relevance

Last month, Taylor Swift released “Look What You Made Me Do.”  Knowing I own a lot of her music, people asked me what I thought of it.  To be honest, I found it amusing.  Who doesn’t dream of just laying out all their issues with someone who wronged them?  At the time, I even easily substituted the name of someone who mistreated me into the song. We have all felt this way at some point.

The downside of laying into someone like this, however, is that, if that person is someone like Kanye West who thrives on drama and getting attention, then you’re giving them exactly what they want.

And that name I so easily substituted in when I was bopping my head along with the song?  Yeah, they were the type that needs to start issues with me to be relevant.  And, like Taylor, time and time again I gave them attention that I didn’t need to give them.  I made someone relevant when they otherwise would not have been by engaging.

So Life Lesson of the Week: If someone needs to start something with you in order to get attention, it means they’re incapable of getting attention on their own.  They lack the intelligence, creativity, talent, and/or skill set to earn their own accolades.  They’re bothering you in hopes of you making them relevant and they aren’t worth you time.

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why share my story

People ask me why I’m extremely open about the less than stellar parts of my life. Why would I willingly tell people about my mental illnesses and the many unfortunate ways I’ve tried to self-cope with them over the years. After all, there’s a stigma about people who have depression, who have anxiety, who have starved themselves or binged on food or abused alcohol. Sharing these parts of my story may make me seem weak.

I was talking with a casual friend today, who shared with me that an acquaintance had died of a drug overdose. When I hear these stories, my heart drops because there, but by the grace of God, go I. I can point to moments in my life where, had things gone differently, I could have found myself on that path. The casual friend, as he’s telling me this, remarked, “He was never going to amount to much.” Even as my stomach dropped, the conversation moved on and we caught up about this or that. We used to talk about various drinks we’d enjoyed, so at one point he mentioned a beer he liked, then remembered, “oh. I forgot you stopped drinking a few years ago.” The confused, silent, ‘I never found out why’ hung in the air.

“Yeah,” I replied. “I’m one of those people who was never going to amount to much.”

He seemed surprised and tried to argue that I couldn’t say that about myself because I was “successful” – good job, homeowner, upstanding member of society. “I have depression,” I replied. “It’s genetic. I’ve messed up my life several times. I’m just one of the lucky ones that was able to eventually get things under control.”

There, but by the grace of God, go I.

I’m sitting here typing this, and I wonder – I want to go back to the casual friend and ask, “Do you now see me differently? Do you think I’m less successful because of my disease? Do you think I’m not likely to amount to much – now that you know I have demons, too?”

I think about the acquaintance who died. When he saw me, he was always kind. Always open. Always willing to help me with whatever crazy thing I’d gotten myself into. My heart is heavy. This is someone who is remembered for their struggles and not their blessings. There’s something fundamentally wrong with that.

I was talking recently with someone about wanting to take this blog in a slightly different direction. While I’ve always been very open about my illness – and I’ve blogged about it here a bunch of times – this has historically been a place for me to ramble about this or that, or rant about things that make me angry, or squee with joy over a project. I told a mentor a few days back that I was thinking about letting my blog go in the direction of showing what life is like for someone living with depression. I’m not sure how long I can keep this up or if I’ll have something to share regularly. But I’m going to try.

Stories are powerful tools.  They can be tools for education and tools for change.  I have a good one – I have one that might be able to help alter perspectives.  I’m still writing it, but I have faith that the ending will be happy.  And I want to share it.

101 Things. 3 Years.

Yesterday, I discovered there is such a thing as a challenge where you write down 101 things you want to do in a period of time (2 years, 3 years, 1001 days…).  I find that I’m always saying “I’d like to do that thing someday.”  The problem with someday is that days pass and unless you make “someday” today, you’ll never really reach someday.  We have a finite amount of time, but we don’t really LIVE it.

I’m at an interesting place in my life.  For the first time in 16 years, I do not have student debt.  (Why student debt is a godawful problem is the topic for another blog – but there is something seriously wrong with a system where college is not affordable).  For the first time, my primary goal is no longer “don’t piss off the bank that owns my soul.”  I find it more than coincidental that I learned of 101 things lists 24 hours after paying back my last student loan, seeing my bank account go bye, and yet feeling sublimely happy that my life is ahead of me.

Because peer pressure is a great motivator, I floated the idea of doing these lists – 101 things in three years – to some of my friends, hoping that I’d find someone to do this with me (thus forcing me not to default to “someday”).  Two are taking the challenge and we’ve drafted our lists.  I have a Pinterest here where I will keep track of the checks on my list.  Since this blog is about my empowerment journey, at least some of them will also show up here as well.

