Whelp


I ended up sticking really good to that resolution about posting twice a month, didn’t I? It shouldn’t surprise you that I also haven’t been doing very well with my writing schedule, either. The dream job offer I got ended up being, well….. even better than I had prepared myself for! But with that has come a larger amount of responsibilities, and a lot of emotional and physical energy being expended on not only building my new family, but also in learning the ropes to take over an entire ministry department, running events, learning, etc.

I was ecstatic when I found myself writing again for the first time in a while at a large conference that I was chaperoning at. One of the kids wanted to read some of my pieces, so I showed her some of my personal devotionals. We had a long discussion about creativity and faith… long story short, it rekindled in my heart the realization of why I write, and Who I ultimately write because of and for.

In the next couple of months I would like to share with you all some of my favorite pieces from the things that I haven’t shared quite yet. I’ve had less and less time to submit to formal journals, and though I haven’t given up on that path in any way shape or form, I would still like to be able to share myself in a way that might not take as much time as I get myself back into the swing of writing and sharing.

 

I would ask for your prayers as I continue to work towards my vocation, and try to balance all of the different facets of myself at this critical time in my life!

And feel free to let me know how your 2017 has been going in the comments- hopefully it won’t be as long of a wait between posts from now on.

 

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Been Adulting Pretty Hard Lately


So it might seem like I’ve been a little AWOL lately. Even this week, I’m posting on a seemingly arbitrary Tuesday instead of my customary Sunday. I am genuinely sorry that I have fallen short of my own expectations, especially so close to the end of the year as we are.

However, I do have a pretty awesome excuse: I’m now engaged! My significant other ended up surprising me on Halloween weekend with a carved pumpkin and a live band (we got engaged dressed as Fred and Daphne from Scooby Doo, of all things).

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Of course, once the excitement settles, what is left is the realization that we suddenly have a ton of things to do: engagement photos (finishing up round two of those this weekend), house showings (fiance wants us to be able to give each other a home for Christmas), scheduling time to figure out when we can reserve my home parish for the ceremony, scheduling marriage prep and so on and so forth ad infinitem. It’s a lot of fun, it’s a lot of being equally stressed and equally thankful for even the opportunity to be so stressed about such wonderful things, but it is very time-consuming.

We are starting to get into a good rhythm, however, so I should be able to get back on track with most of my social media. I’ve been keeping up with my writing work well enough, at least, so never fear. I’ll keep myself as much on track with my social media as well.

Prayers and good thoughts are very welcome at this time!

Stagnation


Looking at my last couple of posts, I feel like all I’ve been talking about lately is being overwhelmed and overbooked. This is, on the surface, a post that’s not entirely different. Right now I’ve come to a point in my life that is woefully stagnant. I haven’t written any new poetry in over a month, and haven’t submitted anything new in about the same amount of time. Normally that would be because I’m focused more over on the fiction-writing side of things, but progress hasn’t budged on that end either. With only ten pounds left to lose I’ve seemingly plateaued, things at work are bubbling together as the kids prepare to go back to school and their mother back to job-hunting and my financial goals are coming together, albeit slowly.

But I’m not stressed out about it. I was about a week back- I wanted all these goals met now, I wanted my editing finished now, I wanted five different manuscripts out on submission now…. And then I met up with a friend of mine who has also been a bit stressed out about timing. In his case, it’s a lot about a specific relationship that he really wants to happen. The only advice I could really give him that would be healthy for everyone was to be patient, and to pray. I realized that I had been missing that myself lately. I’d been seeing my stagnation as an obstacle to my goals, to my creativity; to my life. Instead of taking the opportunity to breathe, I was holding my breath until I was purple in the face. I wanted things done on my time, not on God’s time, and in that I had twisted myself up in pretzel-like contortions. Instead of being able to work harder, go further, I have become my own biggest obstacle.

So I start today with a new resolution. When I feel too tired to write, or to network, I will pray. I will take the hint when my body needs rest. I will be patient so that when I do write, when I do edit, I do so with a clear mind and open heart (instead of out of sheer frustration and desire to get things over with). I will welcome stagnation as a normal part of the creative process, and of life in general. It’s not going to be easy, seeing how much I hate being productive, but it’s a lesson I’ll have to learn.

