A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Z is for Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist – intellectual fashion or dominant school of thought that typifies and influences the culture of a period of time.

Zeitgeist comes from the German words “Zeit” meaning time and “Geist” meaning spirit. Zeitgeist is considered the “spirit of the age” or “spirit of the time.”

What is the most recent form of zeitgeist in our age? I would say it's the advent of the advanced level of technology that we depend on today. Computers with 1 TB or more of hard drive space, miniature computers called smart phones, the advances in medicine and science that have come because of the level of technology we have today. All of these things have formed the backbone of our lives and the spirit of our time these days.

You have to admit that for the most part, you don't see people without some kind of technology these days. Children may be exempt from the technology craze, though they aren't completely free of it because of the use of computers in their education. Not many adults exist without some form of the advanced technology in their possession.

We are beginning to become more dependent on our technology. If we don't know something, instead of looking it up in an encyclopedia, a book, or a dictionary, we rely on Google or other search engines to give us the answers. Where once we sent paper letters to each other, and had to wait days for a response, now we send emails that can be answered within minutes of the other person receiving them. Communication around the world which was so hard before is now as easy as connecting through social media or using virtual software to hold meetings across time zones.

Scientists use a higher level of technology to make discoveries. The most recent one I can remember reading about off hand was how a 3D printed cast was used in conjunction with ultrasound to help heal a bone (here's the article from IFLS). Stem cells have been created using an adult's tissues. Organs are being created in a lab from cells taken from the patient to help minimize rejection during transplants. More and more medical and scientific discoveries are being made every day. Look at the technology that sent a rover to Mars and allows us to make sense of its discoveries.

There are so many things that technology does for us, that it has created for us, that I believe it will become the “spirit of the time” for us in the late 20th century and the early 21st century. What do you think the zeitgeist of our time is? Do you know what the zeitgeists of other times have been?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Y is for Yo-Yo

I don't there's many of us who haven't at least seen a yo-yo. We've watched it go up and down and up and down. Some of us have even tried it. There are those who could barely get it to go up and down. Then there were those who could do amazing tricks with them.

A yo-yo is a good analogy for daily life. There are ups and downs, some days we can barely make it, and others are amazing and we feel awesome. The thing about a yo-yo is you don't always have control over if it goes up or down. People do have some control over that. My N post goes over this so I'm not going to get into it here. But remember that we have some control over what makes us feel bad.

Another thing that a yo-yo can be an analogy for is the mood swings of someone suffering from mental illness. One day they're fine, happy, and as normal as life gets for them. The next they can be depressed, violent, self harming themselves, suffer hallucinations, etc.

No one can know when a mood swing will happen. There are certain things that could trigger them. A bad day, a harsh word, reading something that upsets them. Or there isn't anything that you can see that sends them off into their low mood. There are days where we don't know the reason why we hit that low.

With medication, meditation, exercise, hospitalization, and/or counseling, there is a way for us to bounce back up. We aren't as quick as a yo-yo but it does happen. Just like people who don't have a mental illness. We aren't that different from those around us. We just have a chemical issue that requires further assistance before we can reach something we can consider normal.

Then there are the awesome days, the ones where it's easy to have a good day. Things go smoothly for us. There's something to excite us, or we're rewarded for something. Our favorite song plays on the radio. We get a day off and do something fun – just define what fun is for you. Those awesome days are also part of a yo-yo life.

Life is like a yo-yo. Be patient and it will always go back up. It may take time. But it will.

Monday, April 28, 2014

X is for Xenophobia

Xenophobiaintense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries

How many times have we opened up a science fiction book and xenophobia was one of the reasons for antagonism between humans and aliens? Or one set of aliens and another? What about fantasy stories where there's a war because one kingdom despises the people of another just because they worship another god or are different from the antagonistic kingdom? How much do we see in our own world today?

I have heard more xenophobic statements in the last ten years than I have in my entire life. People, not just in this nation but around the world, have expressed their distrust of, fear of contamination from, and violent diatribes against people from other countries. It's both sad and disturbing.

We are in a world of global communication. Get online and you can reach people in most areas around the world. There are places too poor to have internet access, but they can be reached in other ways. The point of this is we can speak to millions of people. And there are some who are being silenced by their own governments.

The fear of outside contact has led to the stifling of open communication in those countries. They don't have the rights we do. But how free are we? There are things we've been hearing in the news, reading in stories online, that make me wonder just how long it will be before we are silenced.

Xenophobia is a terrible thing. It leads to misunderstandings, wars, and suffering. It closes borders. It stifles communication. It deprives people of outside ideas, which could expand knowledge and creativity. Open borders help open minds. Open minds lead to understanding. Understanding leads to peace.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

W is for Wonder

Is anything more magical than the wonder of a child? Their eyes open, their minds eager to draw in the thoughts and experiences? How crushing it must be as they get older to have that stifled and snuffed out. The wonder of a child is an amazing and precious thing and should be welcomed and encouraged, not driven out of them.

What happens as we get older? Where does that wonder, that wide eyed desire to learn, experiment, and discover things go? How do we lose our desire for new experiences?

As we get older, we're forced by society to become more focused and less fanciful. Our questions are met with clinical answers and we're told to take them as “The Truth”. Many places crush a person down if they ask a question, offer an idea not within the limits that authority believes should be placed, etc.

We can still maintain our wonder as adults. We just have to be willing to ask questions. To leave behind the restrictions of our lives and open ourselves to new experiences. I lost my desire for such things a long time ago. I was content to plod along in my narrow little bubble, not seeing, not learning, not asking questions.

Then I met Himself. He shook me to my core because here was a young man who didn't stop asking questions. I didn't think that was possible. I thought everything had to be explained and once that explanation was given it was the only way. He showed me a different way.