And here it is.  In no particular order, over the next 3 years, I am going to:

1. Do a front handspring, cartwheel, butterfly combination

2. Get TEFL certified

3. Teach a free self defense seminar for low income women

4. Finish duolingo Spanish

5. Take and finish duolingo Italian.

6. Convince someone to let me teach a cooking class.

7. Finish Traitor and publish it

8. Write and publish 7 sequels.

9. Write Nastasia spin off series

10. Do a round off off of a wall

11. Replace the carpet in the house with wood or laminate floors

12. Improve lot grading in back yard with grass terraces

13. Write travel blog style articles for 10 places in NC

14. Join fiver. Do at least one gig.

15. Figure out how paypal works.

16. Get a good side kick and retake the side kick photo of epicness

17. Test for and obtain 3rd degree

18. Make palgwe practice book for students.

19. Visit Paris. Even though I don’t know French. Ride a bike in Paris.

20. Ride on a boat that I do not control. Even though boats are scary.

21. Take the train into Raleigh for the day just because.

22. Work remotely for an afternoon outside on a blanket

23. Empty the dishwasher more regularly so dishes don’t pile up in the sink because I am too lazy to put the clean dishes away and have no place to put the dirty dishes.

24. Wear a pink streak of hair.

25. Work on developing savings.

26. Visit the crystals and incense bookstore.

27. Do one last sparring match

28. Take a painting class

29. Go to Grandfather Mountain

30. Record a song in a recording studio

31. Do a photo shoot

32. Dance in a fountain

33. Take a nutrition class.

34. Jump in a pool with clothes on.

35. Do a section hike on the App Trail

36. Join a parkour meetup group

37. Visit a synagogue

38. Visit a mosque

39. Attend a local theater production

40. Learn how to weave a basket

41. Participate in a scavenger hunt

42. Drive to the lighthouse island, take the ferry to island with bike, and bike around island.

43. Go to a farm to table dinner.

44. Go on a blind date.

45. Set up my water bill to direct draw so the water doesn’t get shut off again.

46. Go to a food truck event.

47. Go to a craft fair.

48. Go to the farmer’s market in Raleigh and get food to make a meal; video tape it and share it on YouTube.

49. Visit an art gallery

50. Finish and perform “Rialto”

51. Finish and perform the still untitled anti-princess song

52. Find someone to pay me to write a travel article

53. Go to the Bahamas for a long weekend

54. Take a Scottish or Irish dance class

55. Do hot yoga

56. Complete the Raleigh Heritage Trail…and blog about it.

57. Finally use that gift certificate Jane got me to take a cooking class

58. Sleep in a hammock

59. Have a picnic on the median in the parking lot at work

60. Learn how to french braid my hair

61. Do a handstand walk for at least ten feet of distance

62. Do a front tuck (even if it’s just on tumble track)

63. Go to the turtle beach

64. Climb to the top of the playground in the park

65. Choreograph a dance

66. Swing on a swimming hole/river rope swing

67. Camp at Jordan Lake

68. Walk on a tightrope

69. Jump into one of those big air bag thingies

70. Do a color run

71. Campaign for a politician who doesn’t suck

72. Stay in a swanky B&B in the mountains

73. Dress like a hippie every day for a week

74. Put my laundry away when I’m done cleaning it every time – where away means something other than a floor, couch, or guest bed.

75. Make playlists on 8 tracks for my two main characters (Alex and Becca)

76. See Hamilton when the tour comes to Charlotte

77. Pull a writing all nighter – and don’t feel guilty about it

78. Walk to the library and check out a book.

79. Tell someone I love them.

80. Learn how to jump and land on a rail.

81. Get my bridge-kick over to the floor

82. Do a bridge kick over off a bench without going “omgomgiamgoingtodie.”

83. Walk to dinner in Saltbox Village so can walk through the pedestrian walkway tunnel.

84. Walk to and from work for reasons other than “it’s snowing and my car isn’t going anywhere”

85. Get Pink Tiger Press bank account open and online “paperwork” done to sell through online stores

86. Perform at an Open Mic Night

87. Sing Carmen while breaking boards

88. Eat a gingerbread man cookie

89. Take a day trip to the beach and skim board

90. Visit every park in Cary

91. Get the zipper fixed on favorite dress

92. Ride bike to work every day for a week.

93. Play piano in public

94. Do taekwondo in sprinklers

95. Go ice skating

96. Buy a same day plane ticket for another place in the USA and go

97. Do Slide the City

98. Complete a 30 Day photo challenge

99. Enter a poetry contest

100. Stay debt free (except house because that doesn’t count) for three years.

101.  Make a new list for the following 3 years.

superthumb

feels like first

People who follow my life have been hearing about The Handspring for the better part of two years.  This is a story about The Handspring.

