Superstitious

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I’m a superstitious person, in some ways. Obviously, I don’t think black cats are bad luck, and the only reason I’m worried about walking under a ladder is that I’m clumsy, and who knows how I’ll hurt myself?

I LOVE Friday the 13th. In fact, my grandparents got married on one, so I’ve always considered it a somewhat lucky day. Additionally, I love the numbers 13 and 31.

Broken mirrors worry me a bit, maybe because I like the idea of mirrors being doorways in fiction. If I spill salt, I always throw some over my left shoulder to blind passing witches. When a bird pooped on me at the Jersey shore, I consoled myself that it was good luck.

There are days when I avoid stepping on cracks in the sidewalk. I get nervous if I’m buying something that amounts to $6.66, or worse, if I get that amount in change. I always knock on wood to stun the wood fairies (they’re mischievous, you know). I pick up pennies, and I know bad luck happens in threes (especially deaths).

And I don’t care what anyone says; weird things happen under the full moon. Study after study indicates it’s not true, but when I worked in crisis, if there was a full moon, we were guaranteed a weird night.

What superstitions do you believe in?

10 Things That Help Me Unblock Creativity

I’ve been sort of in a funk lately. Not like, depressed. But just feeling like the story I want to tell wasn’t going well.

For me, I’m doing well with everything or nothing. While the writing wasn’t going well, I wasn’t having much success with other things either. I was feeling disorganized, as if any item I put on my “To Do” list went off and died there. I was struggling with eating healthy, and wasn’t taking my dog for regular walks.

It wasn’t that I felt unmotivated; far from it. I wanted to accomplish all those things, but when it came down to it, I found myself reading a book or playing a game on my phone (I love 1010!) or aimlessly surfing the internet. And then the day was gone, and I’d managed to check off one thing.

Two weeks ago, I couldn’t do what I’d planned to, and was sort of forced to steam vac my carpets. (Let’s just say I have lots of pets and leave it at that, okay?) And it felt kind of good to move around and play music really loud and sweat and have something tangible I accomplished.

None of that week went as planned, but I got lots of things done. And then the following week rolled around, and all that motivation I’d stored up but hadn’t used just kind of burst to the surface.

I decided that I needed to clean off my desk and make my workspace a bit more appealing. In the midst of doing that, I saw my kaleidoscope collection and realized that I haven’t looked through them in a while.

In the past, when I’ve been searching for inspiration, I’ve sat down and looked through a kaleidoscope. More recently, I take out my phone and play 1010! It’s not the same.

I found my fountain pen, disassembled and cleaned on my desk, and realized that I haven’t been using that either. I love my fountain pens.

With all the other life clutter going on, I decided it was a good idea to make myself a list of things I love, so that next time I’m in a funk, I can remember to reconnect.

  1. Kaleidoscopes– Looking at the swirling colors is a form of meditation for me. I can slow down for a moment and just concentrate on one thing. If you want to get metaphysical, I can also remember that like life, they’re beautiful and constantly changing.
  2. Fountain pens– I started using a cheap plastic fountain pen when I was in my teens, and I just love them. Actually, I love all pens: gel pens and sharpies and nice ballpoints. But I have a special love of the smooth writing of a good fountain pen. I love to see ink on my fingers.
  3. Journaling– I seem to get away from this just when I need it the most. I’m trying (again) to make it a daily practice. I always use the excuse that it’s hard when life gets busy. But when isn’t life busy?
  4. Doodling– I’m trying to get more into art journaling. I’ve always wanted to be able to draw, but am TERRIBLE at it. (No, seriously, visual art is something I’m bad at.) But I’m okay with loving something and being terrible at it. Lucky for me, Pinterest has about a million boards for inspiration on the topic. Right now, I’m mostly working with banners and arrows. Gotta start somewhere, right?
  5. Stickers– I can’t draw, but I can put stickers on everything.
  6. Healthy eating– I really do feel better when I eat better.
  7. Logic puzzles– While just playing random games isn’t all that helpful (and is actually a time waster, I know!), logic puzzles use the logical part of my brain. I guess that makes my whole brain work better? I don’t know; I just know that mindful game playing works for me.
  8. Coloring– For me, coloring is like meditation. I can’t draw, but I can stay inside the lines. The biggest decision I have to make is whether to use the blue or the purple crayon. It helps me turn off my conscious mind for a little while. Sometimes, that’s the space where answers find me, instead of me looking for them. Adult coloring books are a thing now. You can find them anywhere, even Wal-Mart and Amazon.
  9. Taking a Walk– We have a lovely greenbelt near our house. Getting out and listening to the birds sing and the breeze moving through the trees is relaxing, and sometimes helps my brain get moving again.
  10. Candles– There are more and more articles out there about the benefits of aromatherapy. It can help improve mood, help with wakefulness, even help with physical issues like headaches! I love burning candles and filling my office with scent. Because it’s what I do when I write, my brain knows that when it smells vanilla candles burning, it’s time to get to work.

What kinds of things help you unblock creativity?

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Saying Goodbye to My Dog

I’m a firm believer in the idea that nothing good is free. There are different ways to pay for things: through hard work, time, perseverance, etc.

