Yesterday I hit 50k. I wrapped up my novel because the truth is, if I decide to revise, I’ll be expanding that way. There’s a lot of thin parts where I came to scene and then realized I didn’t know where it needed to go, so I jumped to the next one. I haven’t decided if I’m going to revise. I don’t write fluffy books. For me, writing is cathartic for my depression. It is a way for me to put my struggle in a tangible form and that makes my writing something that exposes me a great deal. Not to mention it makes my stories dark because depression is dark and it’s messy. I sanitize a lot of my experience for other people primarily because I’m not sure how someone will take it. It’s exhausting to be vulnerable with another person and then have them respond callously. It makes me feel incredibly “other” and alone. It is, unfortunately, something that happens a good bit of the time. People don’t mean to be, they just don’t understand. When I’m in a better place, I can cope through and help educate someone how to interact with me (and hopefully others like me).

Winner-2014-Twitter-Profile

But, that means my novel is much darker than I think most people would expect and so if I do revise, I’ll probably publish under a pen name and tell virtually no one I know that I wrote a book.

However, it does feel good to have hit 50k. I feel like I accomplished something for me.

And Jamberry? I decided to start selling it. Jamberry is something else I do because of my depression. Sometimes, when things hurt so much I can’t breathe, I steal away to a quiet place in my house and I do my nails. I pick colors and then whenever I’m out and feeling overwhelmed, I look at my nails and while I don’t feel happy, I feel a little better. So I wanted the discount :) I guess that means I’ll have to update my Jamberry review post to say that I’m selling because I like to be transparent. I don’t know if I’ll ever have more than a few parties, but at least I’ll be able to keep up with my therapeutic habit.

 

Halfway to 50K (Notes from NaNo)

Posted: November 12, 2014 in NaNoWriMo
Tags:

I managed to hit 25k three days before the middle of the month.

This year’s experience has been significantly different for me. Usually I agonize through the first half. I groan, I moan, I wonder why I’m doing this. I check my word count obsessively to see if I’ve hit the magical 1,667. Then when I get halfway, I sail on to the end with slightly less stormy waters. This year though, I plowed through, no rain clouds anywhere to be seen. Then last night I realized the story I thought I was telling isn’t the story I’m actually telling.

Cue a writing crisis.

I started plotting out this story a couple of months ago. It started with a very simple idea and I thoughtfully added a few more details. In the past I’ve had a detailed outline and this year, life is so crazy, that I settled for a sketch. I knew the characters, I knew the setting, I knew in general what I wanted to say, and I knew how it would end. I tweaked up until NaNo started and then I dove in.

I haven’t been afraid this time to make changes on the fly. I originally had my “voice” be a third person limited from my female protagonist’s point of view. I didn’t like her voice though. So next scene I switched to my male protagonist and I discovered that he’s the one sailing this ship. This isn’t her story, this is his story.

Last night I realize that the story I thought I was telling about him isn’t the one I’m telling about him. That means my second half is going to look significantly different from my first half and I’m already having heart palpitations with regards to revising. There’s going to have to be significant rewrites. I’m starting think this is going to be another novel that sits on my hard drive untouched.

That said, I intend to finish. I guess I didn’t quite expect my big wall to show up when I reached the top of the mountain.

50K or bust!

My paternal grandmother was known for her lack of skepticism. There was a saying in our family – “If the snake oil man is in town, she’s buying.” She insisted every time I saw her that she was getting better even though she clearly wasn’t. Perhaps she hoped sheer willpower would save her life but as I often pointed out to her, even if she’d magically been cured of her ailments, at 70+, she was on the wrong side of spry.

I used to think that getting taken in by charlatans was something only people on the fringe and a little unhinged tended to do (my grandmother used to also talk about the Bildebergs and something about global domination). However, as I’ve become more vocal about my position on vaccines (I’m for, very for, 100% for), I’ve noticed that people I consider relatively put together are buying into the weird, wild world of conspiracies. They’ll whisper to me about vaccines with things like, “Don’t you know what’s IN them?!” (I do, thank you, which ingredient would you like to discuss?) or “They cause autism!!” (for the 800 bajillionth time, they don’t. They don’t. They don’t. Stop it). In fact, I could list a dozen more but every single one of them is based on fear and misinformation.

