"I am alive and kicking"

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Finding inspiration and a new location

Two updates are in order.

1. I am still struggling for motivation. It's returning, slowly, but my mind remains elsewhere -- occupied with thoughts and regrets about Grandma.
But, I've been remembering our last conversation in an attempt to motivate myself. I told her about having two articles published and she was beside herself with glee. Literal glee. She was so excited I could hear her smile, which was kind of rare between us over the phone. The entire conversation was filled with, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if you became a famous writer!" and "Anna! I knew you could do that. You've always been a wonderful writer."
Sigh. My inspiration to become a writer came from her, although she never quite believed me.
I hope that inspiration can carry me.

2. Creepy guy has switched corners of our corner in the library and has taken my seat. I'm aghast, but not necessarily because he took my spot. I'm aghast because I'm in his corner, in a different chair, staring at his former chair and how filthy and ruined it is. The chairs in the library are sturdily built with firm cushions. Not only is the chair he once occupied now disgusting, but the chair arms, and the wall and carpet around it has a terribly visible accumulation of dirt. And, the chair cushion is sagging.
I'm torn. Do I alert the library staff? Or do I just play a game and see how long it takes for someone to clean it? Choices ...

Monday, September 21, 2015

My Grandma was and is an inspiration

On the eve of my grandmother's funeral, I am sitting in the dark listening to calming instrumental music. 
My boys are sleeping and I just can't bring myself to lay down yet. 
I didn't get to say goodbye. She went so quickly. 
In visiting about Grandma with relatives and looking at pictures, it is comforting to revel in the fact she had a good life full of family, friends and adventure. 
For me, Grandma was more than a grandma. She helped me through life when I didn't have a mother at home. She served as my motherly figure. And she did a damn fine job. 
Although we fought bitterly sometimes, she was so important to me. She will always be important to me. 
Despite our spats, she taught me self-reliance and self-preservation. 
She taught me the importance of slowing down and taking the time to do something right the first time. She also taught me to accept my mistakes, learn from them and move on. 
Grandma's storytelling has truly inspired me throughout life. 
Her stories about growing up on the same land I grew up on fascinated me. I soaked in the descriptions of farm life during The Great Depression and even the war years. I enjoyed hearing about her exploits, like riding calves when Grandma Annie told her not to, which resulted in a long scar down her arm. The calf bucked her off and she landed in barbed wire. 
Grandma later told me she lied to her mother and said she fell on prickly bushes when she took out garbage to the scrap pile. 
Grandma's storytelling inspired me to become a storyteller. 
I envied her ability to easily describe scenes. My imagination soared when she described the tomte (Swedish gnome) her father said lived in his trunk he brought from Sweden. 
She often encouraged my writing, and she was happy it became my chosen profession. 
In turn, I was immensely proud of her published article, "Mama's Cupboard" and unpublished book about a girl named Lizzy who has adventures with a tomte. 
We were much the same in that we often could express ourselves better in writing than out loud. 
I will miss her boisterous laugh at our ridiculous story ideas, the crazy dreams we had when we slept and when we watched Hyacinth on the British sitcom, "Keeping Up Appearances."
Thank you for the memories, Grandma. You have been, and will continue to be, an inspiration. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Living my dream

As I toiled away at the library today, I sat across from a middle-aged man with a seriously outdated laptop.
He furiously (and loudly) typed away as I struggled to conjure material for a blog post.
As he typed, my pounding headache grew worse, and I noted the sticker on the top of his computer. The words "Living my dream" were printed in the middle of a cartoon cloud.
So I stopped to think about that and realized, I'm living MY dream.
Although I am -- let's face it -- financially poor, I am gaining riches I didn't think I would after I quit my full time job.
Not only am I able to pick up my son from school every day, I get to go home and spend time with him. This is something that had not been possible ever since he was born.
For nearly six years, I dropped my son off at daycare early in the morning, went about my regular work day, picked him up and spent about two hours with him before bedtime. Total, we maybe saw each other three to four hours a day. It was ridiculous.
On top of that, my husband and I never saw each other. It was rare we worked the same shift. In fact, it's rare we currently work within the same time frame. BUT, we do see each other on weekends now, and some evenings and early mornings, which is an improvement.
Now, I'm working two part-time jobs I enjoy and actually have free time in which to write what I want to write. Some of it has netted me a few bucks, most of it has been for my own entertainment and education.
I'll do my best to remember that guy's sticker.
I am living my dream of being a better mom, writer and wife (not necessarily in that order).