How do you deal with stagnant periods, readers?

On Time Management and Saying No


Lately my life’s been a little bit of a spiral. Not entirely downwards, not entirely upwards, but more of the all over the place kind of spiral that is euphoric one moment and devastating the next. At times like these, everything tends to pile up on itself and start to take over everything. Stress from one task bleeds into my ability to complete the next, and I suddenly find myself doing a million things half-heartedly. I don’t like doing things half-heartedly. So when I notice that this is all going for a loop, I begin to fall into a pit of guilt and I get nauseous and force myself into a kind of dull depression.

It’s times like these that it’s important to remember that one little word: ‘no’. When people ask me to help out, to volunteer or make posters or come take care of their pets, what have you, it’s so hard for me to say ‘no’. I’m the kind of person who wants to be able to help. I want to be able to do what I can to make the world a better place, even if that just means alleviating the stress of the people around me.

Stretching myself out paper-thin doesn’t accomplish that, though. Sure, it may be a little spot fix for the person who needed me right then but what about everyone else? What about the kids I watch who will take the brunt of my stress at work the next morning? What about my family, who get brushed off by my so that I can take extra time to de-stress after work because I didn’t want to punish them for my life? What about my significant other, who I will make feel less loved because I decided to help everyone else and then no longer have the time or emotional capability to attend to him come the small amount of time we have together a week? When I’m helping out with a million different tasks, I end up not being able to focus on any of them to the extent that they deserve. My contribution is slighted, the project as a whole is slighted, and the opportunity for something amazing, the opportunity for grace and light, is wasted.

I’m not one to say that my own self-care takes precedent over other things, or that I shouldn’t try to do as much as I can for others. But in the past couple of weeks I really have come to a greater awareness of the need to know one’s own boundaries. The need to trust that other people will be there to help. That saying ‘no’ when I have become overwhelmed is not a bad thing- and is, in fact, necessary if I am to function to my own best ability. And functioning to my own best ability will, in the long run, enable me to do more for others than if I run myself ragged for a short amount of time.

So for the next month or so, I’m going to be practicing my ‘no’s’. I’m going to practice being honest with people about my capabilities (directly saying ‘I can’t make this commitment’ versus my normal ‘I’ll see what I can do). I’m going to practice being realistic about what I can fit in on my current schedule (being able to help for large events, rather than weekly commitments). And I’m going to pray that the needs I cannot fill myself will be filled, while also praying to alleviate my own anxiety and guilt about not being able to carry my community on my shoulders. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back into a healthy rhythm in my own life, and increase my capability for contribution. Because the point of saying ‘no’ should never be to simply release yourself from all stress and constraint in life, but used in order to better prepare yourself to give an enthusiastic ‘yes’ to things you can accomplish in the future.

How do you do with ‘no’s’, readers? Has it always been easy for you? What, or who, do you have a hard time saying no to?

Updates: A Bit Frazzled


So we’re only five months in to the year and I’m already falling behind a bit on my blogging schedule. I would first like to apologize for that. I have unfortunately been full up to my ears with schedule changes and life shocks. Just this week I had a graduation, a funeral, a giant family crawfish bake and attended a comic-convention at the last minute. At work, my normal rhythm has been interrupted by changes in schedule as well as the boys I nanny now being out for the summer.

It’s a good lesson for me to learn. Sometimes you set schedules, and then life happens. At the moment, I have dealt with that fairly poorly. I have let something important, my writing, fall by the wayside just because I have become busy, instead of juggling my time in a more efficient manner. I have done plenty of self-care in the past weeks, and hopefully will be able to hold myself to a better standard in the months to come. Life won’t always work by my schedule, and I need to learn how to better handle that while making sure that I don’t give up things that are important, hoping that my good will will be enough.

Look forward to regularly planned blogs coming back again for the rest of the year. Thank you for being patient with me!

Things I Do To Stay Sane: Learn Cooking


So, lately the significant other and I have been trying this new thing where every weekend I go to his place and we learn to cook something new. Because neither of us really know how to do things slowly, that’s actually translated into us making at least two new things every weekend, which makes for a very busy and very messy kitchen.

