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The Grey Matters


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Ol’ Mark Twain is Right… Again

Here’s a fun fact about Lou!!!

I love Mark Twain. I devour his writing. I think Huckeberry Finn is one of the best characters ever written. His satires are genius. He pulls at heart strings. I already knew a few of his famous quotes and words of advice, but I hadn’t seen them all.

I’m sure this list is just scratching the surface, but I wanted to share it with you. It made my morning even better. Maybe it’ll inspire you, too!

I originally saw the list here, but I’m going to write my own thoughts to each quote. Sound good? Yes!

1. A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval. 

I think this is even more interesting, given the women’s version, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” the one we all know and love by E.R. I’m all for women being strong, but perhaps we forget about men sometimes in that regard? Maybe? I’m sure this quote can be taken and “man” can mean “people.” I’m not really one to be bothered by the word man. Yet I really liked this bit of advice because it brings to light how uncomfortable anyone, men and women, can be in their own skin. You have to allow yourself to like yourself. Be your own biggest fan. It doesn’t mean conceit. It means being comfortable.

tie dye, road to rich's, writer, fiction

thumbs up to you!

You’ll find yourself going about your day with a smile or a small sense of pride and accomplish in what you do. If you’re going to “waste time,” approve of it and let yourself have a great day at home in your sweatpants. Then, wake up early, get dressed, and get everything done the next day.

2. Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

I’ve done this. I’ve griped about my age. I’m 24!!! I know this is SILLY!!! But we’ve all done it. I didn’t even want to turn 16 because 15 (half way to 30) was good enough for me. Crazy.

age 15... do I want to return? Not really.

age 15… do I want to return? Not really.

Let’s start a revolution. I almost wish that years weren’t charted and age was never discussed. After all, I’ve met people in their 50’s who seem younger than that 30 year old I just talked to. When I was little I imagined the age of 50 to be little old blue haired grannies. That is soooo not that case. Not anymore. When I was really into rock climbing I saw my boss from work there, and he kicked every young guy’s butts when it came to climbing hard routes. He can do anything. Being young at heart isn’t just a cliche, it’s real. I believe it’s real.

I think this is the recipe for being young at heart and not minding your age:

— laughing instead of fretting

–smiling rather than frowning (smile wrinkles look better!)

— talking and conversing rather than being trapped in your own head

— breathe some fresh air, see life happening around you (like planting a small garden. lots of older people who seem young are the type who love to be outside. not a coincidence!)

— loving rather than hating (forgiving rather than grudging)

3. Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.

  Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.

Laughter is simply the best way to live life. Surround yourself with it. Laugh when you want to get upset. It is a blessing. Why did God make us into beings who do this weird breathing that sounds goofy and it’s uncontrollable? I mean, what IS laughter, really? I can hardly describe it. Sometimes my laughter is completely silent… that’s only for the very funniest of moments.

lobster, cooking, mark twin

YEAH MAN

mark twain quotes

us, imitating our chickens. you can’t imagine how funny he is.

I am one of those people who believes that laughter truly heals. Enjoy this blessing!

4. Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.

Oh, man. Same with resentment, hatred and jealousy. This year was a big one for me when it comes to anger and forgiveness and the like. I forgave people I never thought I would. I was also forgiven in the most gracious of ways…over and over again.

And I realized: the happiest people I know don’t hold in anger. I rarely see them angry. It isn’t a part of their lives.

writing, mark twain, hey lou, farming, backyard

Forgiveness, 7X70…is huge for us <3

When I forgave people I’d been so glad to stay angry with, the weight was lifted off of my shoulders almost immediately. I felt lighter after walking away from a conversation in which forgiveness was a part. Being angry only affects one person… YOU.

5. Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

Damn, Mark. I’m so glad the world was graced with his presence. I love this. Don’t feel entitled to anything.

That’s it for that one.

6. A person with a new idea is crank until the idea succeeds. 

Has anyone ever looked at you with complete doubt after you’ve shared an idea with them? It’s probably happened to us all. There’s a good chance no one will believe in your idea. Not until it “works.” Here we circle back to #1. (approve of yourself!) 

7. Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.

Just DO IT! Not talking about Nike here. I’m talking about forgetting your trouble and moving on. Mark says to do this any possible way.

Boot straps might help.

mark twain quotes, coffee, flowers, roasting, chickens, marriage, writing

flowers!

I say, wake up one day and be better. Move on. Be stronger than what’s happened to you. You can do this. Even if you have to drag through the mud to get to the pretty flowers.

8. The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.

Here we go, #7. We found a way to pull ourselves up out of a slump. Help someone else! I think Huck Finn could give us a lesson or two on this. He was always concerned for Jim in ways no one had ever had concern for him.

