Tuesday, September 30, 2014

#smallcourage

Hello!

I swear I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. Seriously.

But what I have started doing is #100HappyDays over on Instagram. (I can be found here, and really, let's not talk about how unimaginative I am about creating screen names, though there is something to be said for being able to found across multiple platforms with relative ease.)

One of my favorite hashtags on Instagram is #smallcourage. And it's something I figured out last summer, after having surgery.

Being told you have to be cracked open like a walnut and patched up like a popped tire is terrifying no matter what age, but it's a special kind of horror when you're only twenty-three and feel like either the road will go ever on or you won't see another step of it. Signing all the papers and giving the doctors free reign to do what they need to is big courage. It's bravery on a whole new level (I'll write you a dissertation on the subject if you disagree with me, trust me, I can).

Small courage is different. It's the idea that, despite how much it hurts or how much you don't think it's going to be okay, you get out of bed each new day. It's how you say today will be different. It's how your sternum feels like it's healing together again and you have a few odd beats more in one day than you usually do, and yet you keep going. Small courage is the courage it takes to just keep on keeping on, day after day, even when it seems like the last thing you absolutely want to do. It's sending out one more query letter after five rejections. It's finding a way to go to NYC for a weekend even after your boss tells you no, you don't have any time off to use to take a Friday.

It's stepping onto an indoor soccer field 2.5 years after your last college intramural game, little over a year out of major traumatic surgery, and trying to find your footing again. It's knowing that it might not go like you want it to go, but damn it, you're going to try anyway.

Big courage decisions come every so often. Small courage comes on a daily basis, and it reminds us all that we are very brave, very courageous people deep inside. And that is something none of us should ever forget.

Have a lovely Tuesday.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Society Woman

Last weekend was, for many, the second weekend in August. For anyone in the Twin Tiers region of New York, specifically the southern portion of Seneca Lake, last weekend was also NASCAR.

I'm not normally a NASCAR fan. I just don't see the point of driving in a circle turning only one way. But when they come to WGI? That takes true driving. The wheel goes both directions - it's a road course - and I will happily sit down and spend three hours of my life watching about 40 high horsepowered vehicles burn off copious amounts of fossil fuel. However, I rarely actually get to watch it.

My family has been part of the Grange organization for years. As a way to "make money" in which to pay the bills for the building, they've also been volunteering at WGI since, I believe, the early '80s. I spent many a NASCAR weekend up there in a food stand, pulling sodas with my cousins before the track transitioned to selling bottles instead of cups. Though we got out of the food stand a couple years ago, we still volunteer. This time we sell souvenirs.

I like to volunteer. I happily spent nearly two full winters volunteering at my local library during Saturday mornings and weekday evenings, and I did many hours of service in high school and college. I went on a week-long service trip to Virginia for two Spring Breaks, and I genuinely just enjoy helping others. So when Mom asked me if I would come back that weekend and help them out, of course I said yes.

Many of you know I had open heart surgery last summer (we're coming up on a year!) and that I have a fairly substantial scar smack dab in the middle of my upper chest. Really the only time it's not visible is if I'm wearing a t-shirt and sweatshirt. Other types of clothing usually mean the very top portion is showing. This doesn't bother me; I'm rather fond of my scar. It's a part of me.

Which is why it kind of caught me off guard when an older gentlemen, who was looking at some stickers last weekend, noticed it and, rather quietly said, "You've had open heart surgery, haven't you?"

To which I replied yes. Mom added we were coming up on a year. Turns out, he had had open heart surgery, too. He'd recognized the size, placement, and shape of the scar for what it was.

That's the moment that I kind of realized I was in a sort of club with everyone else who had ever had such a procedure done. Much like I am as a writer, I'm now part of a larger community that's been through something monumental and traumatic. It's a really awesome thing to know someone else has been through exactly what you have, and they, like you, have come out on the other side, too.

