every single day. It’s beginning to show on our faces. It’s wearing us down. We are complacent in the acts and we are complacent in our reactions to the news. Every single one of us has to find small ways to counteract the hatred that is spreading among us.

     I put my efforts into how I raise my kids, and how I conduct myself. I try my best to light the way to better choices. I also work every day to break the cycles of negativity and pain that can be found within my formative years. I try to show them that they don’t have to live in a way that makes them apologize for existing. I remind them that they are exactly as they should be. I also take the time to teach them that their entire lives are made and broken within the walls of their own minds. This is a lesson that took me far too long to learn. I remind them that they must care and love themselves so that they can also share that caring, love, and compassion with others. I teach them how to be helpful, and kind, but firm. I want them to know it’s okay to say no and that people should respect that. I don’t hide the tough sides of life from them, but use it to remind them to be aware of the world around them. To pay attention to the injustices they may see and to build their opinions based on fact and not rumors or emotions. 

     You see we don’t have to make big splashy changes to make change happen. We start right in our own homes being the light that guides our children to better choices, beliefs, and behaviors. We don’t stand by and watch injustice occur and think, “Oh, that’s not my problem”. It is our problem. It is a world-wide problem. We have fostered hate and now we have to find a way to cut the cancer out. We need to guide by example, even if it is in small seemingly unimportant ways. We could do something as simple as smile at the homeless person standing on the corner, or hand them a bottle of water or a bite to eat. Maybe you don’t have cash to help, but perhaps just treating them like a living breathing human being is enough of a start. Your kindness counts. The lessons you give your kids count. Your voice counts. It’s time to say enough! Light the way with love. You don’t have to agree with someone to be kind to them. Their beliefs don’t have to be yours. It is possible to be tolerant and respectful without agreeing. We aren’t always going to agree. What’s right for them may not be right for you, but that doesn’t make it less okay. Be the light we all need in this dark world. 


An Authentic Life

I sometimes struggle with feeling authentic. I have lived most of my life trying to be exactly what is expected of me. I have bent and twisted to make everyone happy, at the sake of being who I am. As a writer, there is a freedom of exploring different lives. You get to immerse yourself into your characters and live as they would. Your characters get to go on adventures, have grand affairs, fall in love, or they can play in the darker sides of life. So many personalities, so many possibilities. However, what do you do if you are a writer whose personal fears create limitations in the growth of characters? I have found myself holding back in my writing for the fear of perception. The anticipation of peoples’ reactions is overwhelming (hello personal demons). Could this actually be what writer’s block is about? Are writers just trying to get past our own personal hang-ups to fully explore the possibility contained within the pages of the worlds we create? Is this where pseudonyms and alter-egos come in to play? I’ve often wondered if I wrote under another name if it would release me from my self-sustained limitations. Or do we write because we can find the freedom we don’t have in our lives within the pages of a book? How do you know if you are living a full authentic life? How do you know you are creating for the sake of creation and not for escapism? Or are they simply two sides of the same coin? Do we hide behind the words we string together out of fear? Or, is our work rich with possibility because we can slip out of ourselves and become anyone, anywhere? If it is fictional is it any less real? What is your authentic life? What does it look like? I’m getting closer to living mine. But, old demons die hard. It’s not like there is a handbook for vanquishing them. Hmmm…the possibilities in that.

