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Life Lessons From Cardi B and Saweetie

 

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Saweetie is one badass bitch, but her lyrics can teach us valuable life lessons. Photo provided by hiphopdx.com. Link: https://hiphopdx.com/news/id.45182/title.bay-area-mc-saweetie-talks-icy-grl-social-media-fame#

Occasionally I listen to rap and hip-hop.  Ok, maybe not occasionally…I listen to it a lot. I can’t even explain why. I just do. Yes, this 32 year old, mid to upper-middle class, white girl from the ‘burbs has been known to roll up to Meijer’s blasting N.W.A. Does it look a little odd? Maybe. Is hip-hop written for someone like me? Probably not.  Do I have a complete understanding of most rap and hip-hop lyrics? Obviously not. But as a writer and an artist I consider any music (except for anything by Kanye West) to be art. I believe art is for everyone, even if the artist intended otherwise. And with any piece of art, it’s open and vulnerable to any interpretation.  Once it’s out there, it’s out there.

With all of that being said, there are a few female rappers right now that are killing it.   Below you will find two female rappers whose lyrics give great advice (according to my interpretations). So here are a few of my favorite lyrics, interpreted by yours truly. Also, there will be curse words.  You’ve been warned. 😉

Here we go:

“Got a bag and fixed my teeth. Hope you hoes know it a’int cheap. And I pay my momma’s bills…” Cardi B. Bodak Yellow.

INTERPRETATION: It’s always a good idea to treat yourself, but also be sure to put enough money aside for necessities like dental work.  While a trip to the dentist can be a major financial strain, if neglected, it can lead to serious complications like heart disease.  Additionally, if you have any money left over at the end of the month, it’s always nice to help out your family.  They’ve sacrificed so much for you, now it’s time to pay them back.  Great tips, Cardi B.

“You beefing with my enemy does not make you a friend of me. Girls so weird, stay clear. I’m living drama free.” Saweetie. Icy Grl.

INTERPRETATION: Saweetie teaches us the importance of judging everyone on their own merits.  It’s best to stop and consider why this person is cozying up to you. What are their motives? Sometimes it’s best to just focus on yourself and steer clear from other people’s confrontations that have nothing to do with you.

“Put it in my savings and invest in the right companies.” Saweetie. Icy Grl. 

INTERPRETATION: So smart.  If you have a surplus of money at the end of the month, it’s important to put some in your savings and possibly invest in companies you care about. It’s never too early to think about diversifying your financial portfolio.

“I’ma catch a tan overseas while I’m out the country. Let me get some Hennessy while I’m chilling on the beach. I’ma count a couple G’s, let the server bring receipts. Double checking my expenses never messy always neat.” Saweetie. Icy Grl. 

INTERPRETATION: Saweetie reminds us that while it’s important to relax on vacation, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your bank account, especially if you’re traveling abroad. Also, be sure to stay organized, that way you’ll know when something’s not right in your account.

“Huh, I don’t got no time for these hoes. Speaking on my name like I’m someone that they know” Saweetie. Icy Grl. 

INTERPRETATION: Stop wasting time worrying about what others think of you. Focus on what’s important to you and you’ll be much happier for it.

“My dream is like a child and I’m taking all the custody.” Saweetie. Icy Grl. 

INTERPRETATION: Your dreams are important.  No matter how outlandish they seem, own them.  Do whatever you can to achieve your goals.

“I just want money, chips, guac and queso.” Cardi B. Dinero

INTERPRETATION: So true! This isn’t exactly advice, but doesn’t this lyric speak to all of us?

 

 

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Female Pro Athletes Shouldn’t Have To Be Role Models For “Little Girls”

Tennis: US Open
Serena frustrated at the U.S. Open. If you’ve ever been an athlete, you know tempers flare during a championship match. Photo provided by the Huffington Post:https://www.huffingtonpost.com/topic/serena-williams

I’ve been wanting to write about this topic for some time now, but never really had the opportunity to do so…and then the Serena “meltdown” happened.  First, I could give two poops about Serena’s behavior at the U.S. Open. Professional athletes are emotional beings who can get fired up about their jobs every once in a while, just like we do. She’s definitely not the first or last athlete to get on a ref’s butt for feeling like she’s been treated unfairly. It wasn’t like she was pulling ponytails like this girl, or bit off an ear like Mike Tyson, or killed someone like O.J. Simpson.  But that’s not what this post is about.

Since the Serena incident I’ve been hearing comments like “But think of all of the little girls that look up to Serena.” I’m sure these parents fretfully imagine that there’s a group of cherubs watching Serena’s meltdown with swells of tears in their eyes, and as soon as they turn off the T.V. they shave off their wings and turn to the crack pipe. Parents, get a damn grip. Serena is a grown-ass woman with her own child (who, by the way, she had only about a year ago and suffered several life-threatening complications from the c-section), and one of her job duties should not be to serve as a non-confrontational, emotionless robot “role model” for your precious little babies. It shouldn’t be a requirement for any female athlete.  And here’s a radical idea: parents, why dont you start being role models for your own kids and stop relying on professional athletes to do so.

I’m not a parent so I know I’m going to get some pretty heavy eye rolls from you procreators out there. And I know it’s difficult to think about being a role model for your child. But keep in mind, just like the athletes that you like to pawn that duty off on, you too do not have to be perfect. Better to teach this lesson to your kids now rather later. Or maybe everyone should think critically about why they are idolizing a certain person. What are the qualities that you admire the most and what are some of the person’s flaws? We all have them! In my non-expert opinion, I think it’s important for the entire human race (children included) to remember that these pro athletes are still human.  Professional athletes may be some of the most physically strong people in the world, but that does’t automatically mean that they are the most emotionally or mentally strong people.  The women on the USWNT have definitely had their share of fuck-ups.  Abby Wambach was arrested for a DUI in 2016.  Alex Morgan was kicked out of Disney World (lol) for getting drunk and causing a scene. Hope Solo…well, Hope Solo’s just a weirdo, but you get the point.  Female athletes blow up and they make mistakes.  They’re not perfect and none of us are.  It’s a constant struggle for everyone to live each day without punching a hole in the wall.

Professional athletes live stressful, exhausting lives that are way too complicated for a child to ever understand. If we see an athlete get in trouble or act in unsavory ways, maybe instead of grabbing your pitchfork, have a conversation about why the athlete may have acted that way.   Acknowledge that it’s wrong, but what other things could have been going on their lives? Perhaps Serena had been treated unfairly by someone earlier in the day, perhaps Serena was missing her child, perhaps she didn’t really feel like playing that day,  or perhaps she just woke up on the wrong side of the bed…who knows! If you’ve played sports long enough and at a high level, you’re going to snap at some point. It’s inevitable.

The female athletes of today are not Disney princesses frolicking through the forest with a group of children using words like “oh dear”, “goodness” and “heavens to Betsy”. No, the female athletes of today are fierce. The reason why they kick so much ass is because they play with emotion, heart and passion. Sometimes they have tempers and they get angry on and off the field, JUST LIKE THE GUYS! So embrace the “rebellious” female athletes. They are passionate about what they do and they are human. Have a little compassion for Serena. Maybe you’ll be a role model for your child, instead of relying on Serena to do so.

 

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Don’t Be A Reactive Protagonist

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Say it ain’t so! Did I really just write and possibly become a reactive character like Bella swan?! (Insert facepalm emoji here). Photo courtesy of Pinterest.com.

Do you ever find yourself waiting for a Hogwarts letter to come sailing down your chimney? Have you ever caught yourself thinking, maybe the zombie apocalypse wouldn’t be so bad. At least it would add some excitement to my life?  Sometimes we get so caught up in the routine of life that it can stale quickly.  We get so wrapped up in keeping up with the day to day that we forget about our dreams, our goals, our loves, and we resign ourselves to thinking that they just won’t happen.  We wait for the next thing to happen to possibly change something or to give us that one chance at having what we’ve always wanted.

I’ve been this person.  The one who walks down the street and hopes that some big-shot, out-of-towner will walk up to me and say, “Hey, you look like you have the potential to be a successful writer. Why don’t you follow me and we’ll draw up a contract for your book deal!”  Or sometimes I’ll imagine that I’m at a bar telling my husband about my novel, and the guy sitting next to us will twirl around in his chair and say, “Hi, I’m an assistant for Matthew McConaughey and your story sounds like something he would be interested in.  Here’s my card.”  Here I was living my life in a reactive state; just waiting for something to happen without proactively trying to solve my own problems, make a plan, and put the blood, sweat, and tears into my work.  It wasn’t until a week ago when I attended my first writing conference (10MinCon, born out of the Facebook group 10 Minute Novelists) that I realized not only was the main character in my novel reactive, but so was I.

