Thursday, November 7, 2013

Confession Time: Why I'm Not Doing NaNoWriMo

   I am the opposite of consistent. Always have been. Won't always be, but unfortunately, currently I still am. This is why I am not participating in NaNoWriMo. Because a life time of bad habits and inconsistency has made it far more difficult that it should be to create positive new habits. And I am not saying that to take away from anyone else's struggle in creating good habits because I am fully aware it is difficult for all of us. It goes against the natural flow of things. The old adage being true that when we are not pushing forward we are inevitably falling backwards, there is no such thing as true stagnation when it comes to the human state of being. So all that to say, I'm not there yet. I have barely solidified my basic writing habit, and knowing myself I am acutely aware that I am very easily demotivated by increasing my self expectations to steeply and suddenly.

   So no to NaNoWriMo (which for my non-writer readers stands for National Novel Writing Month) for me this time around, BUT! I am using the inspiration provided by the gallant strivings of my fellow writers to increase my daily word count requirements. Why am I telling you this? I mean other than that this mostly vacant blog you happen to be reading is vaguely constructed to be about me and my life... which, thank you by the way to anyone who keeps checking back through this dry period, you rock! ...well I'm telling you in order to gain some leverage on myself. A bit of external accountability.

   The goal? 1,000 words per day 5 days a week. Or 20,000 new words, added to my novel in progress between November 1st and 11:59pm on November 30th. For a little bit of perspective and brutal honesty about my progress so far, I started my novel in late June on the beginners, snails pace, first draft in a year plan of 350 words a day 5 days a week and I started November with 45,000 words. The goal is to have 65,000 by month end. That's big. Not NaNoWriMo 50,000 words in a month big, but it's huge for me. So I am crowd sourcing support. And also offering up some of my own. 

   If you're like me and can only focus on one endeavor at a time and constantly find everything else in your life falling apart when you consciously decide to put in the effort to improve one specific area, then lets band together. Tell me in the comments what area of your life you're trying to accomplish something in this month. Where you want to be by November 30th at 11:59pm and also what other areas of your life you are unwilling to drop in the name of this goal. Do you want to get on track with a family meal plan but don't want to get so caught up in it that dinner is perfect but you're so tired at the end of the meal that bedtime routines with the kids get pushed aside and everyone falls asleep in the living room watching TV afterwords? Do you want to get consistent with fitness and not derail your important personal relationships during holiday eating season? Lets cheer each other on.

   Where do we start? Here's something invaluable that was recommended to me that I'd like to pass along. Get fanatical if you have to, but schedule it. Schedule your priorities in 30 min increments. It sounds rigid but it's actually really freeing, even for, if not especially for, us creative types.

   Here's a free handout geared towards students that is actually good for any and all of us.

    I'm starting mine this week and would love to have some other people along for the ride to troubleshoot with. Let's see where we can get together by month end?

You in? Thought so.

Ready, Set.... GO!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Preschool is a Chaotic Kind of Poetry

A little over a week ago my son turned three. THREE. This morning that three year old, my husband and myself all piled in the car, after snapping a few pictures, and drove to the next town over for a certain someone's first day of preschool.

 No one cried. It was calm. There was excitement and nervousness and nostalgia certainly, but they were wrapped up in this unnerving sense of normalcy.  

 Each moment though monumental in some ways, was just a moment and we were all just people. That feeling of seriousness, importance... gravity, it never stretches out through a whole event like you expect it to. Not weddings or births or even deaths.

 It moves in and out of you like the tide. Ebbing when it's time to wash hands or for reminders to walk, not run. Flowing when you catch glances with your kid in the sea of kids doing something that shows their newly acquired age. You beam with pride in the same instant as you experience an invisible punch to the gut. The punch of three years full of minutes missed to minutia.

But over it all danced the quietness of time. The silencing effect a ticking clock has over all other sounds once noticed by ears that want nothing more to linger on the laughter of their children.

 It is this knowledge of the unceasing nature of time that makes the magical things in life seem mundane and the mundane things seem magical.

Signing in for the first time, hanging up his backpack, his introduction to his classmates and ours to their parents. It all seemed too airy and fleeting. Nothing concrete in them. Nothing that felt like the making of a memory.

 But the tug in my heart between jumping in to assist and instruct or holding back on purpose in order to let him learn to look to his teacher for those things. That felt big. 

Knowing he was once this precious pressure in my belly as I watched him learn the terrain of this new environment as I sat silently on the sidelines? That felt deafeningly big.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Subtle Sexism in the World of Storytelling

   So here's the thing, I've been steering clear of this topic for a little while for the sake of maintaining my newly recovered state of mental health. It was one of the bigger, more easily identifiable, triggers that helped to initiate the plummet in my serotonin levels or what have you that happened several months back. It was fire that I just couldn't seem to stop playing with. Rape culture, oppression, misogyny it all felt so urgent and pressing... and honestly more than anything it felt noble. I felt like I was on a one woman crusade to make the world a better place and instead I just wound up rubbing my nose in all the most vile tendencies that we as human beings are capable of playing out in this real world of ours. I did that  long enough that my anger burned all the way out, bringing almost all of my other functional emotional states and capacities with it.