All in all, it was one of my favorite experiences from last weekend, and certainly a conversation that will stick with me for a while.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Who, Me? An Unofficial Official #PitchWars Mentee Bio

I should not be doing this. I should be frantically cleaning my apartment because my landlord is showing it to someone this afternoon while I'm at work since I'm moving this month. I feel like Loki's I DO WHAT I WANT gif his highly appropriate here, and, you know, maybe one of these days I'll teach myself how to put gifs in my blog text. Pictures I can do.

PitchWars is back! Yay! If you're not sure what PitchWars is, go here and see the lovely Brenda Drake (she has the details).

So who I am, besides a clearly Wandering Sagittarius? Weeell....I'm a performance grade asphalt binder technician for a construction company in Central New York. I work with the stuff that make roads and can use my BA in chemistry on a daily basis. Pretty much. So, my life is kind of like this.



Maybe not that extreme. More like this, really.


My coffee has clearly worn off. But this happens when you work 40-60 hours a week.

Righteo. Some cool things about me.

1) I'm Part Cow
Yes, you read that right. I'm part cow. I found out in March 2013 that I was born with an ASD - atrium septal defect - in which the hole between the top two chambers of your heart don't close when you're born. My cardiologist wasn't comfortable with the size of the hole (huge, apparently, and we later learned that huge meant size of a half dollar) and sent me to another cardiologist who was going to put an artificial patch in. Well, when he looked at the size of the hole, not only was it huge, there also wasn't enough on the one side of the heart wall for it to anchor to.

About a year ago (August 29, 2013) I underwent open heart surgery at the age of 23. They put a patch made of cow (they usually use pig, but I have cow) over the hole, wired my sternum back together, and my cousins dubbed me "The Iron Cowheart Lady" when they gave me an Iron Man arc reactor t-shirt while I was recovering in the cardiac step-down unit.


2) I've Always Been a Writer
When I was six I thought writing a book was taking a published book and transcribing it into a notebook. Now that I'm significantly older, I know that's called plagiarism, and I've since then started really working with my overactive imagination and ideas. As a result I've finished five novels - two of which belong in a series - and three of which I'm seriously querying to find an agent/get published. This includes my PitchWars entry, FROST, which is a retold fusion of Jack Frost and The Pied Piper set in a small town in the New York Adirondack Mountains. What's pretty cool is that FROST didn't start off as a novel, it started as a dramatic text I wrote for a class I took in 2010 while studying abroad in Wales. 

Though I still haven't managed to finish that ten composition book monstrosity I started my first year of high school, I did decide to start to rewrite it. There's something really fulfilling about reconnecting with the first set of characters you ever worked with.

3) A Dead Poet's Practical Magic
I'm a movie junkie. I have an ever-expanding crate of them, a years-old Netflix subscription, and can basically quote you certain films line by line. My favorites are by far Dead Poets Society and Practical Magic. My current favorite TV love is the BBC's The Musketeers, though I am a lover of all things geek, including various series of Star Trek and shows like Stargate: SG-1, The Big Bang Theory, Stargate: Atlantis. Superhero movies? Love those, too. My BFF came to visit a couple weeks ago and brought me mini action figures of Data and Riker. I squealed loud enough to wake the entire neighborhood at 1 am.

A Few More Random Fun Facts
- I can't have pets in my apartment, so I consider Henry the Houseplant my pet.
- My writing tends to have either alternating POV's or multiple POV's.
- I am not the world's biggest fan of first person POV, though there are some exceptions - like Kenneth Oppel's Matt Cruise series (which is phenomenal).
- I put together 750-piece puzzles in my spare time.

That's pretty much me in a nutshell. I'm also a hot mess of crazy most days, but nobody needs to know that. Thanks very much for stopping by, and good luck to all my fellow mentees, who's fantastic bios can be found right here. Go check them out!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Little Steps

This isn't what you think it is. Trust me.

This past weekend was, for many colleges and universities, graduation. Which, aside from the fact that it made me realize I've been a year since my own trip across the proverbial stage to get my BA, is a time for new graduates to just bask in their potential. And there's a lot of potential in almost all of those pictures currently flooding my Facebook feed of caps, gowns, and shiny new diplomas.