Compass

Here’s the funny thing about life…it has its own plans. Now we all like to believe we are in control of our destiny, and to a point we are. However, life likes to color outside the box. It sees our dreams and hopes, our neatly laid plans and laughs. Seriously, think heavy-set mob boss with a cigar permanently glued to his lip belly laughing because we thought we knew best. Life is that mob boss. Life is demanding, painful, vengeful, messy, hilarious, heartbreaking, and beautiful. It’s no wonder we often sit and think, “How did I get here?” We simply don’t understand that well laid plans just beg to be derailed. They are derailed because we don’t always see the big picture. We don’t always see that our dreams could actually be so much more. We also don’t always consider how hard we have to work to reach those dreams. Why? Because they are dreams and we don’t live in that realm. We live here. In this glorious mess of random moments that are designed to test every fiber of our being until we think we can’t do this anymore…and then we keep going. Sometimes we falter, fall apart even. We pick up battle scars like one night stands. If we all took stock of our hearts and minds we would see just how stitched together everything is. There is no timing that matches our wants. There is only endless time that counts on a different clock. Nothing happens when we want it to. Nothing comes together the way we think it should. We demand to know why?! Why?! Why?! Why?! Well, because life. Life is designed to push us to our truest form of self. It isn’t pretty. We will learn that we are both light and dark. Grey areas do exist in each of us every day. None of us can expect sunshine and rainbows, there will be storms. We will be beaten up and abused. We will fail. We will win. We won’t understand anything until we look back and see the path we have been thrown down and bounced around on. Oh, but did I remind you that through all of this painful growth and redirection, there will be these precious beautiful moments where everything makes perfect sense. At least until life takes us for another spin. So when things feel like they are spiraling out of your control, remember a beautiful moment is on the horizon, and while it doesn’t make sense now your whole life is leading you exactly where you need to be.

 

I think I can’t…

I think I can’t, I think I can’t, I think…too much. Oh to be The Little Engine That Could, but I’m not. I’ve said for years that if I were a superhero I would be Worst Case Scenario Girl. I have no problem looking at a situation and finding all of the potential negatives. I’m even more skilled at selecting the negatives about myself. Oh and don’t get me started on excuses. SO MANY EXCUSES! Then comes fear. Fear is like that toxic friend that you know you shouldn’t hang out with, you know they will only get you into trouble and leave you holding the bag, you know they don’t actually care about you, but still you persist in thinking that maybe this time it will be different. It never is. Fear is a seductive bully who beats you into the ground with everything you are not and then leaves you with a list of “if only you were…” All of that baggage aside, I’m a dreamer. Oh I have hopes and dreams for days, but I cannot seem to pull the motivation from my soul to finish grabbing them. Perhaps it’s the dreary weather today that has me contemplating how pathetic it is for me to know all of this and still have no idea how to turn it all around. Or perhaps it is the fact that I want so much more out of life, but yet here I am struggling to find my footing when I know which path to take (at least to start). How is it possible to see everything that needs to be different, and still not know where to go from here? Every time I start to step forward I backslide ten spots and begin to wonder why I even tried. Which then makes me question if I really tried to begin with. Which leads to a venting/ranting monologue with no hopes of hearing a response that will be the “AHH HA!” moment I need. I have the answers, I think I know the steps, but how do I put them together and finally quit being my own worst enemy (and critic)?

The Steps:
Quit saying, “I can’t”
Quit leaning on the excuses
Quit comparing where I am to where I think I should be
Quit beating myself up
Quit thinking of the worst case scenarios (at least not so much that they become a road block)
Begin, again, and again, and again until beginning changes to progressing
Actually try to achieve my dreams, starting with the little ones
Ignore the backward slide and keep pushing forward
Figure out what I really want, and f-ing do it.
Live authentically, without apology

Hmm…this almost looks like a plan. Maybe this is where I start, really start. Ranting to the unseen masses, and pushing back at myself. Here’s to no longer being my own worst enemy.

Contemplation

Clearly, I’m new to blogging. Clearly, I’m still finding my way. Do you ever find yourself pulling back from the things you want most so you can hide away? It’s not one of my better qualities. It’s one that usually I can keep caged. However, when it comes to writing this urge to hide becomes monsterous. I’ve been trying to figure out the direction I want to go. You would think this would be easy. It’s not. I have a deep love of books, writing, photography, and of course my kids. I’m opinionated, occasionally scatterbrained, and driven all at the same time. It’s very busy in my head. I’ve come to describe it as akin to having too many tabs open on your computer screen. Oh, and fair warning I’ve been known to ramble. When I first started this blog I intended to share book reviews, the occasional more personal post, my own writing (which I also share on my Instagram @workinprogress.beautifulwords ) and some of my favorite photographs. I’m still inclined to go that direction. I just have to get past the thought that no one wants to hear what I’ve got to share.

I was thrilled when my school email contained an invite for a workshop on blogging. We had our first session tonight, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the next few webinars take us. One of our projects is going to be creating (or sharing) our blog. So at the last minute I did it. I sent my link out. I was slightly terrified because again, clearly, I’m just beginning. Then I reminded myself, I along with roughly 200 other people signed up for the same webinar series. We all want to grow, learn, and follow our passions.