   The good news is that I'm mostly better now. The bad news is that in the meantime the problem didn't conveniently go away, nor did my desire to speak out on the problem(s). So, while I need to exert caution in the level to which I engage in these discussions, I also need to practice living in a world that isn't all or nothing. My propensity for obsession won't go away simply by avoiding any and every topic or trigger that could lead to such extreme mental preoccupation. Besides a new one will always come along to fill the void.

   So what's the point I'm getting at here? Well, all of the above being the case I have decided that I am re-opening my "series" on this wide-ranging, broad topic that can't be summed up in one word. BUT! I am doing this as less of a new direction for the blog itself as originally intended and definitely not as a restrictive, scheduled and structured thing. More of a this ish is important so I'll write about it when and where I can type of thing, being careful to keep in mind the crazy, wild wormholes that are present in this world of societal call-it-out commentary blogging.

Today's Topic at hand? The privilege of  dismissal.
Or something like that...

   Basically there's a nuance at play in this big picture that's been on my mind a lot lately that I haven't seen a lot of coverage on, though I haven't gone digging for it either, so I'm sure somebody somewhere already has... hopefully a lot of somebodies. This notion crystallized in my mind yesterday when I clicked a link in a tweet to a blog that linked to another blog so on and so forth until I was reading this amazing article from May of 2012 by Greg Rucka, writer of comics and novels, titled "Why I Write Strong Female Characters". If you haven't had the pleasure of reading it, stop what you're doing and go there. Now. Seriously, he hits so many great points and does it intelligently and articulately in a way I can only hope to come close to myself in the rest of this already too-long post of mine.

Okay, good. Back to the point. Which is this:

   Our world is currently set up in such a way that it is considered a given that women are, on almost every level, expected to attempt to understand and relate to men, where they are at, without question. It is so much the norm that male characters, male attributes, male desires are assumed to be the standard. Women are all but forced to understand Men but men are allowed a pass from even attempting to understand women in a lot of ways. Yes, women are complicated. But guess what, that's because of our humanity not necessarily because of our gender. There may be some areas in which the female make-up tends more towards extra layers that seem hard to comprehend on a surface level, but it is way more often than not used as a flippant excuse to not try. To write it off. To write US off. To dismiss thoughts, feelings, desires and needs that lean toward the feminine end of the spectrum.

The part of Rucka's post that reminded me of this issue I've been wanting to address was this quote in particular:
There's a second part to the question. The unspoken part.
It's the part where I'm being asked and not, say, Laura Lippman. Because Laura is a woman, and it's presumed therefore that she knows how to write about women, what with having been one her entire adult life. By the same token, Laura Lippman is not asked how it is she can write such convincing, strong male characters. Implicit in her job as a crafter of fiction is the demand that she must. No question need be asked.

   In general it seems that women are made to seem mystical and mysterious or are dismissed as silly and insubstantial. Both extremes have the same effect, giving men an out from the task of attempting to understand and relate to women in ways that are more meaningful than temporary surface efforts to pacify women. It's ok for men to dismiss storytelling about women under the guise that it's only for women. It's considered normal for men to classify anything with a strong female lead, or feminine tone as a "chick flick" or any storyline with a love story that focuses on the female character's perspective or desires as "romance" (and understand I don't mean disrespect to these genres... quite the opposite in fact), as an easy excuse to opt out.

   Maybe we're all missing something in this whole male / female brain-wiring gender gap thing. Maybe most men who inadvertently play in this dismissal of femininity and opt out of the responsibility to understand their fellow earth-mates that is expected of women is actually something else all together. Maybe men are more complicated than they want to let on too... my theory is not fully formulated yet, but I think it's something worth considering that maybe just maybe the cliche' that "women don't know what they want" (so we don't have to either) is true of men as well. Maybe just maybe they dismiss feminine things because they assume we really do want those things all to ourselves. To have an all girls club in some areas. It would explain why so many men get so defensive when women are interested in things they once thought to be exclusively masculine, all the while hoping to have their chosen significant other share their interests.

   The thing is however, that even if this were the case, it's still no excuse. So let me say from my perspective as one lone woman, that I don't. Sure I like having some things to myself... that one box of chocolates that nobody else is allowed to touch, that show I want to watch when nobody else is around because, no, I don't want to hear anybody elses opinion on it. But when it comes to the female experience I absolutely do want you to try your damnedest to understand. To be systematically and personally dismissed doesn't make me feel like I have a fun little secret with my female counterparts. It only ever feels like men just don't care enough to try to relate. So far as I can tell one thing that is present in most women is the desire to be known and loved. The attitude that men can't, and worse, shouldn't have to relate to us is at the very least hurtful... but more important it's extremely damaging. To women, to girls and to our culture on the whole. Which side note, means it's damaging to men too.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

On Character, Desire and Actions

   There are seasons in our lives when we repeatedly have our noses rubbed in the horrors that lie in our own hearts, and it aches us to know that we can feel and think such disturbingly selfish things. It's easy during these times to discount our efforts to make the right decisions and act in honorable ways because we know that our in our heart we really, REALLY don't want to... and the fact that we don't want to hurts almost as much as the painful circumstances that call us to act in the first place.

   I put together this quote/image thing for all of you going through such times right now, and for those who have in the past or will in the future. I want to remind everyone in such a situation first and foremost that you are a good person for even caring about the state of your heart. For desperately wanting your motivations to come from absolute kindness and not obligation. That is worth a mirror high five in and off itself.