The Handspring actually starts with something only tenuously related – I had a really bad Christmas.  After The Bad Christmas, I started making some changes in my life.  These changes involved: (1) stop conforming; and (2) do things I wanted to do.  In other words, live instead of exist.

One of the things I did in the post-Bad Christmas time frame involved taking my training seriously.  I am not athletic.  I have never been athletic.  Somehow, by dumb luck, I had ended up in martial arts (my friend Carr’s fault), and I went twice a week – mainly because I paid for two classes a week.  For reasons I hadn’t been able to figure out, I hadn’t quit yet and I had somehow managed to make it to black stripe belt.  (That’s two belts before black belt).  I actually liked taekwondo, so in my pursuit of living, I started to go to the gym on days I didn’t have class to work out.  I would run, do jumps, and use the two machines in the weight room that I knew how to use.

In February, Carr (she probably forgets this bit) told me that such a thing existed as “Adult Gymnastics Classes.”  Now, as a kid, I wanted to be a gymnast.  I would watch the gymnasts in the Olympics and pretend to be one of them.  My dad made me a little balance beam out of a two by four, and I had an old tumbling mat that I would play with.  The gymnastics unit in gym class (yes, I’m that old) was one of my favorites.  I also knew that we did not have the money for gymnastics classes, so I never asked for them.  As an adult – one who was trying to do things to live life instead of just exist – I googled.  Adult Gymnastics Classes were real.  There was one near me.

Now, keep in mind, I was an overweight 30 year old.  One of the things we learn in taekwondo, however, is that we should focus on what we CAN do, not what we CAN’T.  I was perfectly capable of walking through a door into a class, so why not try?  I got permission to attend the gymnastics class, and off I went.

To say I was “bad at gymnastics” is kind.  I could not do anything.  No – wait – I could do a rebound, because “rebound” is a cool sounding word that means “I can hop on two feet.”  Other than that…not so much.  In my first class, I began to learn cartwheels.  That night, I woke up around one in the morning and was in excruciating pain from muscles I did not know I had.  I lay in bed and made whimpering noises.  The next few days, I moved around like an old woman.  Nonetheless, I went back to class the following Monday and learned more about cartwheels.

It took two months, but I learned how to do a cartwheel.  I was proud of my new skill – despite it being scary – and decided I wanted to do a cartwheel at my bodon test (this test earns you the belt that means ‘I am now preparing for the black belt test’).  I figured out that I could do a cartwheel and then turn on my foot and break the board with a side kick.  I told my master about my plan at breaking class the night before the test.  She said “I need you to show me you can do the cartwheel before I let you try this.”  That was fair – see “overweight, non-athletic 30 year old.”  I got into my lunge with my hands up to do a T, hyperventilated a bit at the thought of “oh my god I have to go upside down,” and did the cartwheel.  She let me do the break.  I repeated it the next day at the test.  (I also broke my hand on one of my hand technique breaks, but that’s another story).

Time passed.  I kept going to gymnastics.  I got my black belt.  I decided I wanted to try to learn a front handspring.

You remember earlier, how I said I was not athletic?

Yeah….

It took me two years to learn a front handspring.  Two years.  That is not hyperbole.  Here is a short list of the things I had to learn how to do so I could do a handspring:

  • Proper bridge (teardrop shape)
  • Handstand (entry)
  • Tick Tock onto mat (slow motion training for body shapes)
  • Handstand to bridge (more slow motion training for body shapes)
  • Walk up and down a wall to bridge (training back muscles for standing up)
  • Stand up from bridge (standing up)
  • Limber (this is handstand, bridge, stand up)
  • Do handstand to bridge down wedge mat
  • Do handstand to bridge to standing off a pile of mats (this was the end of year one)
  • Learn hurdles (the concept of a hurdle was the hardest thing ever)
  • Hurdle into a cartwheel (get used to hurdling and putting hands on the ground)
  • Hurdle into a cartwheel off the tumble track into a pile of squish mats
  • Hurdle into a handspring off the tumble track into a pile of squish mats (this happened the week of my 33rd birthday)
  • Hurdle into a handspring on the tumble track
  • Hurdle into a handspring onto the crash mat at the end of the tumble track
  • Hurdle over a mat into a cartwheel (I actually like this drill)
  • Handspring onto a folded up tumbling mat and onto a squishy mat (this was Summer and Fall 2015).
  • Handspring onto a folded up tumbling mat and onto the floor
  • Handspring

Through much of this, I was an uncoachable mess who became easily frustrated with herself.  My gymnastics coach is a saint.

