Some random chick, searching for herself and sharing her thoughts.

No Fear in 2014

2013 was a year of changes. I fell out of a lot of good habits, moved to a new town, worked in a new store, and saw management and associates alike come and go. I started seeing a chiropractor who does progressive rehab for the scoliosis I’ve suffered through for 21 years and I finished the first draft of my first novel. Friends and family have died and have been born.
The worst part of 2013 for me is that I realize that after moving back to my home state of Massachusetts, I seemed to lose the courage I gained in moving on my own to Texas. I have rebuilt the protective wall around myself that keeps me sheltered from new and scary changes. As I face the search for a new home once again, I find myself searching close to home, afraid to leave everything I know and am comfortable with.
I don’t normally make annual resolutions, but this year, there is one thing I want to accomplish: put my fears aside and live.

K.C.’s Life of Inertia

Sometimes you have to move back to move forward.

Remember high school physics? The teacher claimed that an object at rest will stay at rest, while an object in motion will stay in motion (unless acted upon by some outside force; see Newton’s Law of Inertia). Considering the past two years of my life, I have to say Newton was certainly on to something.

At the end of 2009, I had the opportunity to do something that I had never seriously considered before: leave home.

I know a lot of people accomplish this right out of high school, when they go off to college. I chickened out. Not only did I enroll in a college in my home state (the former Massachusetts Communications College in Boston, now the New England Institute of Art in Brookline), but I decided (kind of at the last minute, too) that I’d rather take a year off and work instead. I was scared shitless of taking the train into the city, spending the day with a bunch of strange people in a strange place, and taking the train back home—all by my lonely, 17-year-old self.

Maybe you can’t relate to this feeling. Maybe you’ve always been one to jump at a new adventure. Or maybe you couldn’t stand your parents and couldn’t wait to get away.  I, on the other hand,  would sacrifice happiness, freedom, friends, education—anything!—if it kept me comfortable, someplace safe.

After living at home for four more years (then living with Dad’s girlfriend for another three years after “home” got sold), my sister and I got our own place … two towns west of our hometown.

My sister and I had the condo for about two and a half years when we came to an impasse. We don’t usually see eye-to-eye, but this time, I wasn’t willing to roll over. She issued an ultimatum: get over it, or get out. She agreed that if I left, she’d buy me out.

So I took my money and ran.

I moved to Texas without a job, friends, or any plan beyond ‘if I don’t like it there, I can go someplace else.’ It was the single most liberating thing I’ve ever done in my life.

Within three weeks, I had a new job, new friends, and the glimmer of a plan. After three road trips and ten months in Texas, I decided I wanted to live in North Carolina (have I mentioned I’m a NASCAR fan?). So I moved to Charlotte.

Unfortunately, I lost my momentum. I had quit my job a couple of months before moving to NC, and could only afford to stay for a month. I had been looking for a new job, but I ran out of money before that happened.  So  I tucked my tail between my legs and slinked home. (This wasn’t literal. I went to my Dad’s house, which is in NY, not MA, so I wasn’t actually home.)(Nor do I have a tail.)

Without that momentum, I fell back into my stagnant tendency … for over a year. Again, I found myself without happiness, freedom, friends, education …

Until my father issued me an ultimatum. He finally told me I had two months to get out.

And suddenly, my life is moving again. Also, I can finally relate this post to the opening sentiment.

I’m going Home.

I’m moving back to Massachusetts in order to get my life moving forward. I’ll most likely be going back to work at my last job before I left, and I’ll be moving in with a friend who lives in the same town I have already spent 15 years of my life in.

It may sound like a step back (especially if you measure from my independent life in Texas), but if you measure from my year and a half of unemployment, and my 14 months living in my father’s guest room, it’s a step (or two) forward.

Besides, in MA, I’ll have a job, friends … and I have a plan.

So here I am, moving back to move forward and building momentum again.

Going Vegan

Last June, I made one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever made: I decided to go vegan.

I figured it would be relatively easy. I had already cut out red meat, and I never was a fan of seafood. So all I had to do was give up poultry, milk, eggs, and my beloved cheese. Right?

Unfortunately, it’s a little more complicated than that. The more I read about veganism, I realized that the companies that produce our food have a variety of creative disguises for the parts of animals they stick in breads, crackers, frozen foods, and more.

