Monthly Archives: November 2011

Anti- Zen Enlightenment from the Sewers

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To say my life is frustrating does not convey the daily restraint required to not commit acts which would require some friends, shovels, and a six foot hole.

I can feel a breakdown coming soon. It might involve Mojitos and there will be crying. But then I hope to achieve a moment of anti-Zen.

“But what is anti-Zen?” you ask. Let me ‘splain.
Zen is about detachment, things are what they are, and about being in the moment. You seek, and so I’ve heard, gain these qualities in quiet contemplation and meditation. What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Anti- Zen is when I have a hissy fit. I scream, cry, rant at the world, and the unfairness of everything. And near the end of this epic emotional purging I give up (not letting go as in Zen) but give the bleep up. I can’t change this. I can’t fix this. I simply can’t. In that moment I give up my desires for things to be different because what is, is, even when it sucks bleep. I give my hopes of it changing or controlling it.

Then I collapse on the floor in in heap, making those pitiful gasping hiccups people do when they’ve been crying. And I feel better. I’ve let it go, and I can go on with my life and my routine. I know it sounds really bad, but I have no time or space for quiet meditation and I couldn’t get my mind to shut-up even if I wanted too. You creative types out there know what I’m talking about.

Have you even had a moment of anti-Zen? Have you ever reach a space of enlightenment through the sewer instead of the temple?

LUSH the key to holiday bliss

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Today I am going to save you all frustration and harassment of finding the perfect gift for whatever holiday you celebrate. LUSH is the answer. LUSH is a small company which makes a variety of amazingly wonderful bath goodness by hand.

LUSH is the perfect gift for your family and friends who are: environmentalists, travelers, stressed, divas, and teenage girls. YES. Teenage girls love LUSH.

Allow me to show you why LUSH is so awesome. I only need one product: shampoo. LUSH has two forms of shampoo. liquid and solid. Their solid shampoos are perfect for those concerned with the environment. There is no plastic bottle or other damaging packaging. The traveler will love the solid shampoo because it won’t spill in the suitcase. The variety of natural scents will appeal to those who need stress relief, the divas who want pampering, and the teens who change their mind about their favorite scent on a daily basis. Both the liquid and solid shampoo have rich lather and leave your hair clean and lightly scented.

LUSH’s other products suit a variety of people, too. Our environmentalist and travelers will love the solid conditioner, soaps, and lotions. There is another line of products they call body butters, and you use them after you’re soapy in the shower. My favorite is the Buffy bar, it exfoliates as it moisturizes, and it smells divine. Convenient metal reusable tins can also be purchased to store your LUSH products for easy storage and transport.

Don’t worry, those stressed and in need of pampering, the divas who demand pampering, and the teens on your list haven’t been forgotten. There is a huge variety of bath jellies and bath bombs which scent, bubble, color and/or glitter the water. Lip scrubs polish the skin of your lips, then because LUSH is awesome, you can lick it off. They make the scrub from sugar and nature flavors. There are lip balms, perfumes, and a ton of other delectable items to choose from.
Wait, don’t cower in fear at the magnitude of choices, LUSH is here to help. You can go to one of their many stores through out the world. I love their staff, always so nice and eager to share with you their newest product by giving you samples. I love getting free stuff 🙂

You can also go to their website LUSH. They have a gift finder button. Just put in whom you want to buy a gift for. There are nine different choices including Secret Santa and kids. Then you pick a price range: under $25, $25-50, or over $50 (you can use the last one for me 🙂 And TA-DA! The perfect gift will appear on your screen ready to be shipped right to you or the lucky recipient.

I unfortunately don’t have a LUSH near me, and the body bar I adore melts at body temp. Having stuff mailed to me is a challenge, living as I do in the desert. Even in the winter, temps can be too high for safe mailing. So I drive to my closest LUSH. The fact that it’s two hours away should tell you how much I adore their products. So please save yourself this holiday season, go and check out the awesomeness that is LUSH, and yes I will create a twelve step program for next year once you’re all addicted.

Something else that makes me happy- Asian boy bands. I don’t know why, but I love them. I don’t think I’ve shown this one before- I really need to start a list.

Foreign Film Friday- Howl’s Moving Castle

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Howl’s Moving Castle

I love everything I have seen by Hayao Miyazaki he is an amazing direction, animator, and writer. Howl’s Movie Castle is an adaptation of the book by Dianna Wynne Jones, which is a wonderful book and is the first in the series. If you haven’t read them you should, they are lovely rich stories.

The movie is different from the book, but no less amazing. Think of it as fan fiction and you’ll be fine 🙂 The artistry of the anime makes this movie with watching, the story will make you fall in love. I watch this movie, along with the other Miyazaki’s I own, several times a year. The voice talents of Christian Bale, Minnie Driver, Lauren Bacall, Blythe Danner, and Billy Crystal bring extra enjoyment to this movie.
A great movie for the whole family!

