When I was in elementary school our library and administration coordinated pen pal letter exchanges. I’m not sure if this was something all kids did, or just the kids at my school and the kids at the schools that we wrote to. Back in the 80’s we didn’t have the communication devices we have today. Computers were just becoming a “thing” but we didn’t use them to communicate with each other. For my generation they were mostly for games and typing/word processing. If you wanted to talk to your friend who lived in a different state, then you had to write them a letter. If a friend moved away with their family? It was practically the end of the world. You’d likely never see them again and there are several people that I knew in school that I no longer know now because of this. Today of course you can text or video chat whenever you like on your phone.
I thought of this during a text conversation with a friend who is currently visiting her son in Japan. Here we are in 2017, it’s practically the next day in Japan and she and I are texting in real time.
Growing up I had two pen pals. One was Claire Ball. I don’t remember much about her other than she lived in England and that she sent me a silver bracelet where it clasped with hands instead of the typical clasp. I still have that bracelet. It certainly doesn’t fit my grownup wrist anymore but it’s got such heavy memory attached to it. The other was Nathan Stephens from Washington State. I can’t remember where exactly he was from…Auburn…Bellevue? It was a suburb of Seattle. I vaguely remember that he was a ginger and that I had the most ridiculous eleven-year-old crush on him. I couldn’t begin to tell you what we talked about. I’m sure it was a lot of “how are you?” and “school is great” or “I got a new puppy!” There was nothing else to talk about with strangers back then.
Even now that talking to strangers online has become a daily culture when you consider the comment section of Facebook and as an extension this blog, it still feels odd to me. It’s funny to me that we’re reaching out to others for connection but we’re limiting that connection by keeping it relegated to the computer. Back when I was a kid I would have loved to have met my pen pals. I can honestly say that I looked for them on Facebook but I couldn’t find them of course. Their names are entirely too common and I have no idea what they look like. But for a little while, we were in each other’s lives.
Waiting for the mail to come was exciting. Every day things would get delivered and I’d hope there was something in the mail for me. It made me feel important to receive a letter. There was little that was more joyous than seeing your name on an envelope handwritten by someone who cared enough to take the time to send it. Of course these days, letter writing is a lost art. Holiday cards and occasional coupons from my mother aside, all I get is junk mail and bills. With the implementation of the email billing? Well then all I get is junk mail.
So what about you? Did you have pen pals growing up? Or are you part of the millennial generation who has more or less always had Facebook to keep in touch? Do you still write letters?
I'm writing this on the eve of my birthday. When it's posted, it will be my actual birthday. Thirty-six. A presumable third of my life has been completed and I find myself needing more. I keep trying to be my most authentic self and yet I post this blog with only a few readers and even fewer people in real life who even know it exists. I keep asking myself why that is. Why would I hide this massive project that I am pretty proud of?
I taught myself how to build this site from the ground up. OK, OK. Weebly helped with their fantastic drag and drop system, but I think you know what I mean. No one showed me what to do or how to do it, I just went and figured it out. I am smart and capable and confident…when no one knows what I'm doing.
It's something that's hard to pinpoint. I'm working on getting to the truest me and part of that person is a writer. I may not be incredibly skilled at it, but I can feel it in my bones. See! Even that last sentence. Somewhere along the line I told myself I wasn't good enough. I told myself that the thing I want to do most in the world isn't a viable career path. Don't get me wrong. This isn't a situation where I am regretting the path not taken. This is a time in which I am trying to figure out which path to take.
Do I sit here and write for you (me)? Do I quit my job and focus all my energy on writing and podcasting? While some people daydream about travelling the world, I daydream about packing some gear, my car, and my little dog; and hoofing it around the country. Cash out the 401K and just go experience the world. But how can I do that when there are so many bills to pay? Logic steps in and tells me I can't just quit my job, that I have to have a backup. My creative side says to buy a tiny house and plop it on a plot of land and leave everyone else behind.