The biggest adjustment I had to make was to learn to ignore the pretty pictures on the fronts of the packages and scrutinize the nutrition label on the backs. I learned that innocuous-sounding ingredients such as glycerin, lecithin, and castoreum are actually parts of animals. And they are used in many popular foods.

I learned that so-called “humane” forms of slaughter don’t always result in death for the sick and abused animals we eat, and that they suffer through the next stage of the process before finally dying.

I learned that factory farming is the least eco-friendly and efficient source of food.

The more I read, the less I wanted to eat. The more I read, the less I felt I could eat.

But I enjoy a challenge. And to my delight, a whole new world of grains and veggies has opened to me, now that I am open to it.

I think the best thing I learned was that with some simple ingredient substitutions, I can still enjoy some of my favorite non-vegan foods.

A Good Rule of Theme

Writers know that every story needs a good ending. Otherwise, no matter how enthralling the beginning and middle are, the reader will be left disappointed, and possibly cursing the writer for cheating him/her (deus ex machina, anyone?).

But readers can end up with the same feeling if there’s no strong (or consistent) theme. Even if your entire story is otherwise perfect, people aren’t going to close the book in satisfaction, anxious to run out to Barnes & Noble (or log onto barnesandnoble.com) to buy your next one if it leaves them wondering what your theme has to do with the story.

I was thinking about this today while listening to some music on Spotify. Have you ever heard Brooks and Dunn’s God Must be Busy?

The first time I heard it, I was driving home from work at BJ’s Wholesale Club (for those of you not living on the East Coast, it’s like a Sam’s Club).  The music itself is nice, and the lyrics are touching. I found myself welling up over the fighting and the missing girl. The chorus is even inspiring…

Until I realized all the guy wanted was his ex back.

I felt horribly disappointed, as though I had been cheated out of  some great truth. It’s like when a joke has a really great buildup, and you know the punchline has to be gut-bustingly hilarious… and it falls flat.

I know I’ve been guilty of this in some of my stories. I’ll get a wonderful idea and start writing, without trying to develop it and integrate a theme. Then when I get to the end, I can’t think of what to write. Going back to read them, it’s like I just tacked some random sentences on the end of  otherwise decent stories.

The best way to overcome this? Probably knowing what I’m trying to say before saying it. I’m not big into planning, but even a basic outline with some notes could be enough to keep me on topic. If I provide myself a road map before I set out on the journey that is writing a story, there’s less chance of getting lost.

Daily Resolutions

I’m sitting here, looking at the calendar and thinking that this trying year is–thankfully–almost over. But why do I think that? I know January first isn’t some magical day when life resets and we get to start over. (As Eminem put it, “…life is no Nintendo game.”)

I suppose it’s how we’re conditioned to think: celebrate the new year, resolve to do a list of things by the end of the year, fail to fulfill those resolutions, and then thank the stars at the end of the year that we get to try again next year.

But life isn’t measured solely in years. Those years are made up of days in which we wake up each morning and have a chance to do better what we couldn’t accomplish the day before. Why wait a whole year to come up with a list of things to do over the course of the year? Come up with one thing you want to do today. Do that each day. By the end of the year, you will have accomplished 365 (or 366) things. Some New Year’s resolution list, huh?

Today I have decided to pick up my novel manuscript–after having pushed it aside for three weeks–and push through my stagnation to write a few more scenes.

What will you do today?

Dear Me

Dear K.C.,

You need to kick your lazy self in the butt. You want to be a writer? Then write, already! I know you’ve heard this before, but you need to write EVERY DAY if you expect to get any better. Even if you don’t have any new ideas, just write down your thoughts or revise something you’ve already written.

You don’t have to write anything grand. Flash fiction is fine. At least, until you’re in the habit. Then you can work on longer stuff. Remember, you won’t be able to write a novel if all you ever practice writing are short stories.

You also really, definitely, SUPREMELY need a source of income. It doesn’t matter what lousy job you get, you just need something to pay your bills and still have enough left to save up to get out of here.

Never stop searching for yourself and for your dream. You are your only roadblock.

Love,

K.C.