It's taken me fifteen years of constant exposure to Himself to finally get to the point where I'll freely ask questions. I'll look something up if I want to know an answer. Yes, there are times where I just want the answer handed to me. I'll admit I get lazy. But Himself pushes me to keep developing my sense of curiosity, my desire to know more.

I'm sure I don't have to ask you, my blog readers, if you've maintained your sense of wonder. If you're here, you probably have. So many of my followers are writers, readers, or both. But if you see someone struggling, if you know someone who no longer believes, then give them a nudge. Show them that there is still some wonder in their adult world. Let them discover for themselves that there are still things to be curious about.

Friday, April 25, 2014

V is for Vacation

We all love vacations. I mean who doesn't like taking a break from everything, often leaving home and going somewhere else to get away from everything? There's the vacations that my family always took: camping, picnicking, fishing, hiking. Then there's the ones that friends of mine take: cruises, trips to Europe, trips to Australia (though I'm still not sure if I'm jealous or grateful it wasn't me).

What about those of us who don't have the time or the money to go on long vacations? What if we have family obligations, car issues, medical problems, etc. that keep us home? What are we supposed to do then? How can we take a vacation?

There are many ways we can take little vacations. We can go to the park for a picnic. If we're physically able, take a walk just around the block. Another way we can take a vacation is a mental one. Those we can take any time we want.

A mental vacation can be as short as a few seconds or as long as we want. What is a mental vacation you may ask? A mental vacation is completely turning your mind away from anything that you're doing, that is troubling you, that is stressing you out. You take yourself out of your own head.

Many psychiatrists recommend finding a “happy place” you can take yourself to when you're stressing or are very anxious about something. Somewhere that can calm you down. In my case, mine is a forest surrounded by mossy trees and the faint sound of the river. I can draw on the memories of a child camping to bring this image to my mind. A friend of mine has an image of walking through Madison Square Garden in NYC when it's full of noise and people as her happy place. It's whatever works for the person in question.

Another way to take a little mental vacation is music. A single song can take your mind off your troubles if you let it, a piece of music can restore your calm. Close your eyes while the music is playing. Let the lyrics, the instruments, the beats of the drum or whatever it is about the song that you like wash your thoughts away. Let it clear your mind, help you calm down. For me, that's instrumental music. For Himself, that's German Industrial.

Mental vacations are necessary to help us regain focus and balance. Yoga is a good way to balance yourself again. Meditation can be too. So can Tai Chi. Or just putting your headphones on/earbuds in and listening to a song or two. Standing still and putting yourself into your happy spot. Walking or running, using physical activity to clear your head. All of these are good.

So what do you do to take a mental vacation?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for Unanimous

Unanimous...it's such an amazing word. To have something be unanimous it means that everyone has agreed to agree to the same thing. It's something that we want to hear when our government makes a decision. Or is it?

If there was no debate, where would there be discourse? If there was no difference of opinions, where would be the chance for growth? Differing thoughts are what make us who we are. It's as much a part of us as breathing. So why would we want a unanimous decision anywhere?

There are times when something like that would be useful. I know we all want to see Congress do things unanimously that would benefit our nation such as more money for food stamps, Medicaid, and education and stricter regulations and penalties for big banks and the rich. What do the debates between them show?

They show us where people's priorities are. They show us who wants to give back to the nation and who wants to keep everything for themselves. They can give us an idea who is supporting their paychecks from lobbyists rather than actually representing the people of their home state. Above all, it can show us the differences of opinions among everyone else and not just those in power.

No one thinks the exact same way as another person. Thoughts may be similar, but the way they got to that point is very different. We don't always agree with each other, and we've taken that to mean that we must be right and the next person wrong and we have to do anything we can to force them to see things our way.

It doesn't work, and all it does is cause friction and unhappiness. It can destroy friendships. It can ruin marriages. It can cost you your job. Being willing to listen to and accept other people's thoughts, even if you don't agree with them, is the best way to deal with things. We're all human though, and we won't always manage this. I know I don't.

If ever there was a unanimous decision in Congress, I think I'd be scared. I'd wonder who paid off who. I'd also like to know what the result of such a decision would mean for the rest of the country. I don't trust that those men and women would ever totally agree on anything without some kind of outside pressure.

What about you? Is there any time in your life that something has been unanimous? Did it work out the way you planned?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for Theocracy

Last week the United States was stunned when Iowa governor Terry Branstad signed a bill into law that effectively ended the separation between church and state in Iowa. If you missed it, you can read different views on it here, here, here and here.

People are saying Iowa is now a theocracy. I wanted to know what a theocracy was. So I went and looked it up. A theocracy is a government run with the idea that God (or whatever deities you worship) is the supreme civil ruler, his laws being interpreted by the ecclesiastical authorities. Now, I'm not entirely sure Iowa has taken it that far, but what it did is very disturbing. It has broken the Constitution and declared something that will probably end up in the Supreme Court when a motion is filed by people in the state.

I think one of the most noted theocracies in history has been when the Pope and the Catholic church dominated a good chunk of Europe. The Pope granted the right to rule to kings and queens, but it held the right to revoke that and name someone else in their place if they didn't approve of what they did. Priests held the power through the nobility, and those among the peasantry were left in their charge. Even the poorest couldn't escape the power of the church.

One thing I would hate to see is the United States become a theocracy. I can see what it would become: a Christian country. There are more Christians in this country than any other religion. I am not a Christian. I do not claim to be one nor will I ever conform to a society that demands it of me. What do you think would happen to me, to my husband, to many of our friends? Would we be left in peace? Or would something else happen to us?