I'd like to know when I got quite as cynical as I have because my response - and congratulatory status update - included mention of getting slapped in the face by reality.

Because it is coming. Whether you, as a new graduate, want to believe it or not, it is coming.

Unless you're one of the few that have been hired back by the place you did your unpaid internship at, it's a tough as shit job market out there. I have a degree in chemistry, and it took me roughly a year and a half to get a job. My friend, who's a teacher at an all girls Catholic high school in Rochester, took about year after her masters degree to find a position. My other friend is currently still jobless, and she's been out two years.

Nobody is going to hand you a job when you hand them a resume with your credentials on it. You have to apply. You have to get rejected. You quite possibly have to go all the way to Chicago, IL, take two civil service exams, and then come all the way back home to realize, yeah, that might not happen either though you're more than qualified.

It sucks, it really does. It feels like a never-ending uphill battle. In some cases, it really is. But you have to keep trying. Even getting a first interview is a big step. But it's also a little step. And the important thing to remember is that what you might end up doing is not something you would have dreamed you'd do in the first place.

Case in point: I never thought I would work with hot mix asphalt cement for the same employer my father has worked at for thirty years. (Does this mean my father was the one to get me my current job? No. He suggested I put in an application, and he sent it in for me, but the rest of it was my doing. We also do very different things for the same company.)

But it's a job. I enjoy going to work every afternoon (hooray for second shift! Seriously, I love it.) and I find it interesting. Did I also swear to myself as an undergrad that I wouldn't ever work in a lab? Yeah, I did. I also swore I'd never willingly look through scientific literature articles and materials post-graduation, and hey, I do that on a regular basis, too. With excitement.

Times change. Situations change. And you, yourself, will need to be a little flexible at first. It's not going to be perfect, but it's going to be something. You just have to keep trying, and take it one little step at a time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Striking Out (In a Good Way)

[Hi. I'm going to be utterly shameless and pretend that the past however many months of inactivity haven't happened. I hope you'll indulge me. If you won't, well, there's always bribery by baked goods, so maybe that'll work.]

I'd like to start off by saying, in an answer to the last post on my lovely blog, I didn't make it into Pitch Wars. I did, however, make it into Pitch Madness, and had both some success and some failure there. Overall I was pleased.

Except for when I thought I might actually get a contract with an agent and then got the email that dashed that for the moment. But hey, you win some, you lose some, and you spend more time in life doing an abbreviated cha-cha than probably walking in a straight line.

I have no idea if that made any sense, but I've already put in an hour and a half of overtime this week, and it's only Tuesday.

Good news! I got a job in my degree field (chemistry) and moved out of my parents' house. This is the start of my second full week in my little apartment and, coincidentally, the beginning of the second full week of my new job.

I am a performance grade (PG) binder technician. This has to do with asphalt, and what I do is that I look at the binder, or the stuff that holds what crews later put on the road together. I run lab tests on it (I get to use a blowtorch on a regular basis, how cool is that?) and I ensure that product meets certain specifics. So, if we have a batch of something the guys at the tank farm have made up, I get to certify that it meets certain requirements and can actually be used.

It's pretty cool. It's fun, it's definitely different, and I do enough different tests to where my days are probably not going to devolve into the pattern of "same shit, different shift."

Also, said job pays more than minimum wage (not that there's anything wrong with minimum wage, but let's be honest, minimum wage isn't a living wage, not in today's world), and has a full benefits package. I have my own health insurance. I'm twenty-four years old, a recent college graduate, and I have a job that's got benefits and a 401(k).

With all that good stuff comes the other side of it - I pay my own rent, and my own utilities. I caved in today (because Mother Nature has seen fit to dump snow on CNY like it's still January) and turned up my heat (because I don't need pneumonia), and I'll also pay my gas bill, too. However, I don't have cable, with no real intentions of getting it, either, but I did go get a MyFi from AT&T, because the whole living without internet thing? Yeah, not a big fan of that. I lasted a week, and then realized that I would probably burn through all of my data and going over that wouldn't make my mother happy.

