My Bullet Journal Journey

It happened one insomniac night, as I was browsing Pinterest absently searching for nothing. You guys, those of you who knew about this, have totally been holding out on me. Bullet Journals are the analog answer to all of those organizational apps I’ve downloaded and used for five minutes. The giant bonus is that I finally get to use all my absent doodling in a way that actually helps me get things done.

What the heck is a Bullet Journal?

“Bullet Journal was developed by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer living in Brooklyn, NY. Through many years of trial and error, the system has evolved into the ideas presented here. He sees this as an evolving, adaptable platform meant to be shared and self curated as you determine what works best for you.” – Bulletjournal.com/about

The Bullet Journal is a notebook. Plain and simple. It’s a technique to use a notebook as an accounting of your life, be it a to-do list, a task list, a dream board, or a note taking system. You can use any notebook you wanbujot, and all the colors of the rainbow. It’s a completely customized DIY journal system, and all you really need is a notebook and pen.

I recommend it to almost anyone, but especially hands-on creatives, non-linear thinkers, and people who are interested in keeping themselves steeped in creativity. Students could definitely benefit from using this in place of the school supplied agenda, which is usually full of pages they never look at.

How does it work?index

The first thing you’re going to do is create an Index page. This is how you’ll keep track of important notes you’ve taken, lists you’ve made, pages that are different then your regular daily entries. As you can see I messed up with my index by adding my daily pages. Don’t do that. It’s redundant. Unless you want to. It’s your book. In my first Bullet Journal I left far too many pages blank for the index, the recommended amount is 4 pages. If you need more you can use the back. That’s the beauty of this system. It’s whatever you need it to be.

The main benefit of the BuJo technique is the organization of your writing through the use of signifier bullets. For the first few BuJos you might want to create a Legend of these symbols. I used a library card insert and pocket I’d had left from some crafting I’d done a while back, and glued it into the front cover. In the future BuJos I can just glue in a new pocket, and move the card.

A portable BuJo Legend makes it easy to migrate to new notebooks

A portable BuJo Legend makes it easy to migrate to new notebooks

I also like to leave a few pages in the front of every journal I use to add a few quotes I love. Warning, my doodling is amateur level at best.

quotes

 

 

 

 

 

As for the ensuing pages…well that’s up to you. I find layouts while browsing the web, and especially Pinterest. There is a universe of avid Bullet Journal Junkies, or BuJo-holics who love to share their new interesting layouts, and applications of the BuJo technique.  These usually fall into three categories:

  • Planner Pages:
    • monthly calendar

      favesongs

      A list page of favorite songs…can you pick your top five songs? That’s the hardest part for me.

    • weekly calendar
    • meal planner
    • workout planner
    • garden planner
  • Tracker Pages:
    • water consumption
    • mood
    • spending
    • saving
    • baby milestones
    • new habits
    • gratitude
    • holiday gift ideas
  • List Pages
    • recipes to try
    • movies to watch
    • favorite songs
    • books to read
    • books I read
    • birthdays
    • funny things my toddler said

I’ve been using this method since this beginning of the year, and it’s really working for me. In fact, I now use 3 different Bullet Journals. One for my writing/inspiration,

Just write the names of the books on their spines.

one for daily personal home/life/kids planning, and a small budget BuJo, to track expenses, spending, etc.

My writing journal is part scrapbook, part diary, and part journal. I save mementos using adhesive pockets I’ve gotten at the craft store, journaling cards, washi tape, and stickers. I’ve even got a Fuji Instax to capture moments I want in my BuJo. It’s a bit of an addiction now, to tell you the truth. What I love, however, is how I’m wasting a lot less time endless scrolling social media–which is one of my biggest time sucks. I’ve got more lists in this one too, since I use list making, as a lead into writing, because it stimulates my memory recall. I like to put recipes in this journal, because my daily one is smaller in size, and I use them up faster. My master meal list won’t be too hard to migrate, as I write individual recipes on library cards. I use a monthly calendar layout in this journal, although my goal is to add weekly spreads soon. The idea is to track my writing, set goals, and have the ability to review what I’ve accomplished.

My daily BuJo is where I plan meals, keep track of events & activities, track my daily mood, and keep lists of books I want to read, as well as the ones I’ve finally gotten to. Shopping lists, appointments, and to-do lists are what makes up each individual day’s entry. I don’t always write in it each day, but I’m not losing out on pages because of it. Sometimes all I do is scribble the date along the top, and scratch out washipagessome bullets, but other days I’m inspired to get a little more creative.

One of my favorite BuJo hacks is to run a long slice of washi tape on the edge of the pages that are important to me. When I do this with different color washis, I can’t find the page more easily. Some people go as far as to index the color/pattern washi they use, which makes tons of sense, but I’m too lazy for that.

 

Drawbacks of BuJo

There are some cons, of course. For example, set-up is time consuming, and at the outset that seems pretty daunting, but I’ll confess that the more I see the awesome BuJos other people on social media are making, the more I enjoy the time I spend. In fact, just setting up my daily header has become part of my daily routine. I find that forcing myself into a creative endeavor, that is justifiably useful, helps warm up my brain. The more time I invest in the journal, the more committed I am to using it. So much so, that because I’m using a daily tracker for my reading, writing, an

IMG_4259

My daily header for May the Fourth…getting creative is fun.

d cooking I’ve tripled the amount of time I used to spend on each. I also like that the journal is always new, because I have a lot of trouble getting bored with a novelty. There’s also an issue of what to do with a notebook once it’s full. For me, my journalling, my writing, my notebooks are part of my identity. I keep a giant plastic storage container just for my old notebooks, and I’m not joking when I tell you that they are willed to my daughter. When I’m gone, they will be my legacy to her.