So the next time you read an article on the internet, ask yourself these questions:

1. Is there a store?

Every single nutjob site out there that posts nutjob articles has a store. Mercola has a store. NaturalNews has a store. Tenpenny has a store. Seriously, I went to every one of these pages just to tell you for sure that they have a store. This is a red flag. It doesn’t mean they’re wrong (that would be a logical fallacy) but it does mean you should eye their information a little more carefully. Mercola, for example, sells a 30 day supply of his “Premium Immune Support” package for $69.97 that is put together based on claims from articles on his own website. Do you know how much my flu shot cost me? $0. If they are telling you something is bad but then offering to sell you something good, that is a red flag.

Calvin & Hobbes Natural

2. Do they cite their sources?

NaturalNews is notorious for citing themselves as a source. They’re so hilariously wrong 99.9% of the time that I wonder why they haven’t been categorized as a comedy site. However, for kicks, I’ve debunked their articles for friends because I can’t let that crap just go unanswered. When I manage to dig out their sources (by having to do my own google search), all I find are twisted words and lots and lots of lies. Occasionally they’ll have a link to a scientific study that usually doesn’t say what they think it says. So check the facts.

3. Google the title of the article.

I’ve found that crazy nutjob articles are usually only reposted on other nutjob sites, very rarely do they ever see the light of mainstream media. I’m not saying that this is the litmus test (all of these suggestions should be used together). What I’m saying is, if Mercola is posting it and then it’s NaturalNews and then it’s Whale.to, you probably have a tabloid article on your screen.

4. Does it make any logical sense?

This seems obvious and yet I see the stupid onion article posted and reposted so clearly people are not asking themselves this last question. Why the hell would an onion suck the virus out of the air? If you really think it’s plausible look for the science behind it. Or at a minimum, please check Snopes. But just stop yourself and think “Does it make sense?” For example, all the claims made about vaccines boil down to having to believe that pharmaceutical companies are paying off all the scientists in the world. The entire world. Look, I know Big Pharma can be shady and I know they rake in a lot of money, but it makes more sense that they rake in the dough for things like Viagra and Cialis and painkillers than they do on vaccines (and truthfully vaccines make up less than 2% of their revenue). Where are the Facebook posts telling me Big Pharma is giving everyone erectile dysfunction?

This is by no means a comprehensive list. In fact, I recommend the less snarky post here. My point is, before you repost, before you whisper it to a friend, before you claim it as fact, check yourself. Make sure your source is good.

Oh. And get your flu shot if you haven’t.

Past 10k (Notes from NaNo)

Posted: November 5, 2014 in Life, NaNoWriMo, Writing
Tags: , ,

Day 5. 12,000 words.

I’m really surprised by how well this year is going. The previous two years that I participated left me struggling each day to get to the recommended word count. I constantly checked my count to see if I’d reached the coveted 1,667 words for the day. I wrote each word with a level of anxiety that I would describe as often story-breaking. I had every judgment in the book floating around in my head. It didn’t matter that I knew that no book comes from a writer’s fingertips in pristine, publishable condition. No, despite knowing that I agonized over every sentence.

I pretty much expected the same this year. And I had it, day one… day two… paranoia set in. I was ready for it. I pulled out all of my therapy skills (thank you awesome therapist) and I got down to business. Inner critic started yammering? Non-judgmental stance. My story is neither good nor bad, it simply is and it is a first draft. I kept taking my thoughts back there every time she reared her ugly head to tell me about all the ways my story was crappy. I came to this fight expecting to battle her at least until 25k.

Imagine my surprise to find that she’s decided to (mostly) shut her trap.

I don’t know if this will be the novel. Y’know, the one I decide to endure a myriad of rejection letters for (or the one I decide to self-publish). I do know I feel very differently about this story in the past. Whether that’s me getting a grip on my DBT skills or if that’s because it’s just a better story, I can’t tell you.

But here I am. 12k in and looking forward to the halfway mark. See you then.

Today was the first day of National Novel Writing Month. It’s my third time doing it.

