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Austin, TX Photo credit: Doree Weller

Austin, TX
Photo credit: Doree Weller

I love water.  I love being near water, in water, and drinking water.

There’s nothing nearly as relaxing to me as listening to the waves of the ocean.  During the years I was in Arizona, I missed that sound.  I love when it rains hard; the sound is relaxing, and it makes the world look softer.  After the rain, greens look greener, and everything smells cleaner.  I love sitting outside during rainstorms, if I can be in a place where I’m not getting drenched!

Every year, I used to go to the beach with a girlfriend.  The first year we went together, her vision was that we would sit on the beach and read.  That was an inconceivable waste to me.  I made a beeline for the ocean, where I could drift and float in the waves.  While I like sitting near bodies of water, its much more fun to go into it.

The first time I encountered the stream near my house, I took off my shoes and socks and waded in.  It was cold, but felt great on my feet.

In V for Vendetta, the scene that always touched me was after Evey gets out of captivity, she goes out during a storm, tips her head up to the rain, and says, “God is in the rain.”  I love that quote, and I’ve never been quite sure why.  The only thing I can figure is that rain feels very spiritual to me.  Not just that, but rain makes me think in poetry.

What are your feelings on water?

"The best things in life aren't things."   --  Art Buchwald

“The best things in life aren’t things.”
— Art Buchwald

I’ve always been cheap.  I don’t know where I got it from; my parents are generous, and they’re both spenders.  Growing up, I always wanted to save my money.  I never wanted much other than books and paper to write on, so it was easy for me to keep my money.

As I got older and started working, I bought things for myself occasionally: CDs and video games.  My mom always bought me clothes because, left to my own devices, I’ll wear things until they fall apart.

I stayed cheap, and I didn’t see anything wrong with it.

My attitude started to change after I heard this quote:

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”

-Warren Buffett

Something bothered me about that quote the first time I heard it, and it stuck in my head for a long time.  I eventually started to realize that I had an attitude that was “penny-wise and pound-foolish.”

I noticed that the tank tops I bought from Wal-Mart for $3 would shrink and become misshapen after one wash, but the tank tops I bought from Old Navy for $9 would last me for years, pretty much until I got stains on them that I couldn’t get out.  I noticed that cheap kitchen tools would stain or break, but the higher quality ones would look good and function well for a lot longer.

I realized that it was silly to keep buying low quality stuff over and over, to need to replace it constantly when it would wear out.  Not only is that not good practice from a financial standpoint, but it’s bad from an environmental standpoint too.

These days, when I buy something, I ask myself:

1.  Do I need this?  If I haven’t been missing having whatever it is, it’s not a need; it’s a want.

2.  Will this bring me joy? Sometimes I don’t need things, but they make me happy enough to justify buying it.  For example, I don’t need a new CD, but I do love hearing Taylor Swift tell me to “Shake it off” or the haunting energy of Imagine Dragons.

3.  Will it last?  I try not to buy things that are going to break or have a minimally useful life.

In the end, it’s not about stuff anyway.  The things that are really valuable aren’t things and don’t have a price tag attached.  My favorite souvenirs from travel are pictures, and music and video games are best shared with friends.

I’m still cheap.  But at least these days, I’m smarter about it.  That’s a valuable lesson.

U is for Ugly

Ugliness as a physical quality is underrated.

We all want to be beautiful, and we want to be surrounded by beauty and perfection.  I didn’t know how ingrained that attitude is until I read an article encouraging people to eat ugly fruits and vegetables.  Until that article, I didn’t realize that when I went to the grocery store, I sought out the shiny, the symmetrical, the apple without blemishes and the carrot that’s straight.  My husband bypassed boxes and cans that were smashed and tried to pick the one that looked nice, even when it wouldn’t affect what was inside, and that packaging was going to get thrown away anyway.