Another con is that it can become consumptive. I’ve definitely increased my store of washi tape and stencils since I’ve been doing this. I guess this is a balance you’ll need to find too. The way I see it, just the fact that it’s making me more effective, makes it worth a few bucks in washi tape.

I’ve got lots of plans for new Bullet Journals too. My next one will be filled with words of wisdom, memories, and lists to give my daughter when she moves out.

Do you Bullet Journal? Share your favorite BuJo hacks, tips, and tricks here!

 

 

Please stop comparing vacation time to Maternity Leave

toon877I heard about the Rachel Foyes interview before I read it. I’m not sure if I would have even cared if it hadn’t been for the fact that she didn’t even show up to plug her new book Me-ternity, a fictional tale about a woman who fakes a pregnancy in order to experience the “perks” of maternity leave, on Good Morning America.  I might have even been interested in the story if it hadn’t been for the New York Post article by Anna Davies.

In the article, Foyes tells Davies about why she took a year and a half me-ternity leave, which, to be fair was really a click-baitey way to describe a self-imposed sabbatical. According to Foyes, a Me-ternity leave is a “sabbatical-like break that allows women, and to a lesser degree men, to shift their focus to the part of their lives that doesn’t revolve around their jobs”. The female specificity is because Foyes claims women experience higher rates of burnout due to their home-based roles (i.e. wife, mother, domestic goddess etc.). While I resisted giving this any more attention than it already has been given, I simply see far too many problems with her assertions that are, in fact, damaging to working women, and working parents.

First of all, Rachel Foyes’ job sounds awesome! Not only does she get to “work on big stories, attend cool events, and meet famous celebs ALL THE TIME,” (emphasis mine), but she also seems to have an employer who encourages, as opposed to punishes, families to attend to their obligations, and won’t fire someone for taking 3 MONTHS of leave. Most places get a little twitchy after 3 weeks. Yes, I realize their are some legalities involved, but most of us know there’s plenty of leeway for employers to “let you go” for reasons technically not involved in maternity leave. That envy she claims, is all her, and believe me when I say that most of us would far rather be enjoying a margarita with her best friend than deal with the playground moms. Oh yeah, and the reason it sounds like picking up your child has more gravitas than meeting that friend for a post-ghost margarita, is because it does. Your friend is not a child. Getting stood up on a date is nothing like get abandoned at school by your Mother. Both sides are not valid. What is valid is that you’re talking about parents who are leaving “on time”, not early, and what other people do is really none of your business.

Rachel asserts that maternity leave offers the opportunity for self-reflection, which she claims is evident in the way women post-maternity leave are able to self-advocate more, are more confident, and even make life altering decisions. She cites friends of hers, one who started her own business, and another who changed industries, as examples of the benefit of maternity leave’s self-reflective nature. The reality is that maternity leave is about as self-reflective as boot camp, and any changes you’re seeing in your friends are as a result of a shift of priorities, not some crazy epiphany during a pedicure.

Second of all, while maternity leave has elements of self-reflection, it is nowhere near as zen as Rachel Foyes seems to believe it is. It’s much more about pushing your mental, physical, and emotional boundaries beyond what your previous conception of what those limits were. For example:

  1. Remember when pulling an all nighter involved booze, hallucinogens, deep conversations, or a paper due in the morning? Imagine writing that paper on the most boring subject imaginable without the use of any product designed to keep you awake, and you still don’t even remotely have an idea of what the first days home with a newborn are. Oh, and if you’ve had a c-section, you can add doing all this while recovering from having your abdominal muscles sliced open, when a sneeze makes you feel like your stitches will explode your guts all over the couch. Having a newborn pretty much assures you will forget what restful sleep feels like because those puny three hours you may get will be spent twilighting in something that seems like it could become sleep, and waking at least once to poke your child to make sure he/she is still alive.
  2. Bleeding nipples. I’m not sure what Rachel’s into in her private life, but I can bet that her Me-Ternity leave didn’t involve cracked bleeding nipples on the end of breasts that have gained ten pounds, spurt milk at inopportune moments, and feel like they have been invaded by a society of rock people.
  3. Maternity leave means diaper changes while battling self-doubt, usually in the form of “What the fuck did I just do to my life?”, the realization that the world is nowhere near as safe as you’d previously thought it was, and wondering what crazy hormonal imbalance made you do something like this to begin with.
  4. Bodily fluids…everywhere, and not the fun kind.CP_midyear_report

The truth is that the article, and ensuing justifications are harmful. So many people want to pretend that much ado is being made of nothing more than a simple play on words, and I, for one, wish that was true. Unfortunately, it just is not. The truth is that most jobs aren’t as accommodating as Rachel Foyes’, and most families can’t afford the unpaid leave they are legally entitled to. The truth is, we have laws that protect newborn puppies more than newborn humans, and women like Rachel Foyes who think it’s cute to draw comparisons between maternity leave and vacation time are simply adding fuel to the already out of control blaze of ignorance which forces women to make a choice between career and family. Yes, there is a need for more time away from the job, and, perhaps, our country needs to follow the lead of other countries who recognize that there is just as much need for mental health breaks, as there is for bonding between families. I just wish Rachel Foyes hadn’t taken the obvious jab, and had been a bit more creative in the way she decided to ask for, demand, or simply just take it. Her little play on words is destructive, and invalidates all of the parents, both male and female, who are struggling to make it in a world that puts so much emphasis on helping create childhoods children shouldn’t have to recover from without offering the support to achieve them.