All in all, I’m off to a decent start. My goal for the weekend is 5k and I’m at 2100 words. Not too shabby and yet a long way from 50k. I’ve done it before (twice) and I have no reason to think I can’t get there again barring unforeseen events like maybe aliens (aliens would be a good excuse not to finish right?).

For me, writing 50k in a month is what I imagine it’s like to run a marathon. Sitting down and writing this much requires dedication. I know from experience that other people look at bit askance at me when I talk about writing a novel – either because it seems like I’m insane (possibly) or because they think, “If you’re not published, who cares?”

Or maybe that’s just my own inner critic (she’s loud).

National Novel Writing Month is therapeutic for me. My depression really starts to kick into high gear as the days get shorter and darker and that’s saying something given that if people knew my thoughts I’m pretty sure most would want to hospitalize me or at least remove all the sharp objects from my house (no point in being shy about it – this is just a fact of living with the type of depression I have). I have so many days where I can’t get out of bed. So many days when I feel like I’m a failure at life even if all the facts point to something different.

Writing 50k in a month is my way of looking my depression straight in the eyes and saying, “Not today.” It’s a goal that gets me up and gets me doing something that feels like an accomplishment for me.

I felt that today. When I punched in my first word count update, I felt my depression quiet a little bit. I heard my inner critic snort and start rifling around for the really good insults.

I’m going to get to 50k because I like to win and I like to be right. And writing 50k is me getting sassy. It’s me fighting back.

Maybe I’ll write a third novel that I don’t care to revise and publish. Or maybe I will. I don’t know but that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m not doing this for anyone except me.

But… I’m writing about it because it is a journey. Because just like I can’t fight my depression alone, I can’t reach 50k alone. I want encouragement, I want shouts of support, I want other voices telling me I can do this and to understand why I’m doing it.

God designed me with depression and I don’t know why. At the same time, He also made me incredibly stubborn. It drives everyone crazy but it gets me out of bed. It gets me fighting even after I think I’ve got nothing left to fight with.

And it’ll get me to 50k.

Well. Here’s hoping anyway :)

National Novel Writing Month

Posted: October 30, 2014 in Life, NaNoWriMo, Writing
Tags: ,

I love to write.

I’ve been writing in some form or fashion since I could hold a pencil and put it on paper.

For me, writing isn’t necessarily done with a goal in mind. I might try to publish one day or all my writings might sit on my hard drive. I write for the same reason I breathe – I have to. If I go too long without writing, I feel like I’m mentally constipated (yup, I just gave you that image, you’re welcome).

The hardest periods for me are post-baby. Trying to write with a little one needing your every attention is hard. Freaking hard. It’s only slightly harder than writing with a toddler (oh look, I have one of those). That said, after taking a year off, I’ve decided to jump back in the saddle and what better way to do that than to try to write 50,000 words in a month?

The other reason I’m taking on this challenge now is because I need to do something to affirm me as a person. I’ve been mom and wife for a year while my identity has taken a backseat to everyone’s needs. This is just what happens when there are children involved and you do what I do (homeschool, cloth diaper, feed all the people).

NaNoWin2011So this is for me. I need to stretch myself in a way that stretches myself and I need to feel an accomplishment that means something to me. Some people run marathons, I write marathons (because man I hate running – all those genes went to my pretty awesome little sister who does IronMan competitions and smokes it – I am so proud of her – shout out to you Heather!). I don’t know what the crap a runner’s high feels like; all I ever felt while running was the bewilderment of why I was running when there were no zombies chasing me. I imagine though it feels a bit like what I feel when I hit the 25k mark on my manuscript. I’m like “Hell yeah! Halfway! In your face novel!” and I feel practically euphoric as I watch words appear on the screen.

Maybe this year I’ll write a story I want to share with the world. Maybe not. But I will write a story that I want to write. If you do NaNo, why do you do it?

Here’s what I’ll be doing this year:
– Paper plates, plastic cups, disposable flatware because something has got to give and that’s the dishes.
– Extra pizza nights. Because hello, pizza.
– Maybe an extra bottle of wine ;)
– A rough outline of what I want to write (although normally I’m a hardcore outliner, this year I decided to relax a bit and only do a rough sketch).
– Clean PJ pants.
– A conversation with my fantastic husband who is supporting me in this endeavor and willing to help me make it to the end.