Hint: This doesn’t have to mean just people. Focusing on a pet could work, too. For most people this is a dog or cat. For me, it’s chickens.

chicken coop, raising chickens, baby chicks

proud moment for this mom

Here’s a big secret: I was in a huge downer slump when we got our baby chickens. I was. But once we had little lives to take care of, I found myself trudging through that mud. I want to give my chickens the BEST life… I want them to be the happiest chickens on planet Earth. Through that I’ve found happiness in ways I never thought possible.

9. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Disclaimer— this does NOT mean YOLO and not giving a hoot about others. 

Going on all of those adventures will be a whole lot more fun if you have your friends and loved ones by your side. If you need to go off on your own, do it. It is a part of the adventure. But don’t throw all care away to indulge yourself. There’s a fine line.

mark twain, writing, tie-dye festival, music, new mexico, fiction

me at a hippy musical festival… a place I never thought I’d be in a million years!

But my all means, explore every single day. Discover something new. Allow your mind to be challenged. Let yourself be blown around, because maybe the wind (God) knows more about your own life than you do.

And that’s all folks! I hoped this cheered you up the way it did for me.

Good Old Mark.

Love,

Lou, the lover of Huckleberry

 

 

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In Dubious Battle

Steinbeck could easily be my favorite author. I’ve read Grapes of Wrath three times and have plans to read it again. My favorite short story of ALL TIME is written by him and called Johnny Bear (just google it and you can probably find a copy to read.)

JS is amazing. I can’t get over the way he captures human nature the way no other author has been able to do. He gets inside the brain of mankind and he doesn’t leave any of it out. He has a point, a message, but he rarely rants about one thing without giving “devil’s advocate” a say. How can we hate the man who’s plowing down our house? He has a family, too. Blame the bank, blame the system, the government… it’s all men, but it’s beyond men. Hate doesn’t exactly have a say when it comes to society treating some well and some poorly.

In Dubious Battle was once described to me as an intense, in-your-face, punch in the gut version of Grapes of Wrath. I’d have to say I completely agree. “Read it, Melinda, and you’ll love it,” I was told. And so I read it.

I don’t know as much as some, but I have reason to believe that the union isn’t what it once was. I’ve seen unions do things that aren’t helpful. My own husband works at Whole Foods, where there is no union, but they treat their employees SO WELL because of it. They don’t need a union. If I were to have ideals about the working man getting his due (which I DO!), I’d have to say that’s the Old Union. People with Shame On posters drive me up the wall.

Anyway.

In true John Steinbeck fashion, this book has paragraphs that I read over and over again. Not because I didn’t understand it, but because I wanted the words to soak up into me and become part of who I am. I want to remember the words. I want to repeat them, think of them, and learn more about myself in the process.

in dubious battle, book review, john steinbeck, reading, unionIn Dubious Battle is about a man, Mac, who is a member of the Party (which party, however, is never specified), and becomes the [hidden] leader of a fruit picking strike. Jim joins Mac, and in doing so, becomes more like Mac than Mac, himself.

Before Jim joins the party:

Jim looked evenly at him. “Do you ever work at a job where, when you got enough skill to get a raise in pay, you were fired and a new man put in? Did you ever work in a place where they talked about loyalty to the firm, and loyalty meant spying on the people around you? Hell, I’ve got nothing to lose.”

“Nothing except hatred,” Harry said quietly. “You’re going to be surprised when you see that you stop hating people. I don’t know why it is, but that’s what usually happens.”

Advice:

“…You can’t make a general rule of it, because sometimes it flops, but mostly a guy that tries to scare you is a guy that can be scared.”

“Do you know that ten men can lift nearly twelve times as big a load as one man can?”

“Jim, I wish I knew it. But in my little experience the end is never very different in its nature from the means. Damn it, Jim, you can only build a violent thing with violence.”

John constantly pulls me in with his words. They’re beautiful. Simple and pure and lovely.

The candle and the dawn fought each other so that together they seemed to make less light than either would have made alone.

The air was full of their apathy, and full of their discontent.

Mac, who is such a leader, teaches Jim that in order to win this strike, he can’t think of individual men. If one barn has to be burned, then so be it. It’ll be better in the end. If Mac has to make some kid’s nose bleed to prove a point, it’s not about the kid, it’s about the strike and the small steps toward progress. “Making a billboard, not a corpse,” as he puts it.

I don’t think that violence is ever a good thing. I think human beings need to defend themselves and stand up for what they believe in. I truly believe that men, like the men that John Steinbeck writes, are hard to find these days. I’ve only met a few in my time.