Organizing Priorities aka Crazy Brain

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Over the past month I’ve seen several blogs talking about prioritizing your life in order to help you get all of the things you need to do and want to do done. This is great advice. It makes perfect sense, and I’m sure works beautifully for the emotionally stable people out there. Are any of them writers??

The first problem I run into is trying to figure out what my top priorities are. I have a list of emotional priorities and real life priorities and few things cross over. Let’s take a look at how this process works. Don’t worry you can’t catch crazy.

Real life priorities: work, my kids, hubby, showering, social media, editing, formatting, and working out.
Emotional Priorities: writing, my kids, hubby, friends, relaxing, and reading.

So only my family crosses over, and in my day-to-day life, they get very little of my time because of the work thing.
Explanation of work thing: okay to truly empathize with me and understand the crazy, you need to understand what I do for a living. I am a houseparent at a group home for children who have been removed from their homes by child protective services. I go to work at 3pm–right before they come home from school–and I work until 9am the next morning. I work all weekend, three times per month. I do get ten respite hours per week. I parent the kids: homework, bedtime stories, hygiene, etc. The more I interact with them, the easier things are, but the less time I have for other things. My own family lives upstairs (think two-story apartment building) so they can come down and I can see them; but if I’m with them, I’m neglecting the work kids, and if I’m focused on the work kids I’m neglecting my family. A perfect example of the battle between real life and emotional priorities.

Okay, so far all is calm, but once I get into my list, the “should” begin to creep in. You know, those nasty little voices that start to list everything you have failed to do—ever. Who cares that I’m making a list now and organizing my life now. I should have been taking care of: the dishes, laundry, dinner, making lunches, playing games, calling friends, posting more on twitter, editing, reading more, doing yoga with my daughter, working out, eating better, dusting, filling out paperwork, formatting, writing, cleaning my room, cleaning the house, baking, going on dates with my hubby, helping with homework, and, dear God, when was the last time I cut my toe nails? Quick put on some socks and hide those nasty things!

Now a normal person might clip her toe nails and realize she can’t change the past so she takes a deep breath, lets it out, and figures out how to change things so she can do her best from this day forward. I begin to spiral into the pit of despair (queue eerie music). Now this can range from feeling like I suck and pouting for a bit to falling into the pit binging on eggrolls, ice cream, and allowing every crappy thought I’ve ever had to fill my brain. Yes, I have gone to counseling, and, yes, I do have some tools to keep myself from falling too deeply into the pit. The biggest two are daily exercises and eating healthy food. I also have an angst-ridden story that sucks. I write the story when I’m in this mood. Those poor characters take a lot of abuse.

So how does one so emotionally fragile and freakish make a list of priorities? With help. I ask my husband, good friends, or even my therapist to help me figure out what is most important. They validate that the things on my emotional list do have as much value as the things on my real life list. Someday, I hope, my work and writing will be the same thing, but for now I have to juggle two jobs, one hubby, two personal children, five work children, two households, working out, and talking to a friend now and then.

And before anyone comments on hubby helping, let me tell you that he also works full time, takes care of our kids after school, makes 98% of the meals, and does 95% of the housework. So he helps enough. I would be lost without him.

So how do you prioritize your time? Do you need help, or are you able to fit it all together in one shining, color-coded spread sheet?

And just to lighten the mood and let everyone now I’m not currently wallowing in self pity- this is what I which balancing looked like in my life.

Create Diversity Tip Eight: It’s okay to give your characters flaws

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Create Diversity Tip Eight: It’s okay to give your characters flaws

Sometimes to prove that we aren’t prejudices we will make perfect minority characters. Perfect characters are boring! It is our job as writers to torment our characters. I do not mean having your black female in a tizzy over going to Yale or Harvard and her loving supportive Leave it to Beaver parents smiling in the background.

I’m not saying your black woman can’t go to those schools, because of course they do, but give them some real issues to deal with. It’s even okay to give real life issues. As I’ve mentioned before Native American’s have a problem with diabetes. This is a fact. Not all NA have diabetes, but it is a concern among many. So add it to your story. It doesn’t have to be a big issue, maybe they are careful with what they eat, or maybe it is a huge issue for them and a driving plot in your book. It’s your choice.

We all have problems to deal with: money, health, education, drugs, alcohol, gangs, etc. We all worry. We all encounter different things in our lives. Your characters need to have some of these same experiences.

Jewish people are often encouraged/pressured to marry someone of their religion (as are many from devout religious families). Not all Jewish people face this issue, but it doesn’t mean you’re stereotyping to make it an issue your character has to deal with.

Let go of being PC and create well rounded, interesting character that you torture.