Write on…through the pain

“2016 is going to be a good year.” I said it in the last hours of last year. So many awful things happened in 2015, that I just knew this coming year would be amazing. I imagined all the good that would happen. I wold finish my novel, we would save tons of money, and maybe we’d take another awesome family vacation–this time somewhere more relaxing.

keepwritingI couldn’t have been more wrong. Almost immediately 2016 issued forth a wave of worse case scenarios, and the hits just keep on coming. This has been the year of endurance. Like a marathon runner I simply try to keep my pace steady, breathe, and have faith that I’m going to feel that sense of relief when the finish line crosses under my feet.

It isn’t all bad though. I have an amazing family whose first instinct is to pull in close like a crochet stitch when the string of urgency is tugged. Some of the worst moments, have yielded some of the most beautiful too, reminding me, like a Pixar movie, that not all darkness is sad.

My pen, too, has been on a roll. Thankfully writing is a helpful tool to manage anxiety, which seems to rear its ugly head more often lately. Just putting words on paper, even if its to make a list of all the ways I feel awful, is the only thing to relieve the stress. Other times, magic happens.

Last week, in a moment of desperation I resolved to finish a scene I’ve been struggling with. I fought the resolution for most of the day, finding all kinds of distractions. The house got cleaner. The laundry got folded. Social media sunk tentacles into me. Finally I stared down the clock, and offered myself twenty minutes of writing, as an alternative compromise to quitting for the day. Twenty minutes turned into two hours, and at the end of it, my scene was complete. It was a tortured victory, but it worked.

Being a writer means having to fight your demons, and embrace them all at the same time. We have no one but ourselves to overcome, and only a finite amount of time in which to accomplish it. While it might seem like we should give ourselves time to deal with the obstacles life deals us; the truth is that we are writers. The way we deal with things is to write.dory

So the next time the mountain seems too high, or your world seems to be collapsing all around you, instead of pushing it away. Pick up your pen, and write on through the pain. The worst that could happen is that you write a bit of drivel. On the other hand, what you write could be exactly what you’d be missing.

Donate Girl Scout Cookies For Our Troops

inigomontoyacookiesIt’s Girl Scout Cookie season again! It’s one of my favorite times of year. Maybe it’s that these are seasonally exclusive items. Or it could be the desert month of drought suffered when Girl Scout cookie supplies have been depleted long ago, and selling season still looms hazy in the distance. Worse yet, the years when no Girl Scout came knocking, and none existed in your circles. The only hope was to stumble upon a booth sale, and hope they still had your favorites.  Whatever the cause, Girl Scout Cookie selling season fills me with a sense of jubilee mixed with panic. The panic is usually caused by not giving someone access to my inside track to cookies–My Little Girl Scout!

If you’d like to place an order contact me through the usual methods (text, phone, email),  or, if you’d like to have them direct shipped to you use this link:

ORDER GIRL SCOUT COOKIES ONLINE

PLEASE NOTE: Using the online ordering offers the opportunity to donate boxes, but you will still be charged a shipping fee. To avoid this, you can simply order from me by commenting below with your email address, or simply using Venmo

CLICK HERE TO VENMO MONEY FOR GIRL SCOUT COOKIES TO THE TROOPS

Cookies are $4/box — Please send the appropriate amount, and include the message “COOKIES FOR THE TROOPS”.

Read on to learn more about the cookies we collected for the Troops Last Year.

Last year, my very patriotic daughter, surprised me by asking if our soldiers fighting in other countries had Girl Scouts. Her reaction when I explained that they didn’t was inspiring. “Well, we’re going to have to get them some.” It was very matter of fact, even for a five year old. She was right, and I was right behind her. We opened the offer to the other girls in our troop, to mail out any boxes donated to the soldiers.

It was incredible. Altogether the friends and family of our Daisy Girl Scout Troop 889 donated 68 boxes of cookies to our men and women overseas.

We got them into USPS Flat rate boxes...10 of them..which were also stuffed with pictures, and other goodies.

We got them into USPS Flat rate boxes…10 of them..which were also stuffed with pictures, and other goodies.

The hard part, actually, was finding someone to send the cookies to. We didn’t have anyone overseas, and no one we knew did either. After a few weeks of having USPS boxes filled with cookies stacked in our living room, we stumbled across a site, adoptaussoldier.org which connects active duty soldiers on deployment, with people who want to support them.

We were connected with an incredible active duty soldier; a military handler in the US NAVY. I don’t want to share her name without her permission, but we’ll just call her Nicole. Nicole wasn’t allowed to give us any specifics, but she did say she was deployed “near the Afghanistan/Iraq” area, and was partnered with a German Shepard named Qba (sounds like Cuba).