No matter your political party, whether you are in a union or not, or whether you come from the bank side of things, or the farm, reading any John Steinbeck novel is a good dose of reality for you. We can’t forget the wars of dignity that have raged on. We cannot let the government take over our food the way they did during Steinbeck’s time. I think, if he could write a book about it, he’d write about Monsanto and GMOs and the way that people are being poisoned by their own government. He’d possibly point out that our basic needs were being controlled. I can just hear him saying:

They’re makin’ the people sick. They are. And you know what’ll happen next? People’ll have to go to the hospitals. But they can’t afford no hospitals. Then, guess what? They owe the bank. They owe the bank because of what they fed him. Made ‘im sick, then fed him more poison while he was there. A man has a right to grow his own crop and not get sued. A man’s got a right to feed his family somethin’ real.

Those words will never be JS’s words, but I hear them all the same.

Love, Lou


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And Then I Read The Corrections and Vowed Never To Be Like…

…well…. anyone in this book, really.

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen is another must read. (I’m sure I’ll do a review on a book I don’t like very soon, because all I seem to be doing these days is reading. [I’m currently in the middle of a book I’m not enjoying, but I’ll get through it, don’t you worry.])

UFFDA! Welp, since I don’t want to be like anyone in this book, I’m currently dealing with a little bit of denial. Not really, but sort of.

You see, I’m a Midwesterner. I DO consider myself from the Southwest nowadays, but when it comes down to what I call POP, or how often I say UFFDA, or the fact that I get my Minnesotan ACCENT back whenever I’m within a ten mile radius of someone with their own Minnesotan accent…you get the pictures. Once you’re from the Midwest, a part of you will always stay there. I will always have lefse in my heart (and regrettably not in my stomach.)

writing, memory, fishing, dad, vivid

just caught fish at a LAKE… yup… MN for sure ;)

So as I read The Corrections, I was constantly reminded of that random old lady down the street, that person I could have turned into, the way my life might have turned out had we stayed. (NOTE: This is in no way a statement about everyone in the Midwest being like the characters in this book, but hey, just read it, and TELL me you don’t at least see a little bit of yourself… and learn to laugh at yourself, too, please.)

As always, I feel the need not to tell you too much (as I am usually accused of doing here in the Williams household.) I will give you just enough info to convince you that this book will in some way improve your life.

“She had so much personality and so little anything else that even staring straight at her he had no idea what she really looked like.”

Because do you want to be an unhappy man, with an awful, lying and conniving wife, who ultimately blames his parents for everything that goes wrong? 

Do you want to have affair after affair with married men and women random people while you pine away at your career because you literally have nothing else in life? 

Does getting fired from the best job you can imagine sound great, especially after taking a ton of drugs and doing something very much against the rules, appeal to you?

AND…Drum roll please…. do you want to feel as if the only chance for your own personal happiness lies in having one last Christmas with your three children in town, because you suspect all might fall even further to sh*t and if it doesn’t happen now, it most certainly never will? 

Now listen. I am not one of those “Nobody can be truly happy, marriage is b.s., and the American Dream is the biggest joke, right after something baseball related (do I know anything about baseball? No. But someone who does would say something about it here.)” I’m not. I’m really happy, I swear. I think people make their own happiness based on what they choose to have in their lives, which includes people, objects, laughter and more. That is: the right people, not many objects, tons of laughter, and a lot of other factors that we decide as we wake up in the morning. 

“And if you sat at the dinner table long enough, whether in punishment or in refusal or simply in boredom, you never stopped sitting there. Some part of you sat there all your life.”

Even being a fairly positive, optimistic person, I still loved this good-and-depressing book. I was wrapped up in the drama of each individual story. I wanted the characters to fall further and further, simply to understand and learn how that could possibly happen in life and why, during the fall, it seems okay to be going down instead of up.

Enid, the mother and wife in this story, is an always judgemental, yet always feeling judged, good and “true blue,” tradition following Midwesterner. She and her husband Alfred have one of the saddest relationships I’ve ever read about, and to make matters worse, he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. All she wants is for her three children, Gary, Chip and Denise to come home for Christmas.

The fact that Gary’s wife refuses to ever step foot in her in-law’s house for a holiday again makes this difficult. So does Chip’s sketchy new job in a foreign country, where his main concern is conning the people in the US. And Denise shows interest only because, as the youngest, she feels the most obligation to at least make her father happy, if nothing else.

“The only guaranteed result of having an affair would be to add yet another disapproving woman to his life.”

This book will keep you up at night as you read about business ventures that are way over your head, heartbreaking mistakes, even more heartbreaking judgments, and ultimately… the love of a family, and how no matter how messed up every. single. person. in said family may be, there will always be a hidden reason you should love them and be grateful for them.

And you’ll immediately start feeling like the crazy you thought your parents were, they aren’t. (love you mom and dad!)

