Moose, Lobster, Blueberries and Schooners

What comes to mind when you think of the following items?

Moose

Moose

Lobster by tuppus via Flickr

Lobster (Lobster by tuppus via Flickr Lic CC by 2.0)

Blueberries by La Grande Farmers' Market via Flickr CC

Blueberries (Blueberries by La Grande Farmers’ Market via Flickr Lic CC by 2.0)

Schooner (Mopping up by Tassadara C via Flickr

Schooners (Mopping Up by Tassadara C via Flickr Lic CC by 2.0

Anyone? Anyone?

What if I make it multiple choice:

a)    The latest round of perfectly normal celebrity baby names

b)   Maine

c)    Liminality

d)   The story of a swashbuckling moose and his bumbling lobster sidekick who sail around the world on a schooner fueled by blueberries


If you answered b, you’re correct

If you answered c, you’re also correct

If you answered a, you are probably psychic and will be correct in the very near future

If you answered d, you’re probably a writer

All right, so what the heck am I babbling on about?

  1. My husband and I are moving to Maine
  2. The concept of liminality

My husband has been a woodworker for some time and we have a full shop in the basement, filled with terrifyingly sharp things such as the bandsaw. See what happens when you don’t respect the bandsaw:

Band Saw Injury

Band Saw Injury

He spends his free time down there building furniture for our house (and trying to keep all his appendages fully intact):

Dining Room Table

Dining Room Table

Coffee Table

Coffee Table

Nightstand

Nightstand

And we finally decided it was time to take his love for working with hands to the next level. So, this August we’ll be heading to coastal Maine where Logan will begin a nine-month comprehensive program in fine furniture making at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship.

This means leaving his job at the hospital where he’s worked for almost twelve years. It also means leaving behind a steady paycheck, a nice benefit package and the comfort of knowing I could buy as much tulle as I wanted at the fabric store. It also means traveling across the country with three cats, learning to live with humidity, and shopping in a grocery store where everyone knows your name and I don’t know where the soy sauce is.

Ultimately, it’s a period of letting go of the past, and experiencing, processing and reconciling the unknown.

This leads me to my next point: Liminality.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, liminal is defined as:

-Of or relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process

-Occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold

The term was originally used in the context of societal rituals and there is often a ceremony that accompanies the transition. A common example is the transition between childhood and adulthood, marked by the graduation of high school or college.

Over time, the term has been applied more loosely and I tend to identify big liminal events as being marked by some sort of party:

-The going away party

-The bridal shower

-The baby shower

-The housewarming party

(So, in case you weren’t sure if you were in the midst of a liminal event, if someone wants to throw you a party, you probably are)

It is in these times of liminality, where we are neither here, nor there, that there is an unusual opportunity for growth, an opportunity to push ourselves, to try new things and discover something new about ourselves.

So, we’ll be packing up soon, fully embracing our liminality, ready to see what happens next!

The Non-Bucket List: Things I’m happy to never, ever do

When was the last time you did something for the first time

In the last twelve months I’ve challenged myself by starting my own business and speaking in front of groups of people–on purpose. I’ve finished my first manuscript and sent it off to my very dear beta readers. And I’ve tried new things like petrifying my own fruit and making yarn pom napkin rings for my cousin’s bridal shower.

It’s a great feeling to take on new challenges, but I’ve also taken the time to reflect on the things that I will never do, or more than 99% likely won’t ever do–my Non-Bucket List. Here is a sample of that list for your reading pleasure:

1. Fold a fitted sheet. I’ve spent countless minutes of my life trying to force these unwieldy pieces of fabric into a perfectly shaped square or rectangle. I’ve seen how-to videos and picture tutorials, and yet my attempts have resulted mini tantrums and an overwhelming feeling of exasperation. Now they are immediately placed back on the mattress (Okay that was a lie. They sit in the dryer for at least 8 hours before they make it back on the bed) or they are wadded up into a ball and jammed into the linen closet. I see no reason to change my ways.

Silky Green by EvelynGiggles

See, this person has the idea. Just crumple it up and put it away. You will never get those hours spent trying to fold it back. (Silky Green by EvelynGiggles via Flickr Lic CC By 2.0)

2. Run a marathon. I know this on a lot of bucket lists out there, but the thought of running for miles on end is exhausting. I’m getting tired just thinking about it. My argument used to be that running that long of a distance was ridiculous. No animal in the wild would run like that if they didn’t have to for survival. Why would we do it for fun? Then I saw this article: Wild Animals Have a Hankering for Exercise. I guess I was wrong. But that hasn’t changed my stance. I’ll get my endorphins from a bite of chili pepper, or even better, a bite of chocolate.