See you on the other side!

I have depression.

My technical diagnosis is Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) with a side of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) which is pretty much meaningless to anyone who isn’t keying in insurance codes. More tangibly explained, my depression interferes with my life. The way I describe it, I’m sitting at the bottom of a frozen lake. I’m numb, I can’t breathe, and I can’t get through the ice, so I sink to the bottom in exhaustion.

Mental illness, while it has gained awareness over the years, is still fraught with stigma. I have been spoken to like a child even though there isn’t anything wrong with my cognitive abilities. My feelings on issues have been treated as less than because “I’m depressed.” Sometimes people think I ought to be able to snap out of it with enough motivational posters and others offer unhelpful advice, not considering that I’ve wrestled with this darkness for the better part of my life.11 19 11_1542

I don’t want to put on a mask, but I wear one anyway because usually it’s easier to smile on Sunday morning than to admit how deep my pain goes. Because my pain is always deep. Because my pain is always present.

Chances are, if you’ve interacted with me, while I’ve joked and laughed, inside I’ve spent the day fighting a war on multiple fronts. There’s the battle to get out of bed. There’s the battle against darker thoughts of suicide. I wage war against doubt and fear. I take up my sword and battle unbelief… All before I’ve had my morning coffee.

Few people know how dark my thoughts are or how heavy the load on my shoulders.

I wonder sometimes what God was thinking marrying me to a man in ministry.

I don’t write this for pity. I write this to say something. And there’s more I want to say, but for now, I’ll leave it at this.

I’m a vaccine advocate. If you know me on Facebook, you’re aware of my myriad of posts encouraging people to go get their flu shots (seriously, go get it). What most people don’t know is why I’m a vaccine advocate. Why do I take every single opportunity to yammer on about polio and measles and the flu shot?

It started with Brady. I was pregnant with J and I came across this little baby’s story. I broke down and cried; I sobbed. My heart hurt in one of the worst ways, but I know it was nothing compared to how Brady’s mother felt. That pain started me onto this journey from being a parent who vaccinates to a pro-vaccine parent.

I started reading. Then I got angry.

See, pertussis has a vaccine. It’s not a perfect vaccine. It’s not the best vaccine, but it’s what we have and people are refusing to vaccinate their kids or themselves. Vaccines have done such a fantastic job that first world mothers are going “Well, really, was measles so bad?” and “What about all the toxins?” without understanding half of what they’re saying because they’re educated and know more than their doctor with a medical degree and their “thousands of hours of research” on Google is somehow equivalent to the research done in labs by scientists (who, again, have actual degrees).

If you didn’t pick up on my tone, I’m still angry two years later.

My anger, my frustration, has taken a new form, however. I’m a pastor’s wife. I have held the hand of the broken, the sick, and the dying. I have prayed with them. I have wept with them.

So imagine my frustration – my fury – when I found out people who call themselves Christians weren’t vaccinating. I couldn’t understand it, as many of them said they were pro-life. Pro-life. Pro-life and yet they didn’t see the point in a vaccine that would have most likely saved little Brady’s life. Pro-life and they refuse to vaccinate against a disease that can kill a child in its mother’s womb. Pro-life and they refused to get shots that would protect the weakest among us.

Why, I wondered, why would they refuse?

That’s when I put the pieces together. The anti-vaccine movement is relatively evenly split between liberals and conservatives and spans all faiths and even attracts those who are non-religious.

The people who are anti-vaccine are generally in love with all things “natural” and organic. They worship nature. I’ve listened as Christians make the argument that God made our bodies a certain way, totally skipping over the parts of the Bible where we’re cursed. In fact, the Bible does not speak highly of “natural” anything. At best, it’s neutral and at worst, it’s damned to hell.

Here are the facts – as Christians we have a moral duty to vaccinate. The Bible tells us to care for our neighbors, for widows, for orphans, for the lowly and the broken. If you call yourself a Christian, you have an obligation to get immunized if you are medically able.

If you are pro-life, secular or religious, if you want to be consistent, then you need to vaccinate.

If you care about anyone other than yourself – regardless of beliefs – then you need to vaccinate.

