Being a Joiner

I’m not a joiner. I don’t like the idea of just following along just because. I’m my own person and peer pressure doesn’t dictate anything that I do. If anything, I’m usually the bad influence. Not on purpose, but I’m not going to lie that it ends up that way. When it comes to social media, I usually stick to that. I don’t want to offend people when they invite me to do those challenges on Facebook, but I’m not going to post 10 selfies of myself. I probably only have 2 or 3 selfies and only a handful of pictures of myself. I’m okay with that. Photographs steal the soul, or something. I’m not going to just participate in something, because that’s not who I am.

I did end up in a Facebook “challenge”. Not because I felt compelled to by peer pressure. It was because the concept was intriguing to me. 10 days of posting album covers that shaped my musical upbringing? The challenge of picking just 10 albums from my younger years, even in my late teens and early 20s, was interesting. There are so many bands, songs, and albums that have touched my life. That I have related to so strongly that they are the only things that can manage to get my hardened heart to feel strongly enough to cry.

It’s also interesting to show off, as much as possible, just how eccentric my musical tastes are. People would be confused listening to my most listened to playlist on Amazon, where my playlist is so varied that it jumps around practically every genre. I’m okay with that. I don’t care if people laugh at my music. I like what I like and people being closed-minded and judgemental don’t bother me. Mostly because I don’t care. I’m not out to impress anyone. If a song has hit me in the feels in one way or another, I like it. I don’t think I need to defend myself or my choices, and if people want to make fun of me for that, it says more about them than me.

Will I do another challenge? Probably not. This is a one and done. I like the challenge of sharing my favorite music. I don’t like the stress of trying to pick people and not make them feel like they have to or whatever. Plus, I don’t like having to do the posts every day because honestly, that’s more work than I want to put into social media.

The Challenges of Being a Mom of a Teenager

In our house, these past few weeks have been emotionally challenging. Not because my oldest, who’s 17, is a challenging child. He’s not. He’s actually extremely and unusually easy to deal with. Somehow, he managed to keep his sweet and mature nature even after the dreaded puberty hit. Sure, now he’s more confident in himself and isn’t afraid to show his more sarcastic side, but he’s only stepped out of line once with his mouth and it wasn’t even that bad. It’s because the reality is coming that next year, he will be graduating.

This week, he starts lifeguarding training, something that he’s been wanting to do for a while but then talked himself out of it. After passing his initial online course and learning more about it, I watched him become more confident. He was afraid of the importance of his job. The fear of being responsible for the life of another person was overwhelming to him. I told him I get it. Try being responsible for keeping 3 people alive at the same time. (Husband included in the number. Those boys don’t make it easy.) He wanted a job that didn’t interfere with his school work and would help him pay for this swim team that his coach recommended that he joined in the off-season. His fear turned into excitement this week as he headed off to do the hands-on portion of his certification, but really he’s just happy to be in the pool again.

We also just signed him up for the SATs and next week, he’ll be all signed up for his 2 AP exams. I half joke with my husband that I’m not ready for this. I’m not prepared. I pass it off as a joke, but we both know it isn’t. Now’s the time where I just hope that I did more than just an adequate job of “momming”. That my jokes about being an adequate mom are really just jokes. The first years of his life before high school were his training; now I just hope he can finish the job successfully on his own. Be free, blackbird.

After signing up for the course, it turns out that he may potentially miss out on our mini-weekend away during his school break. I gave him his choices and refused to give him the answer: either he skips it and finds another course or he misses this mini-vacation and stay with family while we’re gone. (The vacation was a free trip that we won and was scheduled long before this.) He asked me what he should do, hoping that I was going to make the choice for him. I wasn’t. Kids never learn if you make their choices for them. I gave him advice. “Well, you get it done now or you hope that you don’t miss the next one.” Ultimately, he decided to take the risk of missing out on the vacation because this was something he needed to do.

It was the mature decision. I agreed, it was the right call. It was the cheaper of the courses and you get more from it than others. I’d say there will be plenty more vacations, but the reality is that he’s going away to college soon. Who knows where he’s going to go. Who knows if he’ll even come back to the area. One of the schools he’s looking at is close enough to the cape where he may decide to take up lifeguarding over the summer at the beach instead of coming home. He may end up renting a place off-campus with friends or his cousin. It’s really hard to tell what will happen after he graduates.

That’s where raising adults versus raising kids makes the difference. At least I know hope that I gave him the tools that he needs to make the right choices for him. I have a good feeling about him, but he’s been mostly sheltered. It’s hard to say what it will be like for him out there in the real world. I can’t read the future. I just hope that I did enough that I become this nagging little voice in the back of his head, steering him towards the right path.