And you’ll see your marriage as one of the most functional in all the land.

And you’ll never want to travel to a foreign Eastern European country for “business.”

You might even stop trying to change everyone around you and start accepting them for who they are. You might reach over and grab your spouse’s hand, realizing that the gesture means more to some people than a million dollars. Your heart might warm, even though this is a pretty hard-core realism-induced depressing-state-of-America type book.

You’ll see the light, or it may find you within these pages.

Let me know if you read The Corrections. I’d love to hear that it affected someone the way it affected me.

Love, your truly happy, content, and Midwestern

LOU

The Corrections, book review, hey lou writes, writing

Promise!


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Summer Reading Just Got Better

Summer reading- it isn’t just for school.

Remember when you signed up for your first honors English class and suddenly regretted it because there was a summer reading list?

I do.

Back in high school, I didn’t come close to finishing all of the assigned books, whether it was summertime or not. I wasn’t as much of a reader as I am now. (Thank God that has changed!)

I had a request (so exiting!) here on HeyLouWrites to give out a suggested summer reading list to YOU… from LOU. Of course, I was game.

THEREFORE,

each week I’ll tell you which books to read, why you should read them, and give you just enough of a scoop about them to give you a hint as to whether or not you’re interested. Personally, I think you should give every book a try.

Because why not?

After all, I won’t be grading you on this. There is no deadline. No weekly quiz, no final exam. And you won’t be called on to read out loud.

How much more could you want? :)

Every Sunday this summer I’ll give you two reading suggestions, as well as the book I’m currently reading. My own personal goal is to read at least one book a week. YAY

Ready? Okay. Let’s get reading. 

summer reading, books, writing, reading

LOVE THESE BOOKS

BOOK ONE: THE WILD CARD

Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk 

“A girl calls and asks, “Does it hurt very much to die?”
“Well, sweetheart,” I tell her, “yes, but it hurts a lot more to keep living.”

This book is not for the faint of heart. It’s crude, sexual, violent, rude, inappropriate…but most importantly… awesome.

Yes, this offensive book is a page turner from page 1. (Or should I say… page 289?)

Tender Branson grew up in a cult. He knows he’s ugly, and he is terrified of sex. Terrified. He urges people to end their lives, something he has contemplated doing a lot lately.

“…the only difference between suicide and martyrdom is press coverage.”

In true Palahniuk style, which, to be honest, I can’t handle every time, this book will outrage you and surprise you. But I guarantee you will like something about good ol’ Tender.

BOOK TWO: THE BESTSELLER

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery 

“The real ordeal is not leaving those you love but learning to live without those who don’t love you.”

Someone once told me they couldn’t finish this book because the main character was too pretentious.

I said that was precisely why I couldn’t put it down.

When I bought the book, the guy at the book store said, “Okay, it’s amazing. Just be prepared to face the fact that you will never be as smart as the main character. Like ever.” I took his word for it and started reading in my car. (while it was parked- I get sick if I read in a moving vehicle. which is a total bummer.)

The Elegance of the Hedgehog does something I love … it shows the growth and change of a person, all within a few hundred pages. Renee is a simple concierge in a fancy hotel. People treat her like crap all day long because she must answer when they call. But in reality? She is way smarter. She knows more about everything, and she often finds grammar mistakes in the snobby notes the rich people leave her.

For anyone who loves grammar, this book will make you laugh out loud.

And for anyone with a heart, this book will make you bawl your eyes out.

I didn’t think I would. Sure, I liked Renee and the other protagonist, Paloma (a young girl who wants to burn her apartment complex down), by the end, but I wasn’t aware of how attached I’d grown until the last page.

Find out who you are, what you believe in, how well your grammar skills truly are, and why your family is probably normal, compared to most.

“Personally I think that grammar is a way to attain beauty.”

You will soon understand how a hedgehog could be elegant.

BOOK THREE: MY BOOK CLUB’S CURRENT READ

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

I LOVED The Time Traveler’s Wife. I can’t wait to get this book and read it. Niffenegger won’t let me down, I can already tell. I mean, look at that amazing title! Isn’t it just lovely?

Next week I’ll tell you how it was.

Now get reading!!! Let me know if you pick up any of these books this week, if you’ve already read them, and then, of course, what you think once you’ve read them.

Can’t wait!

Love, Lou


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2+2=4 {Not Just A Math Equation}

Update: WE HAVE BEEN BUILDING OUR CHICKEN COOP ALL DAY!!!!

but you can’t say I’ve missed day 4 of the challenge… it’s not midnight yet! The challenge continues…

Day 4, Saturday: Favorite quote (from a person, from a book, etc) and why you love it

First off- The Runner Ups:

You are what what you eat eats. -Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them. -Ray Bradbury

And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good. -John Steinbeck, East of Eden

I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy. Holden in Catcher In The Rye, J.D. Salinger

All right, then, I’ll go to hell. – Huck Finn in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

(Pat yourself on the back if you can tell WHY those are quotes I think of each day.)