Sometime during all of that training noted above, I learned about freestyle poomsae.  Freestyle poomsae is what happens when taekwondo and gymnastics get together and have a baby.  It’s basically gymnastics floor exercise, but with taekwondo.  There are a set of compulsory moves that have to be shown – mostly trick kicks, but among them is an “acrobatic action.”  In between the moves, you place poomsae choreography.  The whole thing is set to music.  I got it in my head that I needed to do this.  I needed to do it, and I needed to do it with The Handspring.

Something you need to understand about doing a handspring is that it is terrifying.  You have to throw your body head first at the ground.  Every time I go into the handspring, as my feet push off the ground, my head goes I AM GOING TO DIE!!!!  It is scary.

Another thing to know is that the acrobatic portion of a freestyle routine has to come at the end of the routine.  That meant that The Handspring would be one of the last things I did.  I actually did not know if I could do my routine and land a handspring after becoming exhausted.  I wrote it in anyway.

I have been practicing this routine for several weeks.  I have not once cleanly hit the handspring.  In fact, as the competition got closer, my handsprings got worse.  In practice this past week, my gymnastics coach – still a saint – helped me fix what I was doing wrong.  I started landing the skill on the spring floor again…but it was still a hot mess on dead floor.  I woke up yesterday not knowing if I was going to be able to land the skill in competition – and knowing that I’d find out right fast.

Of course, it was the very last event of the day.  And, of course, there were all sorts of technical difficulties (thanks in large part to my computer deciding to update to Windows 10 at the moment it was supposed to be playing my music – fortunately, another competitor let me borrow his computer. That’s one of the really cool things about the freestyle community; it is so incredibly supportive.  I have never felt like I was “competing” against any of these people.  It is as if we are all climbing a mountain, and we’re all excited when each person makes it to the top).

When it was my turn, I felt like I wanted to back out, run away screaming, and/or throw up.  Maybe all the above.  Life, however, is like a handspring.  Sometimes, you have to throw yourself head first into it and trust that your training will carry you through.

I nailed The Handspring.

There was a moment as I sat into my last move where my brain went “I did it,” but it didn’t sink in until I stepped off the mat.  Then I cried.  I cried for the two years of struggle that took me to that moment, and for the little girl who wanted to be a gymnast getting to be a gymnast, and for climbing that mountain.  Next month, I will be 34 years old.  I started martial arts at 28.  I started gymnastics at 30.  My whole life has been a story of being someone who is not athletic.  And I did that.

I finished second out of two – but I finally understood what Kirsten Dunst meant at the end of Bring It On.  It felt better than first.

When your Facebook status gets a bit long…

This past year has been an interesting one for me.  I have many flaws.  They include being a control freak who has trouble accepting that she might not know everything.  I have historically had trouble trusting my coaches.  I like to do things “my way.”  I don’t like asking for help.  I could make excuses for this bad behavior, but they would be hollow.

Sometime last year, I had to face the music.  Doing things “my way” didn’t work.  Eating my way didn’t work – I was overweight.  Doing forms my way didn’t work – I was getting my ass handed to me on a regular basis.  Doing gymnastics my way didn’t work – I couldn’t muscle my way through a trick by sheer determination alone.  Albert Einstein is often attributed to the saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over, while expecting different results.  My behavior fit the definition pretty well.

This was a hard lesson.  It was, like such lessons are wont to be, a good one.  I reached a turning point as it finally began to dawn on me that, if I wanted things to change, I was going to need to listen to my coaches.  This might seem like an obvious solution, but it took me quite awhile to reach it.  I did start listening.  And trusting.  And doing what they told me.

It was scary.  It was hard.  I had to relearn skills.  I had to perform drills to learn what I needed to learn instead of rushing head first into what I wanted to do.  I spent hours and hours and hours in various gyms, practicing what my coaches told me to practice.  There were times when I cried with frustration, and times where I took several steps back before taking several steps forward.  There were even times when I was embarrassed to go to class because I was working through something and it didn’t look great yet.  I had to trust my coaches that they had reasons for having me do these things and that the process would work.

This past weekend was the first major competition in about six months.  My first event was breaking, and I included a hard gymnastics trick – one I’ve spent two years trying to do.  While technically it could have been better, I landed it and completed my set.  I could not have done this six months ago.  In forms, I was assigned what I consider the hardest form to do for my age division.  I scored substantially higher than I ever scored before – for any form.  The difference in scores is night and day to where I was six months ago.