This is Qba. He's a German Shepart, and trained military handler for the US Navy, deployed in the Afghanistan/Iraq area.

This is Qba. He’s a German Shepart, and trained military handler for the US Navy, deployed in the Afghanistan/Iraq area.

It took some time to iron out the kinks, but after she successfully received our test package, she emailed her thanks. She told us”

“receiving any mail is what we look forward to the most and that goes for everyone deployed here. The poor mail people probably feel swarmed because we all ask everyday if we have anything. It’s like Christmas for us and cheers us up so much, but yes, we are safe and still doing well!”

At our next meeting all the girls in the Daisy Troop wrote letters to our adopted soldiers. We packed one in every box, and sent a special box to Nicole herself. Grace and I couldn’t help ourselves, so we stuffed the boxes full of other necessities too. Shampoo, toothbrushes, and even treats for Qba!

Once we’d gotten all the boxes, addressed, sealed, and into the car–We finally sent them out.

“I have received your packages and they are amazing! I love the pictures that Grace drew! I’m going to hang them on the wall in my room!!!!! I was also able to share the cookies with a number of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines and we are all extremely thankful!”

IMG_9540 IMG_4282Here are some pictures she sent us as the boxes were unpacked, and the pictures were hung behind Qba.

 

 

 

 

 

We’d love to send an extra special thank you to everyone who helped make this possible. Bringing joy to our soldiers is a really important way to boost their morale while they are making the ultimate of sacrifices for our freedom.

We’ve sent a couple more packages to Nicole and Qba over the year, but she’s become busier and busier with the fight for our freedom. We can’t wait to hear about the day she gets to come back home. She and Qba are real superheroes, and it’s been an inspiring journey to even play a tiny part in putting a smile on her face.

This year our local council is joining in, and will be mailing out the donated boxes for the entire area to a different soldier. Although the first 8 boxes donated through us will get mailed out to Nicole, cause we love her.

Please consider donating boxes of Girl Scout Cookies to our troops again this year, or, for the first time.  Remember that someone is out there so you don’t have to be.

 

New Year, New Resolutions on Just My Inkblot

New LifeHappy New Year to all of you out there in internet-land. I really want to thank you all for taking the time to read my little blog here. I’m incredibly humbled that you would even be interested in reading about little ol’ me.

I don’t know about you, but 2015 really sucked for me. There were some incredible moments, like traveling to Jamaica for my first vacation in seven years, but overall the entire year was incredibly stressful. 2015 seemed to have an understanding of its own mortality, inflicting more and more turmoil as its days wound down. Just when I thought there would be a moments peace and enjoyment, on my way to picking up my baby dragon from her last day of school before winter break, stopped at the very left turn just forty-five seconds from the spot where I park the car, a vehicle slammed into me from behind–dude was clearly not looking at the street #distracteddrivinghurtspeople.  Thankfully I didn’t suffer any broken limbs, and all my internal organs seem to be intact, but I’m not out of the woods just yet. Crossing fingers that’s its just soft tissue damage, but most signs point to some kind of disc issue in my spine.

Its funny how we expect ourselves to hit the ground running in the New Year, as if suddenly, from one day to the next, a reset button can be pressed. Well, not this year. Of course, a Mercury Retrograde began five days in, so there’s all that mess to deal with too. Actually, if you think about it, the beginning of the year isn’t a time for starting new things. It’s a time for reflecting about the old ones, and formulating a new one. If there’s anything I’ve learned this year, its that the most successful people set goals, and plan to achieve them. These last few weeks as 2015 ended, and 2016 was born, I’ve been reflecting, recovering, recouperating, and trying to make resolutions that I can plan to achieve, instead of fail to plan for, and I’d like to share them with you.

new-year-resolutions

T.R. Patmore’s 2016 Resolutions:

  1. Stop proofreading social media. Because autocorrect, and it’s just not very nice. I realized this after posting a link about the correct usage of “who” and “whom” on my local police department’s Facebook post, that I’m really getting out of hand. Besides, I’m not going to get people to enjoy, or even commit to using appropriate grammar via humiliation.
  2. Read More. I tend to deny myself the pleasure of reading, because I see it as a recreational activity, when, in order to be a writer I must also be a reader. As part of a commitment to writing professionally, I need to change the old thought pattern, and recognize my need to grow.
  3. Spend more one-on-one time with my kids. I know this isn’t a writing resolution, but the solution I’ve come up with in order to accomplish this is.
    1. For my Teen Dragon, we are embarking on a reader dialogue journal, wherein we read a book, and respond to it. Using the bullet journaling method (we’ll talk more about that later), we’ll set a weekly reading/responding schedule. I can’t tell you how excited I am for this. I feel like I’m getting a pen pal, and we’re going to be writing about books! The biggest bonus, is that this journal will go a long way to build a bond between us, and establish a mutual trust. This is probably the most important thing I can give my son. Our first book will be The 13 Clocks, by James Thurber. Who knows…maybe I’ll even let him write a review here on the blog? What do you think?
    2. For the Little Dragon, I bought a Mother/Daughter conversation Journal. just between us. This one has questions for each of us to answer, prompts for drawing pictures, and blank pages for free-writing. This will not only help her practice reading and writing, but this also has that bonding bonus. I so badly want for her to understand, and trust me, so our relationship can stay as strong as it is now. Especially since she’s already starting to experience the world of Mean Girls, I need her to trust me, and develop a strong sense of confidence.
      1. Also I intend to read books with her. We’re starting with one of my childhood fave’s Charlotte’s Web.
  4. Write more effectively. Part of novel writing, for me, has been a struggle in learning how to organize my thoughts. If only I could just download the story out of my brain.
    1. This year I’m going to employ the writing journal I’d been using since last year, but organize my thoughts and ideas through the bullet journal (also called the doodle journal) technique–a system of list making using organizational marks, and creative layout design. I’ll be writing more substantially about the process in a future post.
      1. I intend to create a schedule for writing, blogging, and managing my responsibilities at home.
      2. I intend to create a system of reinforcement in order to incentivize my progress.
      3. I intend to balance my “other” artistic endeavors in an appropriate proportion to my professional ones. Which basically means stop sewing stuff when I should be writing.
  5. This year, I will finish my first draft of my novel. No explanation necessary.