Frederick Marathon by Ken Morrill

See this woman checking her watch. That would be me. Like every five seconds, wondering when this awful activity would be over. I would have abs just like that too. I already do. They’re just hidden under a little insulation. (Frederick Marathon by Ken Morrill via Flickr Lic CC By 2.0)

3. Hike Mount (Fill in the blank): This is along the lines of number two, but with the added risk of: oxygen deprivation, lightening strikes, fall related injuries, avalanches, hypothermia. You get the picture. I’m all for accomplishing really cool things. That’s why I wrote a book. No need to get frostbite or be airlifted from the top of a mountain due to high altitude cerebral edema, also known as HACE. The voices in my head are scary enough.

Guided Nature Hike Program by USFWS Mountain Prairie

Now this is my kind of hiking. See how it’s relatively flat? And the two girls have stopped to check out something very interesting on the ground? This is the perfect ruse to get other people to stop so you can rest. “Oooh. Look at this rock. Have you ever seen a rock like this?” (Guided Nature Hike Program by USFWS Mountain Prairie via Flickr Lic CC by 2.0)

4. Play with a Ouija board: As some of you may know, I sort of believe in ghosts. I like to think they are all nice, and would love nothing more than to enjoy a nice cocktail on the back patio with the rest of us living folk. But I’ve seen too many Poltergeists and Amityville Horror movies for my own good. So why would I invite any old spirit into my house? And then make it answer questions for my own amusement, spelled out, letter by letter?

Ouija Board Ad 1968 by Justin Wilson

Okay, so if you’re going to summon random spirits to your house, this is what you’d ask? “Who’s Debbie’s date to the prom?” Why don’t you just ask Debbie? “Should we go steady?” I’m guessing the answer is no if you are asking a piece of cardboard. (Ouija Board Ad 1968 by Justin Wilson via Flickr Lic CC By 2.0)

5. Drink another Mudslide: In college, I thought this was the best drink ever invented. It had alcohol. And chocolate flavoring. And about a zillion calories. Now, I’m much too refined to drink Mudslides. I drink boxed wine instead.

Mudslide by Stupid Systemus

My mudslides never looked this fancy. (Mudslide by Stupid Systemus via Flickr Lic CC By 2.0)

 

Joady's Bday Dinner for Tracy (2009) by Pat & Keri

I had the college version that came in a bottle. No fancy chocolate drizzle, or glass to drink out of for that matter. (Joady’s Bday Dinner for Tracy (2009) by Pat & Keri via Flickr Lic CC By 2.0)

So, if you are planning to run a marathon up Mount (fill in the blank), where everyone folds fitted sheets at the top and then plays with a Ouija board while drinking mudslides, you can count me out. Unless you replace the Mudslides with champagne. I might reconsider if there is bubbly involved.

Grocery Shopping: Why I need a magic calculator and the patience of a saint

Groceries in transit

Groceries in Transit” by qmnonic via Flickr Lic CC By 2.0

Going to the grocery store is like going to the airport. You know it’s going to be unpleasant and it’s going to challenge you mentally, emotionally and physically.

-The mental challenge: This pack of toilet paper has a million cubic metric inches squared of paper and it’s triple ply with a really cute koala bear. Ooh, but this one is 50 gallons when unrolled and swirled into a 6-foot pyramid. But it’s only double ply. Let me take out the magical calculator I bought at Diagon Alley and do the math here. Screw it. Of course I’m buying the one with the cute koala bear.

Koala toilet paper

Because he looks so super snuggly! (“Lovely koala with Cushelle toilet paper” – SCA by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget via Flickr Lic CC By 2.0)

-The physical challenge: The other shoppers are there to test your agility. They place their carts, bodies, children, anything they can to stop your forward motion and prevent you from obtaining that pack of gummy worms that you need so badly.

T Rex tomatoes

I guess I should just be happy they’re aren’t  dinosaurs lurking in my store’s produce department. (“T-Rex sighted in the Grocery Store” by katerha via Flickr Lic CC by 2.0)

-The emotional challenge: The checkout line is intended to wear down what remains of your patience.

Of course only one register is open. And there are three people in front of you.

1st person in line – Seriously? You’re going to pay in all pennies?

2nd person in line – Say what? You’re going to buy twenty tubes of toothpaste using twenty separate transactions?

3rd person in line – Of course you have fifteen things in your cart that all need a price check. And now you’ve waited until the clerk tells you your total to start filling out your check. Really? You can’t write the date and sign the check until you know the total??

All of this makes me hate going to the grocery store. This, and the fact that I actually have to get off the couch and put real pants on–so inconvenient.