I’ll let you do the math on when the whole trust thing started.

I am so fortunate to have amazing coaches who support me and who were willing to deal with me through all this.  I’m so thankful I trusted them.  I’m determined to be a better athlete going forward – especially with the trust thing.

In Which I Write Flash Fiction

Hi.  I wrote flash fiction.  Here’s what I came up with:

I never ceased to amaze myself at my capacity for idiocy. I thought I’d reached it several months earlier when I’d made an absolute fool of myself by being That Girl – you know, the one who stupidly confesses undying love to a guy without realizing that he’s Just Not That Into Her. And by him being Just Not That Into Me, I mean he apparently found me to be the worst sort of snob and thought I’ve made it my life’s goal to ruin his friends’ lives.

But somehow – I wasn’t sure how – it had managed to get worse, because said Object Of Stupidly-Placed Affection was now happily chatting with other members of his tour group for the town’s annual Haunted History Halloween Tour – a group that was settling down in my living room to watch to my brother and some of his friends act out a scene from The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow.

I, meanwhile, was hiding like a coward, pressed against the wall just inside the doorway to the kitchen.

“So, is this an introvert thing?” my brother’s amused voice interrupted, “Or a Type A thing? Did we switch to the wrong color cups?”

“Shhhhh!” I grabbed his arm, pulled him into the kitchen with me, and pushed him into place along the wall nearest the door.

“O-kay.” George smoothed his Hello! My Name Is….Ichabod name tag that I’d managed to crumple, then looked at me strangely. “You know, Daphne, this is weirdly anti-social, even for you.”

“I am not anti-social,” I told him. “I just don’t like being around lots of people.”

“You were doing just fine with the last two tour groups,” he protested. “Maybe a little boring with some of the,” he switched to a higher pitched voice, “This house dates back to 1758.

“Three.” I corrected him without thinking. “1753.”

Being the sort of younger brother who was used to dealing with a sister who could make an idiot out of herself a good bit of the time, George decided the best course of action was to wait for me to explain why I was hiding in the kitchen like the world’s worst spy. He rocked forward and backwards on his heels, patiently watching as the caterers filled more plastic flutes with apple cider.

With a groan, I banged my head against the wall and confessed. “It’s a boy.”

“A boy?” My poor brother looked even more confused.

I scrunched up my nose, feeling awkward and stupid. “Remember last Christmas when I spent a couple weeks with the twins and there was that guy…? And then I sort of ran into him again over the summer when I was helping Aunt Cathy and I kind of….you know….” I waved a hand through the air.

“Blurted out that you loved him?” George finished.

I felt my face rapidly becoming redder than my cranberry sweater. “Yes. That.” I jerked a thumb in the direction of the living room. “He’s here for the next show.”

Being the kind, supportive little brother he is, George responded by immediately leaning past me to see out the door.

“George!” I tried to yank him back.

“Hang on. I’m trying to figure out which one he is.” He slapped at my hands. “I’m guessing none of the middle aged guys or the kids. So that leaves, uh…dark hair with glasses or blond and ridiculously tall?”

“Dark hair.” I admitted. “Glasses. Brown jacket.” Dreamy eyes. Cute smile with dimples. Smart. Funny. Confident. And not a member of my fan club. “What is he even doing here?” I groaned. “He lives like an hour away.”

“Going out on a limb here, but he probably has friends or family who wanted to walk through old houses and look at Halloween decorations,” George deadpanned, “You know, like everyone else in the living room.” He slid back into his place beside me along the wall. “Daphne? Question. Have you talked with him since the, uh…?”

“The Incident?” I supplied helpfully. “I sent him an email.” In hindsight, it was one of those stupidly awkward introvert things I have a bad habit of doing. Writing emails was easier – I could read what I wanted to say and analyze it to make sure I hadn’t said anything stupid. Of course, with how things had been going, Logan probably believed it was some sort of sign that I thought I was too good for human conversation. I clenched my fists, my mind mentally coming up with the Holier Than Thou judgments he must have proclaimed at my stupid attempt to explain myself. God. How is it possible to know the worst qualities about a guy – have those things drive you absolutely batshit crazy – and still be head over heels for him?

Damn it.

I’m That Girl, and I’m pathetic.

Not that it mattered, because… “He never replied.”

“Someone once told me,” George lowered his voice, “That I deserve to be with someone who sees the real me and that it’s a waste to care for someone who won’t.”

Using my own words against me. Damn him. I put on my best fake glare. “Not fair, Georgie.”