I've avoided the original question already. Why shouldn't I announce to my circle of friends and family that I have this thing that I've created. Part of it is because of plain old fear. Fear that people will hate it. Fear that people will disapprove. Most of all, fear that people just won't care. This is that I have built and am building is an extension of me. If it gets ignored, well then it'll feel like real life I guess. I've struggled with feelings of inadequacy pretty much all of my life. I think that comes from a youth spent trying to break free of a mold that was set out for me but possessing an inadequate vocabulary to explain why I needed to oust myself from the "norm".
I do this every year on my birthday, which I always spend alone for reasons I can't get into. Well, I can…but I won't. I started to resent this day because I'm unable to celebrate in the fashion that I want. This makes me sad and cranky and wanting to avoid the whole thing altogether. I'm trying not to be that way this year. I'm trying to break free from the mold that I created this time. I have no idea how far out I'll make it. But I surely have to try.
Thirty-six. Where did the time go?
Happy Birthday to Me.
Random historical events that occurred today!
Yesterday we went to MegaCon in Orlando. Every year we tell ourselves that we aren't going to go and every year we change our minds. This year it was the same. Gina Torres popped up on the guest list. She's the last of the Firefly cast that we have yet to meet. Unfortunately we missed meeting Ron Glass prior to him passing away. This year they moved the con to Memorial Day weekend.
It started out normal enough. We woke up early and grabbed some McDonald's on the way out of town. We made great time since the traffic isn't too bad that early in the morning. Typically we get there early enough to where there are no attendants for parking and we end up not having to pay. While this was not the case this year, the entry in was certainly easier than if we went at a peak time. Upon arrival we parked in the West Concourse of the Orange County Convention center which is probably about a 15-20 minute walk to the North/South Concourse where the con was actually taking place. Most of that walk is spent walking through the air conditioned building. This year they had us walking outside to get to the entrance unless we already had our wristbands. We're assuming that this was due to the issue in Phoenix, but no one could confirm. Security was MUCH tighter this year than any other year previously.
Once we reached the entrance the issue became clear. It was 745 in the morning and they had us line up outside on the east side of the building. It's May. It's Florida. There was no shade. This was a bad plan. We had to wait there until the doors opened at 8:30. Some kid was blasting EDM while we stood there and we discovered a new kind of torture. Once they let us in to the air conditioned area it was much better, but they don't actually let you in to the con until 10am. So we sat and waited.
The plan was to go directly to the booth for Gina Torres from Firefly. It's always a crap shoot with the celebrity stuff. They either show up more or less on time or they just arrive whenever they feel like it. We were the 5th or 6th people in line so we knew this was either going to be efficient or painful. Lucky for us, she was relatively on time and we were done by 10:45. Gina was delightful and signed our items with a smile. I never know what to say to folks when they are signing a picture for me. It's terribly awkward for me to talk to people I don't know on a good day, much less someone I've admired for so long.
By this time we had already burned through our breakfast so we decided to eat our lunches. Con tip: if possible always bring a sandwich in a lunch bag and extra bottles of water. Everything is overpriced at MegaCon and I've yet to have a meal there that was anything more than disappointing. Honestly, how the Papa John's kiosk can produce lukewarm pizza that tastes like it's two days old during a lunch rush is beyond me. We brought in subs from Publix instead and ate amongst the costumed masses.
From there we went over to Artist's Alley to meet up with some friends who were at the Con. Then we just did our usual trek through the booths. This usually involves walking up and down every aisle and making note of the things that we like and making purchases along the way. I stopped and said hi to some friends from school at their booths. I've included the links to their artwork below not just because I know them, but because it's also awesome artwork.
I got some really fun stuff this year. I almost never see Parks and Rec stuff but managed to find a vinyl sticker for my laptop for the Pawnee Goddesses. Some new t-shirts, some night-lights, and my favorite items, the vinyl stained glass clings that I bought from another favorite artist as well as the "T is for Tardis" book for kids because it was adorable.