And I’m loving it! (This coming from someone who normally hates mess and has a bit of a problem with doing ‘new’ things of any sort). I come from a very steak-and-potatoes family. We were never that into spices, never did much deviation with recipes, and maybe ate from a full menu of around twenty items. I’m mainly to blame for that, considering the tantrums I’d throw if my Mum so much as hinted at making me try new foods. Monkey, on the other hand, comes from a rather large family that likes cooking all kinds of stuff, cooking all the time, and using spices that I’ve never even heard the name of before getting into this relationship.

It’s been quite the learning experience, having two people with wildly different tastes in food and different ideologies about cooking trying to create new dishes together. To date, we’ve made mulled wine, Irish apple cake, fried potato chips, french fries, Sheperd’s Pie, bacon and potato cakes, and red velvet pancakes. Doing so, we’ve cut down on the amount of money we’ve spent each weekend going out for food, I’ve been losing weight while still eating delicious food, and we’ve increased the amount of time that we spend genuinely talking to each other and learning about each other’s likes and dislikes.

Food, for me, has always been this kind of inconvenience. I don’t feel hungry often at all, but I need to eat or else I’ll pass out. It has enabled me to gain nearly thirty/forty pounds of trauma weight. It makes me sick on occasion if I eat something slightly wrong, or at the wrong time, or with the wrong things, since my insides are stupid sensitive. So this whole phenomenon of cooking food, trying new foods and enjoying the process, is new.

Part of that is Monkey. I enjoy being with him, I enjoy being around him and I am amazed by how much he can surprise me in the littlest ways two and a half years into this relationship. I could probably watch paint dry with him and still be amused somehow. (Don’t take that as an idea, love, it’s an exaggeration).

Part of that is the fact that I’m learning more about myself in this process too. I’d always kind of stuck to my old favorite foods the way that I stick to my routines. They are safe, I know they won’t bother me or trigger my disgust and stress me out. But in the past couple years of pushing the boundaries of what I can know about myself, both through research and through contemplative prayer, I am learning what new things I can broaden my horizons with. New foods may seem like a small thing to the average reader, but for me, it’s a big deal. I’m able to more correctly discern what kind of foods are less likely to be the wrong texture, or hurt my sensitive insides: Instead of walling myself off from new experiences, I am able to safely and comfortably branch out, one little step at a time.

Which, as a writer, I think is one of the most beneficial things about learning to cook with Monkey. Any opportunity that I get to learn more about myself, is an opportunity for me to better understand how I can best contribute to the world around me, whether that’s with my art, with how I should be focusing my observations, or in how I behave in everyday life. And doing it through the process of cooking and learning to cook, helps me to learn about myself while still progressing forward. While therapy and self-care ‘treating yourself’ is all well and good, a lot of times I believe it can lead to stagnation. Cooking new things helps me build up my skill set, helps me find new ways to show my care for others, or treat myself with healthier foods, and helps me learn how best to compliment my own taste with my significant other’s.

What opportunities have you taken lately to learn yourself in less-than-conventional ways?

Thing I Do To Stay Sane: Remember To Take Myself Seriously


If you asked me what the hardest thing about being a writer is, my answer would be simple: taking myself seriously. No matter how much I’ve published or accomplished, I have almost always had a problem with seeing myself as a ‘real’ writer. In fact, I often feel the same now with a collection and two novels to my name that I did before I submitted my first poems to my high school lit mag. There’s always that lingering feeling that someday I’ll be a poet or an author, and that someday is always just around the corner.

So when would I consider myself ‘real’? When I’ve won more awards? When I’ve done a residency? When I publish more collections; a full series of installments? By judging my authenticity on goals alone I’ve set myself up for a slippery slope that leads to never truly accepting myself for what I dream of being.

This doesn’t just kill my personal motivation (why submit today when j can do it later, when I’m a real writer?). I end up slacking on my own deadlines and going weeks without submitting or updating my sites. I put off creating poem graphics or participating on writing sites because I feel insecure. I sell myself short when I talk to even the closest of my family and friends, afraid that I’ll lose face if I can’t present as a ‘real’ writer.