   Now, take a deep breath and do the thing you already know in that conflicted heart of yours to be right. The corresponding feelings will come along when they are good and ready. Sometimes all it takes for your emotions to change is an inciting action, and sometimes it takes being able to look back knowing you did the right thing anyway. Either way? You've got this!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

20,000 Words

Photo edit by Jason Frega
   About a month ago something magical happened... and I have held off writing about it specifically, and in a lot of cases even talking about it, because truth be told I am superstitious and suspicious and  fearful that by nature things don't tend to last. Most things don't, but there are plenty of things that do. Important things. Good things. Being fearful that acknowledging good changes in our lives will somehow change their status as a permanent thing, or speed the process bringing about an almost immediate departure time if those things were meant to be temporary, doesn't really do much in the way of allowing us the freedom to enjoy those things whatever they may be.

   So here's my good thing: writing healed the brokenness in my mind. Not all my problems and not just any kind of writing... but another big shift took place, this time in a really good direction, and I am damn grateful for it. If you were here back in April you most likely read my post in which I admitted that I had fallen back into a state of depression. I sought help like I said I would, I am still seeing a therapist (although less frequently now) and I am still experiencing anxiety attacks (something I actually didn't mention in that post) from time to time, but... BUT! Things are so much better lately. So. Much. Better.

    So, how did writing "heal my head problems"? Well, I received a very helpful recommendation that at the time felt akin to being backed into a corner, but when I responded in trust and stepped in a direction I thought to be backwards, on faith, I found a freedom I haven't known for a long, long time. I was told to funnel my writing efforts in a different direction. A direction that didn't involve direct self introspection or digging into seriously triggering topics anymore, at least for a time. Those things weren't bringing the joy and release that writing had always been for me. Sure it helped me work out my thoughts and crystallize my beliefs on many different topics. But it ceased helping me process my emotions. And that felt like a great big gaping loss.

   In the discussion which this recommendation stemmed from the word fiction was mentioned, and it scared me. It scared me because I had always held fiction up on a pedestal. I didn't trust my mind to formulate ideas worthy of weaving into a story. I had spent years adding more and more constraints to my writing, newer higher standards (that didn't fit my purpose) and ultimately I tried to force my idea of what I would do with this gift that I cherish, into a box that it didn't belong in. A box that allowed me very little room to breathe.

   I did the same thing in many other areas of my life as well, and together all those pieces, those misplaced principles, thoughts and beliefs, built a wall that when fully formed began to cut off my air supply. The good news is that the wall has come down and although a little damage was done in the process it made rebuilding a possibility.

   I am reading fiction again after a long self-imposed, guilt-ridden hiatus. I am also writing fiction for the first time since maybe Middle School. In fact if you follow me on Twitter or are a fan of my Facebook page then you may have already seen the news that I have officially broken the 20,000 word mark on my very first fiction novel. Will it be worthy of publishing when it's done? When I've done all the editing, re-writes, more editing, revisions, and even more editing necessary to turn a draft into an actual book? I don't know for sure. But I'm finally doing the right work. The work that I feel like I was always meant to be doing. I am writing 5 days a week, a minimum of 350 words a day, usually quite a lot more. Eventually that will all add up to a finished first draft, which I know to be only the beginning of a long journey. A journey that I am now officially on. That knowledge alone is enough for me in this moment.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Inner Editor and the Art of Selective Hearing

Sometimes Much of the time I hear voices.

Not audible voices that are indistinguishable from the ones emanating from real people in my life. Nor do they come from animals or inanimate objects. So from the mental health perspective I'd have to say I'm safe. Or at least the most quantifiable pieces and parts that collectively add up to what one would call my sanity is. Safe. From these voices.


But there is a part of me that is not safe if something isn't done to keep said voices in check. That part is the writer in me. Which now that we're talking about it, is a part that is pretty deeply interwoven with all the other vitals that keep me ticking. Neglect the part for long enough and it's implosion, explosion or what have you tends to take the whole down with it. Perhaps not completely. Maybe not all at once. But enough to cause some serious impairments.

So lets talk about how to avoid that shall we?

Being that I happen to be in the metaphorical repair shop (therapy) myself as I type this, dealing with some of the fallout that can happen when you let the voices dictate the volume control for too long, I can at least speak to what doesn't work.

Your inner editor.

The problem with it is that it is both incredibly valuable and incredibly dangerous. Necessary, but like a whiny toddler who made a Mom out of a woman with dormant motherly instincts, if allowed to run the show it will grind all productivity and progress to a halt. It leaves you overwhelmed with the knowledge of responsibility and utterly exhausted despite your love for the gift of the role. After that toddler has been given an inch and taken twenty miles over the course of a day 6:00pm rolls around and you feel like you're preparing dinner in a straight jacket. Absolutely no room to breathe or think straight... or do anything normal of a sane person. You give in more because the results of all the previous giving in has left you wanting to cry in a corner wondering how any parent has ever made it out alive ever. In all of history. Or you snap and become angry mom.

That is what happens when you let your inner editor run loose on content you haven't written yet. It shuts you down at every pass, stalls you up and creates a self-fulfilling writers block the likes of which couldn't be overcome with 50 typewritters and a kitchen full of coffee and wine.