I’d love to hear about your writing resolutions, and how you intend to achieve them. Leave me a comment below. Start the conversation, or join in.

 

5 Gifts Under $25 your Writer Friends Will Love

One of the hardest questions I have to answer every holiday season is, “So what do you want for Christmas?” To be honest, unless someone comes up with a way to download the rest of my manuscript from my brain, there really isn’t a whole lot that I need. In case you’re feeling just as stuck as I do this time of year, or you’re looking for a budget friendly find for your writer friend, I’ve complied a lovely list of gifts for writers.

  1. personal LibrarykitPersonal Library Kit: There’s one thing all writers have in common. We love books. We love libraries, and we all wish we had a version of Belle’s library in our house. The idea of having my very own cards to personalize my library gives me some hardcore warm fuzzies, and we’re not even going to discuss how I feel about being able to stamp my own books. This takes lending your books out to a whole other level. This could even inspire one of those amazing hidden neighborhood lending libraries hidden in a dollhouse near a park. Imagine all the magic that could be made!  This personal library kit comes with everything your favorite writer needs to indulge their bibliophile fantasies for under $15. Amazon
  2. Story Teas: cinderellaWhether your favorite writer friend is planning on meeting up with the Hatter, or just a long night with their favorite imaginary pals, a hot cup of tea can be a great companion for those long drawn out nights of staring at the screen. What could be better than a line of teas inspired by your favorite stories? They’ve got Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, and even a special Katniss: Girl on Fire blend of tea. Pick one flavor for just $9, or an entire set for $29. Adiago Teas.
  3. Writing Resources: One can never have too many resources to help develop their writing. My personal favorites are the Descriptive Thesauruses. I own all three, and keep them close at hand while plotting, writing, or sometimes I just like to flip through. They are invaluable writerresourcesinexpensive, and a gift your writer buddy will thank you for endlessly. Amazon.
  4. COFFEE!!!: Writing and coffee go together like words and letters, and there is nothing more precious than the energy giving mana that comes from one of God’s greatest gifts to writer-kind–the coffee bean. For reals. Whoever  it was that came up with the idea to grind these guys up and add water is my hero. A five or ten dollar gift card to Dunkin, or Starbucks is a real treat, and if you want to splurge you can find Jamaican Blue Mountain (usually about $50/lb..but worth it!) coffee and be your writer friend’s biggest hero of all.
  5. The Map of Literature:mapoflit  ::confetti:: ::dancing in circles:: I know right! This map was created by Halcyon Maps–the same folks who created the Map of the Internet, or The Map of Stereotypes–and is brilliantly detailed. The only way to get it, right now, is as a fold-out in Vargic’s Miscellany of Curious Maps, which means you get lots of other fun maps too including an over-sized version of the Map of Stereotypes. In fact, buy this book, and a couple of frames, and you might have a few gifts for some other pals too. Myself, I couldn’t wait for Christmas. I just had to get my hands on it as soon as possible, and I’m so glad I did. Just be sure to use an exacto knife to separate the map from the book, if you’re looking to frame it like I am. Amazon.

 

 

 

No NaNoWriMo for me thanks, but don’t let that stop you.

keepcalmandwrite50kThe Fall is one of my favorite times of year. Although the weather is pretty gloomy as I write these words. Most days the air is crisp, and the trees are putting on their annual kaleidoscope show. This year seems to be brighter than most. I might think that every year. Most of all there is the excitement November brings with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for those of you not in the know), the time of year when all would-be writers strive to write 50,000 words in 30 days–no small task. My social media feeds are alight with inspirational quotes about writing and persevering, #amwriting hashtags, and it seems like the world is existing in pure harmonic word count madness.

Last year I won NaNo. I was incredibly proud of myself, and even put my winning certificate up on my office wall to remind myself that I am a writer.

So why aren’t I doing it this year? Is my novel finished? Am I just a big fat NaNo-hater?
large_Writing_Meme

It’s nothing like that. After last year’s NaNo victory I realized that my novel needed to begin much later than I’d written, and all the words I’d written were just backstory. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really glad I have them. They are priceless pieces of information that I needed to get out, but in the end, they aren’t manuscript words.