There are still countries in this world that are ruled by religion. Some are quiet, not bothering their neighbors and living out their lives with peace in their borders. As much as there can be in this world these days. There are others who are violent, torturing and killing people who don't believe as the rulers do. These countries wage war on those who don't follow the same religion, aiming to destroy the “unbelievers”, the “infidels”.

I wish the world would stop relying on religion for everything. That just because I don't worship your god doesn't mean I'm a bad person. It just means that I don't have a set of rigid guidelines to live by and instead am judged solely by my actions. There are people who do not claim to worship any god who do good in this world. There are those who claim they are Christians who do harm. There are worshipers of Islam who would rather live in peace. While there are others who would destroy the rest of us.

I could go on and on with this. It is my opinion that if you want a theocracy, write a story about it. Don't impose your religion on people and say it's the “one true way”. Let people make up their own minds. Let them exercise that free will so many religions say we've been given.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for Stories

Santa Claus isn't real. Neither is the Easter Bunny. Or the tooth fairy.

How old were you when you these things out? I can't remember how old I was, but I do remember feeling betrayed by the adults around me. I know my parents went out of their way to keep be believing in Santa one Christmas by having my older sister, who was in California at the time, write a letter to me from “Santa”. It took me a few months but then I saw another letter from my older sister and confronted my parents. They consistently denied it was from her but I knew. I knew and I was angry.

Stories have been passed down through the generations, first orally and as people became more literate through the written word. Even now there are people who pass their stories along orally because it's how they've always done it. Or they aren't a people literate in the sense of the world that we know.

Myths were used to explain the world. Long before they were written by the Greek and Roman scholars, they were whispered over fires or proclaimed at religious celebrations. The gods took on lives and personalities based on those who told the stories, which later became the basis for the written ones.

Stories have always played an important part in my life. First, they were a way to escape my mother. Then they became a way for me to tell what I held in my imagination. They still are. I love telling stories. I enjoy seeing people's reactions when I spin another tale from my world.

The stories that have stuck with me the longest are the Pern stories by Anne McCaffrey, the Witch World stories by Andre Norton, A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Jane Eyre. So many more that I could name. Another influence and one I wish I could have saved to this day were my mother's stories – the novels she spent a lot of her adult life writing. Those were lost after my mom's death and to this day I wish I could have gotten her to publish them.

What stories have made an impact on your life? What are the ones that have stuck with you through the years?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

R for Rebellious

What do you think of when you hear the word rebellious? I think of teenagers trying to declare independence from the authority figures in their lives. And the definition of rebellious lends itself to that: defying or resisting some established authority, government, or tradition; insubordinate; inclined to rebel.

The truth is everyone has a little bit of a rebellious streak. How many times have you challenged those in authority in your life, whether it was successful or not? How many times have we wanted to do something completely out of the norm or us, just wanted to break free from our ordinary lives? I know that I've felt that urge many times.

Himself felt that need. He's now a part owner of a business that is starting to take off. They struggled for a few years but they finally found their niche market. Himself rebelled against the idea of a boss/worker relationship and instead went his own way. He found a new place where he could be happy after that bit of rebellion.

Then there's me. I felt safe in my life as an employee in a large company. It was stressful but ultimately it was what I thought I wanted. Then something changed and I was no longer able to work there. I wasn't able to work a regular job anymore at all. I resigned myself to living the rest of my life dependent on someone else for income. I didn't want that. I wanted something else. So I rebelled against my expectations. I found some work as a freelancer. It isn't much now but it will open up more opportunities for me as I go forward.

Sometimes a little rebellion is good. It shakes us out of our complacency and gives us the idea that there's something more out there. Consider the risks you're taking though. Are they worth it? What will you lose by taking those risks?

We still had a rather large and steady income when Himself lost his regular job. It took six months of fruitless job searches for him to join his friends in starting their business. Remember what I said about finding their niche market? It's taken three years of little to no income. Remember what I said about me? Right now we're scraping by, living month to month with no money to spare. But we've both found ways to change our situations by challenging what those in authority have dictated we must do with our lives.

A little controlled rebellion can be very beneficial, if it's planned out. I know it sounds like a strange thing. A planned, controlled rebellion. Take time to look at it from all sides and figure out if the risks outweigh the gains or not. If you can honestly say that you stand to gain more than you lose, test the waters. Take a chance. You never know what can happen.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for Quitting

How many of us have quit something because it was too hard? Or because it hurt us, either physically or emotionally? How many of us have quit something we enjoyed because we were told there was something wrong with us? How do we know when it's time to give up?

The answer to all of those questions is it's not. I've read and been told that there are no failures, only new expectations. Quitting and not trying are the only way you fail. Quitting is a sign of weakness.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

I've heard so many things against quitting that I've begun to tune them out. The problem is they're right, to a certain extent. Quitting something before you've really given it a chance is, in my eyes, the only failure there is. If things don't go your way, then find another way to make it happen. If you can't, then change your goal or actions to accommodate the new parameters of the situation.

That doesn't mean there aren't times when you shouldn't quit. Self harm is something that you should quit. Harming others to make yourself feel better is something that should be quit. You should quit abusing someone. These it's not a failure to quit but a necessity. Though with these, a lot of it comes down to perception, a sense of worth, and the willingness to make the changes.

If you want something, don't quit. Find a way to make it work. If you absolutely can't, shift your view until you find what is working and follow that. Follow the positives. Follow the accomplishments. Look on the positive side of things and find reasons not to quit.

Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Pandora's Box

Image courtesy of FantasyStock on DeviantArt

The myth of Pandora's Box is one that's at least somewhat familiar to most of us. The gist of it is Zeus had Hephaestus create the most beautiful woman. He made her out of clay and Zeus brought her to life. They called her Pandora. Pandora was given to Prometheus' brother Epimetheus as a bride with one caveat: the box (or jar) that came with her wasn't supposed to be opened. One of those things Pandora had been gifted with was curiosity so when her husband wasn't around she opened the lid a little to see what was inside. All of the terrible things in the world came rushing out, followed at the end by a small light. This last little thing was hope.