Statistics show that 40% of our food in the US is wasted.  Let that statistic sit with you for a second.  40%…

Not all of it is because of ugliness, but there is a significant portion of food in there that is thrown away because no one will buy it.  Some retailers won’t even put out the ugly stuff because they know no one wants it.

Millions of animals are euthanized every year.  Shelters know that if they want people to adopt, getting a cute picture out there is helpful.  Let’s face it; many people don’t want an ugly pet.  That’s why we like puppies and kittens.  They’re cute!

Back in the days of newspapers, my mom saw a black and white ad for a cute dog, so she went to go see him in the shelter.  The dog was ugly in person.  His coloring was actually brindle, but it didn’t look good on him.  She ended up adopting him anyway and loving him for many years.  But she probably wouldn’t have gone to see him in the first place if she’d seen him in a full color ad online instead of black and white in the paper.

In romance novels, most of the time the male and female main characters are described as being very attractive.  He’s got muscles.  She’s very pretty, even if she’s carrying a few extra pounds.  Why don’t ugly people (or even just average people) find love in novels?

I think that “average” has become the new “ugly.”  We’re told that there’s something wrong with us all the time.  There are tons of articles related to putting on make-up, getting a better butt, six pack abs, or looking good in a swimsuit.  Heck, there’s even standards for fruit these days!

We all want to be surrounded by pretty things.  I do too.  But in nature, it’s not the prettiest that survive, it’s the strongest.  That weird looking strawberry grew red and tasty.  That ugly dog is probably really loyal.

Can you believe I ever thought she was weird-looking?

Can you believe I ever thought she was weird-looking?

Side note: When I got my German Shepherd, Stardust, at the shelter, I thought her nose was too long and that she was kind of funny looking.  But she was sweet, so I brought her home anyway.  I fell very much in love with her, and after awhile, it was hard to remember that I had ever found her anything but absolutely perfect.  Love is what makes things beautiful.  I really believe it.

Take the ugly filter off your eyes and your heart.

Once you do, it’s easy to see beauty everywhere.

(Oh, and buy ugly fruit and give that weird looking dog or cat a chance.)

Skagway, Alaska Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Skagway, Alaska
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

On a regular basis, I’m happiest at home, but I do like to travel to break me out of the rut.  I like doing new things and seeing new places.  I feel like it wakes my brain up and makes me more creative.  When I go somewhere, I try to immerse myself in the experience, which can be difficult for me, as my default setting is, “Please don’t talk to me.”

It’s not that I hate people; it’s just that I mostly prefer my own company.  I like to read and I like to make up stories about people.  When people do inevitably talk to me (I have no idea why; I’m told I appear standoffish), I do enjoy hearing their stories.

My favorite thing about traveling is to see new scenery.  I love landscapes and skies, trees and water.  I love taking pictures of beautiful places, interesting buildings, and things that are broken and decaying.  I love pictures of animals and paths.    I love to look around at everything.  I know I look like a tourist, but I don’t care.

Travel takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary.  I remember the first time I went to Arizona to visit, I was enamored with how huge the sky way.  There was just so much of it, stretching in every direction.  Before going there, I never knew you could see so much sky at one time.  After 7 years of seeing it, I became numb to it.  I no longer looked up in wonder every time I went outside.  But then I traveled to Texas, and there were trees!  Everywhere!  I had grown up in Pennsylvania, so trees weren’t new to me, but after 7 years of no trees, they were new and exciting again.  My eyes had missed the green.

Travel helps me to appreciate what I have, and to enjoy different things.  While I admire people who do lots of traveling or do exciting things like backpack through Europe, it’s not for me.  After a week being somewhere else, I’m ready to come home.  Like Dorothy, I believe there’s no place like home.

So many books!  They're everywhere.

So many books! They’re everywhere.

For me, it’s all about the story.

I don’t care what you’re talking about: books, movies, people.  I love a good story.

I’m more liberal than most people about what makes a good story.  I don’t really care if there are plot holes or if the story has been done before.  I just care about how well the story is told.  Ordinary can be interesting in the same way that extraordinary can be boring.