Drum roll please… my favorite quote of all time is this:

Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two makes four. -Winston in 1984, George Orwell

Have you read this book? If not, you should. I think it’s the most imperative read out there.

I’ll tell you why.

We are living in a day and age when media and advertisements rule all. One story in the news will disappear while another shows up out of the blue, telling us something completely different. It’s confusing.

One example:

Drink milk- we all need our calcium. What those ads don’t tell you is that drinking milk is one of the worst ways to get calcium into your body. In fact, calcium is actually stripped away in order to process the milk. Dr. Frank Sabatino, PhD (as quoted in Main Street Vegan by Victoria Moran) says, “Bone health is not dependent on the calcium you take in, but on the calcium you keep in. Calcium, in its charged state, can be used to alkalinize the body by buffering or neutralizing acidity. As the body becomes more acidic from a diet high in animal protein, it will pull calcium out of the bones to neutralize the negative effects of acidity and inflammation.” Also: Scandinavia and the USA have the highest rates of hip fracture. And the highest dairy intake. (the good news- we can get our calcium where the cow got hers, through greens. one cup of collard greens has more mg of calcium than a cup of milk)

I won’t even get into the more depressing “facts” floating around. There are too many.

If you read 1984, you will see that Winston is conflicted. His job is to take yesterday’s news, make it disappear, and replace it with today’s news. He sees the error in this because the news stories are always opposites.

“We are at war with Eurasia” one day.

“We were never at war with Eruasia, we are now at war with Eastasia” the next.

Winston knows that they were at war with Eurasia. He remembers it. But that is not the way he is supposed to think.

War is peace.

Freedom is Slavery.

Ignorance is Strength.

That’s what Winston is supposed to believe. But guess what? He doesn’t. He knows that as long as he is aware of the Truth, he will be free. He can pretend to agree with the government. He can go with the flow of the crowd. As long as he can think the Truth.

When Winston is faced with the toughest, challenging moment of his life, here’s what he’s told:

‘How can I help it?’ [Winston] blubbered. ‘How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.’

‘Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.’

Do you think it’s enough? To know the truth and hold onto it no matter what? Do you think that if you were in jail for years and years, but you still had your own freedom of thought and knowledge, that you would in some way, actually feel free? I honestly don’t know if I’m that strong. It’s scary to think about. All I know is that I will take Ray Bradbury’s advice and never stop reading. We can’t stop reading, ever.

We need to believe what Winston believed. We can’t let anything take that away from us. (Um, I won’t spoil the ending, but just know, your life will never be the same after reading 1984.)

If I ever get a tattoo, it will say: two and two make four.

Because freedom truly is the ability to say something real, even when the government (or any “higher power”) tries to tell you otherwise.

2+2=4.

It’s true.

What idea or quote do you hold onto as a way of living life?

<3 Lou


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Do It Yourself …the art of being a catalyst

writer, new writer, catalyst, short stories, poems

It’s the only way :)

I was recently told by someone I know this: “You were a catalyst for me.”

I looked up the word. It’s actually pretty scientific.

Catalyst-

1: a substance that enables a chemical reaction to proceed at a usually faster rate or under different conditions (as at a lower temperature) than otherwise possible
2: an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action
Therefore… this person thinks that something I did changed something in their life at a faster rate than it might have, had I not done something. Or I provoked a significant change.
At first I was a little bit taken aback. After all, I’d rather be, say, important to someone, or a part of their life, than simply a catalyst for whatever the heck happened or is happening. I felt like I had the word stamped across my forehead. Like I had become this thing, this symbol for someone else’s life. (On a good note, I think the person meant it as a compliment.)
I’ve been thinking lately about my own life. If I’m going to be a catalyst for something, I’d rather it be my own goals. I want to do something that sparks a fast change in my own life. I want to provoke something new and good to happen. I have to keep doing things to make life interesting, because as the saying goes, “God doesn’t move a parked car.” We have to set our own goals and work toward them.
Here is one quote I’ve been in love with lately:
short stories, author, writer, new writer, poetry

No Exceptions

I have a magnet of this quote up on my fridge. It really does remind me each and every day to live life to the fullest. There are certain changes I DO want to make, and they aren’t going to happen unless I simply change my actions.

SO!

Think positively.

Visualize your goals. 

Sit down and do the work! (I spend hours a day writing. I’m not perfect, I’m just working really hard!!!)

Choose to support the things you LOVE… don’t spend so much time (and wasted energy)  hating the things you don’t approve of or dislike.