Or it turns you into a critic... but I won't go too far in that direction except to say that you know you're heading down that dead end path when you start wanting to rampage through your closest Barnes & Noble knocking books off the shelves left and right laughing maniacally as you do because "They're all filth! Garbage!" and "Aren't there any real writers left? ARGH!"

Here's the thing. You can't be good until you let yourself suck for a while first.

Give yourself a pass.

Give yourself a chance.

You can't measure up to the great writers of all time right now, as you are, and that's okay. I know you want to. I do too. But holding your unedited first paragraph of an unwritten first draft up against the standard of a completed work done by someone who probably wrote more a day that you've written this year isn't going to inspire you to do better. it's going to shut you right down. Or at least that's what it does to me, and I'm guessing you're not too far off.

Editing as you go has it's place, and I'm not even going to begin to pretend that I won't continue to do it to some small extent moving forward. BUT! Rereading what you just typed after every sentence or two? That's for social media comment sections and perhaps short to medium length blog posts. Twitter? please, please do. Since you've only got 140 characters you don't have much to sit on. But speaking as a blogger who has only ever written essay-styled pieces and poetry until recently, because she let her inner editor control the volume knob for most of her adult life, write fiction with the editor just barely off mute.


Throw away all those little inspirational quotes you've got floating around in your head like "If you don't have time to do it right the first time when will you have time to fix it" and other such well meaning bravado. It. Doesn't. Apply.

Not here. Not for what you're doing. Because what your doing is the thing that actually makes you a writer. You're writing.

And here's a secret. First Drafts always suck.

When the editor in your brain says "not good enough", "cliché"  or "who do you think you are, calling yourself a writer? You're the the Queen of bad grammar and run-on sentences!" tell it "I'll fix it later"

Seriously. Four little words. I'll fix it later.

Because here's the greatest part. You can. No one has to see your process if you don't want them to. You don't have to show your work to anybody until you're sure you've puttied all the holes and painted over all the scuff marks. Heck you don't have to show anybody at all ever, if it really winds up sucking as bad as you think it does.

If you worry about what Grandma or your grown up children will think while you're trying to write, your work will be disjointed and inhibited if it amounts to anything at all.

If you worry about the impact the quality of this book will have on the marketplace reception of every future book you may ever write, someday, in the distant future, while you're writing this one? Good luck carrying the weight of that pack on your back my friend.

Do yourself a favor and put that straight jacket on your inner editor where it belongs until your finished draft has sat on your desk at least long enough for you to have one very well deserved celebratory drink.

I will see you at that finish line.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

You Can Do Better

   I've spent a lot of time on YouTube these past few months and I have found some favorite artists and creators among this medium. One of those favorites is a hilarious guy by the name of Mike Falzone, and while digging through his extensive archives one day I happened to find myself listening to a cover he made of a song called Do Better by Say Anything. I'm not even going to attempt to lie here and pretend like I had heard the song before... but I will say that I couldn't bring myself to close the tab after listening to it that first time. And I haven't. For weeks. (sorry Jason, I know, too many tabs... always, way WAY too many tabs)

   I can't get it out of my head. Something about the lyrics and the mood of the song is entrancing... and I STILL cannot tell if it makes me feel incredibly better or incredibly worse. But either way it's strangely comforting.

Have a listen for yourself:

   After listening to it on repeat for way too long I finally decided to think through why this phrase "you can do better" is so disconcerting to me. Why I can't let it go. Why it is both soothing and painful in the way that hydrogen peroxide works on an open wound (which apparently you're not supposed to do anymore?)  I haven't figured it out entirely yet but I did write this the other night as I was trying to fall asleep:

For those who can't read my messy handwritting:

You can do better is quite a dichotomy of a sentence, especially for one so short. 
It's a perfectly fine thing to say to someone going through a rough breakup. 
In that context it obviously means 'you deserve better'... 'they're not good enough for you'. 

But when someone says 'you can do better' to you in regards to just about anything else, 
or worse when you say it to yourself 
it reverberates a double meaning through your cerebral cortex 
and you're left wondering which one is more true. 

Am I capable of immeasurably great things
or am I being compared against a standard to which I can never measure up? 

Should I feel inspired or ashamed?

What do you think? Has anyone ever told you that you can do better? Did it help or hurt? Encourage or Belittle? Perhaps both... share your thoughts and/or experiences in the comment section below.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Caution: Detour Ahead

   To me she seemed mostly like her same old self, even as she kept talking about how different she had become. Pointing back to some switch that flipped. If it had, I couldn't tell. At least not until a moment when unimaginable hurt appeared out of nowhere on her face where patience and a slightly unamused smirk would have normally sat.

   What the hell was happening? 

   She was just talking about some characters she was working on and suddenly her face shattered as her arms flew up and came back down, hands in fists. Her knees popped up as her feet pushed off the floor. All  of it seemingly in one motion. In one moment... it's as if she forgot she was buckled into the seat of our car and instead thought she was slamming her elbows down on a dining table, for emphasis while violently standing up to storm away after a heated argument.

   In the very next breath she was sobbing and blubbering incessant apologies for having yelled... Then insisting through tears that she was fine, please keep driving. Telling me to calm down.

