Trying to get over the guilt

I went to school. A lot. I have two advanced degrees. Both from private schools. The initial problem with those degrees is that I wanted to use them in the public sector – prosecution and then law enforcement. Why was that a problem? Well, as soon as I decided to do it, the economy tanked and money just wasn’t going to either of those anymore. There weren’t many positions with the government and the ones that did exist were being given to people already in the federal system or veterans (I’m okay with both of those).

I did get a job doing something else, but then my health took a dive and my back went out and my leg was all jacked up. Now, even if they were hiring, I wouldn’t be able to take a job. I still can’t sit for too long, stand for too long, or walk for too long.

Last year I got on income-based repayment for my federal student loans. This resulted in a dramatic drop in the amount I owe each month. I’m working on the annual certification for the loans now and it looks like, for my federal student loans only, my payment may drop to $0/month. Yes, you read that correctly. Nothing owed per month.

As much as I hate paying on those stupid loans, I feel worse that I may not be paying anything. I bored the money and I know I owe it. (Though I do totally understand those people who are suing their law schools – the job market is shit and people couldn’t really get placed. I also think that they interest rate they charge for student loans is bullshit. Let’s stop helping corporations and start helping people. The economy would really benefit if people like me could actually buy a damn house and not make the equivalent of a mortgage payment in student loans.)

But I was talking to one of the customer service reps and I mentioned how bad I felt that I wouldn’t be paying much or anything. Her response? “Don’t feel bad.” Apparently she agrees that it’s all a racket.

Maybe one day soon I’ll feel amazing and be able to work like a healthy person again. In the meantime, I’m glad for this little break. Maybe now my stress level will drop some.

Reading Recommendation: Chick Lit – Jojo Moyes

As part of the 2015 Reading Challenge, I picked up a copy of Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes. The cover was pink and black and that’s often all I need to pick up a chick lit book. What I didn’t expect was how moved I was by the book. It was long and emotionally challenging. I cried. Not a little. The story is just that moving. The sequel, After You, has been published and I cannot wait to read it (after the millions of people who are ahead of me on the hold list finish with it).

Since I loved Me Before You, I checked out reviews on other books written by Moyes. All had absolutely rave reviews. I went to check another out at the library and discovered that about a thousand other people had figured out the same thing I had. I finally got One Plus One and read it.

I don’t think I like it as much as I liked Me Before You. However, Me Before You was *really* intense. Almost overwhelmingly so at times. I’m not sure I could have handled that kind of book right now. One Plus One is still serious, but a lot more light-hearted. The writing is still really high quality so I got through the book pretty quickly. For me that’s not usually a sign that the book is bad. I know that it is for some people. They feel like they can’t get any substance from a book that only takes a few hours, but for me it’s a sign that the story is compelling. It usually means I’m too intrigued to put it down.

I am really looking forward to more of her books, especially After You. If you’re in the market for Chick Lit and want something that’s well written and interesting, find your way to a Jojo Moyes book!

A Lucky Girl

It’s almost 4am and I’m the only one awake. Mr. Lyndsy is tossing and turning, sick. I hope I didn’t give it to him. He says it’s the change of weather, but who knows what I picked up on the plane. The dog is passed the hell out at the opposite end of our sofa. Not sure why she left the comfort of the bed. Maybe she thought I needed protection.

Jet lag is keeping me up, but so are the thoughts constantly running through my head. I have paperwork to get done so my student loans don’t skyrocket. I owe so much money that I’m not sure it’ll ever get paid back. At this point, I have a hard time caring. I thought I’d be able to work one of any several jobs but that didn’t pan out. At first it was budget issues since everything I wanted to do was government-related. Now it’s pain and health issues. Sitting at a desk doing anything for 8 hours a day just doesn’t feel like a possibility. I can’t get through a movie without my back and/or leg screaming at me. The fog that envelops my brain a lot of the time doesn’t help either. Hard to do anything detail-oriented if you can’t remember why you opened the computer in the first place.

I have no idea if my back, leg, or other issues will ever get better. I’m learning to live with what seems to be my new normal. I use the reminder app on my phone to keep lists (which helps, except when I can’t remember what I wanted to remember in the first place. (Seriously, I once thought, “I need Q-tips!” So I opened the app on my phone and then started making a list that included everything eXCEPT Q-tips.) I make sure I give myself plenty of time if what I’m doing requires walking or moving about very much. I have recovery days. Sometimes it’s just making sure I get a nap.

But then I think about our insane little dog who really is a bundle of love. I think about our fish who thinks the dog is insane (he told me so). I think about Mr. Lyndsy and his continuing support while I try to work out what the fuck is going on with my life. I think about the friends who were so happy to see me when I came to visit and the fact that I was able to visit. I think about my family, who are a little crazy, but generally a good group of people. I think about the toys I have to play with, a constant supply of craft materials, and that I have a bed that’s comfy even when I can’t sleep.