We left around 4, exhausted and sweaty but happy to have had the experience once again. If you're into nerdy things like I am but have never been to a con before, I highly recommend attending one. If you budget correctly you can do it fairly inexpensively. Aside from the beginning of the day which was a little rough, overall we had fun as we always do. Love my Nerd Culture and love being surrounded by thousands of people who are into all the same things I am. It's like the high school reunion I always wanted.
Here are the links for my favorite artists below.
You Found Jacob
Monday was a weird day for me. My dog had an appointment again at the neurologist, this time for her MRI. With everything that's been going on with her neck and her leg lately, it's just time to take next steps. Thank goodness the doctor is nice since he's the only game in town. We talked through everything and what tests they would do. Chest X-rays to make certain there are no issues there. A MRI of the head and neck to make sure there are no tumors and potentially capture any issues with her vertebrae. Lastly a spinal tap to make sure there was no infection in her spinal cord.
Leaving her somewhere is incredibly stressful for both her and me. Other than staying with my Mom, my dog doesn't spend any amount of time with people she doesn't know. In fact, she's pretty terrified of strangers. Every time I have to leave her at the vet, even though it's only for the day I know that she's sitting in a crate being scared. That's what stresses me out, that she's sitting along in a crate scared and worried that I'm not coming back for her.
I left her for the day and attempted to work for a few hours. Picking her up later was a mixture of empathy and humor. After anesthesia she's incredibly out of it. She struggles to keep her tongue in her mouth and wobbles around sort of in circles because she's "drunk". She gets so excited to see me but can't express it the way she usually does so it just comes out in a low constant whine. They shaved her little head and neck for the spinal tap too, so she looks quite ridiculous.
The spinal tap showed no infection and the MRI showed multiple bulging discs. It also showed a congenital fusion of two vertebrae which isn't really the issue. So next steps are surgery, planned for a couple of weeks from now. While I am moderately terrified of this supposedly routine surgery I know that they'll take great care of her. Mostly I just want her to be OK.
Having a pet is a funny thing sometimes. It's also an expensive thing. Everything is going to work out the way it should, but in the interim it's just a bit stressful.
Have you ever had something so long that it lost its meaning? Only to be hit with a wave of feeling on a random day for no good reason?
I have this t-shirt. It’s nothing special, just a simple navy blue t-shirt with writing on the front and back. The front bears my first name on the left breast side and the back reads “Fritz Carlton Hotel”. It’s faded from its original deep blue to a somewhat purple-hued dark blue. The lettering has been washing off for years now and there are small holes in the armpits. This shirt is approximately seventeen years old.
The obvious question here is, why do I keep it after all of this time? The answer is not as simple as telling you it’s for sentimental reasons. The three people involved and/or were the reason for its creation are all gone. They are also the three people whose besides I have sat beside and watched as they’ve taken their last breath.
In 2000, my Grandmother succumbed to breast cancer in August. That summer, my Grandparent’s home was overrun with a barrage of guests and visitors. People visiting for days or hours. Everyone wanting to come and say hello or goodbye…it was a revolving door. Thinking back on it now, perhaps we should have tempered the steady flow of visitors. My “Aunt” Lauren was there through most of it. Helping with my Grandmother’s care, helping around the house, and just being generally wonderful. Somewhere along the way she had the idea to make us all t-shirts that read “Fritz Carlton Hotel” after the family name and because the revolving door of guests made it feel like we were in a hotel.
My Grandmother passed and life moved forward.
In 2004, Lauren was told that her liver disease had progressed to the point where she would need to make the appropriate arrangements. While I was somewhat removed from my Grandmother’s day to day care, I was not so from Lauren’s. I spent an inordinate amount of time helping her. I spent nights there. I more or less moved in to help her when I wasn’t at work. Aside from nurses, in the end, I was more or less her primary caregiver. I don’t know how many people even know that about me. The nights I stayed up chasing the morphine demons away. The time spent on floors holding her as she cried because she was scared to go. The screaming matches about whether or not she should be allowed to drink. I was not mentally equipped to handle that at the age of 23, and yet no one stopped me from doing it. Or rather, I don’t remember anyone trying to stop me. I remember some things and others I don’t. I know I still have a bit of anger left over from then and it’s been thirteen years. It cost me two of my three jobs, an attempt to go back to school, and a six year relationship. I include the relationship because Lauren’s passing was the push I needed to end it. That “love” was dead long before I pronounced it as such.