Monday, September 14, 2015

It's okay -- Butterflies don't live long

I'll confess.
My blogging has been less than satisfactory.
I'm afraid I may bore you to tears with stories about my son, but here we go again.
He had a rough week.
He got in trouble at school for calling a para-professional a name -- nothing terrible (stinky butthole, if you're wondering) -- but nothing good either. So he had to sit on the bench at the following day's recess.
Then that same evening, he lost control of his bicycle and ate the pavement in front of our house. His nose was all swollen, which caused purple lines and he had a fat lip. There was little blood, so at least he didn't have a broken nose.
The following day at school must have also been rough, because he came home and fell asleep on the couch at 4 p.m. He didn't wake up until 5 a.m.
He and I have both been crabby lately, so this weekend perked us up a little bit.
We painted pumpkins. He was super excited about that. But he insisted we purchase EIGHT pumpkins. Eight. We had to have eight.
So, we went to a local pumpkin patch along the highway leading to our tiny town and picked out eight little pumpkins. We bought paint and brushes, and sat outside in the perfect weather on Saturday afternoon (after I had a nap).
He painted one as Spiderman, painted a spider on another, a vampire, some random colors and two others I can't quite recall. I also painted a vampire with bats, and a white pumpkin sporting a skull face.
Then, on Sunday, my son successfully rode his bicycle to the neighbor's shallow ditch to collect sticks -- not sure why. As I was reading in the lawn chair, I heard him talking to me from a block away and looked up to him gingerly walking toward home. I met him halfway and he said, "Mom, look, this butterfly landed on me!"
So he had a butterfly friend for two hours or so. The poor thing had rips in its wings and couldn't fly. The kiddo enjoyed watching the butterfly drink sugar water from a stick and carried it around the yard. It would crawl on his shirt, up the back of his neck -- "Mom, it tickles! -- and settle in his hair.
Finally, my son decided it was time to let the butterfly go, so he set him back in the ditch -- and then accidentally stepped on him.
He came back to tell me that without tears and said, "But, Mom, it's okay, because butterflies don't live long lives anyway."
Well. I guess that's true. At least he accepted it was an accident and there was nothing he could do about it.
This morning he went to investigate the dead body to find only the wings remained.
He was also okay with the fact a bird probably ate the body and left the wings.
He told me birds have to eat too and they like insects.
"But remember, Mom. Butterflies don't live long lives, so it's okay."

Thursday, September 10, 2015

College was NOT the best four years of my life

OK. That long weekend really screwed me up.
So, I have here another rejected write-up and would like to share it with you. 

How many others felt college was just something you did and not where you met your best friends? Or had the best experiences?
My four years of college were good, but not great. Here's why:

College was supposed to be the time to become inspired, but I just went through the motions.
Each semester of college I eagerly signed up for classes, ensuring I'd get the ones I needed to complete my major. Rarely did I take the opportunity to sign up for classes I wanted to take.
College didn't leave me with any life-changing impressions of how the world would be, except it's not what you know, but who you know and drama is ever present.
At one point during college, I was assigned an adviser who was a journalist who covered the Vietnam War in Vietnam. I was excited, thinking she'd be able to give me great advice and point me in real-world directions to become a fantastic journalist.
Instead, when I consulted her for class choices, she looked at my list and said, "Well, it looks like you've got it all figured out." She turned back to her computer and I sat stunned.
I asked, "Do you have any advice on which classes would help me better?"
"No," she replied. "It looks like you are right on track."
I asked her what kind of extracurricular activities I could do to improve my skills as a writer. She didn't have an answer and brushed me off for another appointment.
Her classes were no different. She didn't find my writing up to par, yet wouldn't give me advice on how to improve. Instead, she just fawned over two other students whom she thought had fantastic skill and used their writing to berate the other students.
After I realized my adviser would be of no help, I signed up for the easiest classes I could just to get done with college. Through this, I discovered my friend and mentor, Katherine. Through her class, I learned solid writing skills and at least a basic knowledge of layout. I also learned that building relationships with sources is incredibly important. Gaining the trust of one source can lead to gaining the trust of others and helps build your reputation as a respectable writer.
Above all that, Katherine gave me the confidence I needed to leave college and feel good about being a writer.
Not only were classes less than fulfilling, it was a struggle for me to live with other people.
I lived on campus all four years during college -- two of those years were spent in an apartment shared with three girls.
It was 95 percent drama. I imagined the experience had to be what it was like to have sisters, making me even more glad I grew up in a house full of boys.
Most days I withdrew to my room to read or do homework just to avoid the constant catting about who left what where. On many occasions, I went over to a friend's house or the library just to be in a calm environment.
You'd think there'd be a bright spot aside from the drama of living with a bunch of women. There wasn't.
Believe me, I tried to find that bright spot by doing all the college-y things people expect college students to do.
But again, I just went through the motions -- I hung on the edges of friend groups, went to the bar, crashed a few parties, took a random weekend excursion, pulled several all-nighters, procrastinated, and so on.
I know college is supposed to be about meeting the best friends of your life and finding yourself. College was more like graduating to a larger high school, except I had way more responsibility.
My life didn't change until I got my first job and realized college taught me virtually nothing.
Don't get me wrong, college is important -- whether it's a two-year school or an Ivy League university. What you learn in college is useful, but I had literally one class and one instructor that left an impression on me.
Although my collegiate career was less than satisfactory, it wasn't entirely useless. I met people along the way who have since pointed me in the right direction and helped me grow as a person and in my career.
Really, college was the diving board for me to find the best times of my life.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Plug along after the high