Donald Maass, a successful and respected literary agent, held a workshop on character where he told us there are two different protagonists: proactive and reactive.  Reactive characters have things happen to them instead of solving a problem or struggling to get what they want.  Mr. Maass then added that he doesn’t like reactive characters because they aren’t tested enough. Proactive protagonists use their skills, expertise, bravery, heart, etc. to solve some problem against impossible odds.  Upon hearing this I thought, Shit, my protagonist is extremely reactive, boring, and I all along I’ve had the sneaky feeling that I don’t like her because well…she just kind of sucks.  So I decided to take the reins again. I took a damn wrecking ball (minus Miley Ray Cyrus) to my plot and began pumping all of my characters up with emotional and motivational steroids.  Hopefully with those changes my writing will improve.  I’m not going to stand by and let this book be shitty and just be ok with it. No!  I’m going to be methodical (meaning write a robust outline and be a little more serious and intentional about sticking to my writing schedule…eek!) and make this the best damn book I can write.  If it turns out to be a shitty book, then I will at least know that it wasn’t a result of my laziness or poor planning.

I want myself and my main character to be badasses in our respective stories.   You can choose to be the badass in whatever you do as long as you’re proactive in doing it.  Things aren’t going to fall into your lap and then you go on an amazing adventure.  Sure, Harry Potter has a magical pedigree, and sure he is a “chosen one” protagonist, but as soon as he gets to Hogwarts he and his friends get themselves into some shit.  Of course Harry could have just chilled in his room drinking Butter Beer and smoking some wicked chronic all day (you know, that stuff that Gandalf smokes in LOTR), but no, Harry stayed sober, saved his friends countless times and fought against all of the deathly crap Voldemort threw at him.  Or how about Amy Dunne from Gone Girl? Talk about a proactive character!  I’ll be vague so I won’t spoil anything, but that women methodically planned and researched every step to psychotic perfection just to screw over her husband.  You shouldn’t follow Amy’s example exactly, but the point is, she is a compelling character because of how insanely proactive she was in getting what she wanted.

So take a note from your favorite proactive protagonists throughout history.  I bet if you attempt to be as proactive as they were in their stories, you’ll be pleased to see what will happen in yours.

 

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Even Without the U.S. This World Cup Has Been The Best Ever

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This is pretty much what I’ve been doing for most of the summer. Photo by JESHOOTS.com on Pexels.com

I’m baaaack bitches!  It’s been a minute since I’ve written and I’m sure some of you thought after two months of silence, that maybe, just maybe, I decided this little writing thing was just a cute, temporary hobby and decided to call it quits.  Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’m back at it again.  Perhaps unintentionally, I made this summer my off-season for writing.  Within a three year span I wrote the first draft of a novel, the first draft of a novella, expanded the novella into a novel (in progress), started a blog, and and wrote a few freelance pieces while also working 40 hours a week.  By the time summer hit I was exhausted.  Sometimes you just gotta say fuck it and take a damn break.  There’s no need to be so hard on yourself when we’re all just a simulation anyway (you have to read some previous posts to get that one).   

So what have I been doing? Eating bon bons by the pool? Pretty much, and coincidentally my time off has coordinated perfectly with the World Cup.  Thanks to DVR, I’ve managed to watch almost every game (except for the Belgium v. Japan game, which I’m still pissed about).  Therefore I say all of this crap to tell you that I’ve decided this world cup has been my favorite world cup ever.  Here’s why:

There are no clear favorites       

If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s a favorite easily winning a competition.  Everyone loves to see a battle, and that’s what we’ve seen throughout this year’s World Cup.  There were the usual suspects of teams who had a better chance than others, but luckily for us viewers that has all gone to shit.  First, Germany was bitch-slapped by Mexico and South Korea, and didn’t even make it out of the group stage.  Argentina suffered a tie to Iceland, a loss to Croatia and an elimination by France.  No amount of rolling around by Neymar could save Brazil from defeat by Belgium.  And freaking Spain got dasvidaniya’d by Russia in a damn shoot out.  As much as I appreciate your methodical passing, Spain, you’ve got to put some damn shots on goal to win.  And England, has finally made it to a semi-final for the first time since 1990 when they played West Germany.  Yes, West Germany.  That tells you how long ago that was.   In my non-expert opinion, the semi’s feature four scrappy teams who deserve to be there and played as a team.  

The refs are actually letting the players play 

If you’re an American and you play soccer, then you’re well aware of the fact that our fellow countrymen consider the sport to be a “sissy sport”.  As someone who has played soccer for my entire life, I know that this couldn’t be further from the truth.  Soccer takes an incredible amount of athleticism, endurance, and toughness.  Oh, and it’s definitely a contact sport.  However, how can you blame those not familiar with the sport when they watch professionals get touched by another player’s fingernail and fall to the ground screaming in agony?  The sport’s received a bad rap because of these divers hoping to catch a foul rather than play the game.  But fortunately, during this World Cup, the refs have curbed the constant fouls in favor of the divers.  Players have been wrapping their arms around each other, shoving one another to the ground, and tackling the shit out of each other without hearing the whistle blow.  The refs in this World Cup are sending a clear message: soccer is not a sport for pussies.  If you want to see diving just watch the NBA.   

We got to hear the Icelandic cheer again

Oh America, how did we manage to not qualify when a country that has a population of 340,000 did?  Do I sound bitter? Ok, I’ll stop.  On a lighter note, I am happy Iceland made it to the tournament so I could hear their badass stomping/grunting/clapping chant once again.  When I first heard the chant in the 2016 Summer Olympics, I imagined Vikings suddenly running onto the field and slitting the throats of the other team.  It’s intimidating as hell and makes you wonder if the Icelandics view the wave as childish.  Even though Iceland didn’t make it past the group stage, their chant lives on in the tournament.  Other teams have tried to replicate it, but they never get it right.  You probably need Viking blood running through your veins to get the “whooo” sound right. 

I didn’t have to watch Michael Bradley play a single second during this World Cup

If you’ve ever been with me while watching a U.S. National Team game, then you know how much I hate American center midfielder Michael Bradley.  I still don’t understand how our country, which has birthed world-class athletes such as Muhammed Ali, Lebron James, Serena and Venus Williams, Tiger Woods, and Mia Hamm, cannot find someone better to play center mid than Michael Bradley.  I’ve played with and against female players who are faster and more talented than Bradley.  I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but that doesn’t mean he should have a starting position on the team.  All I know is, if we’re lucky, 2014 was hopefully the last World Cup for Bradley.  We have FOUR YEARS to find someone else.  As the “American Outlaw” cheer goes, “I believe that we will win (with someone other than Bradley)”. 

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“Adverse Possession” Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge

 

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Ain’t nothing more creepy than hillbillies and adverse possession.

I’ve been waiting for some time for Mr. Wendig to post another flash fiction challenge that strikes my fancy, and finally he has delivered.  This week’s challenge is to write a flash fiction story (1,000 words and under) about Real Estate.  Being a law graduate this challenge made my wheels turn ever so slightly.  If you’ve been reading my blog posts you may know that I do not practice law, so I remember about fuck-all from law school.   However, one of the three things I do remember is a legal principle called adverse possession.  In adverse possession, if certain elements are met (I’m not going to go into them.  You can google that shit) a “squatter” (someone who does not have legal title to the land) can obtain legal ownership of the land. 

Now a few disclaimers before reading the story:

  1. This story is technically a short story, not a flash fiction story.  I cheated. Sorry, not sorry.
  2. This is amateur hour, folks, so bear with me.  I’m still working hard to improve my writing.        
  3. I purposefully left out any setting details mainly because I didn’t feel like performing legal research over the weekend on adverse possession in different jurisdictions and the presumption of death based on absence.  If any of you lawyer friends are reading this, then you may have to swallow a heaping scoop of willing suspension of disbelief in the case of any legal accuracy.  I just wanted to have a little fun this weekend, ok? Ok.
  4. Enjoy!

“Adverse Possession” 

The back tire of Zach’s Honda Civic slipped on the damp gravel road, sending the back end of the car sideways as it struggled up the hill.  A short, angry July thunderstorm had just passed through the area creating jungle-like conditions.  Steam laced through the car’s windows like smoke, soaking Zach’s and Ashley’s sweaty shirts and causing their tempers to flare.        

“Jesus,” said Ashley as she gripped the side of the car, “I feel like we’ve been on this hill for fucking ever.”  She reached again to turn on the air conditioning.  

“Babe, I’ve told you like five times, do not turn on the air conditioning,”  Zach yelled.  He took a deep breath and lowered his voice, “There’s no way we’re going to make it up this hill with the a.c. pulling on the engine, ok?” The front tire hit a small hole, sending a splash of water onto the windshield.  “We’re almost there,” Zach said.  The words repeated in his head like a mantra.  

“How do you know that? We don’t even have service,” snapped Ashley.  

“Because I know.” Zach looked at Ashely and cupped his hand to his ear, “Probably going to start hearing banjos soon.  That’s how you know you’re gittin’ close.”  He smiled at her as he mimicked the Deliverance banjos. 

“Shut up,” said Ashley as she pulled her wet tank top off of her stomach and waved it. 