The shirt has followed me all this time. My Grandfather, the last of the three, passed away a few years ago. His passing, if I can write about it at all, will be in a separate post.
So now I have this old shirt. I don’t wear it often, but it ended up in the rotation this week. It doesn’t really fit anymore and it hit me yesterday that it’s the last thing the three of them have in common outside of my head. It has so many memories wrapped up into this one tangible thing. Now that it’s clicked in my head, it feels like a sacred object. I know logically that it’s just a t-shirt but my worrisome brain is concerned that when I’m old and gray, that I’ll have forgotten all these thing that helped shape who I am. That maybe this one simple t-shirt will be the thing that helps me remember those I’ve loved and lost and the strength I learned from knowing them.
Am I alone in this? Does anyone else have an object like this? Does anyone know of a way to preserve cloth for the next forty years or so (half kidding)?
I was totally going to leave the house today. I keep wanting to drop off a package at the UPS store for a friend. A surprise gift. Instead I got completely distracted my a revamp of my blog. I did some major work on it today, spent four hours and nearly forgot about breakfast.
Recently I joined a Facebook group for bloggers and after weeks of lurking in the shadows, I participated in one of their "Feedback Friday" posts. I have to tell you that this was incredibly terrifying. Other than a single friend who occasionally reads the blog and gives me feedback when I miss a spelling error, I've not had anyone I know take a look.
Part of Feedback Friday is that you go to other people's blogs and give them feedback and they respond in kind. In reviewing other blogs, I suddenly hated the way mine looked. Scrolling through post after post seemed dull and unimaginative. When I advertise my posts, I do them individually, but if anyone ever wanted to see what else there might be to interest them, they'd have to scroll through post after post.
While I definitely appreciated the feedback from the others, it left me feeling inadequate. I did seem to be one of the only (if not the only) person blogging in my particular genre. I feel like there is so much more work to be done and I just want it to be as good as it can be.
It's amazing to me how much there is to learn about blogging, SEO, and ads. Ideally I would make money from blogging but I'm not entirely sure how that can happen. People have to read the reviews I write first…then have my words move them to click the links to purchase the corresponding items for the things I've reviewed. In today's overly jaded world, how would that even happen? Then there's Patreon which is a whole other thing that's difficult to grab onto. There are thousands of blog posts about increasing traffic and monetization and, and, and…
Honestly? It's relatively overwhelming. I had to take a break from all the reading of articles and editing the page. I think I've likely done enough tinkering for right now. Or at least until I figure out how to arrange the rest of it in a way that I like. Besides, what's the good of having a blog if I don't write anything?
Hope everyone is having an excellent Saturday. I'm off to knock out some posts for you guys for the coming weeks. What overwhelms you?
I missed posting yesterday. It was one of those days that just got away from me and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
My Puppers has been sick the last couple of nights. Throwing up every other hour or so overnight. I haven't been getting much sleep because of it. Yesterday started with a trip to the vet. 2.5 hours, tons of tests, countless shots, and a stupid amount of money that I don't have later…? Pancreatitis. Awesome. I then had to get gas, and food, and then drive 2.5 hours to my mother's house. All on about three hours of non-consecutive sleep for the second night in a row.
Luckily I made it to my Mom's unscathed. I managed NOT to fall asleep and went to dinner and my cousin's baseball game.
Having a pet has made me rethink having children. I know that people say this often but it's true. The amount of worry and stress involved in trying to care for a sick pet who can't tell you what's wrong. It's this tiny little life that you know will eventually have an expiration date and it's a gutting thought.
I've very lucky that I've found an excellent set of vets, who, even though they always recommend an absurd amount of testing; really do care about your pet and making sure that they are as healthy as they can be.