Perhaps the worst payment of all is grief. That’s the ultimate payment, and we can’t avoid it.

I recently had to euthanize my lab mix. She was fifteen years, seven months old. I know she was ancient. For her size, my dog was 107 years old! It’s mind-boggling, actually. But as old as she was, I wasn’t ready to let her go.

The cards were stacked against her from the time she was born. She was the runt of the litter, the last dog born to a malnourished mother. The sac didn’t pop, and had to be pierced manually by my husband. (She was the puppy of a friend’s dog.)

She couldn’t walk well at the end, and she always seemed to be in pain. She got excited about the ball for a minute or two, but she couldn’t really chase it anymore. She was eating, but not enough. She’d gone from a stocky 55 pounds to a skeletal 35 pounds.

And yet, until the end, she would follow me around the house. She’d go outside to do business, and she got excited about food.

Making the choice to end her pain was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in a long time. I firmly believe that she would have held on as long as I wanted her to, because dogs don’t understand selfishness. She would have stayed with me because she loved me, so I had to make the decision for her.

Even though I’ve had to do this a number of other times with cats (and another dog when I was much younger), I did my research, trying to find something on the internet that screamed THIS IS THE RIGHT DECISION. It never feels right, even when it does. We always want just a little more time.

Almost unanimously, most veterinarians agree that it’s better to do it a little early while the dog is still themselves than to do it too late when the pain has stolen everything from them.

I found this great scale that helped me, so I wanted to pass it on.

HHHHHMM Scale: Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Happiness, Mobility, & More Good Days than Bad.

In the end, my girl wasn’t even having good days anymore. She was having good hours. Because we’d planned it, I got to make sure she did her favorite things. I took her to the creek, and though she could no longer swim, she waded. We got a brand new tube of tennis balls, and though she couldn’t chase them, she carried one around. She got a cheeseburger, chicken nuggets, and a milkshake from McDonald’s.

I’m going to carry those memories (and so many more) with me. Even though grief is a steep price to pay, it’s so worth it. The best things always are. And it doesn’t get any better than love.

Please Don’t Feed The Trolls

IMG_1899The internet can be a magical place, full of wonders and cat pictures.

It can also be a dark and terrifying place, full of smelly creatures like trolls.

My philosophy on life is “live and let live.” I’m not a fan of cyberbullying, and I do think people (especially adults) need to think before they post.

At the same time, I also believe that many people are far too sensitive, and need to go back to elementary school to relearn that rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Words only hurt because we give them the power to do so.

But I digress.

I was on Facebook, and someone shared a picture of this comedian who was imitating various fitness photos. One of them was a photo of a naked model hiding her breasts with two wine glasses. The comedian is a normal looking woman who made no effort with makeup or hair, hiding her breasts behind orange juice cartons. It was hilarious!

As I always do, I went to the comments. For me, comments are often the best part of anything on the internet. One man started commenting about how he didn’t think it was funny, and he found the model far more attractive than the comedian. The comment thread exploded.

At first, it was just people disagreeing with him. Then it devolved into people checking out his Facebook page and denigrating how he looked because he had some extra weight in the stomach. From there, people started cutting down his wife. And so on.

After many, many comments, someone finally said that everyone should stop responding to him because he was obviously just trolling. This guy thanked the person who said that and explained that he was in a sociology class, and his assignment was to go on a comment thread and disagree with what anyone else said until he was called out on it. He got extra points for making people emotional.

I’m fascinated by the idea that people get into so many arguments with random strangers, and that many of these people are obviously trolls. They are arguing to cause chaos. To see what will happen. Because they can.

I read most of the thread, and the man didn’t say anything horrible or personally attacking toward others. He’s entitled to his opinion that the pictures weren’t funny. A model in full makeup probably is more attractive than a comedian who wasn’t making an effort to be anything other than funny. His comments weren’t terrible. But people thought it was okay to attack him, and then his wife (who was at no time part of this thread) because he stated an opinion.

Personally, I’m of the opinion that we shouldn’t feed the trolls. If we ignore people who are obviously trying to incite reactions, it’s far more effective than engaging and attacking them. Whether you think what this guy did was awful or amusing, attacking back is never an effective strategy. Attacking someone else who isn’t even part of the conversation, in my mind, is far worse.

Often, when we attack someone else (whether as an action or a reaction), it’s coming from a place inside ourselves. Secure, happy people don’t feel the need to respond with invective. Philosophically, I prefer to respond to kindness. I’m not perfect, and I obviously don’t always do that, but it’s my preference. But if I can’t respond with kindness, I can not respond at all.

Sometimes we think that we’re going to convince someone when we respond in kind, but that almost never happens. People aren’t convinced by angry, emotional arguments. They’re convinced by action, and one action that has a huge effect on people is to respond to an insult with kindness.

Feeding trolls with anger makes them stronger. Kindness starves them. So does lack of attention. Please don’t feed the trolls.

What are your thoughts on all this?

Changing Things Up

 

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My goal, in writing this blog, is to keep things interesting and relevant, so I’m constantly assessing what posts people like and respond to.