There are many terrible things in this world, though they aren't brought about evil spirits escaping from a box. They are the result of mankind's decisions and delusions. But the one thing that is constant, that keeps people from being torn down completely, is hope.

Hope is there as a constant companion to despair. For some, it is the faintest glimmer, a grain of sand against the tides of darkness. For others it grows to outshine even the tiniest fragments of shadow. Hope is the one thing in this world that we shouldn't lose.

I listen to the news and hear the stories about Syria. I wonder how those people even keep going. For them, I wonder how they keep going. What allows them to get up every day and look out at their world. It's a war torn disaster area where so many atrocities have been committed that there are faint talks of the Western nations getting involved in things. What keeps them going?

I believe it's hope. Hope that they will be able to flee the area and find peace and a new home in another country. Hope that the conflict will stop and things will be peaceful again. Hope that those who have come in from the outside to help will bring a solution. Hope that perhaps when their children are grown this will all be a terrible memory, a black spot in history. I have no idea how they can be so strong in the face of so much and I must believe it's hope.

Pandora's box may have been opened to let the evils out into the world. Humanity may have made some horrible choices. But we have to be grateful for – and encourage in others – the concept of hope.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for Outcasts

There are always “others” in our lives. There's us and there's them, the others. Those different from us. Those that don't fit into our idea of normal. They don't settle into our groups and aren't a part of the social structure as we understand it. They are the outcasts, the unwanted, the strange...and most often the bullied.

There are people who will never fit into societal norms, until those norms are changed. Anyone who fits into the LGBTI designations will be considered outcasts until we get over the fact that they're different and embrace that as part of who they are. They will never be allowed to fit in many places until we can look at them without prejudice.

Those who are of a different race, a different religion will be outcasts until we open our minds to the possibilities of knowing people who are not like us. This goes for any racial group looking at another racial group. White people are not the only ones who show racial and religious prejudice.

Those who don't choose to hold a regular job, who endeavor to create something different – the artists, the writers, the entrepreneurs – are outcasts. They don't do what society expects them to do so they are looked down upon. They are pressured to “get real jobs”, to become what those around them think is normal.

There are those who have fought for their countries, their homes, and they are looked down on for that. They are forgotten, ignored, and pushed to the side. They are treated poorly and instead of being given the recognition for their actions they are treated with derision.

The list goes on and on. As long as society holds with its views of normal, there will always be outcasts. Changing those views starts with us. We need to push back, tell “society” that we won't tolerate people being marginalized and treated less than everyone else because they're different.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for Negative Thinking

Negative thinking is something I'm guilty of. It's been my general attitude for everything. It has been most of my life. (See my M post for a good idea of why.) I've lightened up a lot in the past fifteen years compared to what I was like growing up. But I still have that problem of looking on the negative side of things rather than look for the positive.

Even when I do find one positive thing in the midst of all the things going on in my life, I see even more negatives. As Himself says, “Ten negatives outweigh one positive.” Something's changing though and I think it's for the better.

Each day I tell myself to look for the possibilities in the day and see them as learning experiences rather than things to drag me down. It's hard. Many times I fail. But each time I succeed it gets to be a little easier.

I still have negative thoughts. I sparked a fight Saturday night because of one. When things calmed down, Himself was able to explain to me why he felt what I did was detrimental to my situation. I agreed with him and said I'd work on being more blunt.

Positive things can come out of negative experiences. You learn something new. You learn how strong you can be. You gain more knowledge and a different perception on things. But if you only look for the negative, you hold yourself back. You don't expand your experiences. You hide and everything passes you by.

There are times when you just can't find the positive. No matter how hard you try. You don't see a light at the end of the tunnel. You're climbing an ice covered mountain and you're caught at a place where there's no hand holds and what's above you is a sheer sheet of ice. Even the most positive person has moments like this.

The only thing to do is to keep looking for a way out of the negative. You have to make your own light, chisel out your own hand holds. Ask others for help. Tell them what you're thinking and feeling and see if they can take you in another direction than you originally thought of. Don't hold yourself rigid or you'll break. Go with the flow and change directions when you need to.

All of this is great advice, and has been drilled into me time and time again by Himself. It's finally beginning to make sense and I've been working on implementing it in my life. One of these days, maybe one day soon, I'll be able to get up without my usual defeatist attitude and find a world always open to possibilities. Where even mistakes and changes can be learning experiences instead of filled with depression and fear.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for Mother

Mothers. We wouldn't be here without them. Sometimes they can be the most wonderful people in the world. Other times, not so much.

My mother was not a kind woman. At least not to her children. My older siblings always tell me that they had it worse than me. My youngest older sibling (I have three older and one younger) is nine years older than me. They say my mother was worse when they were growing up. I have no basis for comparison. I wasn't around then.

But my mother was bad enough when I was growing up. She always belittled me, hit me over the tiniest provocation, and kept me isolated so no one would know what she was doing. Growing up I thought this was normal and sought my escape in books and writing, two pastimes she allowed me because she herself was a reader and a writer. It kept me from asking questions and allowed me to escape from her. So I dug myself deep into the writings of her favorite authors and expanded from there thanks to school libraries.

There were books I brought home that my mother insisted on reading first. She would force me to take them back, unread, because they were “inappropriate” in her eyes. As I got older, she stopped reading what I brought home and I found all sorts of things she didn't want me to know about. I learned about same sex pairings reading Mercedes Lackey. I found out about sex scenes reading some romance author I no longer remember the name of.