Here’s to recommitting to the things I want. Here’s to continuing to learn and grow. Here’s to silencing that voice in my head that says I have nothing to say.

Balance

Finding balance is something I’m struggling with. I don’t really do the resolution thing. I pick one or two things I hope to work on during the year, and sometimes the same somethings follow me through more than one year. This year I plan to work on finding balance. In every aspect of my life. I also want to make time to focus on my writing and really move forward with goals in that regard. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to say I’m moving into new areas of improvement. Until then, I’ll be here looking for the balance in my life.

The Witch’s Book of Shadows- Review

I found this book to be quite informative. I think that the author managed to blend his personal uses with historical facts and tidbits seamlessly. I have always been interested in magical and witchy things. However, I am quite the novice when it comes down to how comfortable I would be giving out facts. I had often wondered about the Book of Shadows having seen them referenced in books, movies, and television. I’ve seen some in bookstores themselves, and always wondered about that. To me a book of shadows is a personal item. I was eager to read this book to gain a better understanding of the purpose and connection witches have to their book of shadows, and what goes into them. I found it especially interesting when he discussed having more than one book of shadows, and the evolution of each throughout his work with the Craft. For someone who is curious about the history, or is beginning their steps along the path to witchcraft, I’d suggest this book as a good place to begin.

FREEKS- Q&A with Amanda Hocking

AMANDA HOCKING Q&A

1. Your characters are sent into the Hunger Games. Who wins?

If it’s just the characters from FREEKS, and only one could win, I would put my money on Luka or maybe Roxie. Luka because he can heal from injuries, which gives him a crazy advantage, but Roxie is smart and she’s a survivor. Plus, she has the power of pyrokinesis, which I think I would come in handy in a battle to the death.

2. What do you listen to while you write? Or do you prefer silence?

I almost always listen to music when I write, unless I’m writing a really difficult scene. Sometimes the silence helps me focus, but most of the time, I prefer music. For FREEKS, I got to make a really fun 80s playlist, so I especially enjoyed working to that.

3. What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve looked up in the name of research – or what do you think the government has maybe flagged you for?

There are sooo many things. For FREEKS, I had to do fun stuff like, “What does a dead body smell like?” and “How much blood can a human lose?” And then after those macabre questions, I did a bunch of googling on fireflies and tarot cards. My search history when I’m working can be pretty exciting like that.

4. What was your favorite part of writing FREEKS?

I love Southern Gothics and I love pulpy 80s horror movies, so I was excited to be able incorporate those things in FREEKS. But my favorite part was actually Mara and Gabe. I think they complement each other well, and it was fun writing their banter and flirtations.

5. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing your main characters from FREEKS?

For Mara, I envisioned Cassie Steele from the start. I used to be a hardcore Degrassi fan, and I loved Cassie Steele on that. For Gabe, I like Ryan Guzman. I saw him in a Jennifer Lopez movie, and I was like, “Yep. That could be Gabe.”

6. Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?

I usually write between 11 am and 7 pm. I’ve tried to write earlier in the day and have more of a 8-5 type schedule, but I am not a morning person. My brain just doesn’t want to work much before noon.

7. Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

I usually have a goal in mind before I start writing, but it varies. Some days, it’s slow going and I hope to get at least 500 words out. Other days, I fly through with thousands of words. So it depends on where I’m at in the book, when it’s due, and how I’m feeling about the whole thing.

8. When you develop your characters, do you already have an idea of who they are before you write or do you let them develop as you go?

With all my main characters, I have a really good idea of who they are, and it’s just a matter of showing that to the readers. With the side characters, they tend to be rather one-dimensional, and they grow into the story as they’re needed.

9. How did writing Freeks differ from your writing your previous novels?

FREEKS was the first thing I had written in awhile that was started out just for me. For most of the past ten years, I have been writing my books with the intention of publishing them, with the audience and readers and trends in mind. I think I had gotten a little burnt out on trying to make everyone happy (mostly because it is impossible to please all readers all the time), and I just wanted to write something that for the sake of writing it.