And the high has worn off. 
No. Not that high. Where's your mind?
I'm talking about two of my articles being published. 
The last six articles I submitted to The Mix have been rejected. 
"No big deal," I told myself over the first two. "Those were crap anyway."
The next two, I said, "I can see why they didn't bother."
The last two, I cursed under my breath. They were good, but obviously not good enough. 
My eyes are blurry from reading other articles that were accepted and published. Blurry because I don't feel they were as well written. 
Plug along, as my dad always says. 
Plenty more work out there to be had. 

On that train of thought, I'll share with you one article that was rejected. 
It's not original, by any means, but I used a letter format for the subject, "I unfollowed you because of how annoying you are on social media." 

Dear Facebook friend,
Your cryptic and attention-seeking messages are annoying.Please stop.You won't? I'll pull your hair out for you, as per your post. Better yet, maybe I'll shove those baked goods in your face for you after you've debated for 10 posts whether to eat them.No. These would be favors.I'll unfollow your wall instead. Whew, that's better. My feed is much less cluttered now.The constant barrage of your insane need for attention is mind-boggling.It's cool that you post a good recipe once in awhile, or a picture of your cute child doing something hilarious.But, for the love of chocolate, let's stop posting messages like, "feeling sad :(" or "Can't take this anymore" when you likely made the choices causing your issues.It's tiring watching the posts gather 10 or 15 comments asking whether you're OK and offering all kinds of help just for you to say, "Thanks for all the support" or "Oh everything is fine now, just had a moment."Further, your picture posts in between these cryptic ones saying you don't care what others think of you are ridiculous. Are you passively trying to tell someone off? Or do you need to justify every little post you make?I don't know, but I wish you'd stop.Also, posting a play-by-play of what you do each day is unnecessary. Each tiny little task you do is no one's business but your own. I don't care if you child cracked the door to ask you a questions while you pee. I don't care if you had to wait in line for the bathroom at work only to find it disgustingly demolished by the previous user. I don't care if your spouse ignored your plans ... again ... leaving you at home with the kids.Millions of us never get to have any plans in the evening because we are happy to be at home with our families.I do care if you, say, burn your hand somehow and are at the emergency room. However, please don't post something like, "Ouch. We'll see how this goes" an add a photo of the ER sign.I do care if your spouse has an illness and is sick at home after a long day of therapy and treatments. But please, don't play the martyr and post how tired you are after caring for the person you vowed to care for.This type of attention-seeking behavior is frustrating. If you need attention that badly, please find your circle of friends and visit with them.Better yet, find yourself a shrink. He could at least give you direction in how to cope with whatever it is that causes you to seek this much attention.But for crying in the mud, don't seek it from strangers who could very well view your post, figure out where you live and then burgle your house while you're complaining via social media about your self-inflicted wound or how hard it is to care for your loved ones.Reading your unwanted posts has become a plague on my daily life. I find myself irritated more often as I get sucked into your page reading about your latest ridiculous life actions. I feel my face contort into the expression of, "What. The. Beep."Then I realize, "Wait! I DO have another option!"I love that unfollow button. It allows me to choose when I see your feed. It's been fantastic. I've been able to keep up with events in your life I care about, and ignore your righteous complaints about how hard life is otherwise.Good luck on your future need for attention. On social media, you'll likely keep finding it, just not from me.Your friend,Anna