As they crested the hill, the road widened slightly and the trees thinned.  On the right was a meadow with bunches of golden rod surrounding a brown barn with a mossy roof that had collapsed.  The neighbor’s barn roof had been collapsed the last time Zach had visited his uncle twenty-five years ago. Ahead on the left sat the familiar mailbox that always marked the entrance to his uncle’s cabin.  

Zach stopped in front of the white mailbox before pulling into the driveway. 

“Why are you stopping?” asked Ashley, stretching her feet out the car window.

“Nothing, it’s just this mailbox used to be black. I mean, most of the paint was peeling off of it and the mailbox was all rusted out, but it was black, not white.”

“Sooo, maybe he painted it,” said Ashley reaching over again to turn on the air conditioning while Zach was distracted. 

Zach looked over at her with his brow furrowed.  Sometimes he wondered if Ashley ever stopped to think about what she was saying. “Yeah, but Uncle Rob’s been missing for ten years. This looks like it was painted recently.” 

Ashley let out a loud sigh, “Look, I don’t know.  Can we just go and get this over with please?”

Zach slammed his foot on the gas, jolting Ashley back into her seat.  “Jeeesus!” she cried. 

As Zach drove down the driveway his mouth gaped open as he passed by well manicured  grass on either side of the driveway.   Instead of being overgrown by weeds, like it normally was when he visited as a kid, someone had been maintaining it.  Was Uncle Rob here all along?  He couldn’t be.   Ahead sat the cabin, which looked about the same as Zach remembered it, except now there were pots of red begonias and purple and white petunias that lined the small porch.  Chicken wire and pink rose bushes lined the perimeter of a small garden behind the cabin.  To the left of the house three goats grazed aggressively on the grass in front of the small barn.   Zach stopped a safe distance away from the cabin and slowly got out of the car.  

“You sure this is the place?” asked Ashley as she slammed the car door, “Looks like someone lives here.” 

Zach rubbed his hand through his hair, “I mean, I’m pretty sure this is it.  It has the same set up and everything.” He looked over at the barn and saw the same orange, red and white barn quilt above the door and the same rusted horse shoe his uncle let him nail on the door so many year ago, “This is it.”

The sound of a shot gun cocking sliced through the thick, steamy air.  Ashley’s and Zach’s heads snapped back toward the house.  A petite woman in a floral-patterned tank top and overalls and pixie-cut grey hair stood on the porch with her gun rested on her hip “Can I help you?” she called.  

Ashley stood frozen by the car with her hands up as if she was being robbed.  Zach’s hands shook as he became aware of every movement he made.  Don’t move too quickly. He thought.  He took one step forward and put his hands up in front of his chest to show he didn’t have a gun on him, “Um, sorry,” he yelled, “I think there’s been some mistake.” The woman put her gun down from her hip but continued holding it.  

Zach just wanted to tell the woman they were lost and they were just on their way out, but he reluctantly continued, “I’m Zach Greene.  I’m Robert Greene’s nephew.  My Dad was Daniel Greene.  Um…” Zach knew he had to be delicate.  There had to be some kind of mistake.  “I thought my Uncle owned this land.  Did he sell it to you?” 

“You’re Rob’s nephew?” called the woman. 

Zach looked from side to side, wishing he had some sort of proof.  Ashley started crying. “Um, yeah,” said Zach, his heart pounding in his throat.  Zach suddenly missed his Dad terribly.  

Finally the woman put the gun down and rested it against a post on the porch, “Well come on in then.  Any family of Rob’s is a friend of mine,” she waved them in and walked back in the cabin.  Zach and Ashley darted wide-eyed glances at each other, then followed behind her.  

“What the fuck is going on?” whispered Ashley before stepping into the cabin.  

“I don’t know,” whispered Zach, pausing before the doorway, “Let’s just talk to her and figure out what’s going on.  There’s got to be some kind of mistake.” 

The inside of the cabin looked nothing like what Zach had remembered.  Instead of being surrounded by the dark brown color of natural wood, the inside had been painted an off-white creme color.  Each window had pink and yellow floral curtains. A red cloth couch sat in the living room, which had replaced the torn leather one Zach remembered sleeping on when he would visit.  

“Place looks a little different, don’t it?” asked the woman standing in front of a box fan, rolling the pants of her overalls above her knees.     

“Yeah,” said Zach still trying to adjust to the brightness of the interior.

The woman pushed herself off of the kitchen counter and moved toward them, “The name’s Beth, by the way.  Well actually it’s Bethany, but you can call me Beth,” she shook Zach’s and Ashley’s hands.  Ashley didn’t introduce herself.  “Rob and I started, well what do you kids say?  Seeing each other?” she looked at the Ashley and Zach who gave no response, “Well we started seeing each other about a year before he went missing.  Ever since then I’ve been keeping up the place, tending to the goats and the garden, you know.  I guess just waiting for him to come back…” her gaze looked out the window toward the barn for a moment then back at them, “So what brings you all the way down here?”  She moved into the living room taking a seat on a matching red arm chair.  Ashley and Zach sat on the couch.  

Zach didn’t know what to say, but luckily Beth broke the silence first with raised eyebrows, “I guess you know your Uncle’s been missin’, right?” 

It had been twelve years since Zach last saw his Uncle, but he had been missing for ten.  Zach took a deep shaky breath, “The court has determined that Uncle Rob has been missing for so long that he is presumed to be dead,” he paused for Beth to say something but she didn’t, “Since my Uncle died without a will, my family’s been going through the probate process.  My father, Daniel, died a month into the process, so now I’m Robert’s only surviving heir, which means…” Zach looked down at his feet, wishing he could disappear.

“Which means I gotta move out, right?” Beth gave a laugh that was more like a cackle.  Zach shifted uncomfortably on the couch.  Beth pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one up. “Now, according to the sheriff,” she blew out her first long puff of smoke, “I actually own this place.  Something called adverse possession…or maybe it’s repossession?  Hell, I don’t know.  Anyway, this is my land now because your uncle’s been gone for so long.”  Zach hadn’t expected this and sat frozen, unsure of what to say. He looked toward the door and thought about leaving.  He didn’t need this stupid cabin anyway. Beth took a big puff of her cigarette and slowly blew out the smoke, “Now, out of respect for Rob, I don’t want to interfere with anyone’s family business.  If this cabin rightfully belongs to you, then I don’t want to keep it from ya.” 

Zach blew out an exhale of nerves and rubbed his hands on his shorts, “Oh, wow, thank you, um, ma’m.  That’s very kind of you.” Zach glanced over at Ashely who still sat wide-eyed and frozen, “And you know, we could sell it back to you.  I don’t even want this place.  I’d rather just have Uncle Rob’s state championship football ring to be honest,” Zach gave a nervous chuckle.  “Um, and we could sell it to you for a very cheap price. You know, kind of as a thank you for taking such good care of the place and everything.” 

“That’d be nice,” said Beth.  She smiled with her mouth closed.  Suddenly she slapped her hands on her thighs as if to signal things were settled, causing Ashley to jump, “Ya’ll want some lemonade?  I just made some.” 

“Um, sure,” said Zach.

“It’s my special recipe,” said Beth as she walked into the kitchen.  

Zach looked over at Ashley who hadn’t moved, “You ok?” he asked. Ashley only nodded. 

Beth shuffled back into the living room with two light blue glasses filled with ice and lemonade.  “Thank you,” said Zach as he took both glasses and handed one to Ashely.  Out of nervousness, and the heat, both he and Ashley gulped it down as quickly as they could.  

“So,” Beth sat back down on the armchair, “now that the court has gotten involved, did they ever find any leads regarding your Uncle?  They never told me shit since we wasn’t married or nothin’.  Just searched the place to hell and back.” 

“No,” Zach shifted in his seat.  The ice cold lemonade hit him like a kick in the gut, “They never found anything.” 

“Hmm,” Beth took a drag from her cigarette, “Well that’s small town law enforcement for ya.  They don’t know what the fuck they’re doing.” 

Ashley waved her hand in front of her face and tugged at her tank top, “I’m not feeling so well.  I think I’m going to outside.”  Sweat beaded along her hairline and her face was flushed.  

“Yeah, sure babe,” Zach didn’t think anything of it as he watched Ashley slightly trip over the front step.  She had always been a clumsy girl who shuffled her feet too much.    

“I sure hope she’s ok,” said Beth as she drank what looked like tea out of a clear glass.  

Zach crunched on an ice cub, “She’s fine.  She gets motion sickness really easily.  Probably just needs to walk around a little bit.” 

“Hm,” Beth took a sip of her sweet tea followed by a puff of her cigarette, “You know, your uncle disappearing and everything is so him.  Just kind of suited his personality.” 

“Yeah, I guess he was a little eccentric.  Just wished we knew what happened…” Zach wiped a drop of sweat that fell down the side of his face, headed for his neck.  

“Shit, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that your uncle’s been hiding out in Mexico for the past ten years.” 