He rolled his eyes and grabbed my hand, tugging me away from the wall. “Come on. You’re the narrator and we can’t start without you.”

He was right. I couldn’t hide in the kitchen. I was twenty-seven years old and, like it or not, I needed to be a grown-up. I wasn’t the first person to fall for someone who didn’t feel the same way. I wouldn’t be the last. Besides, if I wanted Logan people to stop thinking I was intentionally snubbing them, then I had to figure out this small talk thing sooner or later. It might as well be sooner. I took a deep breath and let it out, then plastered my best imitation of a friendly smile across my face. “Okay.” I paused, then added, “Just hit me if I start sharing too much trivia about the house.”

Word Count: 1028.

Yes, it’s a modernized, gender swapped Pride & Prejudice.  (Yes, this is legal; Pride & Prejudice is in the public domain).  Yes, I have my reasons. I was originally going to share my thoughts on why I wrote this how I wrote it, but I’ve changed my mind.  Art should be interpreted by the reader, and I’ll let you to draw your own conclusions and interpretations.

I ran this by a few people prior to posting it here, and not everyone realized it was gender swapped Pride & Prejudice, so in case you weren’t sure who everyone is:

Daphne – Mr. Darcy

George – Georgiana

Logan – Elizabeth

“The Twins” – Bingley and his sisters.

Aunt Cathy – Lady Catherine

The scene is inspired by the moment in the book when Darcy returns to his home to discover Elizabeth is there on a tour with her aunt and uncle and awkwardness ensues.  It also makes reference to many of the other events in the books.  Basically, if you think you see a lampshade, it’s a lampshade.  Why?  Because lampshades are fun.

Target is Ruining Our Kids

Apparently, people are still freaking out about Target getting rid of “boy toy” and “girl toy” designations.  As this is such a scary prospect that I’m still seeing it on Facebook weeks after it was announced, I had to do some self examination.

You see, my parents let me play with both “boy toys” and “girl toys” when I was growing up.  I had a little lawnmower that spewed bubbles and I would push it around the yard when my dad mowed.  I also had a wheelbarrow so I could carry wood from our wood pile to our house the way my dad did.  I had a tool belt so I could fix things the way my dad did.  I was allowed to “help” with our vegetable garden (and had my own shovels and such).  I learned basic mechanical engineering and landscaping.

When I became interested in dinosaurs, my dad climbed up in the attic of his childhood home and found his toy dinosaurs from when he was a little boy.  He gave them to me and would play dinosaurs with me.  I learned about paleontology, biology (e.g. the difference between carnivores and herbivores – yes, 5 year old me knew those words thanks to dinosaurs), and history.

My father taught me how to build houses out of blocks – both buildings that we would make up and also ones that followed plans (normally pictures that came with the set).  Through this, I learned boy skills like spatial reasoning and architecture (and what a load bearing wall is).  When math scared me, my dad invented the “flash card game” (which I didn’t think was a game at all – flash cards are NOT fun) to help me memorize my addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tables.  Tremble, all of you!  A girl knows math!

Less anyone believe only my dad was involved in this horrible behavior of introducing me to “boy toys,” my mom also got involved.  I’ll always remember when Wendy’s Kids’ Meals had boy toys and girl toys.  The boy toy was this set of really awesome cars.  They looked like a cross between rocket ships and cars, and when you pulled them back and let them go, they drove themselves across the floor a little ways.  I thought they were awesome, and asked my mom for the “car toy.”  When the cashier seemed confused – did my mom realize that the car was for boys? – my mom simply reiterated that this was the toy we wanted.  I got my car (and eventually the whole set) and had hours of fun.  I still have those cars to this day.  My mom did not blink when I decided my Barbie dolls would design water parks, go on safari, pursue careers in medicine or become entrepreneurs, work as rescue workers after natural disasters, or go bungee jumping for fun.  When I would pretend to be an explorer, my mom showed me how to build a tent in the back yard.  She would humor my desire to do science projects in the kitchen.  When I wanted to take apart an old stereo my uncle gave me as a teenager, her only response was “just don’t electrocute yourself.”

This sort of play apparently terrifies those opposed to Target’s removal of gender designations for toys.  Since I’m already grown up, we can look at me and see how girls turn out when they’re allowed to play with both “boy toys” and “girl toys.”

I grew up to obtain multiple degrees, to include advanced degrees in science and law, and have a successful career as an attorney.

Clearly, my parents failed me.

Low Carb Pancakes

Low Carb Pancakes

Yes, I said pancakes. Yes, they are like real pancakes. They’re actually yummier than real pancakes. (For real).