   Where did my wife go? Maybe she really was as crazy as she claimed.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Slut Shaming: What Happens When Women Judge Each Other

   I get it. I understand the distinction you are trying to make. But what you don't get, when you sit there slamming another womans choices, is that it doesn't help us on the whole. It doesn't make the world respect us any more to hear you talk about her lack of respect for herself. Your slut shaming hate speak may feel morally informed and dignified and it may garner you the accolades and temporary praise from the men in your life. But what you don't understand is, she isn't harming the image of women. You are. You have no way of knowing by looking at her whether her mode of dress feels degrading or empowering inside that precious head of hers. You may get a vibe, and as a woman with instincts about such things it could often times prove to be right... but how do you know if that gut reaction isn't resonating from a different place in your mind? From programmed beliefs about the way a woman is supposed to behave... or maybe from latent desires or fears. From memories of times when the world lashed out at you for the very same offense. On whatever scale.

   The most important point you're missing though is that you're inadvertently making yourself a point of reference. The men who overhear your comments, many times without even realizing it or intending to do it, file that information away and pull it out as precedence... license to judge the intentions of women by the way they look and dress. Do you see the difference? When we women judge other women by the length of their skirts we do so with an intrinsic knowledge most men don't come equipped with. We are judging their decisions. You are judging someone who had the same or similar options laid out before her along with the same or similar consequences and she chose differently than you. That's what you are judging. But men don't get the privilege of hearing that subconscious internal dialogue. And they aren't generally presented with those same options... even if they were, the consequences are so greatly different that it's impossible to infer our female experience from a single set of similar circumstances from time to time.

   Men see the external result of your internal experience that lead you to verbalize something negative about another woman's appearance, and they think that makes it okay for them to judge women on this level too. Both are bad. It's wrong to think this way of someone else regardless of your gender... but the judgement you're helping to perpetuate in men through your hateful talk isn't the same brand as your own. Men are (generally speaking) judging intentions not decisions. They can only assume what went into that decision, unlike us women who know, at least in part the different factors at play. And we all know assuming is dangerous.

   When we say "that's so attention seeking" guys interpret that through the male lens. It must be a certain type of attention she's seeking... You can see where I'm going with this...

    So by all means teach modesty to your daughters. Carefully so as not to imply undue guilt, or disproportionate levels of responsibility on her if she doesn't follow your teaching to the letter... as most children growing into adults are prone to do...  or heaven forbid she chooses a different path altogether. But please make sure you're not inadvertently teaching misogyny to your sons and brothers and husbands.

   Women may not have power in many areas, inequality is everywhere... but don't for a second underestimate the power of our words. We move mountains with our tongues. Let's do our best to stop shooting ourselves in the foot under the guise that it's about her and not about us.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Brief Life Update

   I haven't been posting much lately... and really, my posting frequency has gone down steadily over this past year despite every intention for it to be the opposite of that (although at least from my own self-assessment I do believe the quality of the content has improved). I've given a few reasons here and there. They were honest, but they weren't the whole story. The whole story is that I have a predisposition toward a commonly misunderstood mental illness called depression. You've all heard of it, and I'm sure some of my readers have experienced it. It is different for each person in the way that it manifests. For me, this decade since my first major depressive episode have been spent being constantly on guard against the natural slant of my own mind.

   Recently, it would seem that I let my guard down a tad too much... It's back. And I am seeking treatment. No need to worry. But, I am still finding it incredibly difficult to engage in the activities that normally bring me joy and fulfillment. This includes my writing. For that I am sorry.

  I will push through. And I will write when and where I can. This topic in particular is near and dear to my heart and I long to share this experience I'm going through with the world around me, because it's important. Not because it's me, but because it's so, so many other people too. People who on top of their internal suffering, fear an unnecessary negative stigma that may increase their already existing paralysis enough to prevent them from getting help. Or from admitting, even to themselves, that they need, it.

   So I'll do my best to be painfully honest through this ordeal. I'll do my best to resist the overwhelming urge to sit in silence. Because depression is a disease that feeds itself with it's self-created desire to stay sick. And I'm not going to give it that fuel.

Much love to you all,

Monday, April 8, 2013

Schizophrenic Style: Midwest Irreverence

   It is finally spring here in the Midwest! ...or maybe it'll snow three days from now. Who knows? But either way these last few days have been beautiful and yesterday I felt recovered enough after having the head cold from hell, that I actually spent a good amount of time outdoors. I figured though, that since nothing is really green yet and there are still a few crumpled leaves lying around here and there that managed to not decompose entirely underneath all that snow... I could wear some of my best fall weather gear with even less guilt than I normally feel (which is pretty much none).

   Recently I became the proud owner of this gorgeous pair of Jefferey Campbell Damsels by way of a lucky Ebay win and one missing spike. I've been drooling over the Lita and Damsel collections for months and months but just couldn't justify the price tag, so when I saw a listing for a barely damaged floor model pair I had to snatch them up. This is the first time I've had a chance to get some photos of them with my real camera... it feels a little ridiculous gushing over them this way in type, but sometimes there are just things, material possessions... silly stuff like in this case shoes, that just make you feel giddy without some deep meaningful explanation. These are very much that way for me. I've got no reasons, just very happy feet.

   We went for a little walk around my in-laws neighborhood and let Bastian try out some of his new toy cars he got in his Easter basket from them earlier that morning. We had him in his coat for good measure since we've all been pretty under the weather, but it wasn't really necessary. After our walk and mini outfit shoot I sat on their front porch working on my Bible study homework for our evening group and I honestly got a bit overheated in the direct sunlight and had to shift to a shadier position on the swing/bench. A nice change of pace.