Truly, as much as I love the community of it, NaNoWriMo’s word count specific goal just doesn’t work for me. It’s too easy for me to fake myself out, throw down a bunch of words to meet a goal, and completely ignore the purpose of getting the novel out of my head. It’s even worse when I’ve gotten stuck on a scene, and can’t find a way through it. NaNo would tell you to move onto something else, where, in my crazy maddening universe, what I really need to do is figure out why I’m being held back. It’s usually something to do with an unresolved plot point that I’d procrastinated on dealing with.

There’s also the problem of restricting myself to just one project. Yes, I do want to be a novelist, and I am focusing specifically on writing my story, but that’s not the only writing I do. When the opportunity to have a play you’ve written chosen for a night of one acts, you can’t just blow it off, even if you don’t have anything written yet; even if you are in the middle of NaNoWriMo. I’m not writing for fame–although a best-seller would be amazing. I’m writing because I have so much to say. I’m writing because I want to add my own unique voice to the literary conversation. I’m writing because this is how I choose to define my career as a creative. I’m writing because I am a writer, and that doesn’t just mean novels.
writeallthethings

While I’m not actively counting words with all the NaNos out there plugging away at their brilliance, I am making daily writing a priority. I think that’s the real point of NaNoWriMo anyway. They say it takes thirty days to make a habit, and that’s exactly what I intend to do. So go get those words you amazing NaNos. I am rooting for you! I may not be counting them all, but I am your ally in writing, and am fiercely writing alongside you all month long!

This is my Fight Post. My Get up and Write Post!

awriteris     I never imagined the kind of struggle writing would be. Writing used to be for escape. It was a passion. It was sometimes for assignments in school, but my best writing happened in moments when I couldn’t help but empty my soul into a notebook. Marble composition notebooks were my favorite, but finding an interesting new home for my words has always been an exercise in sheer luxury. Pens are another addiction of mine. It has taken me years to find just the right one to fit my hand, with the perfect black, gel ink that glides effortlessly into any shape I will it to. Of course, they are only sold as promotional items, so I had to order hundreds of them.
These are the best black gel ink pens I've ever used!

These are the best black gel ink pens I’ve ever used! I’m so excited about them, that I’ll give two free pens to the first five people to comment below! That way you can tell me if there’s a better one out there. Follow me on Facebook for details.

     When I decided that I was going to write as a career, the nature of writing changed altogether. Suddenly it was harder. I always had the ideas swimming about in my head, but getting that down on paper, and then getting that onto the screen was a whole different can of worms.  Unfortunately, even in 2015 technology has not caught up with the pen.  There is no device that accurately captures handwriting, translates it into its digital form, while being comfortable enough for me to write with. I’ve already told you how picky I am about pens. Transcription is a big issue.  Who has time to write things twice? Even Santa has elves.
     For most of my writing career I battled the blinking cursor, and the empty document on my screen. It always felt like each individual  word pulled from my creativity wanted nothing more than to remain in its original place. Writing was no longer fun. It became work. It was a chore. Even so, I’ve been determined to find a way to finally write my novel, but I have never stopped searching for the link between my notebooks, and my laptop.
writers-block
     I’VE DONE IT! No, I haven’t finished the novel. I have, however, found a way that I will be able to use to effectively download my ideas from  my brain into a digital format. I’m sure you’ve all heard of it before. Dragon Dictation has been around for a long time (no, I’m not getting paid, for writing this…yet). It’s been through several iterations, and updates, and they make it for every operating system. In the past I dabbled with dictation software before. It never seemed to work for me. Mostly because my ideas don’t spring to the tip of my tongue the way they spring to the tip of my pen. In fact, I had never owned an official copy of the software. I’d only ever used the lame knock-off versions–the kind without the comprehensive vocabulary, or commands built in. Over the weekend it went on sale. I’ve been in such a creative rut that I was desperate for something new to inspire some motivation. So I decided to pull the trigger, and bought a download license.
     After spending a little time configuring, and training the software, I decided to test it out on the scene that I’ve been struggling through for the last several days. At first it was halting. I couldn’t figure out how to pull the words from my brain in a way that allowed me to dictate it smoothly to the software, and having to speak the punctuation was hard to do on the fly. Then I had an idea. I sat down with my handy notebook, and trusty pen, and allowed the words to spring forth onto my notebook unbidden. Oh, and spring forth they did. For a straight hour I watched the scene unfold beneath my hand. I wrote until the antsy distracted feeling set in–which was a much longer stretch than I’d ever achieved before. Instead of allowing myself to be distracted, I plunked a headset in my ear, and began to read the scene aloud.
     I’ll admit it has always been part of my process to read what I’ve written out loud. So it shouldn’t have been so surprising to me how easy it was to read from my notebook into my dictation software. It can get a little wonky, and I had a few minor hiccups, but I understand the longer I use the software, the better adjusted it will be to my cadence, and pronunciation. The results  have been magical.  Through the use of a repeating cycle of writing first in my notebook, then reading it aloud to my computer, my word count has skyrocketed – and just in time for NaNoWriMo. (Not that I’m aiming for the traditional 50,000 words in 30 days goal, but I do like to join in the community in November.)
didntquit     It doesn’t hurt that one of my best friends just recently won a pitch contest, which came with the prize of an introduction to an agent.  You can read all about it on her blog, Penning the Wonderlife, by clicking this link. In fact, I think it is a major part of finding my groove. When you’re part of a writing community, and you aren’t moving at the same pace as your community, you can easily find yourself lost in the dust. You can either choose to move at your own pace, or ramp up your commitment. Discovering that this thing we’re doing is more than a blind shot in the dark, as is apparent by Erica’s amazing story, has given me the inspiration to prove to myself that I’m more than a wannabe writer. I’m a working writer, which means I AM WRITING.
     So the fire is lit. The tools are laid out. The only thing that can hold me back is time, and myself. I still believe, now more than ever, then I will finish my first draft by the end of the year. It’s an exciting time! I can’t wait to share my process, and my progress with all of you here.
     I do have some news, but I’m waiting until it’s in a more concrete form before I share it. I can say without a shadow of a doubt, that I am realizing my dream of being a writer. I’ve already proven myself capable of generating income with my craft, now I just have to prove that I can write a story worth reading.