But what annoys me the most???? The shopping carts. I’ve been working on a very scientific study about shopping carts and how they’re conspiring against me. I’ll have the results for you next week. Right now I have to go to the grocery store. I was so confused by the toilet paper pricing last week, I forgot to buy some. Wish me luck!

How I Conquered My Book Eating Pigeons (or writing conferences are awesome)

A car crashes into a writer’s bedroom. The final line of her manuscript (the only manuscript that can save the world from fictitious book eating pigeons) is left unwritten. Will anyone ever read it? Will her story ever be told?

Pigeon flying

A book eating pigeon poised to attack.  (Pigeon in Flight. Image courtesy of quinet via  Flickr CC Lic. 2.0)

A young woman leaves her “day job” to write insanely humorous urban fantasy. Follow her as she skyrockets to the top of the industry and remodels her house to include a dark, but well lit library.

study or library

My dark, but well lit future library complete with magical potions, because writing is magical. (Study. Image courtesy of CodyR via Flickr CC 2.0)

These aren’t the plots of Hollywood movies. These are the types of thoughts that run through my mind at night. And by night I mean while in bed desperately trying to fall asleep.

These thoughts can usually be divided into two very distinct categories: Fortune and Fame or Doom and Gloom. Examples:

Fortune and Fame – I can’t wait to sell the first million copies of my book!

Doom and Gloom – What if I never finish the book? What if something happens to me, and my manuscript remains the gooey, messy, but delightful draft that only I’ve read?

Fortune and Fame  – This trip will be amazing! Our Mardi Gras costumes will be the best anyone has ever seen and we’ll be on the front page of every newspaper and meet Angelina and Brad.

Doom and Gloom – Unless our plane crashes into an alligator infested swamp.

Yeah, I might have a little anxiety … countered by delusions of grandeur.

I don’t know why my brain does this. Someone please explain to me the evolutionary advantage of keeping myself up all night worrying about book eating pigeons or fantasizing about my Oscar speech for a book that doesn’t even have a title yet.

But I digress.

This weekend I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) in Colorado Springs, CO and guess what? I learned things. I learned new ways to think about things. I learned that “things” isn’t a very strong word. Well, I already knew that, but I liked the use of anaphora.

Crows reading

Me looking up the word anaphora. What? You didn’t know I was a crow, with other crow friends? (Reader. Image courtesy of h.koppdelaney via Flickr CC 2.0)

When I sunk into my couch yesterday afternoon, I was filled with a range of emotions, the best being exhilaration. Although, you couldn’t tell from my slack jaw and glazed over eyes.

The conference was three days of workshops, pitch sessions, critique sessions and writerly fun. At times it was overwhelming, and the realities of the writing life can be daunting.

While I was splayed on the couch, my husband asked if I felt discouraged. I didn’t even have to think about my answer. No, I wasn’t discouraged. In fact, I have never felt more encouraged, supported and empowered. I’ve never loved being a writer more.

When 8:00 p.m. rolled around, I was semi-conscious and drooling on a throw pillow. So, I decided to go to bed. And then it happened – I couldn’t sleep. I was up for hours. I reworked my first two chapters in my mind, pondered marketing strategies and, of course, pictured myself walking down the red carpet. There was no worrying, no negative thoughts. Only the positive flowed through my mind.

So, goodbye Doom and Gloom. From here on out, I’m focusing on Fortune and Fame.

Thank you PPWC!

Public Speaking: Practice Makes Perfect (or at least slightly less scary)

It’s feared more than spiders, heights and Jello molds. Some would actually rather be dead than do it.

Amazingly, public speaking is more frightening to people than going a night without cable TV.

And that’s what I was doing last week. I rarely talk about my “other” job, but after eight months of being self-employed, I think it’s time.

I used to work for the state government as a Nurse Inspector. This meant that I got to visit home health agencies, hospices and even a few hospitals to evaluate their compliance with state and federal regulations. We’ll just say nobody was happy when I walked through the front door.

Now, I help the same companies that I used to scrutinize. I provide training and education on how to interpret and comply with all those federal and state requirements. This means that on a monthly basis I give presentations. In front of people. For like hours.

This is how I felt about public speaking in college:

Public Speaking Socially Awkward penguin

Um, I may have done this once. Or twice.

Socially awkward penguin public speaking

Yes, socially awkward penguin, I understand. I contemplated doing this.

public speaking anxiety cat

Luckily, I never had to resort to this. I found a loophole :-)

And that feeling stayed with me into adulthood, although it lessened over time. Soon, I was able to verbalize my thoughts in front of a group of five or ten people without this happening:

Public speaking brain

But a four hour presentation in front of twenty or so strangers? Hmmm…. Maybe that coffin doesn’t look so bad.