   Speaking of the intentional taking of outfit photos... I've slowly over time become more comfortable with this concept. The last time we did this on a visit to my in-laws I was actually embarrassed to admit out loud exactly why we were going for a walk. Bastian was younger and harder to bring along for these sorts of endeavors but it was really nice out and I felt that while we needed to provide an explanation for why we weren't bringing him along for a few fun moments in the sun, I still couldn't bring myself to say "we're really only going out to photograph my outfit". It felt silly... frivolous and honestly a bit vain. I never think that of other women crafting together their own editorial like content for their blogs or what-have you... but I've always been afraid that someone would think that of me. "What is this crazy woman doing walking with her family down the sidewalk wearing 6.5 inch boots covered in spikes, striking poses instead of playing with her kid? How selfish!"

   I've come to terms with this a bit more over time, and while I still feel a little self conscious when someone passes us on foot on the same side of the street I am better able to shrug it off. The truth is, I spend the majority of my time being a pretty serious and intense person. I put a lot of thought into my parenting, my writing, my marriage, just about every aspect of my life. Fashion is an outlet that I can feel expressive and somewhat artistic without having to over think things. If someone happens by and sees only the snapshot of my life in which my husband is taking snapshots of me like some crazies on the street, and they make a snap judgement? Well then that's not really my problem is it? Refusing be seen enjoying fashion in an attempt to be taken more seriously as a human being, as a woman, doesn't really do anything to dispel the myth that all women with a love for clothes and makeup are inherently shallow, now does it? Hiding isn't helping anyone.

   Besides... moments like these on our walks happen just as frequently as the mock glamor shot pose moments. In the midst of the "selfishness" of asking the husband to aim that camera at me, we laugh together as a family. And we get more precious family "outtakes" than serious outfit post fodder anyways. And on the bonus.... the husband is getting pretty amazing at this photo taking thing isn't he?

Friday, April 5, 2013

How Rape Culture Affects My Writing

    I've been making notes to myself on the different directions I want to delve into on the topic of my last post. That topic of course being rape culture. There are so many tangents and components and underlying issues, some that even seem entirely unrelated, that all need tackling. And it seems as though I've overwhelmed myself by starting/promising a series without first drafting an outline of any kind. So, while I do plan to continue on in writing up well thought out posts on the subject that go a little deeper into many of the individual yet not easily untangled aspects, right now I am simply going to write a bit off the cuff... about why I haven't written anything since that post.

   There are of course the seemingly important daily life reasons. Distractions. Laundry piled Every. Where. Seriously everywhere. Boxes that still need unpacking. Meals that need to be made. The kid and I getting sick. My parents having to put their cat, whom I lived with for many years, to sleep. Easter and the production I was a part of for our church service (that I got to learn and perform a bit of sign language for). And of course the crazy day before any holiday craziness in which I decide last minute that it is absolutely necessary to learn a brand new (and always time consuming) baking skill. This time it was decorating cookies using homemade royal icing. Unfortunately I didn't get any good pictures before they were devoured.

   Then there are the more sincere reasons. The fact that my last post was fueled by a level of anger the likes of which cannot be safely maintained for any length of time without some kind of major fallout. There's my general lack of motivation I've been battling for several months... and then there's my fear. The fear of the potential backlash a woman speaking out on these topics can and does all too often receive. A big part of the fury that resulted in my last post was as a direct result of the horrible things people were saying to and about women on the internet in response to the Steubenville case and others like it. The lengths to which some people will go to intimidate and belittle women for any number of "offenses".

   It's a scary world to live in as a woman. And I can't even imagine what it must be like for the millions of women who have it so much worse than me... Women who live in parts of the world where the threat against them is much more urgent and pressing. Being a moment to moment issue rather than a day to day thing in which my biggest concerns are being hyper aware of my surroundings when walking to my car that I own through a mostly deserted parking garage, some extremely uncomfortable leering and the occasional worry that if I hit that publish button on that blog I wrote on my laptop in the comfort of my home, it just might be the day that something I wrote goes viral... only instead of accolades and a widened reader base I will have an inbox filled with death and rape threats from men hiding behind the anonymity of the internet. As so many female bloggers have had happen to them. This is one of those things that I believe escapes the understanding or acknowledgement of even some of the best men out there... the fact that while they may fear criticism when sharing an opinion they almost never have to worry about someone dismissing everything they say as invalid solely on how they dress or the mere existence of whatever gender specific body parts they happen to have.

   So, there you have it. I'm overwhelmed and afraid. But I also feel deeply called to this task... and however long it may take, I will write about this. But I will also write about other things as well, as the desire or inspirations hit me... 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

On Rape Culture; A Message to the Good Guys




I have been trying to find the words to meld together and organize into comprehensible sentences. Thoughts. A message. But I am mostly just overwhelmed by the one thing I feel so compelled to write about. I avoid it in general, when and where I can because I don't want to feel like I'm contributing to a culture of victim thinking... which is a whole problem all it's own that desperately needs to be dealt with. A pervasive issue that is affecting everything from interpersonal relationships to big scale government corruption. I also know the crippling nature of anger in our lives and how focusing too much on the injustices around us causes us to internalize a severe amount of hurt and fear and rage. How that is a poison that if we allow it, can ruin everything good we experience. It undermines our ability to process humor and connection and joy. But...