A lot of people complained that Avatar was a cliched story, but I loved it.  Even if it’s a story I’ve heard before, I liked the way it was told, and it had enough new and interesting elements to keep it fresh.  People complained that Twilight had poor writing, but if it did, I didn’t notice when I read it.  I was too drawn in my the story to worry about the fact that Bella and Edward have an unhealthy relationship dynamic.  The story was interesting and fun.

I like literature.  I like reading about psychological theories.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy things at the other end of the spectrum, and everything in between.  As long as there’s an interesting story, I don’t mind if it’s cliche.  I enjoy stories I’ve read before, and I enjoy reading them in different forms, from different perspectives.  But then, I’m also the person who can read the same book over and over again and still have emotional reactions to it as if I were reading it for the first time.  (Where the Red Fern Grows makes me sob every. single. time.)

Stories connect me to the past.  Growing up, I loved Cinderella and Snow White, and remembering those stories gives me warm memories of my parents and grandparents.  I love sharing stories (discussing books and movie plots) with other people.  We all see the same story in different ways, and it’s interesting to hear other people’s perspectives on a story.

I know people who love sitcoms and comedy memoirs, but it can be hard for me to get into those things because I feel like too often, they focus on the punchline rather than the story.  There are always exceptions, of course, but my favorite stories are the ones that make me feel deeply, that make me cry or touch my heart.  I love characters who feel so real to me that they become part of my life even after I’ve closed the book.  Harry Potter, The Fault In Our Stars, Watership Down, Me Before You, and Watchers are just a few of the books that made me feel this way.

What’s your favorite type of story?  Do you have a book whose characters feel like part of your life?

My records

My record collection…

Records have made a comeback.  They’re cool again, at least among a certain crowd.

We still listened to records when I was a kid.  They had cassette tapes, but they weren’t a thing yet.  Of course, I was apparently behind the times.  I remember mentioning a record to a friend in 6th grade, and that friend said, “Record?  What’s a record?”

He was being facetious, of course, but that’s kind of how records went away.  I didn’t own many of my own.  I liked to pull out my mom’s old records and listen to Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, Get Off of My Cloud, and Needles and Pins.  I remember these songs specifically because I listened to them so often.

I eventually transitioned over to tapes, then CDs, then MP3s.  I didn’t know what to think when records started getting popular again a few years ago.  People talk about them having a “warmer” sound.  I don’t know what it is, but I like the way they sound, even the pops and hisses from older records.  I like the fact that I can’t just listen to (and sometimes tune out) and album, that I actually have to get up in the middle of it and turn it over.

I still listen to CDs and to my iPod.  Modern music works best on those.  I like certain “sounds” on records, like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Pink Floyd.  Amy Winehouse has a great voice for records, and so does Adele.

Music is emotional, not factual, and people who love that emotional connection are probably people who enjoy records.  Records are meant to be social.  Thinking of listening to records conjures up ideas of a dimly lit or candlelit room with a bunch of people sitting around together, eyes half closed, just listening.

Do you listen to records?

I have always loved quotes.  I found an old notebook where I wrote quotes as a kid, a practice that I’ve recently started back up.  I have a board on Pinterest especially for quotes.

Quotes combine two of the things I love the most: words and positivity.  The right quote can express a mood, set a tone, or sometimes just put hard to express feelings into words.  Sometimes a quote can help motivate me, or help me to motivate others.  They cheer me up when I’m having a tough day.  Here are a handful of ones I’ve enjoyed recently.

IMG_2466

“There’s nothing interesting about looking perfect — you lose the point. You want what you’re wearing to say something about you, about who you are.”

-Emma Watson

friedrich-nietzsche-framed-quote-made-on

“Look on every exit as an entrance somewhere else.”

-Tom Stoppard

IMG_0269 - Version 2

Cheerfulness is what greases the axles of the world. Don’t go through life creaking.