 

What do you think? Is there any advice you’d like to share with me? If you had to write a letter to yourself about what you needed to improve on, what would you write?

The Fickle Flesh of Fate

I came up with the idea for this story in hopes of submitting it to Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge from December 2, “An Affliction of Alliteration”, but didn’t quite get the idea fleshed out in time to submit it. (By the way, if you haven’t stumbled upon his terribleminds blog, check it out! He’s hilarious and gives great advice.)

 

The skeleton wearing a long cloak and a wide-brimmed hat pulled low over his face looks down at the list in his hand, checking his next appointment. He hops up into the driver’s seat of his coach and snaps the reins at the four onyx steeds in the harnesses. The horses snort, paw at the ground, and gallop off. After a few yards, the entire coach—horses, driver, and all—disappears into thin air.

It reappears in a serene neighborhood where the sweeping lawns are lush emeralds and the sky is a clear sapphire. The citrine sun sparkles high above. On the nearest lawn, a football game is in progress. The laughter and joyful shouting almost drown out the birdsong in the background. The skeleton dismounts his carriage and approaches the sidelines of the makeshift field.

“Deangelo Ventura.”

The quarterback spirals the football to a teammate and turns his dark hair and matching eyes to the skeleton. Alarm crinkles the brow of his otherwise flawless olive skin.

“Yes, can I help you?”

“Your time is up. You must come with me,” the skeleton barks gruffly.

“Come where?”

“To the afterlife.”

“But I’m already in the afterlife. See?” he gestures to his surroundings. There isn’t a flaw anywhere. No threatening clouds, no dead grass, not even a crack in the sidewalk.

“That’s not possible. I have you here on my list of Newly Dead,” the gruffness leaves the skeleton’s voice as he points to Deangelo’s name on the list.

“Well, I guess that makes me double dead, then, because I died a decade ago.”

“I can’t believe this,” the skeleton says, throwing his hat on the ground. “If this is some kind of joke, just ‘cos I’m the new guy…”

“Look, this should be easy—I’m already here, so you don’t actually have to do anything.”

“But all new arrivals have to check in at Intake. If I don’t bring you in, I could lose my job.”

“All right, then. Maybe they can work this whole thing out. I bet there’s another Deangelo Ventura you’re supposed to take.”

Deangelo joins the skeleton on the perch of the carriage, and the horses pull them into thin air.

When they reappear, they are outside a small log cabin. They start for the front door, when the skeleton stops. He makes a face that suggests constipation, and his body starts to jerk.

“Are you okay?” Deangelo asks as the skeleton appears to get thicker.

In a matter of seconds, the skeleton has transformed into a fully fleshed man. Deangelo is surprised to see his gruesome guide has sandy hair, blue eyes, and a face one could forget as soon as it turned away. He was almost expecting Bengt Ekerot.

“Molly freaks out when I show up in my other form.”

They go inside, where a slender woman with short, curly brown hair sits behind a desk pieced together with unfinished wood. Her tortoise-shell rimmed glasses perch on her pointy nose, distorting her small round eyes. Her thin lips bend into a carefully practiced smile as she greets the skeleton and his companion.

“Well, hi there, Skelly! Who do we have here?”

Skelly introduces Deangelo and explains the problem. Molly fiddles with her keyboard. She reads information off her computer screen, then turns to Deangelo.

“Apparently, it was a typo. In your file, it says your Death Date is 11/27/2011, but on the requisition form, it says 2001.”

“You mean, someone typed in one little wrong digit, and I lost ten years of my life?”

“I know how you must feel…Actually, I don’t have any idea how you feel. I can only imagine your emotional suffering. Because of the inconvenience, I’m going to edit your file and get you back home for the ten years you missed.”

“You’re going to, what, turn back time?”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” Molly frowns in what she seems to think is a sincere manner. “But Skelly will escort you back to the physical plane, and you won’t see him again for another ten years.”

Molly shows Deangelo the new date in his file: 11/27/2021.

“But what will I do? I’ve been dead for a decade! I can’t just pick up where I left off.”

“I’m sorry. I can’t help you with that,” Molly tries to look disappointed.

“It’ll give you more time with your family. And this time, you’ll get to say goodbye,” Skelly says.