To mark the end of my tips for creating diversity I give you the Wicked Boy Ballet Company, they are dancing to Smells Like Teen Spirit preformed by Scala. I think it’s a great example of creating diversity.

Foreign Film Friday- Amalie

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Amalie

Amelie was my first French movie, and I feel in love with Audrey Tautou as an actress. Charming is a perfect description. This movie is so sweet and we see such a lovely growth arch in the characters. It’s also quirky and fun. This is a movie that has made my ‘watch over and over’ list.

And the garden gnome traveling the world- they stole that from this movie. Because this has subtitles I would recommend this for teens, so they can read fast enough to keep up. It is rated R and can’t remember all the reasons, but I know one of the characters works in a sex shop, so again how much you want to explain is up to you. Hey it might be a good teaching moment. LOL!

Fear is the mind killer. I must not … SPIDER!!!!

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“Scared and sacred are spelled with the same letters. Awful proceeds from the same root word as awesome. Terrify and terrific. Every negative experience holds the seed of transformation.”
– Alan Cohen

I am my own worst enemy. It is my fear of failing and my fear of succeeding that traps me. I stall at every step. I put things off. I hide in books instead of doing the work I need to in order to have the life I want. What if I work very hard, and do all the steps, and fail? What if I don’t lose weight? Or don’t keep up with the house work? Or don’t sell any books? Or don’t save enough money to go on an exotic vacation?

What if I do? What if I do lose weight and my skin gets all saggy? Or if I do sell a bunch of books and my life changes? How will I know when to leave my job and become a full-time writer? What if I do manage to juggle everything, and I’m not any happier?

I’ve heard all the inspirational quotes about believing in yourself. They don’t really help when the panic sets in. I don’t really have any advice or wisdom to offer. If you have some, please share it. I want to be brave. I want to be strong, vibrant, and take risks. I want to face my fears and move past them. So for inspiration I offer this. The story of Hideaki Akaiwa.

http://www.badassoftheweek.com/akaiwa.html

EDIT- my link for Hideaki wasn’t working- I hope this fixed it, if not cut and paste this- http://www.badassoftheweek.com/akaiwa.html his story is worth it.

Create Diversity Tip Seven: We are all people.

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Create Diversity Tip Seven: We are all people.

As you read books, watch movies, and research, you will realize we are all people. We want to be happy and safe. What creates happiness and safety is different for everyone. Some people want to travel, a family, riches, intelligence, to be left alone, or to be famous. Dreams differ from person to person, not culture to culture.

You don’t have to challenge social norms. Your character could simply be gay and a marine sniper, and that could be the end of it. Or you could use your book as a platform to discuss and challenge people’s beliefs.

As you write your characters, know what motivates them and why. This is what creates dynamic characters, not the adjectives you use to describe them.

We all have fears, hopes, dreams, and goals. We all feel pressured and inadequate. This is who your character is, not their skin color or the gender of the ass they’re checking out.

Create dynamic diverse people, not one-dimensional token minorities.

Today’s Music Monday is Loreena Mckennitt’s The Mummers dance. You’ve most likely heard at least one of her songs in a movie,but if not, here’s one of my favorites:

Foreign Film Friday- Calendar Girls

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Calendar Girls

I love this movie! It’s such a beautiful story of friendship and pushing yourself past your boundaries and fears. And I have to say When ever I watch this movie I’m not as afraid of growing older. These are amazingly beautiful woman, full of life, and strength. I hope to live such a vibrate rich life, and I wouldn’t mind living in their adorable English Village either.

There are adult themes which young children might not understand- or you might not want them to see. Teens should be fine.

Woes of a Validation Whore

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“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.”
– Mark Twain

I like validation, most people do, but I find that without the validation of others I have trouble believing something about myself to be true. I was a good student. I know this because I got As and Bs, and the teachers liked me–validation from authority.

I have written a book, but I feel like a fraud calling myself an author because I don’t have validation from anyone in authority. My editor Kilian would like to object to this she is very validating and apparently an authority figure 🙂 She is awesome and is one of my biggest cheerleaders. My book will be published soon, but it’ll be self published, so of course it’s “not as good as a published book”. I don’t feel I can say that I’m an author, and I doubt that will change even when I am holding the book in my hands.

So how do we validate ourselves? Where do we draw the line to reach before we can say that we are good enough at something? Or do we always qualify it, with “but I’m self taught?” Or “self published?” Or “I’ve had no formal training?” Or whatever excuse we come up with.

If we can’t believe in ourselves, how do we expect anyone else to take us seriously? Do we really need some else to approve of us? There are published authors’ work that I don’t care for, and people who have written fan fiction that is so good I have read it multiple times.

What are you afraid to claim you are good at? If someone asked you what you do or who you are, what do you really want to say but are afraid too? If you worked past this insecurity how did you do it? Or did you just fake it until you were comfortable?

Taylor Mali on Speaking with conviction