The only cure comes from taking myself seriously. Now, as I am in this moment and with what little I have accomplished. I am a real writer because I write, not because of how much I’ve published or how much I plan to publish. It is worth telling people about; worth sharing. It is real work, and I am allowed to be proud (within reason) of my efforts. I have no obligation to downplay or hide my accomplishments.

And it takes work. This past year I’ve done a poor job of taking myself seriously and at times that has made me run the risk of completely sabotaging my own dreams. Nothing got done, I barley submitted new work once every couple of months and my production of new work slowed to one or two poems here and there. I picked up the pen plenty- but I didn’t take myself seriously enough to follow through with any of my ideas. Those could wait for a ‘real’ writer, I kept telling myself.

This year I wish to dedicate myself to my work, to take it as seriously as I would my relationships, my health and my education. I will make deadlines, set schedules and refuse to compromise as I would with any other part of my life. I will imbue my work with purpose and fight harder against neglect and complacency. I will allow myself a healthy amount of pride in finished work, and push past the insecurities that keep me from believing that my work is too amateur yet to share. 2015 is going to be my year of redefinition and rededication as a writer. I’m excited to see where that will take me!

In what ways have you failed to take yourself seriously in the past year, and what could you do to fix that in 2015?

Updates: Getting My Life Together


I’d been doing so good with my resolution to post twice a month. On the one hand, I’m proud that I made it at least five months without slipping, but on the other, I’m a tad disappointed with myself for letting that just go.

Ah, well. Life goes on. And how. I’ve moved back to Highlands Ranch fully now. Settling back in to a living rhythm with my parents, college-aged little brother and younger sister has been a bit of a struggle, but the kinks are starting to work themselves out now. I started my first full-time job nannying for two small children Monday through Friday, at the beginning of this month which is both a challenge and amazing.  Overall I’m proud of this day-job, and feel blessed to be able to make a living doing something that I’m good at, that makes me feel affirmed and valuable and every-day, and surrounds me with love and support instead of hard deadlines and constant belittlement from peers (it helps that if my boss gets cranky at me, I can just put him down for a nap!). I’m also super excited to be getting more involved with my church community, as I have committed myself to being a core team leader for a local high school youth ministry where an old youth group friend of mine was recently hired as the youth director.

In this time of settling in and setting up, I think I’ve written a grand total of one new poem. On the writing front, I’ve been itching to finish my latest full-length fiction manuscript (around 130K words), and I’ve been reading in most of my spare time to try to get rejuvenated with how I’m feeling with my poetic ability. With all of these new experiences in my future, I have a feeling that I will soon have more to write about- but after graduating and moving back, I’ve found that I’ve lost a majority of the writing community that used to keep pushing me to write a new poem a day and I’m most certainly suffering the effects of that. I’m still waiting for a couple of poems to be published before I can send off my next poetry manuscript, but I need to set a goal to get back into submitting poems.

I’ve been entertaining the idea of posting more of my poems directly on my blog rather than submitting them to journals, but I’m torn down the middle on that one. I want to be able to continue to be published as I have been being published, on the one hand, but on the other it would easier and less time consuming for me to post poems directly to my blog on a regular basis (once a month, perhaps?). I might consider doing so with some of my poems which are too specifically worded for most poetry publications, and I might do so with poems that have now been published for long enough that I can re-post them without there being any conflict of interest between myself and the publishers. My question with that would be: which would you rather see, these poems in a text format, or these poems in graphic format? Or should I publish them as both? I will most likely make them as both, seeing as it is easier for some of my media outlets for me to post in graphic rather than text format…

Either way, now that I’m finishing with my latest fiction project I want to get myself back into the swing of being able to balance my poetry side with my fiction side, which means more work and more dedication to both sides of the writing art that I have committed to. I would very much appreciate any prayers or good thoughts that you could spare!

(Also, if you have any requests for a specific kind of poem that you would like me to post, or a poem you’d like me to do a video reading for, don’t hesitate to let me know!)