I need to write about rape culture. I can't avoid it anymore. Because it's own brand of poison has already taken root in my life and refusing the antidote because if its negative side effects is no longer an option. I need to talk about it because simply acknowledging the good guys out there and focusing on them isn't enough to balance out the prevailing attitudes that are so dangerous to women. It's the good guys that I need to speak to about this. Because while I am furious at CNN (and other media outlets) for sympathizing with the Steubenville rapists, it is true that the were good students with promising futures and talent in the athletic arena. And that info, while delivered with the entirely wrong slant, is important to know. Because most rapists have good qualities in addition to the bad. They are people. Not creatures waiting in an alleyway at night only existing in the moment of their crime.

The reason I want to talk to the good guys is because while they know what consent means, they are interacting daily with other males who do not, and it's easy to assume that they do. It's easy to write off things that their friends and co-workers and family members say as being a joke rather than something indicative of a thinking problem. It's easy as human beings to live our lives under the assumption that the people we are surrounded with, for the most part, know what we know. At a base level believe what we believe.

It's also easy to assume of ourselves that because we would never intentionally disregard someone else's physical boundaries and act on our urges against their will, that our attitudes and our talk to and about other human beings are innocent and respectful. It's too easy to fall back on "normal" and not question ourselves.Or where that brand of thinking came from. But my point that I am trying to get to, is that by the time we are in a court room debating what  does and does not constitute consent we have already long since failed. The fact that someone who was otherwise a "good person" (whatever that means... we're all capable of evil) was able to act in a way that is so ridiculously far off of the correct path is proof that somewhere along the way we as a society, whether that be a small HS football town, a family or the whole country, began taking little steps in the wrong direction.

Please. Do not confuse what I've said to mean that I actually think there was ever a point in time where things were 100% on the right track in this regard. I don't. But I do Think that there are many men who've got it as close to right as a human can get when it comes to their attitude toward women. Now and throughout our history. But... it's not being taught for the most part. The closest I feel we're getting outside of a few communities that go out of their way to focus on it, is trial, error, backlash and a lot of people left feeling like they're mangled and/or walking on eggshells.

To be honest I feel both of those things. Right now.

And while there is so much more to say I have to leave you with a cliffhanger. Because from here there are multiple different components of the problem that each deserve their own post... and they will get them....

To be Continued...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Writers Block in the Real World

     Words have the power to build up and to destroy. Spoken or thought. Everything about our world... or at least mine, boils down to words. And I have hundreds of thousands of them, but so often I'm left feeling like I have none at all. Because part of my obsession with words materializes itself in my compulsion to judge words. The deem them worthy or unworthy. Sincere or shallow. Intelligent or immature. The problem however is not so much in the judgement of the individual words themselves, or even in their structure and sound when combined with others... but in the snap assessments of the meaning intended by the one who wields them. Including myself. Oh Lord how I judge myself.

   That is precisely why I struggle to use words in the real world. At least articulate, deep and meaningful ones. Because I fumble when I don't have the space to judge each one as it comes out. I find myself analyzing the beginning of my sentences as the rest left to be said falls out without what I would deem to be the proper amount of thought. I backtrack in the same moment as I'm attempting to conversationally move forward and as a result I wind up getting overwhelmed and lost. So I hide behind my keyboard and my pen... fearing that if someday enough people were to read and enjoy my written words that they may want to hear my spoken ones. Particularly the kind that don't have the opportunity to be rehearsed in advance. And that scares the crap out of me.

   It's true that sometimes... many, many times actually, success scares us far more than failure. Success scares us because we don't believe we have the capacity to maintain it. Or don't believe we deserve it. Or that if we achieve and then lose it we will never recover from the wound it leaves behind. Success leaves scars we tell ourselves. Subconsciously or otherwise... and that notion holds us captive whether we realize it or not. And captivity breeds hostility. At least in me it does.

   It's a good thing then, that every once in a while I am reminded that I hold the key.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My Not-So-Terrible Two Year Old

   I haven't been blogging lately. At least not much. I haven't been working on my book lately either. At all. But I have been writing lately. More than in a long, long time. I lost it for a couple of months there, and in the process I kind of lost myself as well. But I've recently reacquainted myself with the lost (to me) art of journaling. And in that journal I've begun documenting the parts of my life I usually forgot to write about. Moments. The fleeting kind. I am far more accustomed to writing about ideas and opinions. Stories are somewhat new territory to me. But it is the area in which I feel most compelled to improve. Because it scares me and thrills me the most. It has less concrete parameters. In stories I feel as though my safety vest has been removed and I must rely solely on myself to keep the narrative afloat. Myself and that finicky little thing called memory... a trait, if you will, that I have, but not not the most trustworthy among them.