This didn't mean the abuse stopped. But it gave me an escape. I tried moving out on my own when I was twenty. I was back home within a year. My mother's controlling ways and constant verbal and emotional abuse continued. I left home at twenty two. I went to Job Corps. It was there I found out that what my mother did wasn't normal and that I could have a life of my own where she didn't control me.

I moved in with Himself's family for a while before we went out and got our own place. A part of me still expected the kind of abuse I got from my mother and I would cringe every time Himself got angry at me. I wanted to get past it but my mother's legacy still haunted me. I took Himself home with me for Christmas one year and was completely shocked by how civil my mother was to the both of us.

Then Himself and I had our break in September 2001. We lived in Washington. I took the Greyhound home and got into Boise at 2 AM. My dad picked me up and I was back at my parents' house at 2:30. I expected mom to be in bed, was expecting to be raged at and belittled for my poor choice in a boyfriend.

Instead my mom was up in her green nightgown with the old red shawl I remember so well wrapped around her shoulders. She saw me and opened up her arms. I started sobbing and was enveloped in arms and a shawl. She took me to a couch and told me he was the one who'd lost a treasure, how it was obvious he didn't know what I was worth. Everything I'd come to expect from her was turned completely around. We talked until 7 AM when I finally fell asleep on the couch. That was 9/11 so you can imagine I didn't get much sleep but my mother was there.

The last two years of her life were like a dream for me. Here, this woman I saw, I talked to, I lived with for a brief period until I got married, she was the mother I'd wanted all my life. I learned my mother was bipolar and was finally diagnosed and getting treatment.

I lost my mother two years after I came home from Washington to cancer. She went from diagnosis to death in three weeks. I railed against it for a long time, crying about how she'd been taken from me just when I was getting to know the real person behind the mental illness. Then I realized that I was thankful for those two years. And I still am.

Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for Learning


I touched on this in my G is for Growth post but I want to continue it on here. In Marked, there's a place where one of her friends asks Aisling why she's willing to do so much, to spend so much of her time doing new things. Aisling's response is something she attributed to her father: “If you're not learning you're stagnant. If you're stagnant you're not going anywhere. Learn so you can go somewhere.”

I had crochet hooks and yarn, but didn't know how to use them together. I wanted to learn since I wanted to make some afghans like my mother and grandmother had. I went to a friend and she taught me how to crochet a chain and attempted to teach me how to make rows. I struggled with it because her teaching style didn't fit my needs.

So what did I do? I went to YouTube. I watched I don't know how many videos before finding a series that fit what I needed. I watched them over and over again until I got it right. After that, I went on to make a small lap afghan. After that I started reading patterns and making plans to make an even more elaborate afghan. I didn't have the right sized crochet hook and never got around to getting one, but the information was there and I learned it.

I started knitting when I was 8. My grandmother taught me and my mom kept it up. They only taught me to knit and purl, teaching me the stockinette pattern but that was it. I could experiment with both types of stitches and make my own patterns but I wanted to know more. I wanted to make hats and gloves and socks.

I got a set of DPNs. DPNs are double pointed needles. They came in a set of five. Once again I was on my own because no one I knew could use them. So I read patterns on Ravelry, I asked questions in forums, and once again I turned to YouTube to teach me how to use them. I never got to finish my projects having lost one of my DPNs somehow. But I still learned. I still know how to do it too. When I get around to it again, I'll get new DPNs and start over. I may need a refresher course but the knowledge is there.

Learning is such an integral part of every day life that we don't even realize we're doing it. You're always learning something new. The trick is knowing that and paying attention. If you don't think you have an opportunity to learn something new, find one. Ask questions. Watch a video. Read an article in your newspaper or one of the many online news sources. Keep an open mind.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

K is for Koffein

Koffein. That is German for caffeine, something many of us don't seem to be able to get along without. We buy super sized drinks in a coffee shop to fuel our day. We pour ourselves cups at home and either drink them black or add sugar and creamer or milk. We gulp down energy drinks or caffeinated soda. Teas and some herbal supplements carry caffeine as well.

Caffeine is most commonly used to improve mental alertness. That's why so many of us consume it. It's a legal stimulant and many of us are addicted to it. Withdrawals can be painful headaches, the jitters, and an intense desire to hurt someone if we don't get it “right now”. (Okay, I made up the last one. At least I hope I did.)

Caffeine can be used in combination with other things to deal with headaches, especially migraines. People with ADHD use it as a depressant instead of a stimulant. It helps them stay focused and wind down instead of being hyper all the time.

But too much can cause problems. It can cause a racing heart, a bad side effect if you already have heart problems. It can lead to the jitters or hyperactivity in those who are particularly sensitive to it. It can cause sleep problems, including insomnia, if taken before bedtime. It can cause or increase anxiety.

As with anything in this world, using it in moderation is key. I have an energy drink and I nurse it all day. I've found that it gives me the right amount of stimulation without giving me the racing heart and nausea that I get downing the whole thing in a short amount of time. I don't get jittery. I don't get light headed. I can also down a liter of Mountain Dew in a day, though again like the energy drink I nurse it all day.

I know people who can suck down two or three energy drinks in a day and feel nothing. Their bodies have built up such a tolerance to the caffeine that it doesn't phase them. That can prove to be dangerous to them because they still get the physical side effects and so much caffeine is not good for them.

I'm not saying don't ingest caffeine. I tried to stop. The headaches were horrendous and even after a few days didn't go away. A single can of Mountain Dew and the headaches stopped. I'm just saying ingest it in moderation. A single cup of coffee or tea instead of a pot full. A single can of soda. If at all possible, don't do energy drinks.