Stop Trying to Make Teenagers Sexy!

No sooner had my children been dropped off at school, then the Halloween paraphernalia had overtaken all the back to school supplies (No slacking in the retail industry). Yesterday I received my first spam from a Halloween costume shop. Of course I clicked it. I love to see the new costume additions every year, and come up with ideas of my own. While I was browsing, however, I found myself faced with a pretty horrific reality.

Lindsay Lohan, in one of her most iconic performances in the movie, Mean Girls, said it best,

“Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”

I’m incredibly disheartened by the way Halloween costume stores are contributing to the sexualization of our young girls. Teenagers are still children. Many of them don’t even have breasts, but at Spirit Halloween a “Teen” costume means exposing more skin than an adult costume.

Take a look at Exhibit A: The Teen Supergirl Costume

Now have a gander at Exhibit B: The Adult Supergirl Costume.

adultsupergirlNotice anything different? Apparently Spirit Halloween thinks a Teen should be in a sexier, more revealing, more sexualized outfit than her grownup, age-of-consent, counterpart. Oh, and flatter hair.

I wondered if this was a trend, so I browsed through a few other costume websites, and found these:

sexy teen demon

At least they aren’t using teen models to model these clothes.

 

 

This particular costume completely disrespects all of our Female soldiers who fight so hard to gain equal respect in the eyes of the country they serve. I’m not sure what kind of military this store thinks we have, but in our country women and men wear the SAME uniform.

 

 

 

 

I'm not even sure why this exists. Teen Playboy Bunny? That's child pornography, isn't it?

I’m not even sure why this exists. Teen Playboy Bunny? That’s child pornography, isn’t it?

 

 

I know it might sound prudish, especially if you knew me in my party girl days, and I’m sure it has something to do with my way-too-beautiful six year-old, who will one day grow up into a dangerously gorgeous teen, but I’m a little grossed out when I see teenaged girls depicted as sex symbols. To me, TEENAGED GIRLS AREN’T SEXY.

Allow me to clarify a few things:

  • While Eighteen, and Nineteen year-olds are consenting legal adults, they do not make up the majority of teenagers. Teenagers, as a group, are made up of Thirteens, Fourteens, Fifteens, Sixteens, and Seventeens. I may be able to swallow marketing sexier outfits to the Eighteen and Nineteen year old segment of Teens, but it’s absolutely disgusting to swathe them all in the same Teen category for that kind of advertising. I suggest marketing geniuses put their brains to work to come up with some other clever age categorization for Teen Adults, so that they can effectively reach their demographic. If you read the reviews on the Teen Supergirl outfit, that costume isn’t even made for a “small teen body”. So maybe the term: Pre-adult might suit the eighteen to twenty crowd a little better. Some other suggestions include: Senior Teen, Adulteen, or Almostgrown.
  • I believe the human form is beautiful, and not something to be ashamed of. This is not an argument about hiding the body away under blankets. My daughter actually wears a two-piece bathing suit, although I’m not thrilled that all I could find was something that exposed her stomach, but that serves a practical purpose. One-piece bathing suits make potty time desperate. I encourage my daughter, and all women, for that matter, to love their bodies, and to embrace their own beauty. I try to do the same.
  • This isn’t a conversation about slut-shaming either. How an adult woman choose to dress is absolutely her own prerogative, and whether she likes it or not, she does have to deal with the consequences of her choices. The truth is that the male gaze sexualizes women no matter what they wear. Our gender is constantly besieged with uninvited commentary about our appearance, whether we are gorgeous, ugly, fat, skinny, or anywhere in between.
  • I don’t believe that there is anything a person can wear that invites rape.

It’s not just happening with our teens either. Here is a costume I found for a TWEEN costume. Whilst the costume itself isn’t overtly sexy, the way the model is posed suggests that we should think it is.

TWEENsexypose

The more I think about it, the more I realize that we are barraged with images of young girls in provocative clothing all the time. Competitive dance teams come to mind quickly. Think back to all the ten year-olds you’re seeing in crop tops on television, or just watch an episode of Dance Moms; Cheerleaders in way too short skirts; Or just plain commercial advertising. A bra top on a little girl is probably the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of. What are they even covering up? When did we start ascribing the characteristics of a woman to small children? When did it become okay to think of children in sexual terms?