Zach chuckled at the remark, but then something tickled his throat and burned his lungs, sending him into a coughing fit.  He stuck another piece of ice in his mouth and took a deep breath, momentarily soothing himself.  

“You alright, son?” Beth asked lighting up another cigarette.  

Zach cleared his throat, “Yeah, I’m fine.  Just allergies.” 

“Might be this too,” Beth said as she blew out a puff of smoke in Zach’s direction, “Sorry.  Old habits die hard, I guess.” She craned her neck to look out the window then quickly got up, “Shit. I’m sorry, I forgot that I let Billy Bob out this morning.”  She took two steps toward the door then looked back at Zach, “He’s a goat.  That son of a bitch will headbutt you into next Tuesday if you get too close to him.  Don’t want him to get that pretty girlfriend of yours.”

Zach’s stomach flipped violently and sweat dripped past his eyebrows, causing a salty sting in his eyes. “Can I use your restroom?” he asked Beth as she was about to walk out the door.  

She poked her head back in, “Yeah honey, down the hallway to the left,” she laughed,  “Well hell, you know where it is.” 

As soon as Beth walked out the door, Zach shot off the couch and ran to the restroom with his hands to his mouth.  Finally in the bathroom, with his hands clutched around the toilet bowl and his hair soaked in a cold sweat, Zach felt a moment relief after he vomited.  “What the fuck just happened?” he said to himself.  Too weak to walk out of the bathroom, and afraid he would get sick again, Zach put the toilet seat down and sat on top of it.  On top of the toilet were stacks of various women’s magazines and a few of Uncle Rob’s old hunting and fishing magazines.  Zach grabbed one of them and flipped through the pages.  The cool glossy pages felt heavenly on his sweaty fingertips.  

As Zach flipped through he felt something heavy toward the end of the magazine.  In between a story about bass fishing before thunderstorms and a sunglasses ad, was a stack of photographs.  The first one was a photo of Beth and Uncle Rob, at what looked like a bar.  Uncle Rob sported a Hawaiian shirt and overalls.  His eyes were glassy and he wore a wide drunken smile.  Beth wore a bright red tube top, that she was far too old to wear, and permed amber hair.  She was kissing Uncle Rob on the cheek, and held a cigarette in her hand.  The next photo was similar, but looked like it was taken on their front porch.  Each of them wore the same outfit, but Beth’s hair was straight with a medley of frosty blond and amber highlights.  Again Beth was kissing Uncle Rob on the cheek.  Rob wore the same outfit as the photo before, but he didn’t smile and his eyes were closed.  The next photo was almost identical to the last one.  Again Uncle Rob’s eyes were closed, but he looked as if he had lost weight and had lost some of the coloring in his face.  Zach’s brow furrowed as he stared as the strange photo of his Uncle.  He shuffled to the final photo.  

“Oh fuck!” Zach stood up quickly and dropped the photo on the floor.  He threw the toilet seat up and vomited.  He began shaking violently. Using all of his strength he grabbed the doorway and pulled himself up, letting out a loud grunt.  He sprinted to the doorway, almost tripping over the same step that Ashley had tripped on, and ran toward the barn.  On the bathroom floor was the last photo which was almost identical as the ones before it, except Uncle Rob’s cheeks were completely sunken in, his skin was the color of ash and his mouth gaped open.  Instead of his eyes being closed, both were open, but one of them was an empty socket instead of an eye.                   

Inside the barn Ashley slouched against a hay bale that was being picked at by one of the goats.  A small stream of blood ran from her mouth to chin. The goat casually looked up at Zach as if it was bored by Ashley.  Zach’s field of vision blurred and shrank as he wavered in front of Ashley.  

“Ashley?” he called out weakly, kneeling in front of her.  He shook her shoulders, “Ashley!  Can you hear me?” Her skin was cold.  The burning returned to Zach’s lungs and he fell to the floor in a coughing fit.  Blood splattered onto his hands.   

“She ain’t gonna wake up,” said Beth standing in the doorway of the barn with her shotgun.  

“Get away from me,” gurgled Zach as he tried to crawl away from her.  Suddenly pain shot through his ankle as he felt Beth’s boot heel grind itself into the bone.  

“You ain’t going anywhere and I ain’t going anywhere,” She let her heel off of Zach’s ankle and walked a few feet behind Zach.  She moved a few hay bales out of the way and brushed some of the pieces off the floor, “I told you they said this is mine now.  I took care of it,” she lifted a cellar door that had been hidden beneath the bales, “Hell, this place used to be a shithole and now look at it.  It’s real nice.”  She grabbed the collar of Zach’s shirt and drug him toward the cellar.  A sharp pain radiated through Zach’s ribs and he felt himself fall several several feet.  As he hit the floor he heard two bones crack, but he didn’t know which ones they were.  Pain washed over his entire body, making him nauseous again.    

Beth’s head poked through the opening at the top of the cellar, “But hey, like I said, I don’t want to get in the middle of any family business.  So why don’t you hash it out with your uncle down there?”

Using all of his strength, and with a scream in pain, Zach propped himself up on his elbows.  To his left sat a skeleton casually sitting in a chair wearing a Hawaiian shirt.  As Zach felt his body sway and his vision tunnel into nothing, the cellar door above him shut.  The clanking sound of a lock was the last thing he heard.

The End.  

 

 

 

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Hold On To Your Butts and Your Birth Control In “A Quiet Place”

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Shut up, damn kid! Children definitely need to be seen and not heard in order to survive in “A Quiet Place”. Photo provided by http://www.theverge.com and Paramount Pictures.

I know it has been a few weeks since I’ve written.  I guess I’ve failed to prove to the blogosphere that I can blog on a regular basis…oh darn.  The truth is I’ve been busy working on a few non-fiction freelancing jobs, so I put a temporary hold on my blog and novel.  However, after meeting two deadlines this week, my husband and I decided to see the movie A Quiet Place this weekend.  A Quiet Place is a movie about a family’s survival in a post-apocalyptic world that is overrun by blind creatures who attack anything that makes a sound.  One of my favorite things to do while watching horror movies is to put myself in the shoes of the protagonist and assess whether I would survive.  This post is a snapshot of some of the silly things that flew through my mind as I watched the movie.  

Before we begin, let me just say that I enjoyed this movie.  I didn’t love it, but I enjoyed it and was riveted the entire time.  The premise, while not entirely logical, was an interesting one.  And hey, it’s not a remake, so bonus points for that! Now that movies are typically two to three house long, and the viewer wonders if they’re going to develop DVT, the pacing of A Quiet Place was quite comfortable at 90 minutes.  It featured two fine actors, Emily Blunt and John Krasinski, who may have looked as if they had been plucked out of an L.L. Bean catalogue, but their acting chops definitely elevated the story.  Emily Blunt could sit on a stool, twidling her thumbs for the entire movie and I would still love her; even though her labor scenes made me feel even more disturbed about the painful miracle of childbirth.  And of course, it featured all the things we love about horror: the ultra-fast, slimy monsters that look like Venus fly traps with legs; the ability to make something mundane, like walking around your house making noise, deadly; and of course blaringly obvious mistakes made by the main characters.      

With that being said, I have three major takeaways from this movie that I hope will help you if you’re ever in A Quiet Place:

  1. In the world of A Quiet Place any kind of bodily function would probably get you killed.

Most of us lack the disciplined, monk-like control the characters in A Quiet Place have over their bodies, especially their sphincters.  Imagine coming home after a long day and not being able to let loose and relax.  You know what I’m talking about.  No farting, no audible shitting and no burping.  In A Quiet Place you would have to spend everyday clinching your butthole like you do during a first or second date.  Who wants to live in a world like that?  Better hold onto your butt until you can get to that roaring river, so that you can let your bowels loose in an epically loud poop. Do you start to sneeze once the spring flowers bloom?  Forget it, you’re dead.  Have a cough? Dead.  Snore? Dead.  Brush your teeth a little too loudly? Dead.  Chew your food too loudly? Dead. Slurp your soup? Dead.  I don’t think it would have been the noisy spaceship toy that would have caused the creatures to nab the first victim (I don’t really consider this to be a spoiler, by the way, because the trailer basically shows this character’s death) in A Quiet Place; most likely the creatures would have heard all of the characters farting, shitting, snoring or sneezing long before the little boy picked up the toy.

2) There’s no way kids would survive.

I’m not a parent, but I can imagine that any parent who watched this movie had a little chuckle.  If you’ve ever babysat a child for more than twenty minutes, you know they’re loud as fuck.  They cry, they whine, they cough, they fall on the floor, they drop things, they smash into things, they break things, etc.  Kids under the age of twelve explore all of the infinite noise making combinations on the daily, so there’s absolutely no way any child would be able to survive the silent world of A Quiet Place.