So this is really the first time I've been out and about in such a way on my own. Yes, there was that little apartment my ninth semester of college, but it wasn't really mine. I had to give it back. Granted, if I move out of here I have to basically do the same thing, but it feels different. And that's the important part.

Do I feel like an adult? Eh, sometimes. Usually more so in the morning when I put coffee in a to-go mug, fight rush hour traffic, and park my little Buick between the massive pickup trucks everyone else in my building seems to drive.

I'm quite happy where I'm at, and content to take it a day at a time.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Haul and Wait

Monday, December 2, 2013 was the submission day for the fabulous Brenda Drake's PitchWars. (To find out more information on what PitchWars is, feel free to click the link - it'll take you to her blog and she can explain things a hell of a lot better than I can at the moment.)

Bottom line, if you have a finished manuscript that you're ready to query with, you apply for a mentor. They'll read your query and your sample pages - sometimes even ask for more - and then they'll give you feedback on why they did or didn't accept it on December 11. I know that's only five days away, but it's going to feel more like a month away, really.

I'm not very good at waiting.

The last time I entered a contest like this was during my semester from hell (I think) and I entered Sage, and I totally botched my applications, in all honesty. It was awful. Last year I chose not to enter, because I didn't have anything that I really, really thought would be worth it.

This time I offered up Matt & Topher like proverbial lambs. I've had some success with them in pitch contests on twitter, and I've gotten plenty of rejections with them doing e-queries, so I'm really curious to see how they'll do. It will also be an opportunity to find out what I need to work on - because there's always something that can be improved - and that advice will prove valuable even if, ultimately, the boys and I go nowhere but back to the drawing board.

In the mean time, so I don't freak myself out totally while waiting and obsessively checking the Pitch Wars hashtag, I work at the hotel (for a rather funny picture from Wednesday, check out my Instagram feed for the chalk outline from the kitchen) and I work on getting a little further in Frost, my re-working of Jack Frost that I started three years ago. In other words, I keep busy so I won't go nuts. So far it's working. Hopefully the next five days will go much the same.

Happy Friday and have a good weekend.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Something to Be Thankful For

Last week was Thanksgiving. We had, as per usual, a boatload of people in the house. We also had a boatload of people staying in our hours for the week, too. My aunt and uncle from Maine, my two cousins and their dog from South Carolina, stayed at our bed and breakfast (what we jokingly call our house in the summer because it's like a permanently revolving door twenty-four hours a day with who is getting up for work, leaving for work, and coming home from work...but that's a different story for another time) and we had something like sixteen or seventeen people for dinner Thursday.

I had to work. It was an utter madhouse at the hotel: we did 685 for our buffet dinner, ran out of turkey, and had fun with each other so we didn't go absolutely batshit crazy. Well, we went batshit crazy anyway, but the highlight of having to work on a day when we were supposed to be with our families - which people continually thanked us for - was sitting down at the end after all the customers had left and the dishes had been taken back to the kitchen, and having our own sort of family dinner from the left overs. We were all tired and punchy and it was one of those things that I'll hang onto for a long time.

What I'll also hang onto is that a week ago Monday was my twenty-fourth birthday. With all that happened this year - and it's been a rough year - I honestly, at some points, didn't think I would see it. But I did. And to be able to celebrate it, and look forward to another year patched up and ready to take on the world is something that will make this birthday the most special that I will ever have. I will always remember this one. Not because of the food or the presents, but simply because I am still alive.

My family, the jokers they are, have hinted they're going to get me a cow tag - like you can buy at Tractor Supply - with the number 23 on it. I have to say I really like this idea, and I'm hoping to find it in my stocking on Christmas morning. And if anybody asks me about it, well, I have a story that's stranger than fiction. But they say the truth usually is.

Hope you all had a happy holiday, and oh, hey, it's December. When the hell did that happen?
"The difference between life and the movies is that a script has to make sense, and life doesn't."

-Joseph L. Mankiewicz