Thursday, September 3, 2015

An innocent beginning to a fuller life

People often ask me why I didn't put my son in the tiny school in our tiny town.
I tell them I didn't want him to have my experience growing up. Maybe that's selfish, but I've seen him flourish in the Mitchell School District. He is in a smaller class section, but has the advantage of being in a larger school. The best advantage so far being he doesn't know every single one of his classmates.
(A note to my classmates: I wouldn't trade my experience, but wish I would have had more opportunities.)
Case in point -- he already has a girlfriend.
Now, my son is not really dating this cute little girl, but they acknowledged earlier last year that they were boyfriend and girlfriend. I'm not sure what this means to them, but to me it means my son is open to all kinds of relationships. He's not in the mindset that he only has to play with boys and be dirty.
He and this girl maintain their relationship status. In fact, my son took a picture of himself on my computer, placed a heart graphic around his face and said the picture was for his girlfriend. He even said last year he wanted to marry her.
It's adorable.
On Wednesday, the little girl called my son's name and ran up to hold his hand on the way out of the building.
"They've been in a pretty long relationship," the girlfriend's mother said to me yesterday as we giggled about it.
It's all innocent at this point, of course, but so refreshing.
I was shy about dating or even calling anyone my boyfriend -- ever.
My point is, I'm just so happy my son is able to be open and excited about being around people.
For whatever reason, my son and this girl clicked from the beginning and haven't grown tired of each other. The little girl moved on to first grade this year and my son is repeating kindergarten, but they find each other at recess -- daily.
He may go through the phase where he thinks girls have cooties or he shouldn't be hanging out with girls. Frankly, I hope it's short and he is able to comfortably mingle with both boys and girls his whole life, something I've been uncomfortable with.
My simple wish is that my son is comfortable with who he is, something I still struggle with, and he seems to be off to a pretty good start.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Ghosts, bees and tennis shoes

This is what I get for exercising

I should have figured my day would have some weird events. 
I'm just wondering what might come next. 
My mind started furiously working this morning around 5:15, much to the protest of my body. 
But when my alarm chirped, I rolled out of bed and found my tennis shoes. Oh, I didn't go play tennis. That would be overkill. 
I actually went on that walk I alluded to in my last post. 
At 6 a.m., I stretched outside my back door and walked with a purpose down the sidewalk to the road.
It was dark. There are few streetlights in our little town and it was a tad unnerving. 
It was more unnerving when I saw someone else by the dumpster at the park about a block from our house. I figured they had to be stretching before starting a morning walk or run on the path around the ball diamond. 
The figure, in a light-colored top, started off on the path headed east at a good jog. I thought for sure I'd see the person as I got to the opposite side of the ball diamond. No such luck. I wasn't gone more than 20 minutes and there was no one to be found around the park. I checked just because it bugged me. 
Who had I seen? The cemetery is just up the hill, north of the ball diamond. Do ghosts need exercise? If so, I'm screwed. 
My morning was mostly mundane until I took a break, visiting with my boss and another business owner on Main Street. I picked a dead leaf off a plant in a hanging basket, thinking I'd be nice and help keep the plant in good condition. 
Some damn hornet or wasp, not sure which, decided I invaded his home and stung me. That little bastard. He stung my middle finger, too, so I decided to show him what I thought of him ... and smooshed him on the sidewalk. 
Then I felt guilty. 
But then I didn't, and stepped on it again. 
I really didn't feel guilty once the venom moved down to my middle knuckle and into my wrist. 
My hand and wrist still feel weird. 
Good thing I'm not allergic. 
Now I'm wondering what my afternoon will bring. I have to mow the lawn and clean up all the crap that's accumulated over the summer. I hate that. 
I'll probably get stung again, just for good measure. Or a residual haunt will start appearing in my back yard. 
Why did I get up so early? 

P.S. I'm still waiting to hear how you stay motivated to do the things you enjoy doing! Send me a message. I dare you!