My biggest beef is that we are allowing our children to imitate the costumes worn by adults. The word “sexy” isn’t being used overtly, but the silhouettes, hemlines, necklines, and shirt lengths are either the exact replicas of sexy clothing, or are actually sexier–just in youth sizes. Just the concept of sizing clothing intended to be sexy as 3T, or youth XS is so far beyond the capability of my understanding. I mean, think of the number of people who had to give their approval on those decisions. How did that conversation even happen?

“Hey boss, what do you think of the sexy nurse in teen size?”

“I like it.”

“Great, how about Exotic Dancer?”

“Make the skirt a little shorter, and the neckline lower, and make it in tween size too. Those twelve year-olds are gonna eat this stuff up!”

I think dressing kids up like mini-adults is kind of adorable, myself, but there are certain boundaries I subconsciously apply. For example, a little kid in tiny fatigues–adorable; a little kid in little scrubs–super cute; a little kid in a little suit–cute overload! When my Little was a toddler I created a mini version of an Audrey Hepburn a la Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and it’s still my favorite picture. However, when we start putting little kids in over the knee boots, or nipple tassels…things start getting creepy, and that doesn’t just apply to toddlers. That’s because the word sexy comes from the word sex–which is an act which should be reserved for adults only. When we even start to think about children in terms of sex, well, I don’t know about you, but I get that I’m-about-to-vomit feeling mixed with red hot rage. Tweenaged girls, and even young teen girls really don’t belong caught up in the midst of conversations about objectifying the female form. I don’t think anyone belongs there, but as adult women we are more prepared to fight these battles than our children are. Maybe by the time they get to our age, we’ll have defeated gender discrimination, but since we haven’t done it yet, how about we stop allowing our children to make the decisions in our homes, and say “no” to the sexy referee, huh?

This Halloween, let’s please encourage our children to stay children for as long as they can. Soon enough our daughters will be facing the same demeaning catcalls, and leering gazes of lecherous men.

We don’t have to rush it, do we?

 

 

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Happy Women’s Equality Day– August 26

“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.

Maya Angelou

suffrage

 

Today marks the 95th Anniversary of the certification of the 19th Amendment on August 26, 2015. It might sound cheesy, but I feel humbled by the sacrifices made by our foremothers. If it weren’t for the hunger strikes, and the devotion of women committed to ensuring that we all are able to enjoy the same individual rights to influence, and have a voice in the path of our country, my life would be a very different thing. I think they would be so proud to know that parents actively aim to raise their daughters to understand they are just as capable of success as their male counterparts, and raise their sons to understand that biology does not predetermine success.  Even the fact that there is an argument which suggests society may be guilty of swinging the pendulum too far; or the concept of the white, male, buffoon as the only caricature acceptably mocked in public, tells the story of partial success that could never have even been considered without their help. That’s neither to say that we shouldn’t be concerned about letting the pendulum swing too far, nor to invalidate worthy complaints. I could probably write for hours about those. What I’m focusing on, however, is celebrating the achievements we’ve accomplished, not just as women, but as a society, because, let’s face it, without the who men champion equality, we won’t ever fully achieve it. It’s a group effort.

For starters,  I’m really glad we overcame this nonsense:

vintage-women-ads-18There was an idea, and there are still people who believe it, that echo Thomas Jefferson’s. In Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchmen, my still all-time favorite literary Dad (Don’t worry, I still love you Atticus. All heroes fall.), Atticus Finch, says, “Jefferson believed full citizenship was  a privilege to be earned by each man, that it was not something given lightly or to be taken lightly.  A man couldn’t vote simply because he was a man.  A vote was, to Jefferson, a precious privilege a man attained for himself…”  Somewhere along the line America decided against Thomas Jefferson’s ideology, making citizenship a right gain simply by being born on American soil as opposed to enforcing a litany of rules in order to obtain it. It is in large part thanks to the 15th Amendment that this happened. So, shout out to everyone who made that possible. We really dig this citizenship thing around here.

Of course, we should recognize that even after women were granted the vote we were still viewed as ignorant, unintelligent, and inexperienced in all things out of the home, as is evident with this kind of advertising common in the 1950s:

men are better

 

Nowadays we are fortunate that women have been recognized as the powerful, worthy individuals we are, and advertising has been increasingly reflecting that. Always is probably my favorite example of this with their #LikeaGirl campaign that aims to change the way the phrase “like a girl” is used.

Like-a-girl-cover-600x400I really love how this has been championed by Breast Cancer Awareness groups as well.

59399-Fight-Like-A-GirlThe fight isn’t over yet. Until we reach a point where the wage gap has been closed, men stop trying to make care decisions for women’s bodies, and the binders full of women have been freed, we can’t really say we’ve achieved total success. The achievements we have accomplished, however, should be celebrated.

As I write this, my daughter is asleep on the couch next to me, and I can’t help but see in her all the various potentials for success that lay before her. Because of the work done to open the doors by women who have gone before us there are endless options of doors open for her.

So Happy Women’s Equality Day. May we one day live to see the intentions of this day realized entirely, and a deep heartfelt thank you to all of those who keep fighting for it. I hope you all kick ass today… like a girl.