(Midway Random Thought: I would love for the Chappelle Show to come back and do a A Quiet Place spoof where Chappelle’s Lil John character follows the protagonist’s family around yelling “WHHAAAAT?”  End Random Thought. )   

3) Birth control is key in any post-apocalyptic world

Ok, ladies and gentlemen.  Remember before modern medicine, how childbirth could kill you?  Well if the apocalypse happens and you don’t have access to doctors and hospitals, then there’s a good chance you or your baby will die.  So for the love of god, if you were lucky enough to receive some form of sex ed. in middle school, now’s a good time to use that knowledge.  What bothered me about Emily Blunt and John Krasinski’s characters in A Quiet Place, is they got pregnant AFTER the apocalypse happened.  Not only that, they still thought it was a good idea to have un-protected sex even after seeing their youngest son demolished by the creatures.  If that’s not reason enough to wrap your junk up, then I don’t know what is.  And don’t give me that crap about the condom breaking.  We all know that doesn’t happen.  Perhaps now would be a great time to take a few notes from your slutty classmate in your high school freshmen class, who considered herself to be a virgin even though she blew every guy at church camp.  Or maybe now would be a great time to become asexual.  Whatever you do, don’t have unprotected sex in the apocalypse.  And don’t let some fool try to convince you of having a child to reinstate hope for the survival of the human race.  A’int nobody got time for a screaming baby in the apocalypse.  Let the rich people who live in the underground bunkers figure that out.

So there you have it.  If you ever find yourself in a post-apocalyptic world where you can’t make any noise, whatever you do, don’t fart, don’t have kids and don’t have kids.  Simple as that.  But until that happens be as loud as you want and create as many little spawn as you want to.

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3 Reasons Why Antiheroes Are Good For The Soul

Walter White
My favorite antihero, Walter White. Image provided by Wikipedia.

If there’s a character archetype I would love to get stuck in an elevator with for several hours, it would be the antihero (as long as they didn’t kill me).  In my non-expert opinion, the antihero is the character that does the most for the reader or the viewer.  That’s why when I read an article this weekend about how we need to end our antihero obsession, I pulled my hair, stomped my feet, and whined, “But why?”.  What did the antihero ever do to you, except for make whatever story you’re reading or watching better?

The fact that I happened to read this article while watching Breaking Bad for the hundredth time made the author’s assertion that much more painful.  Walter White (the protagonist/anti-hero of Breaking Bad) is one of my all-time favorite characters.  Sure, Walter may have done nothing while watching his partner’s girlfriend die.  Yes, he may have poisoned an innocent child.  And I know, I remember when he put the hit out on our lovable super-nerd, Gale.  I remember all of the terrible shit his character did throughout the story, but I still love him with all my heart.  I don’t even care if he stooped to Gustavo’s level and sliced someone’s throat right in front of me (I still liked Gus after he did that.  He may have scared me a little, but I still like him). In fact, I would love Walter White even if most of the show consisted of him making numbers out of bacon or running around in his tighty-whities.  Why? Because Walter White’s character was real.  Antiheroes’ authenticity can bring out traits in the viewer that may have been submerged in our hardened shells.  And thus, here are my three reasons why antiheroes are good for you:

  1. They Tease Out Our Empathy

In today’s society we’re so bombarded by headlines that it’s easy to make rash judgements about people without knowing the full story.  Wow, what a dumbass!  What a psychopath!  Why would anyone ever do that? People are the way they are because of the way they’re treated throughout their lives.  Antiheroes can teach us this.  If you see where an antihero came from, it humanizes them.  Walter White, for example, was cheated out of a billion dollar company he created, had a thankless job as a high school chemistry teacher, and got lung cancer.  Pretty shitty, right?  Tony Soprano had a psychotic mother, a dead-beat father, and grew up in a gang culture, while the only thing he wanted to do was peacefully feed ducks (ok, that might be a stretch).  Dexter’s only memory of his mother is him being found in a pool of her blood.  Seeing little nuggets of these characters’ backstories, or what made them a little “off”, make us wonder how we would react in similar situations.  Perhaps some of us would end up the same way.  Perhaps not.  Either way, antiheroes make us see the story from their point of view, which is usually different from our own.

2. We Get to Live Vicariously Through Them

Most, if not all, of these characters have to make a choice: either I’m going to play by the rules or I’m going to say fuck it and do whatever I can to survive.  I may be wrong, but most of us don’t want to play by the rules, but we have to.  Come on, admit it.  Unfortunately in real life, suspension of disbelief rarely works out for us.  If we were faced with some of the challenges these antiheroes face and chose to not play by the rules, we’d most likely end up in prison or dead.  However, while watching the antiheroes skillfully and successfully dodge obstacles, we live through them and experience a little bit of the rush they would.  I’m not saying that you secretly want to be a vigilante and murder people like Dexter, but don’t we all want horrible people to get what’s coming to them?  Isn’t it somewhat satisfying to see it happen in a fictional world?  Yep.  I’ll be the first to admit it.

3. We Learn To Love People Despite Their Faults

There are people in your life you love, and you will always love them no matter what.  Sure, they may have some serious issues, make terrible decisions, and annoy the shit out of you, but you love them anyway.  When you love someone you learn how to forgive them.  Antiheroes can teach us this important lesson.  No one is perfect.  We’re all going to be little sociopaths at times, maybe even a little psychotic at other times.  But we ask for forgiveness, and hopefully those that love us will understand that everyone makes mistakes.  Sure, Tony Soprano may have constantly cheated on his wife and killed his nephew, but deep down he’s a decent guy.  Christopher deserved it anyway.  If you’re one of these people who believes that the only people you should surround yourself with are those who never offend you, hurt you, or piss you off, then you’re going to have a tough time in life.  Here’s a little secret: everyone is going to do this to you.  Having flaws is what makes us human.  A good character is going to have flaws, and we have to forgive them for it.

So there you have it.  Antiheroes play an important role in our lives by teaching us how to be better humans.  Hell, maybe they are the true heroes.

 

 

 

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What’s My Purpose? Who Cares!

If I hear the words, “passion”, “purpose”, or “calling”, one more time I might puke all over this keyboard.  Like projectile vomit.  If you’ve ever had to search for a job, change a career, go to school, you know these words well.  And I call bullshit on them.  Is it so heinous to believe that some of us may not have a purpose that’s tied to a career?  A lot of us believe that God is managing an assembly line of souls and bestowing a  purpose on each of us with his almighty magic wand.  Let’s see now…Michael you’re going to be a phenomenal singer and dancer *bloop*.  Stephen you’re going to be a physicist *bloop*,  Maya you’re going to be an iconic poet *bloop*,  Ted…well Ted…let’s see, how do I say this? You’re going to be a…well it’s not really a profession per se.  Um, well son, you’re going to be cog in a corporate wheel. Sorry.  Most likely your life’s purpose or your destiny isn’t floating around in the ether (along with unclaimed soulmates) waiting for you to snatch it up like a lightning bug.  While society will cram your head with successful people who’ve found their calling, and hold you to those same expectations, most of us have to find purpose in something that isn’t going to make us any money or provide us any fame.

You may be waiting to hear the sound of bullets loading into a revolver, but that’s not what’s happening here. This mindset should come as a relief.  No longer do you have to stay on a never-ending holy grail or fountain of youth-like quest for a job that you’re passionate about.  What if you decide to flush that idea down the toilet and say to yourself, “You know what, I’m going to find purpose and passion in something outside of my job.  I may not even go looking for it.  Shit, I may already be doing it.”  Would that be so bad?

Why do we tie our self worth and our identity so tightly to our careers? The idea of finding passion and purpose in our jobs has been shoved down our throats since elementary school.  Remember career day?  John’s dad is a police officer.  He keeps everyone safe.  Cindy’s mom is a nurse.  She helps sick people.  We’re wired to think that everyone must be a contributing member of society and you better be super psyched about the role you’re given. When you start thinking about a “calling” 1) It better be respectable.  2) There better be a track record of people making good money while doing it. 3) You should probably try to make a difference in people’s lives 4) Oh, and if it’s interesting and exciting that’d be great too (this is a modern one, I think).  Jesus, it’s no wonder why a bunch of us are depressed, anxious, unfulfilled shells of humans.  Basically society tells us that if you can’t find a job that you’re proud of, that makes a difference, and makes you money while doing it, then you’re a worthless piece of unambitious doo doo.

If you find meaning in the work you do that’s great!  The world needs people like you.  Additionally you may find a career with purpose and fulfillment later in life, and that’s great too.  However, if you’re not one of these people, then don’t let this silly American ideal of having a job that fulfills you, ruin your life (or even your day).  No matter what job you have, don’t let those 8-10 hours dictate how you feel about yourself.  It’s. Not. Worth. It.