Things I Do to Stay Sane: Go Dancing


Thursday nights, where will you find me? All of my friends know- the Grizzly Rose in Denver, Colorado. I’ve been line-dancing there since I was still in middle school and had to go on Sunday nights with all the other under-aged kids. Back then, I only really went whenever a big group of my friends were going (and when my mom was free to chaperone, of course). Once I got into college, it became a way for me to connect to some of the new people at my school. Going to Regis meant that I was one of the only native in my friend group- the other people I knew came from out of state, or from cities more than several hours away. I was able to show them around to the local hookah bars, dance clubs, and eventually even the Grizzly Rose. My friends quickly became attached to the place and to the style of dancing- with line-dancing, you don’t need to have a partner to let loose and have a good time, but there still remains that possibility of two-stepping with a cute cowboy if you’re in the mood. 

As an autistic adult, I live by my routines. In a whirlwind of new friends, new classes and new experiences, dancing became my go-to rock. I could always rely on at least one of my friends being willing to go out and get down. It doesn’t seem like the best of places for me to have latched on to- I am usually not a fan of loud noises, and I absolutely hate when people I don’t know touch me. Dance halls of any time tend to have plenty of those two things going on- but it was the one thing that I knew I could rely on. So I forced myself to see it in a new light. 

A friend and I at the Rose's Halloween celebration in 2012. Photo courtesy of the Grizzly Rose Facebook.

A friend and I at the Rose’s Halloween celebration in 2012. Photo courtesy of the Grizzly Rose Facebook.

The music when I go dancing is loud enough for me to ignore everything else around me. I lose myself in music I wouldn’t normally listening to if I wasn’t line-dancing, and focus entirely on the different repetitive steps of the dance.  I focus on the faces of my friends (many of whom are friends because we see each other every single week, I don’t see them any other time!) and I melt into the experience of having a great time. I take pride in being able to do all the dances well and have an even better time when I am able to start dances, conforming a little bit of everyone elses’ routine to mine. 

Dancing once a week is a wonderful exercise, both for my mind and my body. I get to work out (mostly my calves and thighs, if we’re being honest) by having fun. I get to sweat out the stress of the week and feel good about myself through the skill I’ve acquired through dancing for so many years, and by feeling attractive and wanted (even just my friends wanting to be next to me) in a public space. It’s a time of the week that I’ve carved out for myself that is wholly dedicated to self-care in a way that works best with my own neurotype, my own weaknesses, and plays to my own strengths without sacrificing the precious little time that I have to spend with my friends and be with a community. 

There are plenty of ways to put a little bit of ‘me’ time into your week without the need to carve too much ‘alone’ time as well. My mantra of multitasking smarter, not harder, applies to this as well. By making a time of the week that is both ‘me’ and ‘we’ time, I get to spend more time with the people who mean the most to me without sacrificing my own mental health. It’s hard being a young professional, having to balance enough work to survive on with enough me time to wind down in as well as maintaining healthy, lasting relationships. For me, dancing together helps balance some of that out, bringing benefits to all involved. 

Which, if I’m healthy in my personal life, I’m much more likely and willing to apply more of my energy to my work- to my writing, to my networking, to my day jobs. Keeping oneself healthy in mind, body and soul is one of the best things you can do to further your own career and life goals. 

Readers: what things do you do every week to lower your stress levels? What new things would you like to try to fit a little ‘me’ time in your ‘we’ time? 

Things I Do to Stay Sane: Enjoy Children at Mass


I don’t talk too much on my professional blogs about my faith, partially because I hope that my writing does it enough for me, partially because I run a separate Catholic blog for that kind of thing and partially because I like to hold my faith a little closer to the heart to prevent me from coming off as preachy and having a holier-than-thou attitude. But this particular practice of mine has been consuming my religious poetry lately, and so I feel the need to mention it.

I enjoy having children at mass.

And I’m not just talking about the adorable sleeping babies or the kids attempting to sing the Alleluia three keys off tune in the pews ahead of me who are otherwise very well behaved. While I appreciate the parenting prowess of the people watching those kinds of children, I feel like it is a bit too easy to love and appreciate the kinds of children who are subdued.