No, my life isn’t perfect. Far from it. But when I take a step back and think about all I do have, I realize just how lucky I am. And for now, that’s enough to get me through the shit of it.

Perhaps not a writer after all…

For years now, probably since my first National Novel Writing go in 2005, I have wanted to be a fiction writer. My mom has said that there was always at least a part of me that wanted to write, even as a kid. I got beaten down a little by my stepfather about it. He was an English teacher and just didn’t think I was any good at it. I don’t really think I felt like my mom thought I was much good either. I could do academic papers just fine, but I completely abandoned the fiction side of things until 2005.

Once I got married, took a part-time job, and moved across the world, I decided I would commit to writing. I was going to be a PUBLISHED AUTHOR! I had way more free time than I’d ever had before so clearly now was THE TIME.

I’ve been here over a year and I have just about no writing to show for it. I got 20,000 words into a mystery book last National Novel Writing Month and then just stopped. I got almost 10,000 in this year and then somehow wrote another 7,000 or so on the plane to visit family for Thanksgiving. Then didn’t pursue it any further.

It’s not that I don’t have ideas, I do. They’re not terrible ones either. Definitely books I think should exist. But I cannot seem to push myself to do anything about them.

There have been big things going on in my life over the last year and some. I had a major back surgery (that I didn’t think was that major – have since learned my lesson on that one since when they fuse anything, especially in your back, it’s a big deal), had complications, got married, moved overseas, didn’t have many local friends, had more surgery to deal with the complications of the back fusion, dealt with depression and anxiety. It’s enough to make anyone take some time.

But even when I was doing relatively okay, I wasn’t writing. November rolled around and I was like, “AHA! NOW is the time to write!” as though other months are off-limits from writing. Then, when November started, it was too much pressure and I just couldn’t.

Some of the time I think I forgot about the idea of just writing for fun and focused on the wrong thing – becoming published and making money. That isn’t why I started writing in the first place anyway. I started writing because I wanted to write happy endings for the people I knew when their lives weren’t really taking them to happy places. But once it stopped being about that and started being about other things, it didn’t hold the same interest.

I started working as a life coach in October. I only have one client, but so far I think it’s been great for both of us. One of the things we discussed was making lists. Lists give you a great sense of accomplishment when you can check something off as being done or not needing to be done. Lists can also let you know what you really value in your life. f you have a task on there (WRITE BOOK) that just doesn’t seem to be getting done no matter how many days, weeks, or months it spends on your list, it may just be something that isn’t that important to you.

And that’s where I am with the fiction writing. Rather than continue trying and beating myself up when it doesn’t happen, I’m going to let it go. Perhaps in the future my interest will swell and the words will flow. I’m too tuckered out with everything else in my life to beat myself up over this.

It’s also not like I don’t write. I do. It’s just not fiction. This blog is a place I can always come to get sorted out. I enjoy it. I have ideas at night that keep me up and it seems like if I just get them down on virtual paper, that my mind can rest a bit more easily.

So for now I’m going to focus on getting thoughts down onto paper when I have them, even if they’re about real people and real things and they aren’t going to make me any money.

Damn you, Disney/Pixar: The Good Dinosaur

Seriously, could you all make a movie that doesn’t make me cry? I really thought I was going to be able to get through The Good Dinosaur without shedding a tear. They did what Disney always does and kills off a parent (seriously – what’s up with that?) and I didn’t cry. I knew that shit was coming.

But then later on, with the weird little Spot human and all of it. I just couldn’t do it. My eyes misted up and I thought I might get away without actual full-blown crying. WRONG. Sopping mess by the end of it.

When I first saw the preview for the movie I thought I would skip it. It just didn’t seem to have the pull that most other Disney movies have for me. But my cousin went to see it and said it was great so I figured “what the hell?” I had some time to kill and the movie was showing at just the right time.

Doing the right thing in the face of family expectation isn’t easy. We so very much want to be accepted and loved by our parents, siblings, and extended family that doing what we know in our hearts to be the correct thing can seem almost impossible.

However, there is nothing that can replace the warm feelings we get inside when we follow our hearts. Sometimes the reward won’t seem as grand as it did in the movie (I know, duh), but there will always be a reward of some kind.

The short that introduces the movie is really done well and an important reminder for everyone about remembering culture and finding ways to incorporate it into our lives.

If you’re on the fence about seeing The Good Dinosaur, do it. Just remember to bring tissues.

Thoughts on Beauty

I am pretty sure I’m a bit slow to get to this thought, so for those of you out there who are light-years ahead of me, apologies.