If you feel like you’re never going to find a career that is meaningful and makes you want to spring out of bed every morning, stop worrying so much and stop giving so many fucks.  I’m not writing this to say give your middle finger to the man, quit your job, and begin your lifelong passion of breeding llamas.  No.  Sometimes we have to have jobs that we don’t like for serious reasons like affording rent, childcare, health insurance, etc. That’s honorable in itself.  Find purpose and passion elsewhere because, in my non-expert opinion, only a small percentage of us find it in our jobs.  You can find purpose in just about anything: coming home everyday and drawing comics, playing with your kids, gardening, taking your dog for a walk, holding the door for someone, not being a dick (this one is a biggie (no pun intended) and it’s in demand. Hell, if you’re not an asshole, you’re a huge success in my book), taking time to raise your kids so that they don’t turn out to be dicks when they grow up (another important one), taking care of a sick relative, painting, writing, making dinner for your family, making someone smile, reading, learning another language, etc.

Basically you can find your purpose in anything.  Who are we to say we fully understand what our purpose is?  Kind of arrogant of us, right?  It’s possible that our true purpose is beyond our understanding. So in the end, relax, try not to be a dick to other people, and enjoy the ride as much as you can while hanging onto the boat during the storms.

Btw, some physicists believe there’s a 50% chance we’re all a simulation.  If that’s not a great reason for you to stop worrying about finding a profession with purpose, then I don’t know what is.

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Impatience Is A Bitch

Patience is a virtue, but let me tell you, impatience is a bitch. Impatience is something I’ve struggled with throughout my life. But finally, I’ve made the decision to quit impatience. I’m done, finished, through, gtfo of my life you little toe-tapping son of a bitch. Impatience is that voice in your head that’s sighing and rolling his eyes behind you in line at Starbucks because you’re taking too long to figure out what you want to order. After his third sigh you get all flustered and order a vanilla bean frappuccino, which doesn’t even have any caffeine in it, and then you try to whip out your credit card, and instead coins fly out of your purse and spill all over the floor. Impatience is behind you in his tailored suit and designer glasses, muttering, “Jesus christ, get your shit together”. We’ve all had this asshole standing behind us in our minds. It’s time for you to take your keys, whip around, and jam the sharpest one right into the judgmental eyeball of that bastard.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it? Yes, but impatience is hard to quit and here’s why:everyone fucking loves impatience.

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I can’t quit you, impatience. Yes, you can! Image provided by quickmeme.com.
  1. Our society LOVES impatience.
    Think about it. We praise those who are “naturals” in their field. We mislead ourselves into thinking that genius comes from natural abilities instead of hard work. Did you suck at math when you were a kid? Then you must be an inferior human because you just didn’t get it on the first try. Suck at making free-throws on the basketball court? Well I guess you’re just not a natural athlete. We’re even obsessed with “chosen one” characters in movies: Goodwill Hunting, Limitless (although this is drug-induced), Harry Potter, Matilda, etc.) Practice is pointless because you’ll only get to a certain point due to your lack of natural talent. THIS IS BULLSHIT. These storylines in the media, the arts, as well as hearing your co-worker or neighbor talk about their gifted child all day, can drastically warp our sense of reality and make us incredibly impatient. A’int nobody got time for hard work and practice these days. If we’re not good at something the first few times we do it, then we give up. But here’s a little secret: most of us are not geniuses without working for it. You’re not going to realize on a drunken night that you’re the world’s most talented billiards player and didn’t even know it. You don’t even play pool and now you’re number one in the world? Amazing! Nope, nope, nope. This isn’t going to happen. Sorry. Get your ugly crying out of the way. However, if you’re one of the 5% of people in the world that has patience, you’re going to be incredibly successful. You’re not going to care about timelines. You’re only going to care about what you can do to be better at whatever it is you want to improve. So the next time impatience laughs at you when you whiff a golf ball, slowly give him the middle finger with your gloved hand. If you practice and have patience with yourself, you’ll most likely be better than when you started.
  2. Your family and friends LOVES impatience and expect him to show up at every party or family gathering.
    This one’s a toughie. If you are lucky enough to have decent loved ones, then they’re going to care deeply about your goals and dreams. If you fail, they’re going to feel it too. While you appreciate the support, seeing the sad faces of some of your loved ones when you tell them about a setback is like a double-barreled donkey kick to the chest. They want you to be successful and happy as quickly as possible. If you don’t tell your loved ones that whatever it is you’re working on will take a long time, then they’re going to see any delay as a negative. Be honest with your loved ones. Tell them you’re trying to be patient with yourself and most likely they will respect the amount of time you need for your goals.
  3. And deep down you LOVE impatience
    We all have this fantasy that we’re going to be discovered without doing any work. I have several of these. One is I’m at a bar telling my friend about a story idea. Unbeknownst to me an editor from a major publishing house just happens to be visiting Dayton, Ohio, and she’s sitting right next to me. She buts into my conversation and says, “I just overheard you telling your friend about your story, and wow, it sounds spectacular. Why don’t you send me a copy of your manuscript as soon as you can.” I haven’t even written the story. All I have is some idea floating around in my head. Sounds pretty sweet, right? Sure, but it’s not going to happen. We all have this crazy emotional love affair with impatience. Why? Because the alternative is working hard, failing, working hard, failing, and working hard some more. But the alternative is the only way it’s going to happen. As soon as we realize that we can begin to let go of impatience. You can even tell him it’s you, not him.

So what is impatience doing for you? Probably nothing besides giving you an eye twitch and maybe even a drinking problem. So be patient with yourself in whatever you’re doing. Put in the time, the research, the energy, and don’t compare yourself to other’s timelines. Everyone has a different reason why they are where they are in a certain point in time. So now, lock your front door, gather all of impatience’s belongings, and go to the highest window in your home. When he starts banging on the door and screaming your name through the street, open the window and drop all of his shit all over his head. Be sure all of your neighbors are watching.

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Thanks “The Cloverfield Paradox” for Making Me Feel Better About My Shitty Day

Cloverfield
The characters in The Cloverfield Paradox had a shittier day than I did. Photo courtesy of Netflix/Paramount.

When you wake up worried that your house is going to blow up, you’re probably not going to have a great day. Let me provide a little bit of backstory before I set the scene. My husband and I are lucky enough to live in a beautiful, older neighborhood.  While older homes may have a lot of “charm” they also have things like ancient, decomposing pipelines that can cause natural gas leaks and blow up your house. And I’m not just being dramatic. About two months ago, a house two streets over blew up from a suspected natural gas leak. The house is now a pile of wood and mangled pipes, and unfortunately the woman who lived there passed away in the explosion.

This was especially frightening for me.  Things that can kill you while you sleep, like carbon monoxide, fires, natural gas explosions, undetected heart murmurs, terrify me.  I’m that spaz that quadruple checks things like lights, burners, and even outlets before I go to sleep.  I even do it if I’m spending the night at someone else’s house.  Do I trust Susan to turn off the stove after we had been drinking all night? Hell no!  So imagine my horror when we smelled gas in our basement Sunday morning. With no bra and un-brushed teeth I ran around the house packing up valuables: my laptop, a hard copy of my current manuscript, contact lenses, underwear, my expired passport for some reason, and threw three golden retrievers and one beagle into my car (I’m dog sitting my parents’ dogs).  I drove around waiting to hear from my husband, nauseous, wondering if I would come back to a house that transformed into a smoldering pile of sticks. Meanwhile the dogs almost suffocated me and fogged up the windows with their rotten, fishy-smelling breath. Thankfully, the gas company determined there weren’t any major leaks in any of our pipelines, but instead it was our malfunctioning furnace that caused the gas smell.  The only damage was a nasty bump on my head while trying to get the dogs in the car, and a  scratch on my car when I was trying to get all of the dogs out of the car.

**Does this post sound like I’m whining?  I know it does.  Sorry about that.  Stick with me here; I promise I’m going to get to a point soon**

For a person who has been fearing a natural gas leak for the past two months, I was a little shaken by the end of the day.  By that night, when our furnace was working, my husband and I sat on the couch hoping to take the edge off with a few adult beverages.  Unfortunately for me, my liquid anti-anxiety antidote wasn’t working.  Even after sipping on a bourbon I still felt jittery adrenaline pinging through my veins.  I was completely freaked out…until I started watching the movie The Cloverfield Paradox on Netflix.

There’s nothing like a mediocre, but creepy, quasi-prequel (?), sci-fi movie to give you some perspective in your life.  The movie (which in my opinion is a modern version of Event Horizon) is about a group of scientists who go on a space mission to find more resources for Earth.  Unfortunately for them, they are propelled into an alternate dimension and begin to have a pretty fucked up day.  As they enter into another dimension they also unleash the monster/aliens we see in the first Cloverfield movie.  Thanks guys. After the movie’s one light-hearted moment involving the crew listening to some old school hip-hop and playing foosball, things go downhill fairly quickly for everyone.  A Russian dude (you gotta have a Russian in a space movie, right?) starts having a major issue with his eye and eventually has worms bust out of him.  An Irish guy (who btw, is the guy who plays the main love interest in Bridesmaids) gets his arm gobbled up and spit out by a wall (yes a wall).  Then an English woman (who looks like a younger, more attractive version of Tilda Swinton) pops up out of no where, trapped in a wall with a bunch of wires weaving in and out of her body.  By the end, all of the characters meet some unfortunate demise.  To the five people who read this blog, sorry for the spoiler.  You can guess by the first fifteen minutes what’s going to happen.