He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.

-Harold Wilson

With that in mind, I’m changing my weekly updates on book challenge progress and turning them into monthly updates. If anyone was really looking forward to weekly updates, email me and we’ll talk, but I’m not seeing much engagement, and they’re certainly not one of my more popular posts.

Right now, I’m not planning to replace it with a new feature. I’m also changing to a Monday & Thursday blogging schedule.

I appreciate every single person who reads my posts. I love to read comments, and I enjoy opinions and discussion. Therefore, I encourage you to leave a comment or respond to someone else’s comment. But even if you’re just stopping by to read, thank you!

See you on Thursday!

How to Keep a Travel Journal

I have a number of journals: one specifically for quotes, one for general thoughts, one for stories, and one for travel. I find that having multiple journals works for me as a way of staying organized.

It had never occurred to me to keep a travel journal until I saw the ones my sister in law keeps. She explained that she buys her “next” travel journal at her last location.

I loved the idea of keeping a record of my trips, but it’s taken me some time to refine what works for me.

The Journal

Size: You want something big enough that you’re comfortable writing in and large enough that you can stick in tickets, business cards, random bits of paper, but small enough to carry with you.

Paper type: Something thick enough to hold all that ephemera. And if you’re like me, you don’t want the ink to bleed through.

I like 5×8.5 inch Molskine, but there are many other good journals out there. I use one journal until it’s filled, while my sister-in-law uses one per trip. It’s all about what works for you.

The Supplies

My bag of supplies for travel journaling has grown over time. Here’s what I like to keep with me:

Pens: I’m fond of writing in different colored inks, and I prefer high-quality gel pens. My current favorite is the PaperMate Ink Joy Gel. Believe me when I say that I’ve tried a ton of different pens. I also like writing with a fountain pen, but those can be a pain to carry on trips.

Glue stick & washi tape: These are great for attaching things inside the journal. I used to just leave them loose and attach them when I got home, but it’s so much easier to do right away. For one thing, it reduces the chance that you’ll lose something. Just remember that a glue stick can’t go in your carry-on bag.

Scissors: Sometimes I want to cut things out of flyers. On cruise ships, they give daily bulletins, and there’s some things that are fun to cut out, like the daily weather and port. Whenever I try tearing things out, I inevitably rip them. Scissors are my friend. But they also can’t go in the carry-on.

LifePrint: Last Christmas, my husband bought me a LifePrint, and it is one of the best presents I’ve ever gotten. I can print pictures directly from my phone, and it’s tiny, so it travels easily. I always see advice to draw and sketch in travel journals, and while I admire people who can do that, I have to Google “how to draw _____” whenever I want to draw a basic shape. I swear, I’ll take a drawing class one day. For now, there’s LifePrint.

What to Record

First, decide who the travel journal is for. Do you intend to share it with others? Or is it just for you? It may make a difference on what you write down. At first I had the idea that I might share, but as time went on, I realized that it was more fun for me to write down more personal observations rather than to go back and forth between my travel journal and my personal journal.

I also like recording my hotel, airline, and travel information on the first page of that trip. I have a handy place to gather all my necessary information, but it’s also nice to be able to look back and remember if I liked that hotel, cruise ship, etc.

You can record literally anything in a travel journal. The point is to have a fun and memorable trip. I tend to record observations about people and philosophical concepts, as well as what I did and ate on a given day. My sister-in-law tends to record a lot more about the history of places. It all depends on what you personally want to remember.

I’ve also gotten less fussy about keeping it as a “pure” record. I’ll put anything in my journal, even if I just need to use it for scrap paper. Some of those jottings can be fun to see in the future.

The most important thing is to regard it as a fun and to use your imagination. My journals have more stuff interspersed with the writing as time goes on.

Preparing Ahead

In addition to gathering supplies, it can also be fun to get maps or other printed materials. Stickers are always fun, and since scrapbooking has become so popular, there are tons available everywhere.

Do you keep a travel journal? If so, do you have any tips?

Original Book Covers Are The Best Book Covers

Why do some people think that when a book is re-released, the cover should be re-designed? Did they learn nothing from the “New Coke” incident of 1985?

When I read a book to death (RIP Watchers & Watership Down), I search for replacement copies of the original covers. I know the content of the books doesn’t change, but I love the originals. I’m sentimental like that.

Does anyone think this:

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is better than this?

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(The answer is no, in case you wondered.)

I miss the days when authors’ books were easily recognizable by their covers. All of Christopher Pike’s, LJ Smith’s, Dean Koontz’s book covers had designs that were as distinct as their voices.

That being said… I do enjoy getting some classic books with a variety of covers. I have different versions of Pride and Prejudice and some of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland that I enjoy. I like some of the covers better than others, but I’m not emotionally attached to any of them. Maybe it’s because of when I read them?

Did you hear that the original Babysitter’s Club books are going to be re-released with the original covers, in a collector’s tin? It’s true; you can pre-order them on Amazon. I’ve already bought mine. My collection didn’t survive my parents’ attic.

Where do you weigh in on new vs. old book covers?