Deangelo agrees to return. Molly’s syrupy farewell chases them out the door.

“See you in ten years, Mr. Ventura!”

Deangelo and Skelly climb into the waiting carriage, and Skelly urges the horses into thin air once again.

They reappear in front of a house Deangelo knows well. His grandfather built the house himself. His father was born there; he was born there; his son was born there. Deangelo climbs out of the carriage. Skelly tips him a wave and he and his horses disappear.

Deangelo’s mind turns to his wife. They met his senior year in college. She had come with some of her girlfriends into the deli where he had been working. He hadn’t been able to take his eyes off her cascading, caramel hair and wide hazel eyes. Lucky for him, she hadn’t minded.

She moved home with him after he graduated and the baby came the following year. He had seven more amazing years with his family before his life was rudely—and apparently erroneously—cut short.

He can’t go back. They have already mourned him. Is it really fair to show up on their doorstep, unchanged after ten years, then make them mourn him again in another ten? He loves his family more than anything in this world, but to reappear, to tease them, is just cruel.

Deangelo looks up the road, thoughtful. With one last forlorn glance to the house he built his old life in, Deangelo starts up the road, pondering how to spend the ten years of his new life.

 

What do you think? What would you have done, if you had been given the chance to live ten more years of your life after being dead so long?

It’s Time to Start the Next Chapter

I wrote this for my college composition class in 2009.

Former President Gerald Ford once said a president’s “primary concern must always be the greatest good of all the people of the United States”, and that one “cannot prolong the bad dreams that continue to reopen a chapter that is closed.” At the time, he was faced with former President Nixon’s transgressions of office, much like President Obama is faced with former President Bush’s transgressions today. The pressure is on Obama to decide whether to prosecute Bush and his former subordinates for these transgressions. Prosecution of the Bush administration, however, would be costly, damaging, and unnecessary. It is in the best interest of the nation as a whole that President Obama not prosecute the Bush administration for its crimes.

For one thing, there are better ways to spend the time and money that would be wasted on a full investigation and prosecution of all the crimes committed during Bush’s tenure. Energy spent on pursuing prosecution would be better spent on working to close Guantanamo and dealing with the remaining prisoners, among other activities.

The outgoing administration left the nation “a smoking ruin” that Obama now has to rebuild (Lindorff). The economy needs to be fixed, troops overseas need to be delivered home safely, and much of what was done these past eight years needs to be undone. In fact, civil libertarians have a long list of what Obama should be doing, now that he is in office (Taylor).

Another reason to forgo prosecution is that it may actually do more harm than good. Obama would risk alienating some conservatives, and military and intelligence officials. Not to mention the fact that pursuing these officials would be legally challenging, as legislation has granted them immunity. The proceedings would also bog the president down in a partisan warfare. Republicans have made no secret of the fact that they will take Obama’s approval of prosecution or even of a proposed “truth commission” as an “abdication of his promised bipartisanship and a declaration of political war” (Talev). A rift with Republicans would create unnecessary opposition to any bills President Obama may want passed in the future.

Investigation into the intelligence methods used during the Bush administration could potentially damage any further intelligence efforts of the United States and lower the morale in the intelligence community. They could also expose the nation to a greater danger, as any information about intelligence-gathering methods that is made public would aid the efforts of terrorists. Also, findings from such investigations would needlessly ruin the careers and reputations of the lower-ranking officers involved, as they only acted on the orders of their superiors (Talev).

Prosecuting the Bush administration is unnecessary. Bush will never again have such extensive power to abuse, as he has exhausted his two allowed presidential terms. Also, the administration was fully aware of the possible consequences of their actions, bur proceeded anyway. This would suggest that they were either unafraid of or weren’t concerned with being punished for these actions. There is no sense in punishing them if it isn’t going to teach them anything or change their behavior.

However, many Americans want to know the details of what happened, and they want a reason for the criminal acts engaged in by the man entrusted to represent and lead the nation. Americans believe that because crimes were committed, Bush and his subordinates must pay: the criminals must be punished. As the rule of law itself says, no one is above the law. They feel punishing the former administration will not only uphold the Constitution, but will prevent future administrations form making the same mistakes.