It’s one of those movies where you don’t feel warm and fuzzy after you’ve watched it, unless you had a messed up day like I did.  Even though I didn’t particularly like the movie, it got my mind off of things that bothered me earlier in the day.  Yes I may have had a shitty day, but at least I wasn’t propelled into an alternate dimension where logic doesn’t apply and everyone dies.  The fact that it gave my husband and I a chuckle after a stressful day was priceless.  Say what you will about stories that only exist for escapism, but I think they play an important role in our lives.  Even the most ridiculous of stories can provide a laugh, a sense of presence, and may help lower a pulse that’s been on overdrive for several hours.  So for that, I thank you Cloverfield Paradox.  Even though your plot was a little silly, I was engaged the entire time, and that’s all I needed after a shitty day.

See, I came to some kind of point, even though if it was after 800ish words.

 

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Sorry, Hatsune Miku, But You Suck

Hatsune Miku “performing” on stage. Image provided by Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/famous-hologram-j-pop-star-hatsune-miku-2016-5

You may be thinking one of two things right now. 1) Who is Hatsune Miku, and why is Andrea being such a bitch to her? Or 2) I know who Hatsune Miku is, and this conversation is so 2014. For those of you in the first category, Hatsune Miku is a Japanese pop star hologram who has enormous eyes, unnaturally long, blue pigtails, and unrealistic body proportions. Hatsune Miku, whose name translates to “The First Sound of the Future”, was born in 2007 as a 16 year old girl by the Japanese company, Crypton Future Media (if this name doesn’t sound like a company that will one day partner with a government contractor to create A.I. soldiers and kill us all, then I don’t know what else does). Being the first of her kind, Hatsune Miku quickly became an international sensation. In 2014 she became even more popular when she toured with Lady Gaga.  And I think she sucks.  Why? Because she’s not an artist. She’s a hologram with a synthesized voice and no feelings. Anyone who wants to argue the opposite are the same people who think their stuffed animals have feelings. While they may be cute, they don’t care if you accidentally leave them on the side of the road in a thunderstorm (sorry Ducky).

Alright, alright, Andrea, jeez…it’s 2018, why do you care so much about a hologram that was popular in 2014? About a week ago I watched a story on CBS News about musicians who are “coming back to life” on stage as holograms. I would rather watch someone on Youtube than pay to see a hologram, but that’s just me.  However, hologram versions of dead musicians were, at one time, incredibly talented artists. But then the story also spoke about the popularity of Hatsune Miku, who has never been alive. Hearing this story made me wonder: can an artist be computer generated? My answer is a solid, fist-pounding, red-faced no.

In my non-expert opinion, art is a reflection of the human experience. It’s empathy, it’s passion, it’s sadness, it’s happiness, it’s pain, it’s pleasure…everything! Any emotion you’re feeling right now can be bottled up in some artistic medium and regurgitated out to the world.  Do you want to choreograph a ribbon dance that represents your frustration with being a cog in the corporate wheel?  Well then go ahead and entwine yourself in pastel sashes and sashay your little artist heart out on the stage.  As a human this is a privilege we all have.  Our world can be a pretty fucked up place sometimes, so how lucky is our species to have the ability to express our thoughts and our feelings in other ways besides mansplaining to your cubicle mate or bitching to your girlfriend over a glass of chardonnay? Not only are we lucky to have the ability to create art, but we are also lucky to have the ability to see art and possibly feel what the artist is feeling. While we may not always empathize with the artist, by viewing their art we can get a snapshot of their life.

Human emotions can be transferred through art even if you’re watching it on T.V. For example, during the Grammy’s I watched Lady Gaga sing “Million Reasons”.  Even though I was watching her in my living room, I could feel the heartache and the beauty that I know Lady Gaga tried to convey in that performance. Say what you will about the Grammys and the commercialism of the artists that are nominated, but tears welled up in my eyes as I watched her perform that song.  For a moment I shared an emotional experience with another person I’ve never even met.  That’s a power that only humans can transfer through art.

Hatsune Miku cannot do this. She cannot create art or perceive art. She is a hologram without feelings, without real memories, and without loved ones she can fall in love with and lose. Shit, she was “born” as a sixteen-year-old; she didn’t even have to go through an awkward, ugly middle school phase. That reason alone makes me want to discount her legitimacy as an artist. And no, I’m not saying that all artists have to experience horrible things in their life to make art. Not at all. However, you do need a beating heart and an authentic perception of your world.  Hatsune Miku has never experienced anything and she never will.  So, sorry Hatsune Miku (and all you other future robot artists because I know people are going to attempt it), but as an artist, you suck. You are not my peer and I don’t care about your computer-generated view of the world.  Now, hopefully I’ll remember to delete this when the robot revolution happens in thirty years…

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Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge

Howdy!  If you’re an aspiring author, like me, you should definitely check out author Chuck Wendig’s blog TerribleMinds.  Last Friday he posted a flash fiction challenge in which the writer must compose a flash fiction story (1,000 word or less)  based on the Sza’s lyric, “Why is it so hard to accept the party is over?”. Check out the challenge here.

Below is my stab at the flash fiction challenge.  Buuuut, before you read it, please note this is my first ever attempt at writing flash fiction.  I believe my story is actually around 1,100 words, so I kind of cheated.  Also if it feels a little rushed, that’s because I wrote about 3/4’s of it this morning at 7:00 am (It’s due at noon).  However, I had fun writing it and I hope you have fun reading it.

“Why is it so hard to accept the party is over?”

For the fifth time Celeste snaked her way in between the racks of bikinis in Target’s junior department.  Every so often Kiley would throw one over the dressing room stall in a pre-menstrual teenage rage.

“Gaaaawd, this one doesn’t fit either!  Why couldn’t I have been born like Chelsea Fitzpatrick?  It’s not faaaair.”

This was Celeste’s third trip to Target this week in search of the perfect bikini for Kiley’s first spring break trip with her dead-behind-the-eyes teenage friends.  Celeste grabbed the last of the bikinis that Kiley hadn’t tried on yet, and headed back toward the dressing room.  Toby, her two year old son, was in the cart, happily playing with a small plastic hanger.  A pang of guilt shot through Celeste as she glanced at Toby’s sock-less feet.  Four loads of laundry waited in her apartment foyer, ready for her to take it to the laundromat.  There was no chance she would be able to drag both of the kids along with her peacefully.

“Moooom?” Kiley yelled from inside the dressing room. “Can you look at this one?”

Celeste lightly tapped on the door and Kiley unlatched it quickly.  Celeste scanned her daughter’s doughy, cellulite-dimpled body.

“That looks nice, Kiley.”

Kiley looked back in the mirror at her breasts that poured out of the top that was too small, “Do my boobs look ok?”

Celeste caught a glance of herself in the mirror.  Her eyes looked muted and worn, and her hair frizzed on top where she hadn’t brushed it yet that day. Her clothes were the same she wore to bed the night before.

“Hello?” Kiley rolled her eyes.

“Yeah, that’s nice,”  Celeste muttered.

Celeste hung up the four bikinis that were left and closed the door.  Toby now had the plastic hanger in his mouth, biting it viciously with his few teeth.  Celeste grabbed the hanger from him, instantly inciting a wail.  Another bikini top and bottom flew over the dressing room door.

“Ugh!” cried Kiley.

Celeste rubbed her hands over her eyes.  This can’t be it, right?  She left Toby there, crying in the cart, and wandered in and out of the racks.  She wanted to leave the store without them.  She wanted to go somewhere, anywhere.  Feeling another pang of guilt, she made a step back toward the dressing room, but stopped when she heard a giggle.  The laugh was heart-felt with a crisp, light tone. Celeste didn’t see anyone so she moved in the direction of the laughter.  Against the back wall was a group of four twenty-somethings, two guys and two girls.  The laugh came from a girl who had her back rested against the wall with one foot propped up against it.  She wore short jean shorts, boots, and a flannel shirt that was tied so that her perfectly toned midriff showed.  Purple and silver hair cascaded down her shoulders and framed her oval face and soft features.  She was the most gorgeous woman Celeste had ever seen.  She didn’t understand why, but Celeste was magnetized to the group.  She wanted to join them.

Suddenly as if she was in some kind of feverish, tunnel-vision state, her son’s cries and her daughter’s tantrums melted away.  Celeste followed the group as they strolled around Target, keeping her eye on the girl with silver-purple hair.  In the electronics section the girl ran her hand through her hair and laughed while touching her hand to her chest.  Celeste, a safe distance behind, did the same.  Near the bedding and bath section, the girl did a little twirl in the aisle in front of her boyfriend.  When they weren’t looking, Celeste did the same in her worn black leggings and baggy sweatshirt.  Celeste caught the eyes of some confused shoppers, but she didn’t care.  This was her chance.