Be safe and be aware of what can happen if you overdose on anything, including caffeine.

Friday, April 11, 2014

J is for Jelly Beans

Today I want to talk to you about jelly beans.

More specifically, Jelly Bellies. Bear with me, this is a serious post. I promise.

I love Jelly Bellies. Especially the pear flavored ones. Those are my favorite. I only get them as a treat once in a while. Do you know how expensive the darn things are? Upwards of $7/lb here. I never get a pound though. My store has smaller bags and I usually only fill them a quarter of the way, sometimes half if I'm having a really bad day.

I have to be having a really bad day before I'll buy them though. The sugar content in those things is really high and I already ingest enough as it is. But there's something about a favorite treat that can make a day better.

As I said, I only get them once in a while. Last time was months ago. I love eating them a few at a time, savoring them and drawing out the enjoyment of the treat as long as I can. Sometimes I binge on them, eating half of what I buy in one sitting. They're so addicting, to me at least, that I can't always help myself.

But with all treats, we must be careful. I know the push is to eat healthier, and some of you are probably horrified. I know I'm overweight and munching down half a small bag of jelly bellies, which usually runs about half a pound if I'm not careful, is not good for me. But neither is denying myself the chance to have a treat.

If we go all the time with eating only the healthy foods and renouncing all of those things we love, we're going to slip and end up binging on those treats we've been denying ourselves. Then we feel guilty and berate ourselves for it.

As long as you limit it, an occasional treat is just fine. It gives us a reward for staying on our chosen path. It grants us a little bit of sweetness/savory/etc – whatever your idea of a treat is – as we plow along in whatever we're trying to do.

This goes for anything in life. If you focus too much on one thing without taking a break, you're going to snap. Take time for yourself. Find a moment or two to just relax. Take a little bit of pleasure. Don't feel guilty. Enjoy it and then go back to what you were doing. It won't hurt and you'll feel better for it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I is for Image (Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders)

Body image is something many of us struggle with. Some of us think we're too fat. Others think they're too thin. Some take these images to an extreme, which is where we get eating disorders. These are illnesses that need to be treated as such. As far as I know, those of us who have fought them don't ever truly recover. There's a chance that we could relapse. Our body image issues can be brought back by as simple a thing as a comment that feeds into our insecurities.

I was never classed as having anorexia or bulimia. But in high school I would starve myself for a few days. I would tell my parents I ate but I wouldn't. I would push food around on my plate at dinner to make it look like I ate but I'd tell my mom that I wasn't that hungry. When I did eat, I'd either gorge myself and feel horrid or I'd eat lightly and still feel horrid. I wasn't a light teenager. I was overweight. Not too bad but I was teased for it. My view of my body was skewed and I've been struggling with that ever since.

If you have body image issues, if you aren't happy with how you look, change it. Talk to your doctor. See what he/she/ze says. If you don't agree with them, say so. Don't be afraid. The only thing stopping you from getting help is yourself. Sometimes they'll do something you don't appreciate. Other times their advice will help you.

Eating disorders are nothing to consider as a passing phase. They can lead to a person's death. You need help. If you know someone who has one, talk to them. Encourage them. Try to give them as much support as you can. If you can, talk them into getting help. Tell them to talk to their doctors. Don't tear them down about their appearance. Don't tell them you wish you were as thin as they were. Don't tell them they're fat and need to lose weight. Just support them as they come to a place where they can resolve their issues.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H is for Happiness

Happiness. How many of us seek happiness only to find misery? Did you know the misery we find can be found in our own minds?

I am a negative person at times (okay, most of the time). I have a hard time finding things to be happy about. But Himself has given me an interesting way of looking at things. He says it's helped him find happiness even on hard days.

Instead of looking at what's going wrong, at what you can't do, see instead how the problems can be beneficial for you. Instead of saying 'I can't', look for options. He says there are always options, even if they take you down a different road than where you were going in the first place.

I've watched him change over the years as this philosophy has given him strength. He's suggested I give it a try. I'm giving it a shot now. So far I've managed one day of looking at things through a positive light, though I had my moments of doubt. As I write this, I'm going on day two (this is being written on Saturday). I'm having a little trouble today but I'm looking for options to change that.

Now you could be thinking that we're different from you. That what works for us may not work for you. I thought the same way. I still think the same way when Himself offers me suggestions. But if you don't try, you'll never know.

There are things that we know will always bring us happiness. Reidar is one of those things for me. Writing – and editing – make me smile. Play time with Himself and watching movies with him. Taking walks in nature. All of these things make me happy.

There are many things that make you happy, and for some of you my suggestion isn't necessary because you have no trouble finding things to smile about, to be happy about, to drive off the negative. But for those like me, who see only the negative, who can't bring themselves to be happy, this suggestion might just be what you need.

Another thing that we focus on is how much things give us happiness. The more things we have the happier we are. I've learned over the last few years as the number of things I have has dwindled to almost nothing that I can still be happy without them.

Find your happiness. Put your joy and happiness in something other than stuff. Seek to eliminate most of your negative thoughts (I said most for a reason – negativity will slip through no matter what you do). Above all, be happy.

So what makes you happy?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

G is for Growth


Everything grows. People, plants, animals, even single celled organisms can grow into a colony which is greater than the whole. Our minds grow too. With every word we read, every syllable we utter, with every image we see, our minds expand with knowledge and wonder.

It pains me to hear people say they don't read, they're not into reading. I don't read as many books as I used to but I'm forever reading articles online, researching and learning new things. I know someone who doesn't even do that. He won't play games that require too much reading because he finds it hard.

I don't know if he has problems with his eyes, if he's dyslexic, or if he just doesn't like reading. There are many reasons why someone wouldn't read. But there are other ways to expand your knowledge. The new Cosmos has a website here where you can watch full episodes. I don't have tv so I go there to watch. There is a desire here to learn more.