There isn’t really any such thing as objective physical beauty. We’re all attracted to something different. I think Mr. Lyndsy is hot, but my cousin said she’d prefer someone with more hair. (I’ve always had a thing for guys without hair. Coach Walker, I’m talking about you.) People talk about how hot Angelina Jolie is and I mostly think she needs to eat a cookie (or four).

But when it comes to what makes a person beautiful on the inside, we all seem to agree. Caring. Kind. Compassionate. Sweet. Understanding. Empathetic. Joyful. Giving. Unselfish.

At the end of the day, when we’re trying to figure out who to let into our little circle of life, those inner qualities are the things that we generally focus on. At least if we’re looking for any kind of lasting happiness.

So why does the outside matter? What does it even mean? So much money goes into perfecting the outside. Why do we do it? I dye my hair, but not because I think it affects my attractiveness (Mr. Lyndsy actually doesn’t like it when I put blue, purple, and pink in my hair), but because I think it’s an expression of who I am.

I put on makeup as a joke the other day and realized that I hadn’t put any on in over 2 years. It’s not who I am. I know people who wear makeup because they feel like they have to because they feel that’s what’s expected of them. And that makes me sad because I also know people who wear makeup because they feel it’s an expression of who they are. That seems to me like the best reason to do anything. To fully express on the outside who you are on the inside.

And knowing that the outside really doesn’t matter that much, why do we waste so much time judging others for it? It’s fucked up to judge someone for expressing who they really are if they aren’t hurting anyone else by doing it.

Maybe it stems from being uncomfortable with the fact that someone is so comfortable expressing themselves. Showing who we are is hard. Seems like it would be a better investment of time, however, to deal with that issue rather than lashing out at people who are comfortable enough to do it.

Why is this so hard for us to do?

Or how about some personal responsibility?

Was scrolling through my Facebook feed when I saw this:

Dear restaurants of Doha💜💜💜,

Please stop us serving free bread before the meal. It’s delicious and very generous of you. But hard to resist and impossible to stick to a no-bread lifestyle for damsels in distress. Just to let you know they don’t do this in many other countries. Thank you for understanding.

Best regards,
A loyal customer

Saying no isn’t always easy. I’m fat. I get it. While some of my weight may be attributable to health issues, some of it is simply because I do not say no when certain foods are put in my face – Peanut Butter M&Ms are a good example. I also love bread.

However, if I don’t want to eat something, I *can* say no. I can ask them not to bring it. When a server goes to put it on the table, I can refuse it. I do it all the time with the sauces they serve at PF Chang’s. It’s not fucking rocket science. If you can say no before it ever gets to the table, life gets a lot easier.

Learning to say “no” has some great benefits. Instead of being a victim to what may be come at us, we take control over it. We take control over what goes into our bodies. We take control over our personal space. We take control over our time.

I absolutely abhor the lack of personal responsibility we seem to be demonstrating these days. It is not up to any restaurant to figure out what we should or shouldn’t eat. It’s not up to any business to sell products that are healthy for us. They’re simply meeting a demand. That’s their business. It is up to US to say that we don’t want something. We have the power when we refuse to buy their products.

If you don’t want bread, JUST FUCKING SAY NO.

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My Thanks to You

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Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate! To those who don’t, Happy Day of Lyndsy’s Gratefulness!

Thank you to all of you who are reading this. This blog may not be much to others, but it means a lot to me. I process a lot while I write and without a place to do it, thoughts would stay scrambled in my head. Somehow just talking to myself doesn’t have the same effect.

I’ve had a rough few years between loss, illness, and injury. Having you all read and support me from such distance has meant the world. I know that all of your kind thoughts and prayers have made things so much better for me than they would otherwise have been.

I have so so much to be thankful for this year. Family, friends who are like family – that’s what really matters to me in my life. Take away everything I own, and I’m still alright. None of those things will ever compare to the love and support of all of you.

While this is sort of *the* day of thanks, I hope you all have known well before this how much gratitude I have for you. I don’t ever want to take for granted the love, support, good humor, and caring you all send my way.

I hope everyone has an excellent day, whether you’re spending it with family, with friends, or doing your own thing. Whether it’s eating a traditional Thanksgiving Day spread or if it’s at a restaurant having steak.

If you’re having trouble coming up with good things in your life because life is trying to kick you around a lot right now, remember that I’m here and I dig you. Let’s chat. Have some laughs. You deserve it.

Love to all of you!

30-Day Project: October Wrap-up & November

30-day Project

Hello November! My goal for October was to read for one hour every day. It didn’t always come in a one-hour block, and there were two days I didn’t read at all. However, I read 18… EIGHTEEN books this October! Even though I didn’t read an hour every day, these 18 book went a long way toward finishing my reading challenge of 100 books for the year. I was behind schedule at the beginning of October and now I am 7 books ahead of schedule! Which is good since November is all about writing.