I happen to be a pro-life Christian and I can’t reconcile worship at the altar of “all natural”* with my faith. So if you can and you claim to be like me, then you need to take another look at that Bible. And if you do vaccinate, please, please don’t be silent. For the sake of the babies, the immuno-compromised, for the sake of your neighbors – love them in this way. Love them with life.

Voices for Vaccines

*I’m not saying we avoid things that say natural or that we shouldn’t be “crunchy” at all, there are benefits to certain things that are considered “hippy” or “crunchy”, but when one chooses “all natural” at the expense of truth, that’s when it’s become “worship” in my book.

Disclaimer: I am not a consultant (never have been). I don’t have a family member working for them. I have no financial interest. Every wrap featured has been earned – either I paid for it or I earned it as a hostess for a party.
(EDIT: 11/21/2014 – I decided to be a consultant because I need the discount for my habit. However, you won’t find me posting my info on my blog. I intend to continue to be honest. Also, don’t buy the vitamins. Just. Don’t. Seriously. Go buy some cheap ones at Wal-Mart and then use the rest of that money to buy more wraps
EDIT 2: 3/6/2015 – I decided to resign being a consultant. I still think they’re an excellent company but I just don’t have time and plus, I miss my old consultant! Sometimes we just don’t have the time for these things).

I’m going to explain how I discovered Jamberry wraps and why I fell in love, then I’m going to move onto my process ending with some tips and tricks for both putting on and removing. If you want to skip the beginning part just click on the appropriate link:
My Process
– Tips & Tricks

I don’t do my fingernails.  I’m a homemaker – I cloth diaper, I scrub pans, I cook dinner, I clean my childrens’ faces with spit… you see what I mean. Salon nails are for women who don’t have to pry LEGO pieces apart. I’m hard on my hands and therefore hard on my nails. I’m also right handed. This means when I paint my nails, my left hand looks fantastic while my right hand looks like I let my 7 year old paint my nails (and believe me, he’s asked if he can). Worse, within a day I’ll end up with at least one decent chip even if I put on fancy top coats.

I discovered Jamberry nail wraps in the dead of winter in the upper Midwest while we were dealing with the polar vortex that could freeze out the most hardened Minnesotan (which I am not). A friend invited me to her Facebook party and on a whim I bought a couple for my toenails (which I do religiously in the summer). However, it was freezing cold and I was stuck at home with an infant, so on New Year’s Eve, after the baby was in bed and my husband and oldest were partying hard at church (board games can get crazy, let me tell you), I decided to try my first set of wraps.My Jamberry Nails One

Now, because I purchased them online, I didn’t have the benefit of a consultant showing me how to apply them. I spent at least half an hour watching videos on Jamberry’s website. They’re certainly helpful and thorough even if slow moving. I’d like to say that half an hour later, I had mastered the art of the nail wrap, but it took me a while to get the hang of it and it was less than flawless.

It was a couple months later that I decided to try again with some wraps I purchased when my consultant was cleaning out her inventory. I’d reached out to her for some helpful tips and so I figured I was ready to try again. Husband and I were going to an Imagine Dragons concert and while I’m still carrying my baby weight, I wanted to look hip and haute. Jamberry Red

As you can see, I had much better success with these. Honestly, they also made me a huge fan of the matte versions of the wraps – and a huge fan of the wraps in general. I’m pretty sure this was the moment I fell in love. I knew I was smitten with these things and now I have an entire photo album (one of those brag books you can get for a dollar at Wal-Mart) full of sheets of wraps.

After a full mani/pedi, here's what I have left

After a full mani/pedi, here’s what I have left.

 

 

What I love too is that I can get several manicures out of a single sheet (and since I mix and match, I get even more). Interestingly, I prefer them on my fingers than toes. For future pedicures though, I think I’ll focus on putting the wrap on my big toe and then using a lacquer on my other toes, but that’s because I have weird, curved, big nails. I will say they last forever on my toes. I actually end up taking them off after a few weeks because I’m bored and want to do my nails again!