Physical growth is inevitable for the majority of people. But mental growth, that's something controlled solely by the individual. In school we are taught many things, but retaining them or finding some passion in them to continue learning long after we've been taught the lesson and the teacher has moved on. Devouring books, papers, even videos if we can find them. Yes, I know today on YouTube you can find just about anything. But think back to when you were in elementary, junior high, or high school. Did you have the tools we have now?

Learning is so much easier now. A quick search on Google gives you answers you didn't know you wanted. YouTube offers videos on how to do so many things. Facebook and Twitter can be sources of links as well, as you monitor your feed for fascinating tidbits you can then research on your own later. So much information is out there, it's up to you to find it and expand your knowledge and your mind.

Interestingly enough, I feel movies and video games can do the same. Movies can inspire you to go further, to reach for distant stars and motivate you to find a new way of seeing things. Video games – and yes, I know there are some terrible games out there – can teach you hand/eye coordination, how to solve puzzles, and give you social interactions.

There are so many ways to grow your mind. Do something today to give yourself some new knowledge. Play a game. Watch a movie. Use all of these things to be inspired and to grow.

Monday, April 7, 2014

F is for Flowers

I love flowers. If I was able to, and wasn't so scared of bees, I'd have a garden right now. Even with my fear of bees I think I'd like to have a garden full of flowers. Also a vegetable garden. But vegetables aren't flowers.

I have a few favorites. By far my absolute favorite though is the hydrangea. I love the look of the flowers clustered all together. They can be light blue to light purple. If I'd had a bouquet for my wedding it would have been one hydrangea cluster. If we ever renew our vows with a formal ceremony (we've talked about so many options), I'm going to have a hydrangea cluster for my bouquet.

I also love lavender. I love the look of the purple flowers. I love the scent. The scent is a natural calming agent for me. The smell relaxes me and takes me out of the moment to another place. I think it's awesome how many things can be made with lavender from soaps to lotions, from tea to biscuits. Lavender can be both scent and food.

In some ancient societies, flowers were used to send messages. When a woman wore flowers she did so with great care for they gave status and meaning to what she was saying/doing. Flowers could be sent as messages even when words could not, for not everyone was literate but a flower was as good as the written word.

In Fury, one of my current projects - a sci fi novella - flowers are used by the primary antagonist in the story to pass a message along to Fury, who is then pushed down different paths because of them.

What are your favorite flowers? Do you grow them or are they something you'd have to purchase at a floral shop? What messages do you think your flowers would say if you sent them to someone?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

E is for Equality

There was a wonderful announcement by George Takei on my Facebook feed last Saturday that I just had to look into. He posted that England and Wales had lifted their ban on same sex marriages. As of midnight leading from Friday into Saturday, gay and lesbian couples were already lining up to be married.

Marriage equality is not a privilege. It should be a right, along with equal pay, equal insurance coverage, businesses should not be able to discriminate against someone just because of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation.

For many, being LGBT isn't just about what gender they prefer to have sex with. It's how they identify themselves. For some in that community, it's now how they're born it's what they feel and believe they are inside. Not all gay/lesbians feel they should have been born the other gender. They just prefer the relationships with their own.

The ones who suffer worse than the gay/lesbian/bi cultures are the trans-gender. I don't know as much about their lives as I'd like but I know what I've read. And what I've read makes me sick at the cruelty of some people. Forcing a male-to-female to use the men's room even though she's likely to be attacked all because her physical birth gender was male.

There was a M-to-F that used to work where I did. Let's call her Maria. Maria was a brilliant, beautiful, and hard working woman. She was smart, funny, and had a way of making even the worst customers seem ridiculous and amusing. One day, when she was using the restroom, her stall door didn't latch all the way and someone pushed it open while she was using it. The shit hit the fan.

Maria hadn't gone through the surgery. It's not cheap around here and she was waiting until she and her partner had a little more saved before she went through it. She was going through the hormone treatment so in every aspect except one, she looked and for all intents and purposes was, female.

But because someone saw a penis instead of a vagina she was badly mistreated by the company. For an employer who prides itself on being LGBT friendly, they treated her like shit. It took a debate all the way to corporate before Maria was allowed to use the women's restroom. But every time she went in some woman went to management and screamed about how uncomfortable they were with Maria in there. No one stopped to think about how uncomfortable Maria was with that.

Maria finally gave up and quit. I don't know if she found another job that was more trans friendly or if she just stopped working because of the cruelty she suffered at the call center we worked at. I didn't even know she was gone until I overheard someone call her a freak and laugh about the fact that she was gone.

I had a gay co-worker who ran into similar circumstances. One of the ultra-conservative Christians working for the company saw his wedding pictures and threw a fit. She tore the pictures down and ripped them to pieces one day while he was off. She claimed she was saving us all from the devil.

When he came back and saw what had happened, he went to his manager. His manager told him she had every right to destroy his personal possessions because "we can't go against someone's beliefs". He handed in his notice right there and left.

I think in the time I was there, I witnessed every gay/lesbian/trans co-worker of mine driven off by the small minded exploits of the people I worked with and for. I was disgusted and eventually when my health ended the possibility of me working there, I was thrilled. I'm bi and a few people knew that. I was already getting some dirty looks and was once told to stop staring at a female co-worker's ass. My shoe was coming off and she was wearing a tight skirt. She thought when I bent down it was to try to look up her skirt.

Several states have marriage equality laws passed. There are countries that have done the same. When will everyone - lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, whatever you identify as - when will we all get the equality and the same rights as everyone else?