I discovered low carb pancakes during one of my failed attempts at making Oopsie Bread. As a result, low carb pancakes are really just an easier version of Oopsie Bread. Here’s what you need:

3 eggs

1 packet of cream cheese

¼ tablespoon of cream of tartar

1 frying pan

no stick spray

food processor (or blender or mixer)

Are you ready? This is really hard. Okay, put all the ingredients in the food processor. Turn on the food processor and blend until it becomes a liquid – but not too long (don’t want it to solidify). Now, pour the contents of the food processor into a pan sprayed with no stick spray in pancake like sizes. Cook like a pancake.

Yes.

YES.

That’s it. You now have pancakes – pancakes with practically negligible carbs.

What to eat it with? Personally, I like my pancakes with butter. I also added a little bit of cinnamon to my butter, because I have a thing for cinnamon. (Use cinnamon, not cinnamon sugar). There are also plenty of low carb options – sugar free syrup, sugar free chocolate syrup (or make your own by mixing cocoa powder with some melted butter or olive oil), low carb whipped cream (I’ll post a recipe for that, too), no sugar added peanut butter…. You’ve got lots of choices – and no need to give up your big family breakfast on Saturday morning.

On First Drafts and Rewrites: A Writer’s Perspective

So, by now you probably heard about the whole “Go Set A Watchman” debacle. I’ve heard about it, too.  The things I heard relate to characters and have made me very, very sad (if the use of ‘debacle’ didn’t give that away).  I haven’t read the book, because I heard about said debacle and decided that, like “The Matrix,” it was better for me to just stop while I was ahead and stay happy with the story by remaining mostly ignorant of any sequels. To this day, I can still enjoy “The Matrix” for the thought provoking movie that it was because I never watched Matrix II or Matrix III.  I’m not going to talk about the actual story “Go Set A Watchman” because (1) I haven’t read it and (2) there are plenty of other people who are talking about it from whom you can learn those things (be warned, if you snoop like I did, you will learn things that will make you very sad).

But what I am qualified to talk about, thanks to approximately 29 years of writing fiction for funsies, is writing characters and plots – and how organic they are. Typically, when I sit down to write, I have Ideas. I have themes I want to explore. I have thoughts on who the major players are. By the time I finish a draft, part of that has come to life. By the time I’m on draft three, however, a LOT of things have changed. The characters have almost always changed. Who they are and what they represent has changed. That’s part of the writing process.

I’ll take my current project and use my character Chelsea as an example. Chelsea started as an insecure thirty-something woman struggling to define herself after being dumped by the guy she thought was her Twu Wuv and soon ended up in a relationship with another dude. After several iterations, however, Chelsea became an independent-minded college student who wasn’t defined by who she was dating, and, ultimately, decided to put romance with Mr. Right on hold to pursue, as Taylor Swift might say, “some bigger dreams of [hers].” (Romance lovers, do not despair – in my head canon they eventually get together in their forties, after they’ve both achieved the dreams they were chasing and are ready to be grown-ups). While the main thrust of the overall story is the same (it involves magic and people trying to take over the world) and the themes investigated haven’t changed, the Chelsea character became an extremely different person.  I needed Chelsea to become a more independent minded character for plot purposes, and so she changed. Even though Draft One Chelsea is older than Current Draft Chelsea, Draft 1 Chelsea is not Future Chelsea. Chelsea is not going to get to thirty and suddenly go “oh, screw this goal I’ve spent the last ten years of my life working towards, I need to get me a man” just because an earlier version of the character believed she needed a man. Draft One Chelsea is just that – Draft One Chelsea.  Chelsea changed.  That happens. It’s part of writing.

“Go Set A Watchman” is an earlier draft of “To Kill A Mockingbird.” To call it a “sequel” because it was released later and shows the characters later in their lives is not really a fair description of what the book is. As writers are wont to do, Lee had some of her characters have different arcs, personalities, and traits in her original draft. For whatever reason, she decided to change some of those as she wrote her revisions, ending with the story we all read in high school. Personally, I like “To Kill A Mockingbird” – and not because of my profession, but because of the quieter moments in the novel completely unrelated to the main plot that made me think about who I want to be as a person. I’d like to think that, perhaps, these types of moments and lessons were why Lee changed her original story to the one that became a beloved American classic – why characters were changed so that her heroine could learn those lessons.