Be patient! 

Don’t let your self be a catalyst for someone else. Be your own!!!

I’ll leave you with yet another great quote:

“To be a catalyst is the ambition most appropriate for those who see the world as being in constant change, and who, without thinking that they can control it, wish to influence its direction.” -Theodore Zeldin, Historian and Author

Because I don’t ever want to feel the word burning into my forehead again… I’d rather it be written on my own heart for my own reasons.
:)


1 Comment

Be Notorious

writer, new writer, short stories, poetry, rumi

The book YOU need to get TODAY and let change your life.

According to the online Webster definition of Notorious, it means:
adj; generally known and talked of; especially: widely and unfavorably known.

This doesn’t sound all that great. I’ll probably never be widely talked of (I’m no celebrity) and the idea of being unfavorably known? That’s a little scary. It’s scary to think that people might not like me.
HOWEVER. This is the quote that’s been changing my life lately:
Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.” -Rumi

I’ve been obsessed with Rumi lately. The old poet who speaks so often of love, God, life and relationships… well, his words truly are life changing. This quote in particular really gets to me.
Take the first line…

Run from what’s comfortable.

Why should I? My life is very comfortable. I’ve been enjoying things. I have a lot to look forward to each and every day. But have I truly felt alive? Have I felt that through all of this comfort, a reason why I might be here on this Earth? No. I know that in order to make a difference and live a life that matters, I need to be uncomfortable. What I’m not sure about is whether it will be a mild discomfort or a big one. I guess I’m kind of ready for both.

Now let’s face the second line…

Forget safety.

What’s safe? The first thing that popped into my head, which I’m sure most  people won’t really agree with, was not having a dog to take care of. Wearing all of my layers in order to not freeze to death… making sure I wake up in time to make coffee and prepare an awesomely healthy breakfast… which means going to bed early enough to do that… safety is everywhere. In every action I’ve been taking. What does this mean? Forget safety? I don’t think it means that I should stop wearing my seatbelt or anything like that. However, I think it means going out on a limb. It means living enough to let things happen, whether they are good or bad. I won’t actually put myself in danger, but I won’t take every little precaution necessary to be safe. If I’m safe my entire life, well… that doesn’t make for much of a life.

Live where you fear to live.

What does that mean to you? For so many it means alone. For some it means living in a new place. It means taking that new job or quitting that old one. It means going for your dream even if you go broke trying to do so. Live where you fear to live. That will make getting up every day much more interesting… wouldn’t you agree?

Destroy your reputation.

Now, I’m not talking Kristen Stewart style or anything. This is inspiring because it really brings home this: It does not matter what other people think. How in the world could it matter? No one else is with you 24/7. YOU are the only one living with your every day actions. You are the only one who should care about your reputation… which means the way you think about yourself!!! Wouldn’t it be funny to hear someone say, “Yeah, I think I have a pretty good reputation. I mean… I like myself.” That would be refreshing. Not only would that person A) be awesome because they truly didn’t care what other people thought, but they’d also B) be even more awesome because they truly liked themselves. I’m craving more people in my life who truly love who they’ve become. I love authenticity, but without the pretentiousness that sometimes comes along with that. Would you be acting differently if reputation had nothing to do with it? That’s what inspires me. I need to do what I want to do, regardless of what others think. Even if that destroys my reputation. My current one, anyway. I guess we’ll always have one. It just might change!!

And finally…

Be notorious.

Which to me, means live with bravery. Be known for doing something crazy or exciting. Be known for going out on a limb and not giving up when you land on your stomach and get the wind knocked out of you. Anyone can survive that… after you get past the part where you can’t breathe.

So I’ll be doing my best to live out Rumi’s words. I feel TRULY inspired. I hope you do, too!!


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Naturalism and Elk Hunting

NATURALISM and what HUNTING taught me.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Nature is a beautiful thing. The trees, the way they sway in the breeze, the fresh air, sounds of birds chirping all over the place… the cool and crisp morning that wakes you up. It all amounts to that stereotypical way many of us view nature- as a very peaceful, harmonious place. That’s so very true on many levels, but then again, there’s the side that is pretty downright vicious and mean and relies solely on survival of the fittest.

WHERE BOTH BEARS WERE SIGHTED!!!!

Take for instance, seeing my first BEAR. This might sound fun, like a movie or something, but I’ll tell you right now- it was scary. Greg saw two bears! I am thankful I only encountered one. After a day of calling elk in and not seeing any movement, I took the arrow off of my bow, made to leave the area, and when I stood back up there was a HUGE cinnamon bear (which we learned is technically a black bear) not more than twenty-five yards away. I began whispering to Greg (Fantastic Mr. Fox style, here) “Oh, cuss, oh, cuss, oh, cuss…” and hyperventilating. Greg kept calm, reminded me he had his pistol, while I’m shaking and trying to get my arrow back on my bow. The bear looked at us with its stuffed-animal-perfect -teddy-bear-face, and then disinterestedly walked away. WHEW. Talk about dodging a bullet, and that bullet is being eaten by a freaking bear.