I’m Brianne: A White, Straight, Female and Boxed Color Ginger Author

That title probably stirred something in you. It seems kinda silly that I distinguished myself using not only my physical traits, but also my sexuality. It’s silly because what do any of those things have to do with me being an author? These aren’t things that can determine my skill. It may be interesting to someone who wants to know read works by female authors, but there’s no other need for that. Knowing all of that about me is unimportant to my adequate talents at words.

Every time that I read something, it seems important. “Gay Actor _____ stars as _____.” “First Female Lesbian Coach in the NFL.” “Transgender soldier gave WikiLeaks confidential information.” Why can’t it just be “____ actor stars in _____.” Why do we have to use these labels as titles, as if that’s all they are? It doesn’t matter. Him being gay doesn’t make him better or worse as an actor; his talent does. I’d like to live in a time when none of that matters. Where instead of “First Female Lesbian Coach”, we get “Katie Sowers is the offensive assistant coach of the San Fransisco 49ers”. It shouldn’t matter that she’s female or a lesbian; it should matter that she’s a person who does a good job at what she does. That’s what matters.

I get it though. When you’re a ground-breaking figure. You are shattering ceilings that really shouldn’t be there anymore. They keep telling us that times are much different now and people are more accepting. But they’re really not. I like that they featured Katie Sowers so much because it shows women that there is a place for them in their dream jobs, even if it’s in a male dominated world. I like that if I ever am blessed with a daughter that she could see these women running for president and coaching in the NFL and doing whatever the hell else they want so she can be inspired to follow her dreams. But we should focus on the important things, like talent or morality. Are these good role models? It doesn’t matter what they identify as or who they love. It matters that our children can look up to them.

I remember the first time a friend came out to me. He was nervous and scared about my reaction, which was “I don’t care.” He was pissed at me and I didn’t get it. I didn’t care. He was my friend. He was kind to me. Who he loved meant nothing to me because I didn’t care. He took it as I didn’t care about this struggle. That I shrugged this momentous occasion for him off because I didn’t care about him. I understood that. This was a big moment for him and the idea that I dismissed it was rough. He understood that I didn’t dismiss it because I didn’t care about him; that what he said to me was insignificant to how much I loved him moving forward. He was my best friend; that’s what I cared about.

There are moments when making note of their gender, sexuality, and race matters. It’s fine to say that Katie Sowers was momentous because she was the first. But that shouldn’t be the focus of every article. It’s fine to say “Lil Nas X is the first gay rapper”, but does every article have to say “Gay Rapper Lil Nas X…” Maybe it should say “Rapper of that Annoying Effing Song that I Can’t Escape”.

Maybe by changing this narrative, we are getting rid of glass ceilings. We aren’t pressuring a woman to be the first female president. We aren’t telling people that they have to come out because it’s really not our business because they should succeed based on their talents. Sure, let’s celebrate those momentous occasions that are worth noting, but let’s not dwell on it or focus on it. Let’s let the ceilings shatter and focus on making sure there are none left to break.

Venturing Into a New Genre

I’ve been trying to come up with my next project. I have many that I have started, but either got tangled up in some plot knot that I couldn’t get out of, second guessed my story, or just haven’t flushed out the idea for my children’s book. Finally, something hit me that inspired me enough to do a very rough sketch of the character. A fantasy character. My first adventure into the fantasy genre. As someone who’s barely read anything in this genre aside from World of Warcraft lore/novels and Game of Thrones, this is going to be a challenge I think. I know. But one that I hope I can scrape together the time and brainpower to go through with.

The idea started off from simple inspiration: a character with a name (no spoilers) that was a nickname a beloved friend used to call me. He would say it every time he logged into the game, one we played together for nearly a decade together at that time before he suddenly passed away. He was a precious friend and amazing human being that I think about often. Lately, that name has been nagging me in my brain as if the character needed to come to life. It sounds strange, but other writers could easily understand. I’m not too insane. Mostly.

The problem is all that I have is this angsty fantasy character, a name, and a specific look. Do I turn this into a kid’s fantasy illustrations with my subpar art skills? Do I make it a middle-school aged fantasy novel with some illustrations to bring this character to life? Would it be a series or a one-off? What would the plot even be? It’s hard to navigate this uncertain world but I hope this project brings me back into doing something I love, because there is something soul crushing about spending all of your brain power into something that isn’t yours.

Here’s to hoping that I manage to figure this one out. I think my sanity needs me to channel some of that creative energy in my mind.