Friday, April 4, 2014

D is for Depression

I originally had another post in here but I realized there was something even more serious that I needed to talk about. It's something I live with every day. It is as much a part of me as my eye color or my skin. That is the burden of depression.

Part of what I deal with is a chemical imbalance. I've talked about that in another post. Part of what I deal with is another thing. It's an emotional response to things in my life. That is the depression I want to talk about today.

I don't know a single person who hasn't had that moment of "I can't handle this any more." If someone tells you that they don't have these moments, they're lying. They may not recognize it when it happens but it's there just the same.

Those are the days where getting out of bed is too difficult. When you can't focus on anything. When nothing feels worth doing. You need to understand that you can get past it.

It feels like you can't, like there will never be another happy day in your life. But it gets better. It may take an hour or a day. But you can get that positive feeling back again. You just have to keep telling yourself "It isn't the end, it will get better."

And in the end it does.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

C is for Cat

I have a cat. If you've read this blog for any amount of time you know this. Reidar is my companion and my friend. He is my company when I need him and a source of calm when I'm upset. He is quirky, annoying, loving, and above all – he's a cat. And cats are awesome.

Cats come with many different personalities and traits, just like humans. They come in all shapes and sizes. Their fur comes in different shades, patterns, and lengths. There are even some cats without fur. There are cats who are mellow and cats who are closer to their wild cousins than regular domesticated cats.

Some people are allergic to cats, and I have to say I'm sorry for that. Cats can make wonderful companions. Then there are people who are more dog people than cat people. That's awesome. Whatever pet you choose has the potential for being a good companion.

Cats have been around for thousands of years. Cats have been associated with humans for the last 7,000 to 8,000 years. They started coming around when we had permanent settlements to chase the rodents feeding on the grain. Egyptians worshiped cats and venerated them as part of their religion.

Then there was the time when cats were considered tools of the devil. They were hunted and killed. People who associated with cats were considered witches and were often killed along with the animal. That was a dark time for our furry companion.

But cats became valuable again and people welcomed them as pets and companions. The history of dogs is a little more hard to determine. No one is quite sure when they became companions to people. There are a lot of differing opinions on that. But dogs have been around for a long time as well, and people have used them for many different purposes over the centuries.

No matter what pet you have, treat them well and they will return your care with love.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

B is for Bipolar

Not all of my posts are going to be this serious. In fact, most of them won't be. But I felt, on the tail of the abuse post, I wanted to talk to you about a diagnosis that will follow me for the rest of my life: bipolar disorder.

It's not as frightening as it may sound. Bipolar disorder is a chemical imbalance that creates misfires in the brain. It can lead to a shift from hypomania to depression. This is not the depression that can be controlled with positive thinking, it's not the type that goes away after a day or two. Neither of these are. Both the mania and the depression can last for hours or they can last for days, depending on how fast the cycle is.

My cycle isn't rapid but it does change faster than you'd think looking at me. You also wouldn't realize I was bipolar looking at me, unless you knew my diagnosis. This is because I'm on medicines that help me control it.

Now, medicine isn't the only way to control it. Exercise, diet, herbal supplements, things like that can help too. For me, medicine was the best route because I couldn't find another way to control it. I have a friend who is unmedicated that cycles faster than I do that controls hers by exercise and other activities.

Here is an excellent article that gives you some subtle signs of bipolar disorder. There are a number of mental illnesses that can range from mild to complete and total mental shutdown. Not all of them can be treated like mine can.

If you see someone who has bipolar disorder - or any mental illness - don't shut them out. Don't push them away. Don't ignore them. Offer your love and support and friendship. You never know when they'll need that one person they know they can trust to talk them out of something that will destroy their own lives, and possibly the lives of others such as cutting, self mutilation, suicide, homicide. All of these are possible for those who are bipolar, as they are for other mental illnesses.

Support, don't shut them out. Educate, don't assume. Love, don't hate.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A is for Abuse (Trigger Warning)

At any given time in the United States, there are children and adults being threatened or who are experiencing some kind of abuse - physical, emotional, sexual. The statistics are there for everyone to see. You can see Domestic Violence statistics here and can look up the Child Abuse statistics here.

Victims of abuse are often too scared to come forward. Most of the time with children it is someone else who notices the victimization and reports it. Some abuse victims feel like they deserve what they're getting because they've been convinced by their abuser of their worthlessness.

Abuse is not something to be ignored. Abuse is not something that will go away with time. The interesting thing to remember though is abusers were probably abused themselves. This doesn't excuse what they're doing. Abuse is never right no matter what the situation is.

Victims of abuse can perpetuate the abuse with others. To stop the cycle of abuse something needs to be done. Abusers don't always realize what they're doing because it seems normal to them. This is what their life was like so it must be how things are done. Sometimes all it takes is someone calling them out on it to get them to seek help. Other times it just makes things worse.

If you know of someone being abused, please report it. Get them help. Don't stand by and let someone get hurt or possibly killed. Encourage them to speak up. Tell them this isn't normal and they don't deserve it. If you are a victim of abuse get away from your abuser. You aren't at fault and you need to leave. Children often don't have a voice. Be their voice. Stand up for them.

I was emotionally and physically abused as a child. No one spoke for me. I believed I was worthless and deserved what I got because of that. I'm turning 37 this year and I still have problems thinking that. My husband is amazing and tries to build me up. He talks to me, encourages me to think past that, and open my eyes to how much worth I really have.

Sometimes it works.

I can be very self destructive because of what happened to me growing up. All the way into my adulthood I was afraid of my abuser. It wasn't until I got away from them and found my own life that the fear started to lift. I've been at this for 15 years, escaping from the fear and emotional scarring of the abuse. As I said before, it's not an easy road. I'm better than I was but I still have a long way to go.