That’s right! It’s National Novel Writing Month again! I didn’t finish last year which disappointed me. I had over 20,000 words in the first 10 days and then basically stopped. I had some personal things going on and it was a novel that should have been plotted out a bit more (murder mysteries need SOME planning). Even still, I wanted to finish. I liked what I had.

This year, after reading “2K to 10K” by Rachel Aron, I have decided to plot out my story (I did it the old fashioned way with notecards on a cork board) and then, each day before I start writing, to plot out what I want to accomplish in each chapter. After having done this for only today, I can tell that it’s going to make a big difference.

My goal for November is to write for the novel every day. To finish 50,000 words in November and “win” NaNoWriMo, I have to write at least 1,667 words per day. Today I wrote for an hour and a half and got almost 2,600 words done!

This is a novel I want to publish so I’m taking it pretty seriously. Knowing that is stressing me out more than it’s helping, but I’m tired of making excuses for myself for why things aren’t getting done. So I’m just doing it.

I am still going to try to read this month as well. To me, being a good writer comes in part from being a good reader. Every time I read a book, I’m adding more notes – don’t do this, do this, that’s a good item to add/good plot twist/etc.

If you’re interested in what I’m writing, let me know and I’ll fill you in!

Oh, I’m also going to be doing the 30 Days of Thanks! I should really focus on thanks every day of the year and perhaps once I get on a roll this month I will.

Turkey Day Shopping

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A friend recently posted this to Facebook:

For at least the past 29 years football has been played on Thanksgiving. In 29 years I have never heard a peep about all the people that had to work on Thanksgiving to make that happen. I’m not talking about the players. I’m talking about the poor guys who direct the traffic, take tickets, sell food and beverages, etc. Why is that considered tradition but shopping on Thanksgiving some sort of sacrilege? (I could also add that at least as early as 1997 I have eaten at a restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner yet never seen such a hullabaloo about the waitstaff who have to work on Thanksgiving).

That sparked some interesting discussion. Some of the response was “Everything should be closed on Thanksgiving that isn’t safety (police/fire) or health (hospital) related.” Some people are irritated at businesses that are open and said that the onus is on the business to respect Thanksgiving. Sure, other things are open, but let’s not make the problem worse.

If people aren’t going to respect Thanksgiving, why should the businesses? Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Michael’s – none of them exist to uphold the moral fiber of America. That’s not their job. They are in business to sell items and take our money. We have, by continuing to shop on Thanksgiving, told them that we want them to be open. They’re simply giving us what we want. Economics 101 – Supply and demand.

I don’t get why anyone in the United States is surprised that Thanksgiving has become a consumer holiday. Thanksgiving is supposed to be about recognizing the blessings in life and being grateful for what we have. The Pilgrims were celebrating, as a community, their first harvest (and probably the fact that they managed to survive in a land they weren’t used to). (Of course, they had some help. We repaid the Native Americans by making them sick, taking their land, and disrespecting the women. Nice.)

Let’s face it though, the United States isn’t exactly known for being thankful for what we have. If we were, society wouldn’t be overrun by rampant materialism and consumerism. We wouldn’t work the ridiculous hours we do. Television wouldn’t be saturated with ads and product placement. No, we are all about MORE, MORE, MORE.

We have sacrificed connection, relationships, and family for things. This is why Thanksgiving is such a big deal in the first place. We dump a year’s worth of thanks and family time into ONE FREAKIN’ DAY. We’re so busy consuming or working to consume that we don’t stop and reflect on the blessings in our lives.

What if, instead of doing it once a year, we were thankful ALL YEAR? What if we focused on what we have instead of what we don’t have? There will always be a new iPhone. There will always be a faster computer. There will be a bigger TV with a sharper image.

I know I’m guilty of this. I bought myself five new t-shirts a month ago when I already have a drawer full. I have probably forty pairs of underwear. FORTY. What exactly do I think is going to happen that I won’t be able to wash my underwear? I have arts and craft stuff I don’t use but *had* to have. I have totally grossed myself out.

I do shop on Thanksgiving – sometimes the deals are too good to pass up and they’re items I’ve been eyeing for a while. Our family sort of makes it a family event though – I go with my mom and/or other family and friends. I’m sure there are parents who take advantage of it to make sure their kids have great Christmases. For some people it may be the only time they can go because they happen to be off.

There are a lot of dynamics that go into Thanksgiving shopping. But the reality is that if we want to see any kind of change, it has to come from the people, not the businesses. If you truly believe people should be off for Thanksgiving, use your passion to make compelling arguments to your friends. Convince them that it’s wrong to do. Go back into your communities and bring them to life again. Actually live the conviction that community is what matters. That we all matter to each other.

Maybe then shopping on Thanksgiving won’t be such a big deal.