~ H.W. Byles

Do you have any favorite quotes, or any you like lately?

P is for Paths

Barton Creek, Austin TX Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Barton Creek, Austin TX
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I have a thing for paths.

I love them.  I love paths that lead to things and away from things.  I love stone paths, brick paths, dirt paths, paths through the woods, paths to someone’s front door.  While everyone else is look around them, I’m looking down at the path, and forward, to where the path disappears.

I love paths that go straight ahead and just end up fading away, but my favorite ones are the ones that bend, making me wonder what’s around the next corner.  If it’s just more path, never fear, because that’s awesome too!

I have tons of pictures of paths on my computer.  I don’t know when my obsession with paths started.  I’m pretty sure I wasn’t always like this.  I don’t remember always looking at paths like this.  My ever-patient husband and friends are used to me stopping abruptly, pulling out my phone or camera, and waiting for other people (if there are any) to move out of camera range.  Then click! another picture of a path.

Something about them inspires me.  I wonder what’s ahead, even if I know what’s ahead.  I wonder where they lead, even if I know that answer.  Paths are possibility.  One of these days, it might not go where I think it will, and I’ll end up in a strange land, populated by chronically late rabbits, by mythical creatures, or witches with crooked noses looking to bespell.  The point isn’t whether or not it’s actually going to happen, but whether it tickles my imagination enough for me to wonder if it could.

So I’ll keep taking pictures of paths and wondering where they lead.

Punta Sur, Cozumel Mexico Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Punta Sur, Cozumel Mexico
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I try to be open to new experiences and ideas.  There was a time when I was such a know-it-all that I thought I was open minded, but I really wasn’t.  I would listen to the other person and then tell them why they were wrong.  Or, I would automatically discount something because I thought I wouldn’t like it.

As time went on, I realized that the people I admired were the ones who listened, and who would change their minds if something convinced them.  I admired the people who considered every point of view.  And I admired the people who were willing to try anything.

So, I decided to be more like them.  It’s not always easy.  There are times I find myself relapsing into my know-it-all ways.  I just try to catch myself at it, and move on.  Over time, I’ve realized that I don’t have to be right, and I certainly don’t have to have all the answers.

I feel like I keep being presented with life lessons, and I try to be open enough to learn them.  For instance, because I’m a writer, I tend to make up stories about strangers.  The problem is that there’s sometimes a fine line between “creative story exercise” and “being judgmental.”  The reason I say this is that there are times when I find myself jumping to conclusions about someone based on how they look, and then they end up proving me wrong.

I used to feel ashamed of myself for these times when I found myself being judgmental, but now I’m just glad that I’m open enough to be continually learning lessons.

Everyone has something to teach me.  It’s up to me to be open to it.

N is for Night

Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I’m a night owl.  Don’t get me wrong; I’ve seen my fair share of sunrises, and there are days I like mornings, but for the most part, I feel my most creative and alive at night.

For me, there’s nothing like sitting alone at night with my laptop or a notebook, and writing.  I love the quiet stillness of night.  Sometimes I imagine that I’m the only person who’s awake, which isn’t a bad thing when I’m staying awake on purpose.  (Though I hate it when I wake up at 3 a.m. and can’t get back to sleep.)

I love writing horror, and something about night makes everything scarier, makes it easier to imagine the bogeyman.  One of my favorite villains as a kid was Freddy Krueger, the original master of the night.  The night becomes like a living thing.

At night, no one I know is on Facebook and Twitter, so even the internet “quiets” down.  I can unplug, without actually unplugging.

That’s one of the reasons I love camping.  When we camp, night is allowed to fall naturally.  We light a campfire, not to keep the darkness away, but because that’s what people do in the dark.  While we might chatter on under electric lights, enveloped by the night, the pace seems slower, more contemplative.

I love watching the stars and the moon, and seeing a shooting star is always a wonderful bonus.

Do you prefer night or day?

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