First drafts are great. They help you figure out what your story is and where it’s going – but first drafts are meant to be changed, improved upon, and then stored away in a folder on your computer called “ye who shall not see the light of day” (along with those purple prose NC17 scenes that you wrote just because). “Watchman” was a first draft. It was published as part of the “Spaceballs 2: The Search For More Money” phenomenon that, unfortunately, drives our television, movie, and literature today. I’ve decided to take what I’ve learned about it for what it really is – a first draft that changed – and then be glad Lee decided to change that story into the “To Kill A Mockingbird” tale many people love.

soul searching

On Friday, I was ready to get real and face the music over my utter lack of athleticism. There was a lot of angst, because I’m me and cannot do anything without being over-dramatically angsty.  (I think it’s because I’m a musician; us artsy people can have a lot of Feels).  I cried a lot, because I wanted it, but my body is my body and it doesn’t have natural talent in the area I want it to.

Everyone has a natural talent for something.  Some people are artists.  Some are orators, leaders, teachers, linguists…some have the gift of making you feel instantly comfortable being around them, and some people can coax the land to create amazing things (seriously, green thumb people, HOW do you do it?).  Me, I’m a singer.  Don’t get me wrong; I did not wake up one day and instantly have a four octave range and the ability to sing Bach perfectly on sight.  (Hell, I STILL cannot sing Bach perfectly on sight.  Bach is hard, y’all).  I worked very hard for years to develop my singing ability … but I also know that I have certain genetics that give me a boost.

I do not have the genetics that give a boost when it comes to athletic endeavors.  People usually don’t believe me when I say this – because I do sporty things, so therefore, I must be athletic.  Here’s my (not a secret at all) secret: None of the sporty things come to me naturally.  None of them.  Sporty things that take naturally athletic people a few weeks to learn take me years.  The sporty things you see me do, I’ve been able to do because I’m stubborn, which results in pushing myself to accomplish things that someone of my age and ability probably shouldn’t be doing.  (hello, gymnastics)  Sometimes, I think stubbornness is my real talent, because I’ve accomplished things by sheer force of will.

When it comes to sporty things, at the end of the day, without that “something extra,” there is only so far my body will let me go.  This is reality.  It’s something I’ve known since high school, when – despite years of training hard, year round, at running – my times were never good enough to make the county track meet.  The following year, my sister, who is athletically gifted, went out and beat my best time in my race without ever training for it (though in her defense, she did train for other running events).  Her time would have qualified her for that meet that was always elusive to me.  There is only so much my body can do, regardless of my desire to push myself.  I’m not complaining, or putting myself down, or any of that – this is just reality.

Which brings me back to Friday, when I was asking all the questions you ask when you’re at a precipice – why am I doing this?  Should I just go back to training for health and face the music that I’m never going to make it beyond the level I’m currently at for competition?  does everyone but me know that I’m never going to be extraordinary at my chosen sporty thing?  (and are they laughing at me behind my back about it? (okay, the last two are more my crazy talking, but they were in my head, so they bear mentioning….))

Then yesterday happened – thank God – and I had to (figuratively speaking) fight my way through a bracket at a local tournament.  It was some of the toughest competition I’ve ever faced where I had a chance at winning.  (Obviously, the US Open people are tougher competition, but we don’t really see me as in competition with them.  They know I don’t have a prayer of beating them and I know I don’t have a prayer of beating them (yet)).  When I was paired against a higher ranking martial artist in round one, I had a moment where I thought “well, shit.”  But I’d also had that whole crying/angsting thing the day before, which meant I had a lot of converted angst-to-anger to tap into, and I went into “I am not going down without a fight” mode.  And I won.  And then I won again in the final (against someone who, athletically, was superior.  She had beautiful side kicks.  I had anger).  It was not an easy win, and it was a rough performance at times, but I won.

I really needed that win.

I might not be athletically gifted, but I HAVE come a long way thanks to amazing coaches and putting in the time.  When I sit down and look at the last year, I’ve improved a lot.  A LOT.  A year ago, at this time, I hadn’t even gone to my first Big Girl Competition yet (that was the first weekend in April).  I was a hot mess compared to where I am now.  And maybe my Saturday morning poomsae instructor is just being nice when he tells the class I’m a poomsae specialist or that I have aspirations of making a run for the national team someday – or maybe he’s not just being nice.  Right now, I don’t know.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be national-competition material at the black belt level, but I do know that I’m not ready to say I never will be.

So I made a list.  Because I’m Type A and crazy and stubborn, I made a list.  It is a list of skills I need to have a realistic shot.  I don’t have these skills yet.  I am going to get them.  It might take years, but I will get them.  I’m not ready to give up yet.  At the end of this, I still might go down.  I know reality.  But if I do go down, I’m not going down without a fight.