I’m talking about the shrieking children who get hoisted up on to Daddy’s shoulder to be taken out in the middle of the rite of transubstantiation. I’m talking about the kid who pushes his little brother halfway down the pew. The baby who I notice attempting to steal my keys while I’m otherwise occupied, holding hands with his mother during the Our Father. The siblings who line up their toddler devotional books on the seat and then push them around making such loud train noises that I can barely make out the deacon listing off the Prayers of the Faithful. I’m talking about the troublemaker kids who make mass seem, for the most part, like it’s more trouble than it’s worth. The ones who take the silence of sacredness and rip it to shreds with no remorse, biting on Bibles with a giggle and a twinkle in their eyes.

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Don’t get me wrong, it’s distracting. I don’t like being distracted at Mass- I’m the kind of churchgoer who prays a rosary beforehand and gets irked when the choir begins practicing early and interrupts the flow of my thoughts. This isn’t about inherently enjoying the presence of rowdy children at mass- this is about consciously choosing to do so.

 

I especially was brought to think about this a couple of Sundays ago at a morning mass at the Spirit of Christ parish. I sat next to a lovely woman in a beautiful chapel veil. She had with her her husband and three small children- the boys seemed both younger than four, and the daughter was still in the newborn stage. The daughter slept in her father’s arms the entire service- he even propped her up as if on a table when we knelt to pray, which was probably the single most precious thing I have ever seen- but the boys were an entirely different story. They sang out, they screamed, they laughed- they pushed each other, they tried to take the toys of the girls in front of us, they sat behind me in my spot when I stood for prayers; one of them tried to stay behind during the Eucharistic procession and ended up barreling through a couple people to get back next to them. The mother dealt with this with the patience of a saint- she took interest in what they were interested in, spoke in a soft, even tone to them and tried her best to give as much of her attention to the mass as she could spare form keeping her boys in line. The presence of those boys would normally have grated on every one of my last nerves. I don’t personally like when things are out of turn, ever, and boy were these little blonde angels out of turn.
Instead of let myself fill up with anger and indignation, however, I cleared my heart and quieted it. I thanked God for the existence of such lively, creative children. (Which turned out to be ironic because the homily for that day was about giving God thanks ahead of time, so that was kind of a smack in the chest for me). Instead of becoming irritated, I felt myself being filled from the outside in with a warm, joyous glow. I can’t really fully explain the kind of love that I felt then- it started with those boys and then just kind of radiated in and out, washing over all of that excess noise that comes with being at a crowded mass. It’s not as if I couldn’t hear all of those distractions out there any more- far from it. I was aware of them, and I was grateful for them. I was happy for the signs of abundant life there in that church, echoing and feeding into the Eucharistic mystery. I wanted to hug that mother and thank her for bringing her children. When it came time to say the Our Father, the youngest boy gripped my hand hard and stared up at me with the most calm blue eyes I’ve ever seen and smiled. For once, I wasn’t afraid to look at someone’s eyes. It was all the acknowledgement I needed. I left mass that day refreshed and energized in the middle of feeling lost and afraid regarding my impending thesis deadlines, graduation in a month and a half, and eternally uncertain writing career.

When we force ourselves to look at something that grinds on us just a little differently, its amazing how completely different we receive that experience. Just by making myself give thanks for the noisiness at church rather than grumbling about it, I was open to the grace that comes in the midst of and-paradoxically- through chaotic living. I don’t believe that you need to be particularly faithful to do this, though prayer certainly helped me, and I am certain that the love I felt at that mass was a direct gift from God.

But for those of us who aren’t religious or are looking for more of this kind of calming experience in a more secular kind of way, I would venture to say- find yourself a new perspective. Meditate on it. Write it into a poem (as I often do), a journal entry; a short story. Go on a walk and speak a new way of living to yourself, and see how amazing it is when that new way of living simply opens up through the act of willing yourself to see it.

So see your job as a live-giving experience. Assume the best out of the actions of people you consider your enemies. Seek for the love in the annoying things your siblings do. Take those rejection letters as abundant opportunities to make yourself a better writer. Be thankful for readings and signings with low attendance, for the room for growth and humility they provide. Forgive your lover for the small things, try to see their hobbies through their eyes. Enjoy the mischievous children at Church. The benefits are incredible.