Katniss style- my view when I hold my bow :)

NEVER before in my life had I been

a) in the wilderness for a full day of my life, from sun-up to sun-down

b) in a close proximity with something that could take my life in one swift move, or

c) so afraid for my actual life.

The whole aspect of nature and naturalism suddenly became close to home. I understood it better than ever before.

Amazing

In Jack London’s To Build a Fire, naturalism is quite clear. The man screws up, and the dog remains alive because of instincts. When my dad harvested his elk (woohoo!) I asked him if perhaps that cow elk’s “family” would miss her. He told me with confidence that no, nature is pretty indifferent to that sort of thing. The rest of the elk would move on without her and a new mature cow elk would take her place in keeping everyone together.

Now isn’t that a reality check? Nature is INDIFFERENT. None of those animals actually gives a care about us. They might care about each other, but that’s because as a group they are more likely to stay alive.

In Stephen Crane’s The Open Boat, nature is personified and glorified until the men realize it’s going to kill them. All of a sudden, nature isn’t such a beautiful and peaceful thing.

“If I am going to be drowned- if I am going to be drowned- if I am going to be drowned, why, in the name of the seven mad gods who rule the sea, was I allowed to come thus far and contemplate sand and trees?” (Because nature is indifferent!) …….

This man feels that nature wanting to kill him would be unnatural after all of the hard work he’s done in his life. It isn’t fair. He knows others have died the same way, but can’t help thinking it’s still unfair to HIM…

…”When it occurs to a man that nature does not regard him as important, and that she feels she would not maim the universe by disposing of him, he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples. Any visible expression of nature would surely be pelleted with his jeers.”

Later, perhaps the best line of the entire story: “She did not seem cruel to him then, nor beneficent, nor treacherous, nor wise. But she was indifferent, flatly indifferent.”

It’s easy to lash out at something that “doesn’t care about us.” But isn’t it also a comfort to know that it isn’t all about us? That there’s a bigger picture of this Earth? That the world around us has many concerns and ways to survive? I think it’s humbling. I think it’s a reminder to work hard and stay as strong and fit as we possibly can. It’s a good incentive, don’t you think?

Before this hunting trip I tried getting into shape. I was doing it for my body (mostly just how it looked…) and so that I could keep up with my dad. My thoughts on physical health now? Stay in shape for that time when nature may get the better of us. When Greg and I were splitting our second protein bar out in the woods I kept thinking, “If I had to live on these…if I had to sleep out here…if I had to kill my own food for each and every meal…COULD I?” Would I survive? I went back and forth between “Yes, of course I could survive that. I’m tough” and “I would die right away.” (kind of like this…)

A good thought: even if nature is indifferent, there are people in my life who aren’t. Human love is unbeatable! My dad and my husband were there. They cared about whether the bear killed me or not. My family was praying for us while we were out in the wilderness. I have God, who cares about me more than any person, too. He created a nature that may be viewed as indifferent, but I care about nature even if it is indifferent to me.

Perhaps that’s why humans can’t simply live in peace. There will always be war (unfortunately) and destruction and people will always disagree. I love the idea that peace is possible. I am hopeful for it and I pray for it. But at the end of the day, I think it’s a very unrealistic thing to wish for. We are a part of nature, as much as living in our homes with our technology may feel like a separation from that. If we are a part of nature, it means it’s normal for us to have some tension and chaos and for moments to be anything but peaceful. If the world broke out into panic and all technology was gone, or food ran out, or some other disaster hit EVERYONE, I’m pretty sure we’d all be feeling a little bit more “survival of the fittest.” Even the most peaceful of person would want to survive, want their children to survive, and would go to almost any means in order to make that happen. This is what I truly believe, but I’d like to hear other thoughts.

Being that nature is so beautiful, I think that it would be a disservice to forget the other side… the side that isn’t so forgiving. That, in its own way, is beautiful too.


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Birthdays, Harry Potter and Characters

Characters and Empty Nest Syndrome.

new writer, short stories, twins

my twin!

Let me first say happy birthday to myself, my twin sister, Meredith, and most importantly, Harry Potter. Yes, I share a birthday with Harry. On July 31st,1989 we were born and I think Harry started existing in J.K. Rowling’s head somewhere around 1991. It’s crazy to think that at one point in time H.P. didn’t even exist.

Yup. I know. It’s hard to even visualize, but there was a time.