The Month of Hopeful Productivity

November is NaNoWriMo. The month where writers try to create 50,000 words by the end of the month in hopes to create or start the novel that has been in their heads. This is a month that is supposed to be full of blissful productivity, one where you know you are working towards a goal and hope to succeed in it. Usually, I go in full of hope that this will be another year that I accomplish this goal. Some years, I try my best and fail mostly because life gets in the way. Some years, my own brain gets in the way. I have failed more than I succeeded, though it’s not about actually completing the goal. The spirit of NaNoWriMo is to settle down and attempt to start that novel you have wanted to write.

My problem, aside from my immune system and work and dealing with life’s obstacles, is that there are 2 books that I have started in this month, only getting about 5,000 words out of 50,000 but split between 2 books that both seem worthy of the effort. Finally, I settled on one only to second guess my call. I promised I would write a horror novel, but I keep undermining myself and critiquing my inability to write as I go. As a “published” author, I know you’re not supposed to think your book is utter crap until after you completed it, not belittle yourself as you go. I guess that’s just part of my process.

I spend most of my time writing for other people, then by the time I settle down to get my own writing done I feel like I’m all out of words for the day. My brain doesn’t want to think anymore. It wants to watch trashy television and recharge, only to pass out on the couch then fail miserably at going to and staying asleep at night. Then, I’m just in an endless loop of comatose functioning that there doesn’t seem to be enough coffee in the world to get out of.

I’m not having a month of productivity. I’m having a month of irrational insanity that is interfering with my peak level of productivity. I have paused my streaming for the month to focus on the work that I need to get done in the morning so that I can dedicate my evenings to whichever novel I settle on. As my youngest rants on about which actor stars in what movie and random facts about the actor and when a movie was released and whether or not the rating says it’s appropriate for him. As my teenager overdoes his physical therapy so that he can get in “peak form” when guppy week starts at the end of the month. Life is tossing some lemons my way so far these past 2 months, and I’m really in no mood for lemonade.

There have been times where the beginning of the month started off slow, but by the end of it, my brain goes into overdrive and nails the deadline even if I just finish mere minutes before 11:58 on November 30th. Maybe this is just one of those times. I’m not a quitter though. I will go insane until I either succeed or fail at the end of the month. But I won’t give up.

Another Year, Another NaNoWriMo Challenge

Every year, I try to sign up for NaNoWriMo. I know that I may or may not succeed. I have succeeded more times than I have failed, but failures are still rough. Especially on those years when you put all of your sweat and tears into something, only to fall just short of your goal (last year, 30,000 words out of 50,000). I’m someone who does take those things hard, but I’m also someone who shakes it off and moves on. Maybe it was just that I chose a difficult thing to write about, like one year when a story hit too close to home that I scrapped it. Or maybe I just get myself into some knotted plot hole and I can’t get out of it. Or maybe I just run out of ideas on how to make the story go forward. Short stories are where I seem to excel. Writing longer pieces seem to trip me up.

I try to have a plan every year. I take book ideas that I have worked on and tried to figure out which one will be the “one”. This year, I have decided to again attempt a thriller of sorts. My business manager/husband thought the topic was interesting and he gave me his confidence that I could do it this year. His supportive nature allows me to keep going on this path, even when other people think it’s a joke.

As October rapidly approaches, the goal is to start doing an outline and get things planned out. I attempted this last year, but I feel as though my outline wasn’t as detailed as it should have been for the story. Then, towards the end of this when I take a weekend get away in my favorite place in the world, I intend to find a nice little spot to get some final details done before November 1 hits. My fingers are crossed that this year will be successful. And let’s hope for some workout time to indulge in my favorite “brain” food that tends to help my writing process. (Send Dunkichinos, Flaming Hot Cheetos, and Peanutbutter M&Ms my way if you see me in November.)

Challenges are meant to be overcome, and I intend to try my best to achieve my goal this year.

The Cautions of Censorship

I’m a writer, which means I’m very much pro the concept of “freedom of the press”. I’m aware that this freedom only goes so far. For instance, generally speaking private organizations can do whatever the hell they want and there’s nothing you can do about it from a freedom of speech point of view. This freedom really only applies on a governmental level. The government isn’t shouldn’t be policing citizens on their opinions. The idea that governmental officials can get the false narrative of “fake news” out there is appalling to me. This should be more appropriately titled “opinion news” or “biased news”, and both sides are guilty of only showing the cards that best fits the narrative that they want to put out there.