So here I sit, with a recovering puppers and her best friend (my Mom's dog) and vacation mode has truly set in. I've only thought about work once today. Well, twice if you count the typing of the thing. I'll call that progress.
I seem to be having trouble finishing things. I signed on to be a content writer for a podcasting group called Blazing Caribou. They have multiple different podcasts and one of those podcasts is a show about historical events. I was excited! I was what you might call “gung-ho”.
I picked my topic, something I’ve found fascinating for years. And then?
Nothing. I did a little research, figured out what the word count ought to be and then nada. I have no motivation to finish the thing. I desperately want to establish myself in the podcasting arena. I want to write, to create content, I can feel it in my guts.
But then at the end of my day after I’ve sat in my chair staring at spreadsheets for hours, the last thing I want to do is think. So I bury myself in my TV shows and my books and I don’t allow myself to create. I know that I need to take the time to do so. I can feel it starting to become bad for my mental health.
I should start with the stuff for Blazing Caribou but where’s the motivation? Why can’t I hang on to this feeling throughout the evening that I have first thing in the morning?
I’ve had this idea for a children’s book percolating in my brain for a few years now. There are so many questions about how to go about it though.
If the average word count in a picture book is approximately 1,000 words, how do you convey what you want to convey simply enough to be impactful and engaging with so little to work with. Then, how does one find an illustrator? Place an ad? Do you pay for one time illustration and then you own all the rights to the material? Promise them a portion of any proceeds?
How do you get the thing published? Do you NEED a literary agent? Or can you just publish it yourself? I suppose Google is good for some of these things. I should probably go about figuring this all out.
I Googled since I actually wrote this original blurb. It was almost no help at first glance. Websites touting cheap illustrators, websites saying don't find an illustrator--your publisher will do it for you. Websites for self-publishing. Sometimes the internet is overwhelming with the information it provides you.
Honestly though, I should probably write the damn thing first. I really wish that I was artistically inclined, I’d just do it myself.
You think you're strong. You think that you know who you are, that you are comfortable in your own skin. You are wrong. I didn't believe this myself until I started my blog and website. Here I am creating content on a near daily basis. Is it good content? I have no idea.
Have I advertised it on my personal Facebook page? I have not. Reaching out to the people who know me and shouting “HERE I AM” after years of keeping everything close to the vest is incredibly daunting and terrifying.
I realize it doesn’t make sense. I’ve had myself and my person broadcast online for years now. Dating all the way back to those old fashioned AOL Chat Rooms back in the late 90s (shout out to the PTHers, woot!). I’ve never really been shy online, but in the last few years I’ve become more reserved with my personal information. If I get tagged in something, I almost always remove the tag. If you post something to my wall, I’ll likely leave it up only long enough to discuss the thing and then, once you’ve moved on? It’s getting deleted. My Facebook wall is a carefully curated version of me that I want you to see.
There are multiple reasons for this. It’s not that I care what people think per se. You either like me or you don’t. There isn’t a whole helluva lot I can do about it. But there are people I work with who I am friends on Facebook with, family members who maybe don’t need to see me ranting about the President, or laughing at inappropriate memes. I have even started to be more careful about the things that I “like” since those show up in everyone’s newsfeeds.
At this point, these things are hardly even conscious decisions. Recently (four years ago, sheesh), I moved from my relatively small town with a good group of core friends to a bigger city where I basically knew no one except the people I work with. I learned something very important during that move. Your life is what you choose it to be. Your friends are the ones you choose to have. You are who you choose to be.
That all being said, who I choose to be…with ME? That’s all well and good until I think about potentially putting it out there to be seen by everyone who knows me. It would be their first glimpse of the real me. The real me got so used to rejection that I kept it all close to the vest. I think that may be it though, a fear of rejection rather than a need for people to like me and what I write.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s all a bunch of bullshit. Because in all likelihood, no one will ever read any of this anyway. I could post it on every wall of every person I know and they’d just move on with their lives.
What about you all? Have you been brave about putting yourself out there?