Being that Harry is one of the most well known characters ever written, sharing a birthday with him is awesome. It’s one of my favorite facts about myself. That, and the fact that I also have a matching scar on my forehead (shaped like a crescent moon rather than lightning, but still!)

I turn 23 today. If you listen to music you might be aware of how profound this age really is. It’s mentioned too many times to count. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing has yet to be determined. I’ll try my best to make that decision by pointing out the honorable mentions of the age here:

Blink 182: What’s My Age Again?

“Nobody likes you when you’re twenty-three….”

+1 because this suggests that we’re still young enough to be annoying…at least that’s what I want it to mean

Coolio: Gangsta’s Paradise (listened to this song a lot in my eighth grade ‘cussing and rap phase’ ay yi yi!)

“I’m 23 now, but will I live to see 24, the way things are going I don’t know…”

-1 because I am so embarrassed to have been such a wannabe white middle school girl listening to what I thought of as gangsta rap

Yellowcard: Twenty Three

“We’re almost twenty-three and you’re still mad at me…”

-1 just because this is sad

Tristan Prettyman: Simple As It Should Be

“I am almost 23, confused with all the lines in between…”

+1 because it’s so cute, my husband Greg and I did long distance for two years and it was one of the songs that helped me, and she makes 23 sound not so bad

Justin Townes Earle: Yuma

“So he was just 23 when he stepped out on that ledge…”

-1 because this is flat out depressing. (Although it’s one of my all-time favorite songs by one of my all-time favorite artists!!! check it out!!)

Blitzen Trapper: Furr

“On the day that I turned 23, I was curled up underneath a dogwood tree…”

+1 because why not? I don’t actually know this song well enough to judge, Meredith just told me about it!

So it comes out even.

I guess I can count how many songs talk about the age. SIX. If you know of more please let me know!

I’ll get out of my rant about my own age and focus again on Harry Potter and characters in general.

So.

Okay.

As fiction writers we do one main thing…we tell a story about a character (or many, many characters). They didn’t exist until we made them.

But are we writing a story about some new person we’ve created or a story about ourselves? I’d argue on both ends. I have written more than 60 different characters. Some are very minor, some are major. It hardly matters. I’ve mothered them, given them the means to exist, coaxed them off into their own world until they could function without me, and then wanted them to return home. I MADE YOU. WHERE ARE YOU GOING? I’ve felt like saying this before. There is a quote that has really stuck with me.

“The moment comes when a character does or says something you hadn’t thought about. At that moment he’s alive and you leave it to him.”   -Graham Greene
When a character becomes no longer “mine” and does this exact thing, it’s a very emotional process. They’re real now. They have lives of their own. It’s as if they’re alive and walking around inside my very own word document (because none of them have made it past manuscript, which is okay for now) and have slightly rebelled against me, but done nothing that can constitute a grounding. I’m not their parent. Some of them I don’t even like. In fact, isn’t that another part of writing?

hate some of the characters I’ve written.

With a passion. As I type their next action I think to myself “Gosh, they are just awful! How could they do that?” And as much as I hate a few of them, I especially love a handful. They are my pride and joy. I am proud of what they do and what they say. They learn from their mistakes. They are loyal. And even if they have some major flaws, I love them anyway.

new writer, short stories, characters

just to name a few…

And last but not least, I am devoted to them all because in a way, they all hold a part of me. Yes, even the ones I hate. Because often times they say something that someone once said to me. Or they hold the same name (yes… many characters are as real as the coffee mug sitting in front of me, whether they are kind, evil, funny, desperate, or …anything else…) as a real life person who I knew in, say, high school. Some of them are family members with names too cool to pass up. I can’t think of characters unless I have had some life experience that has lead to me writing the words that created them. And so many characters exist simply because of a song that I’ve heard.

One example:

Travis in I Looked Over Jordan {will share on blog soon, too!} exists solely because of three songs on a murder ballad CD called Seven Curses  by Jeffrey Foucault and Mark Erelli. Especially songs Ellis Unit One and Sonora’s Death Row.

I was obsessed (and still am) with this murder ballad CD and listened to it for three weeks straight. This story became obvious, as if it had already happened and it was simply my job to tell the story… hardly create it.

When I get to typing I feel as if I am a medium for something that is already there. Writers block is rare, I’m very lucky to say. As long as my fingers are moving the right words seem to come out.

I’m excited for anyone reading this to get to know characters I’ve written…one short story, manuscript excerpt and rambling idea at a time!


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“If you care about something you have to protect it – If you’re lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.” ― John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

This quote is from my FAVORITE book of all time. ALL TIME. This pretty much says it all. Today I’m starting to live the life I want. My future has never looked so bright!