 

 

 

Jamberry Holographic IMG_4439

 

Here’s a Jamicure from Day 1 to Day 10:

Jamberry Day 1 Jamberry Day 7 Jamberry Day 10

I have found Jamberry a great excuse to pamper myself. I’m not a girly girl by any stretch of the imagination, but these are fun and they can reflect me in a lot of different ways. Being at home with children can leave me feeling frumpy, but I’ve found that wearing them makes me just feel a bit more… me. If nothing else, give them a try – that’s all I did and now I’m hooked!

My Process
1. Clean your nails and push back the cuticles, trimming as needed. Nail prep is so very important. I’ve found that when I don’t take the time to prep carefully, my application isn’t nearly as good.
2. Soak your nails in cooled black tea (buy the cheap stuff). Dry off, clean with alcohol again.
3. Match the wrap to your fingers. They have clear backing so just hold it over the nail and pick the best size. It’s better to go smaller than larger as you don’t want the wrap to adhere to skin or it won’t last.
4. Cut the wrap. Hold in front of the heater (or blow dryer) for the allotted amount of time 3-5 seconds usually (although glitter and glimmer wraps need longer – sometimes up to 10 seconds).
6. Put the wrap on! (Go watch the Jamberry videos for this).
7. Apply more heat, use your cuticle pusher to help adhere the wrap tightly.
8. Avoid soaking and heat for a few hours. So no baths after application!

Tips and Tricks (Updated Periodically)
– Soak your nails in black tea for about a minute to a minute and a half. The time I used it, it was my best application yet. I don’t know why it works. There’s murmurs about things like ph balances but honestly, unless someone shows me a study, I’m going to go with “I don’t know, just because.” That said, it could help because it slows you down.
– Prep. Prep. Prep. Buff and smooth your nails.
– A tip I got from my consultant if you’re struggling to get a good match for your nail size is to take a piece of scotch tape and put it over your nail, trace your cuticle with a pen or marker, then put that on the preferred size and trim the wrap to match the tracing.
– Smooth down and out. Don’t smooth up or you’ll create bubbles at the end of your nail. I often times don’t smooth the end until I’ve trimmed the wrap down to my nail.
– I use a nail clipper to trim my nails. You just have to remember to clean it out after each trim because the wraps get sticky and end up stuck inside your clipper.
– Really take the time to cure those tips. You’ll notice in my picture of Day 10 above one of my nails looks like it’s coming up from the edge, this happens any time I’ve not taken the time to really make sure it’s on there. That said, if you’re like me and you miss a nail (because you’re easily distracted and/or you have children), I’ve found applying just a smidge of top coat to the offending section of the wrap can help stick it back down.
– Use the gentle removal method. Soak your nails in nail polish remover and then use a cotton pad with remover to rub off the wrap. It’ll be a bit messy, but much easier on your nails, particularly if they’ve been on there for some time. The first couple of times I removed with heat that that was okay, but the adhesive is strong and some people can end up with it weakening the nail. When I use the gentle method, my nails are in tip-top shape afterward. I also massage some cuticle oil afterward as well (I buy whatever is at the store, the Jamberry oil is a bit pricey).
– If you get into Jamberry, the heater is totally worth it. ;)

My Nail Combos (updated periodically):
Northern Flare, Siesta, Gold 

Northern Flare, Siesta, Gold Sparkle Jamberry Siesta Pedi

I’m mainly posting this here so that I can easily refer to it. I combined two recipes that I found around the interwebz. It’s easy and quick (which I need with kids).

Ingredients:

– Two sausage links (I used andouille sausage – like 13.5oz)
– a can of Rotel with green chiles
– Cajun spice (I used about 1.5 Tbsp, but that might be too spicy for some, so then go down to just 1 Tbsp)
– dried onion (to taste)
– one can of light red kidney beans
– one cane of dark red kidney beans
– 2.5 cups of rice
– 2 cups chicken broth
– 1 cup water (or a little more if needed).

 

1. Slice the sausage (then I cut the slices in half). Brown in the bottom of pot with a little bit of olive oil and dried onion.

2. Add the Rotel and the kidney beans (drained and rinsed).

3. Simmer for about five minutes. 

4. Add rice and liquid, stir. Bring to a boil, then cover tightly, turn down heat to simmer and let it cook until rice is done (about 10-15 minutes). 

Add hot sauce to taste