The notion of censorship bothers me. I write because I want to share my thoughts and opinions. I’m always careful to let people know that what I’m saying is opinions, not necessarily fact. I’m a blogger; I’m here to write opinions based on the facts as I see them. When faced with a real possibility of a slide away from my freedom to write as I wish, I do get scared. I see this shift happening, and it really scares me. When the press is deemed “the enemy of the state”, bloggers and writers are probably not that far behind so long as they don’t “fall in line” as they should. I wasn’t cut out for following blindly; my parents made me that way.

Social media is getting more and more… loose… with their ban hammers. I don’t like the thought that you’re one wrong meme away from Facebook jail. Do I find some things on social media offensive? Sometimes things cross a line that I don’t feel comfortable with. Do I report it or even do more than just scrolling on past it? No. Because whether or not I find it offensive or agree with it, they still have the right to post it. As long as they aren’t specifically calling for mass murders on people or specific groups of people, I don’t see a problem with it. If people want to post racist, homophobic things, then that just lets me see the people I don’t want to associate with. It isn’t anyone’s job to police them. If people want to post awful things on social media, let the real world deal with it.

For instance, a person posts a racist thing on social media and then gets fired. If you were dumb enough to post the thing to begin with, you deserve the real life consequences of your actions. I think the moment you start censoring social media this way, you make it harder for us to let social Darwinism sort itself out. People are going to be racist homophobes; banning their content on social media just emboldens them. It makes them a martyr of their hateful causes. I want to see who people really are, which is the benefit of the cesspool we know as social media.

Let’s ease up on talking about what offends us and work towards teaching the next generations to be better than us. That’s the only real way that we are going to change the world. Not by being anonymous keyboard warriors that hide behind a false sense of security in our blanket forts.

Lessons Learned from the First Debate

I’m not going to lie. I tried really hard to watch the debate. At some point after making a crack about how Corey Booker looked confused on stage and Beto reminded me of an old Napoleon Dynamite, I realized that suddenly Rachel Maddow was on stage. Apparently memes on Reddit were far more interesting than what was going on stage. Why? First of all, I didn’t know half of the people up there anyways and honestly even after the debate I couldn’t tell you who they were. And that is the biggest problem the Democrats are going to have right now. I’m a prime target for both of these parties: An independent. If I have no clue who you are putting in front of me, I’m not going to see why I should vote for them. Then, you are going to lose because most true independents are going to have that same struggle.

Problem #2 that the Democrats are going to have? They are going to end up forcing Elizabeth Warren on us as the candidate, because they learned absolutely nothing from the Clinton/Trump election. I don’t care how progressive you want to look, she is going to be one of the worst people to put up there. She tries too hard to be “average” while also showboating. She’s not likeable. The whole “Native American” thing will be the only thing people talk about. Trump will win against Warren, I have no doubt in my mind about that. And part of that may be because she’s a woman, but it’s mostly because she’s not a very likeable one.

I do hope that tonight’s debate ends up less like a battle to talk over each other and avoid questions and more about learning who these candidates are. Yes, I’m particularly interested because from what I’ve seen there are 2 potential candidates up to debate tonight that I would actually consider voting for. Which is big news because I’ve never voted for a Democrat in a presidential election. Though, to be honest I’ve never voted for a Republican either. (I told you, true independent.) I hope that the candidates I’m rooting for tonight show me something good, something that will make me look closer at them. If not, I’ll have a hard decision to make next year. Because I can tell you right now that I still refuse to vote for Trump. In fact, everything that I’ve seen during his presidency makes me even more unlikely to vote for him. But I struggle with the idea of voting for someone because of their party. I’m an idealist; I want to vote for someone I can believe in, someone that doesn’t make me regret that decision.

Why not Trump? My thoughts on him don’t come from the news or are based in the Russian investigation. Just reading his Twitter account makes me want to have nothing to do with him. Then the fact that everyone kept talking about how “Obama was an embarrassment to the country and no one respects us because of him”, but yet (unless someone has evidence otherwise) no foreign leader publicly said that Obama was suffering from “mental retardation” either. Does the foreign leader actually think that? Maybe, but he most likely did it to get a rise out of Trump… which shouldn’t have worked but it did. That’s not a president; that’s a celebrity running their mouth on social media. Something that apparently the far right hate unless it’s one of them. Then it’s “He’s not afraid to say what he’s thinking”.

In an ideal world, a (good) Republican would stand up and run against Trump. We’d see the debate. I’d vote in the Republican primary if that happened. I want to see someone run that has experience, who doesn’t tweet out his every (and often infantile) thought. I don’t normally buy into expressions like “we’re one tweet away from war”, but I think that’s an irrational fear that’s growing more realistic every day. I want to have a candidate that actually makes me excited to go out and vote, not just go through the motions because of “civic duty, blah blah blah”. Especially as a woman, when people guilt you into it by saying “they fought so hard for your right to vote…” I want someone that I can believe in, that will make a positive difference in the world. Someone who’s a good role model for my kids, because the president is someone who represents us as a country. And we want that to be a positive, strong representation.