My first presentation brought on some nerves. To help, my body decided to recruit my sympathetic nervous system, which resulted in:

Nausea – I knew those three bites of toast would come back to haunt me

Tachycardia – the fancy word for a fast heart rate

Cotton mouth – I had no idea my tongue could be this dry

Trembling hands – We’ll just forget about using the laser pointer

The need to pee every five minutes – now I know what it’s like to be my mom

And pretty much the overall sensation that I was going to die.

Thanks, body. That really helped create the illusion that I was confident and composed.

Now, eight months later, I am more confident and composed.

sponge bob public speaking

Just like Sponge Bob

I still get a little jittery before each presentation, but instead of feeling like my heart might explode for the full four hours, I go through the following:

-It’s almost time to start the presentation. Everyone is looking at me. Wow, my heart really can beat 200 times per minute. Maybe I should go throw up really quick. Or just pee. I think I have to pee again.

-Wow, I’m already 30 minutes in. And I’m rockin’ it. Look they’re laughing at my jokes. They’re asking questions. They’re nodding like they understand. I’m awesome!

-Ugh. We’re only two hours into this thing. Is that person sleeping? Yes, I think they’re sleeping. I’m boring them. Better say something funny.

-Says something funny. Everyone laughs. They all go back to sleep. And I don’t take it personally.

-We only have a half hour left. I can do this. Maybe I need some caffeine? Where’s that racing heart beat? I think I need that again. A little shot of adrenaline just might spruce up the last bit of this presentation. Ugh. Body, come on. You were so generous with it earlier.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say is this public speaking thing does get better. The more I do it, the easier it becomes. I almost even like it sometimes. Crazy, huh?

As a side note: My cousin and I are attending our first writing conference this weekend and we’re planning to read the first page of our novels. Out loud. To an agent. And an audience. I have a feeling that pesky sympathetic nervous system will be kicking in again.

As another side note: My cat was sitting on my mouse the whole time I was writing this and bit my hand every time I tried to use it. But don’t worry – she hardly has any teeth left.

The Evolution of a Blog Post

Today we are going to discuss how three seemingly unrelated items influence the progression of a blog post –  from a simple discussion about keys, to another exploration of my bad habits: procrastination, laziness, messiness.

The three items:

1. A set of keys

2. A collection of lovely purses

3. Food that is, um, well past its prime

The progression:

I often write blog posts about random, everyday things and I use my experiences and surroundings as inspiration. Example: The Would You Like Your Receipt? post.

My keys were the initial inspiration for this post. See how many there are:

DSC06864

Now, it’s not an exorbitant amount of keys; however, the ratio of used keys to unused keys is a problem. There are a total of eleven keys. Five of them I use all the time. Two belong to doors I should no longer be opening and four are mystery keys.

DSC06863

This one belongs to my husband’s old condo.

DSC06862

This one belongs to my mom’s old Subaru.

I was thinking I should get rid of the keys I don’t need, so that I don’t have to try to squish so many keys into my smallish purse. My blog post was going to be about why I hold on to all these unnecessary keys.

Here is where we have our first divergence: now I began to think about my purse.

Perhaps my purse was the problem and I should blog about that? I have a lovely collection of purses that I never use. When I was younger, I used to change my purse all the time, usually to match my outfit. Now it’s always the black one. Have I gotten so lazy that I can’t move my wallet from one purse to another?

DSC06853

The only purse I seem to carry now.

I gathered my purses to take the picture below and pondered the red one in the back. Now, that’s a much bigger purse. I could keep all my extraneous keys and have room more. Why get rid of keys, when I can make room for more?

DSC06855

Now, to the next divergence: I started looking through the purse for clues as to when it was last used and found something startling – food that was well past its prime. And so now my blog post is about what happens to food when left in a purse too long.

DSC06857

Very stale pumpkin bread, a bag of almonds and walnuts, and two unidentifiable pieces of fruit.

I really can’t say how long it has been since I used this purse, but judging from the fruit it’s been more than a couple of days. The pumpkin bread is homemade, dating back to fall 2012.

DSC06859

After close inspection, this was identified as an apple. The sticker tells me it was a honey crisp apple. If you look closely, you can see the tip of the stem in the top right corner.

DSC06860

I wanted to call this a strawberry, based on its size. However, strawberries usually don’t come with a sticker on them. And I would never just carry a loose strawberry in my purse. That would be gross. So, I’m pretty sure this is another petrified, rotten, moldy apple.

So, similar to many of my other posts, this post has dissolved into another example of my lack of organization, cleanliness and motivation.  Anyone want some almonds?