But wrongdoers do not always need to be punished for others to learn from their mistakes. For some, just seeing the huge negative sway in popular opinion and the potential of career-ruing investigations and hearing would be enough to prevent repeating mistakes. And President Obama has already made it clear that he would rather move forward in a positive direction than get mired sorting through the messes of the past.

“If someone is caught breaking into your house, by all means, press charges. But you might also want to consider installing an alarm system or buying stronger locks” (Marcus). Putting measures into place that would prevent power-abuse and other crimes from happening again would be just as, or even more-so, effective as punishing the guilty parties. The United States’ checks-and-balances system was put into place for this reason, and should be upheld.

President Obama does not need to waste time, money, and energy pursuing a harmful and gratuitous prosecution of the Bush administration. He should focus efforts on moving forward, repairing what has been broken, and building a better future for all Americans. It is as Winston Churchill once said: “If we open up a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.” Let us not argue about what has been written, but turn the page and write a better chapter.

 

 

Works Cited

Ford, Gerald. “Address pardoning Nixon.” Washington, DC. 8 Sept 1974

Lindorff, Dave. “Prosecuting Bush and Cheney.” CounterPunch 16 Jan 2009. 21 Mar 2009. <http://www.counterpunch.org/lindorff00162009.html>

Marcus, Ruth. “Prosecuting Bush Administration Would Be Costly.” CommercialAppeal.com 2 Jan 2009. 21 Mar 2009. <http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2009/jan/02/ruth-marcus-prosecuting-bush-administration-crimes/>

Talev, Margaret and Marisa Taylor. “Obama Sends Mixed Signals on Investigating Bush Administration’s Anti-Terror Practices.” McClatchy Newspapers 22 Feb 2009: n.p. SIRS Researcher. Dean College Library, Franklin, MA. 18 Mar 2009. <http://www.sirs.com>

Taylor, Marisa and Michael Doyle. “Can Barack Obama Undo Bush’s Tangled Legal Legacy?” McClatchy Newspapers 7 Nov 2008. 21 Mar 2009. <http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/story/55520.html>

Pondering Life’s Windows

The other night, I was laying in bed, reading and listening to a moth that had been continuously flinging itself against the window, trying to reach my light. I  wondered why it bothered, when it was obvious it couldn’t reach the light.

I then realized my life is like that. I can see success, the life I want. But every time I try to reach it, I smack my head on the glass separating me from it. But isn’t that life? We all throw ourselves at windows, trying to reach the light on the other side, hoping that the window has been left open so we may pass through.

So now I wonder, how do I open my window?

Impact

After “ringing the bell” (getting four marketing leads) on my first day on a St. Louis road trip, I wrote this “impact” (a short story referencing sports/tv/movies/etc that demonstrates how to use direct marketing concepts). I had a small audience, but it got a good reaction.

Do any of you watch the Simpsons?

There’s an episode where Homer’s half-brother, Herb, is living on the streets (thanks to Homer ruining him in a previous episode). Herb’s trying to come up with an invention that will make him rich again.

He’s sitting in a park, racking his brain, when he overhears a mother talking to her crying baby. The mother can’t figure out why the baby is crying. Is it hungry? Tired? Does it need to be changed?

This gives Herb the idea of a baby translator: the baby makes a sound and the translator tells the mother what that sound means (“I want what the dog’s eating”). Herb found a common problem and offered a solution.

That’s what we’re doing in the field. When homeowners pick without the power of suggestion, they obviously have a problem. When several homeowners pick the same thing, chances are it’s a common problem throughout the neighborhood.

Some homeowners may not realize it’s a problem, so once you’ve had a couple of people pick and neg out their kitchens (for example), pre-power kitchens to the other people you talk to:

“Mary next door was just telling me about the cheap cabinets the builder used—one of the doors just fell off in her hand! So she’s taking a look at her options for a kitchen remodel. What do you think you’d do next?”

When they hear Mary is having a problem, they’ll think about whether they’ve been experiencing the same thing (“That one cabinet door is a little loose…”). Of course, they don’t want to keep suffering this problem when Mary’s getting it fixed, so they’ll pick their kitchen, too. Let them neg it out for themselves and the close will follow.

 

BTW- anyone interested in marketing/sales, check out Bullet360

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