If You Don’t Like It, It Doesn’t Exist

If that really worked, I could pinpoint things on my body that I don’t like and it will magically fix itself. Oh, the power of ignorance.

It’s something we tend to do though, isn’t it? We don’t agree with it or don’t like it, so we shut our minds unable to accept the actual reality of the situation. It’s a truly amazing thing, right? Except, it’s not. That’s not called “wishful thinking” or “ignorance”; it’s called “delusion”. And there seems to be an abundance of delusion going around.

This isn’t just about our President, who seems to ooze delusion. Maybe that’s the trickle down effect I keep hearing so much about these days. I know, I tend to never so crudely say things like this about politicians. But delusion is a lot more dangerous than hypocrisy. When you spout hypocrisy, people can see it easier. I don’t think people buy into their own hypocrisy quite as much as they swear by their delusions. That’s what’s so scary about it.

When any politician dismisses any negative news about themselves, it’s delusion that drives them. When they bash polls as rigged or fake news, they are being delusional. For instance, when Trump bashes the primary network that backs him for the polls numbers they show as “Fake News”, it’s pure delusion. What news isn’t fake to him? Alex Jones’ InfoWars? Breitbart? IE: actual fake news? You know who else gets that delusional over their existence? Tyrants do.

I’ve never used this harsh of a language when talking about the president. Mostly because as criminal as I found him to be (and I thought Hilary was suspect as well, so don’t give me that “you’re just a lemming, dumb liberal” crap), I just thought he was too… “not there” to really be an issue. He wasn’t an actual racist; he just was dumb enough to allow himself to be surrounded by them. He doesn’t want to be president, he just wants the title. He sold himself to the American people and people buy into it. Fortunately for me, I’ve never been one to like salespeople or trust them any more than those “Windows is closing and wants to give you a refund” phone call.

But when delusion gets tossed in the mix. When there is a real fear to those who write their opinions, or even worse write the truth, that they will get shut down or blacklisted. Or even jailed for whatever reason they can. I feel like I’m no longer watching those insane television shows where there is a massive government conspiracy; I actually wonder if I’m living it.

The problem with delusion is that people firmly believe it. When people believe that strongly in something, you can’t convince them otherwise. They think that if they don’t like something, it ceases to exist. It doesn’t. It still exists for everyone around the delusional person. Bashing polls as fake because you don’t like what you see means nothing. It just means the people that follow you buy into it without question and those who don’t, think you’re insane.

The Balance Struggle

The reality we all have to face is that it’s very hard to balance everything that you want and need to do in the day. Those people that say they can handle it all either have an addiction that causes them to never sleep, thus seemingly like they are more productive than the rest of us. Or rich enough to get help to compensate in other areas of their life so that they can accomplish everything. I can’t. Plus, the fact that my ribs feel like they are on fire and being stabbed all at once has drastically reduced my productivity. Especially if it involves lifting anything, bending down, or twisting my body. The struggle really is real.

I have so many projects on my back burner as a result of contractual obligations to clients for guaranteed-ish money, brain not worky, and family struggles. Projects may be easy in concept, but really have not worked out as well as I had hoped by now. I had planned to start my comic series already. I had planned on at least being in the late stages of my next children’s book. It’s not happening for the foreseeable future unless a miracle happens. We’ll see how it all works out. I’m hopeful that maybe soon, probably when the kids are home from school over the summer, I’ll have more time to dedicate to this.

The problem is that, mom’s especially, are held to a higher standard than everyone else. We’re supposed to be able to balance full-time (or more) jobs, bake things for bake sales, attend PTO meetings, manage sports/extra-curricular activities/doctor appointments, have laundry done regularly, have food out on the table every day, and have a spotless house. Oh and did I mention that we’re supposed to be simultaneously a size 0, with curves, and a large chest? Yep. Go us.

Sacrifices are inevitable. You’re not going to be perfect. You’re never going to be perfect, even if you are. Society dictates way too much of how we function. No, your makeup doesn’t have to be perfect every day. It’s okay that you’ve decided that today is pajama day and you’re going to lock yourself in your room watching trash television eating ice cream while the kids are watching the same episode of “Paw Patrol” on repeat. Stop worrying about finding the “perfect balance” because the truth is the perfect balance is whatever you say it is. It’s your life. You just go on doing you.