Finally, without purchasing anything, the couples walked out the store with their I don’t have to be anywhere, floating strides.  Celeste froze behind them as they slowed down in front of a black, topless Jeep.  She hadn’t felt this good in years.  She had missed out on all of this.  On them.  She had to do something. She couldn’t just leave them.

“Hey!” Celeste called after them.

The four of them stopped and looked at Celeste.  Three of them stood with their brows furrowed and wide-eyed, but the girl with the silver-purple hair looked relaxed.  The girl didn’t smirk, but smiled lovingly, as if gazing at her own child.  Celeste waited for them to laugh or yell at her, but they didn’t say anything. They just waited.

“Um,” Celeste was coming to now.  Her tunnel widened again. She took a deep breath, “Can I go with you all?”

They didn’t move or say anything.

“Ma’m?” a voice called from behind Celeste, “Ma’m? Are these your kids?”

Celeste felt a sharp pain in her chest as she whirled around to see a security guard standing with Kiley, arms crossed and red-faced, and Toby, still in the cart playing with a bikini top in his mouth.

“Mom? What are you doing?” called Kiley, exasperated.

Celeste rubbed her forehead and hung her head.  It was over. As she took a step toward her family, suddenly she felt warm fingertips touch her hand.  It was the girl with the silver-purple hair.  Celeste turned to face her and looked into her deep blue, almost lavender eyes.  The girl gently brushed a piece of hair away from Celeste’s face.  Her touch produced a calmness that infected Celeste down to her bones and made everything still.  Celeste grasped the girl’s hand and held it to her cheek as tears fell down her face.

“You will always be with us,” whispered the girl in Celeste’s ear, “but for now, it’s over.  You have to go back.”  Celeste shook her head, and two tears dropped to the concrete.  The girl walked away slowly and stepped into the jeep.  Celeste watched as they pulled away, the sharp pain in her chest slowly receding.  She would never see them again, but she could feel the girl within her, like an electrical shock bringing her back to life.

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3 Drafts and 3 Funerals: Killing Your Darlings

Yesterday I spent a few hours writing drafts of a blog post that bashed the movie Downsizing and heavily criticized the recent lack of good movies in Hollywood. In fact, I wrote three different versions of it. Each version was whiny, kind of long, attempted to be snarky, and above all they were negative. Each version left me with was a bad taste in my mouth. You know, the kind of taste you have when you’ve had too much fun the night before, and even though you brushed your teeth there’s still the hint of alcoholic heaviness and sourness in your mouth. Unfortunately while I had fun writing it, I realized that the only reason I wrote this piece was to tell a few jokes and to vent. There was a line I was particularly fond of about the New Years Eve ball squashing 2017, Mariah Carey, Jenny McCarthy, and the guy Jenny McCarthy always tongue wrestles. There was another line that I enjoyed writing about how watching Downsizing made me want to drown in a giant bottle of Absolut Vodka, which is what Matt Damon’s character should have done from the get-go. But alas, the post was a meaningless, steaming pile of negative doo-doo. After a few hours of it marinading in my mind, I realized it was shallow and I wasn’t proud of it. While I had worked hard on it, I decided to slash it, delete it and never post it.

Wannabe writers, like me, learn the phrase, “Kill your darlings” fairly early on in the process. If you do a google search for who originally said it you will get several different results. They vary from Stephen King, to William Faulkner, to Arthur Quiller-Couch (not entirely sure who he is…). I’m particularly fond of Stephen King’s version of it, which is, “Kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” So what does that mean? Well, for you non-writers picture this: let’s say you’ve been trudging through the first draft of your novel and you finally write the most beautiful piece of prose that’s ever formulated in your head. Suddenly you think, wow, did I actually write that? It’s so beautiful, it’s so perfect, maybe I am a writer! Maybe I’ll even frame it! As you continue writing, occasionally you’ll flip back a few pages and peek in lovingly on your beautiful sentence, gently stroke its back and whisper, “I’ll never let anything happen to you.” Then one day a reader or an editor comes along and says, “Yeah, so this sentence is well constructed, but it really doesn’t add to the story. I would suggest cutting it.” The next thing you know your beautiful sentence-baby has been sentenced to death. To your horror it’s being tied to the stake and angry readers are lighting up their torches. You’re being held back by your fellow writers as you scream, “No! Nooo!!! My baaaby!” and you watch your beautiful sentence envelop in flames. Ok, maybe that image was a bit much, but hopefully you get the point.

I like to extend this philosophy to the purpose of my writing. If by the end of a project I’m not proud of it, I kill it. This is different from self doubt, by the way. If I’m only writing something to have a bitch-fest, then maybe I should think twice about writing it at all. Now of course, this is just my opinion that applies to my writing. If you are talented at constructing bitch-fests and love doing it, then by all means please do so. The rest of us will probably enjoy reading it.

Killing your darlings isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You can still learn from the pieces of paper you crumble up and toss in the trash (even if you crumble up something like a law school diploma, like I did…that’s a whole other post). For example; I recently killed a story that I had been outlining for about three weeks. Although I enjoyed writing the outline, once I had the skeleton of the story on paper, I realized it had several fatal flaws. It was about a girl who was bitten by a fox, and thought she was turning into a ware-fox, but she really wasn’t…yeah, pretty bad. Trust me the world is better off without that story floating around. However, prior to this, I had never outlined any of my stories. I learned through this experience the importance of taking the time to outline. Lesson learned—thanks shitty ware-fox story!

Sometimes you may spend a year, if not several years, on a project and never see it come to fruition, but it can still be valuable to you. Not only is this true in writing, but also true in life. There are things that we work extremely hard on and we never see anything from it. However there is always something to learn from it. So don’t be afraid to kill your darlings, you sentence-murderers, you.

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You Don’t Have to Have All of Your Shit Together

Well hello my unintended and unplanned audience!  In my very first personal blog post I’m going to write about having the guts to do whatever you want without having all of your shit figured out beforehand.  Before I get into that let me hit you with this disclaimer: Yes, I have a potty mouth.  Curse words seem to roll off the tongue and pen so nicely for me.  I’m sure there are worse atrocities going on in the world than a few profanities flying around the internet.  I probably won’t use them in every sentence like a HBO series, but there will most likely be one in each of my posts.  Sorry, not sorry.

Glad I got that shit out of the way.  Anyway, one of the things I’m grateful for as I become more mature and better at adulting is I’m becoming less concerned with making mistakes and more concerned with action.  In my twenties I had less grit, confidence, and was painfully indecisive.  If I wanted to do something, any word of caution from anyone would make me second guess myself and send me in an infinite tailspin of inaction.  I always had (and sometimes still do have) the mindset of I’ve made mistakes in the past, and no matter what, I don’t want to make another one.

Well friends, I’m here to tell you that no matter what you do, you’re going to fuck up.  No matter what you try, you’re going to make mistakes.  But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Mistakes imply that you were out there doing something, trying something, living your life, or bettering yourself.  You weren’t just sitting on your couch in your underwear, eating Cheetos and whipped cream, and binge watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians. No!  You bunch of fuck-ups were out there doing stuff, even if it was wrong!  Good for you!  J.K. Rowling stated this more eloquently when she said, “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.”  Word.

Before creating this blog I sent a text message to my immediate family with a list of titles and asked which one they liked best.  Of course my Dad was the first to reply and said, “What about Newt Gingrich?” Thanks, Dad ;).  Then my oldest brother replied, “I like all your names but I think it depends on who you are wanting your audience to be.” Then my other, older brother replies, “Word. Like what are your core competencies?” At this point in the text I had a little chuckle, but also experienced a moment of hesitation.  I hadn’t given any thought to whom my audience may be and I don’t even know what core competencies are.  The insecure asshole that lives in my head (let’s call him Steve, most Steves are assholes), yelled through his scratchy megaphone, “Hey Andrea, dumbass, maybe you should have taken some more time to think this through.”  Suddenly I began to wonder if I should even have a blog, if the articles are going to be stupid, if I was a good enough writer, etc.  Steve and his negativity swept through my brain like a F5 tornado in a midwestern trailer park.  Luckily for me, more confident Andrea showed up with some steel-toed boots and kicked Steve right in the balls and said, “Fuck it, I may not have all of my shit together, but I’m going to do this anyway.”

While I know my brothers were trying to help me, I can choose to take their advice or keep moving without it. I’m creating a silly blog, not quitting my job and taking out a $30,000 loan to start an artisanal cheese and crackers food truck business (although if you want to do this I enthusiastically support this decision).  It’s ok to listen to advice, but don’t let it stifle your actions to the point where you’re entombed in a sarcophagus of indecision.  Listen to your more confident self.  If your more confident self says, “Hmmm, maybe you should plan this out a little more,” then do that.  If it says, “Screw that, just keep on keepin’ on,” then do that.  It’s amazing what can happen when you kick your Steve in the balls and just listen to yourself.  Just DO IT!  And if you don’t take my word for it, then perhaps you’ll be persuaded by Benedict Cumberbatch or Shia LaBeouf.

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