And that turned out to be a gothic love story about a teenage girl travelling with a band of misfits in the 1980s. It was a very cathartic writing experience for me, and it reminded me of exactly why I loved writing in the first place – I love getting lost in the world, with the characters.

10. If Freeks had a theme song what would it be?

Either “Hush” by Limousines or “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears.

11. Can you please tell us a little bit about Freeks and where you got the inspiration to write it?

I was going through a rough patch, creatively speaking, and so I just sat back and tried to think of my favorite and what I loved most that I would want to write about.

When I was a kid, I used to get old books at garage sales all the time, and I distinctly remember getting Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King and a few old V. C. Andrews novels, which are pulpy Southern Gothic-esque novels. I also watched The Lost Boys and Pretty in Pink over and over again (I think I literally ruined the old VHS of The Lost Boys from watching it too much).

So I basically threw all those things together in a soup, and I picked apart the things I liked and wanted to explore more. That became a travelling sideshow in the 80s stopping Louisiana, where a supernatural monster is afoot, and a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who is smith with a local boy with secrets of his own.

12. Freeks is full of many amazingly talented characters and I imagine it was really fun to create some of them, but which one was your favorite and why?

Mara and Gabe are my obvious favorites, since they’re the main characters because I was drawn to them and their story the most. Both of them of them have complex feelings about family and personal identity, and their instant chemistry was fun to write.

But I think Gideon – the namesake and head of sideshow – was actually the biggest surprise, which made him fun in a different way. In the original outlines of the story, he was much a different character – very one-note and cruel – but he completely changed and evolved as I was writing.

13. The book is based off of a type of traveling circus that is full of many mysterious acts. If you were to attend a Freekshow, which act would you want to see most?

My favorites are usually the acrobatics, but I think if I attended Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, I would be most excited to see Gideon’s magic act. With his skills and knowledge, I think it would be a really amazing show.

14. What do you hope readers will take away from FREEKS after reading it?

With some of my other novels, I deal with heavy themes like life and death, identity, honor, mortality, classism, and family. And while I do definitely touch on those themes in FREEKS, I mostly wrote it as an escape for myself, and that’s what I hope it is for other readers. Life can be hard and frustrating, and I just wanted to write a fun book that readers could get lost in for awhile.

15. What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Probably how chronically shy I am. Writing is a weird profession, because a good 90% of it is perfect for introverts – you sit alone by yourself and make up imaginary friends to go on adventures. But the last 10% – which involves introducing the whole word to your imaginary friends – is the most exciting and rewarding part, but it’s also the most difficult when you’re as shy as I am.

FREEKS- Review

I started and finished Freeks by Amanda Hocking over the course of a weekend. I just couldn’t put it down. As a reader, I have pretty eclectic taste in reading material. Considering I’m in my early thirties, I probably shouldn’t admit that Young Adult books are among my favorites. We will just consider it’s my way of tipping my hat to seventeen year old me who was far too serious and restricted. I was intrigued when I read the description for Freeks. Up until now I had not experienced any of Amanda Hocking’s work. She truly weaves a story that you experience along with the characters. It was not the run of the mill vampy teen angst type story. Oh there are plenty of supernatural aspects that pull you in. Each of which is handled so subtly it’s enchanting. Every character has an individual story that easily could be delved into. However, when it comes to each of their special quirks it is just matter of fact, a piece of who they are. Each has experienced some sort of heartache or tragedy as a result of being gifted with a little bit extra. Knowing that leaves you feeling overwhelmed with compassion. Amanda’s characters are relatable and likable. I loved how the author dated the story with reference to a song. One of my first thoughts as I started this journey into the freak show was what the time period was. For myself, I had always thought of freak shows being a thing of the distant past. However, the concept of people being excluded for being different is an ongoing reality so to imagine this taking place in a more modern time (well as modern as the 80’s could be) is striking. I was saddened to reach the last page, because I wanted their stories to continue. There is just so much more to tell. I hope that Amanda plans to delve further into the lives and histories of the characters she has brought to life in Freeks. I will be eagerly anticipating updates on that front. While I love getting to read the electronic copies, this is one book that I will have to buy a physical copy of as soon as it’s available (January 3, 2017).