   So I have been here and there writing down seemingly minor observances of and interactions with my son. The type of things that I always tell myself I will remember, for their sweetness or humor, but never do. For above all I am forgetful. I am that mother who always answers the "How's your kid?" questions with "awesome! He's growing so fast and he's hilarious..." followed quickly by an awkward pause and a blank stare as I try to think up recent examples. Because I can't, and I feel so awful about it. These moments are worth remembering... and so I'm taking it into my hands, literally, with pen and paper, to lock them into permanence of the only kind I know:

Tuesday February 28th 2013:

   I knew I shouldn't have let him play with that darned thing! What kind of mother let's her kid run around with an uninflated balloon between his teeth? A teeny tiny water balloon no less? The nurse at the doctors office said she'd call back after consulting him... Oh that must be her right now! "Yes? Ok... yes, I understand. I just wanted to be on the safe side. Yes, he's eating, drinking and breathing just fine. The coughing stopped. Honestly I don't even know if he swallowed it, I just know I turned around for a second and he was gagging. He said he swallowed something but wouldn't tell me what and I can't find the balloon anywhere! ....Oh MY GOODNESS, I feel like such an idiot for even calling! He just walked up to me now... balloon in hand. He must have gagged on something else. I'm so sorry!"

Friday March 1st 2013:

   Bastian is across from me at the kitchen table as I write this. Sitting in a bar-height chair without restraints, eating his turkey and Muenster grilled sandwich (and sweet potato fries) in strips... because Daddy discovered the other day that he prefers it over the smaller squares.
   He picks up a particularly long fry in his hand that is shaped, at least the way he is holding it, like an upside down "U". He gives me a sly smile and says "it's eensy weensy spider; mom." ...he already says Mom in the way of a teenager. The way that elicits a silent "Duh" on the end... only from him it bears a bit more excitement and wonder. Thank God. I don't think I could bear the sound without it.

Tuesday March 5th 2013:

   My heart soared and burst into a billion tiny pieces just now. Bastian, on the couch next to me, trying his best to keep his balance as he half jumps, half stands tip toed, each leg doing it's own thing... "I can Fly Mommy! .... Bastian not flying" the facial expression synonymous to a motherhood punch to the gut forming on his adorable little face. It's only the beginning I think to myself as I try to figure out whether to smile or cry... and I hug him to hide the bewilderment on my own face.

Wenesday March 6th 2013:

   The first thing Bastian said to me this morning was "Spatula!" As I walked down the stairs he held it up and repeated the word Daddy had just said as if it was some great treasure. Just now, maybe, I don't know, a half hour later, this interchange took place:
Bastian (holding spatula pinched between shoulder and ear): "I'm making a phone call!"
"Bastian making phone call!"
Me: Smile and what I believe to be a look of encouragement.
Bastian: "I making a phone call"
"Bastian making a phone call Mom!"
Me: "Cool"

The above was repeated in similar variations a few more times until I realized that "Cool" wasn't cutting it for him

Bastian: "I'm making a phone call!"
Me: "Who are you calling Bastian?"
Bastian: "It's not a phone Mom!!"


   So... I am definitely a little late to the game when it comes to recording milestones, but I've got to say that for all the mental resistance I gave the idea, it feels pretty incredible to be mother/record-keeper now that I am doing it.  

Doing it my own way.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Value in Nothing Left to Give

   This is a story about a girl who one day woke up to find out that she was suddenly twenty six years old with and husband and a son living in an unfamiliar home full of boxes because they (her and her family that appeared overnight) had just moved in... and truth be told this little girl had always been rather lazy. Looking around her new quarters she quickly realized that not much had changed. Not in regards to her natural tendencies and abilities anyway.

   The night before this shock to the system she had been scrolling endlessly through her ridiculous number of open tabs on her two different browser windows that were simultaneously buzzing out the faint "Choose me! Look at me!" song she had grown so familiar with... when something caught her eye and made her heart sink. A post on some strange social media site or another by an artist she had admired for quite some time. Someone who not just created art but lived it... who had made mention of her upcoming birthday. Her twenty. fifth. birthday. The one that the girl doing the scrolling and browsing and reading had experienced already, the year before. Only one year before. Not two or ten or five... but one felt like more than enough. Because the girl was in fact reading, not writing. On writing she waited. Waited for the right topic or inspiration or input... that same damn trap. Again. A. Gain. How? Why?


   This is another story. A story about a guy who gives and gives and gives. And gets frustrated. And sometimes says hurtful things without thinking about it... because he cares so much that his heart has to put up barriers to keep itself from exploding in his chest. Who woke up yet another morning to an unsatisfied wife. A sorrowful woman who had in her this radiant light but instead chose to mourn every moment as it passed by. He wondered why she didn't notice that everything they have between the two of them, all the things that she now seemed to despise... he bought because at one point she said she wanted it. Maybe not with words. But with her eyes or a hint of the smile she withheld from him much of the time.

   She began to tell him one night how she was broken, after he had carefully, with every last word he had in him, told her all the things she made clear that she was longing to hear. And instead of rightful disappointment or hurt he reached out and healed her. He forgot for a moment about his walls and he chanced explosion... it was the perfect amount of electricity to jump-start her hardened heart. And though it depleted him for the moment it was a good exhaustion... to finally see her exhilarated over words he didn't think he had. For they had been hiding cleverly behind those heart walls of his. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Creating Characters in a World Worth Saving

   Sometimes I think that it's necessary to live with a certain amount of sadness in order to be a creator. Other times I get indignant over that line of thought asserting loudly within the confines of my own mind that it's a fallacy that one must be tortured to be an artist. Things being mutually exclusive is actually quite rare if you think about it. You can hear thunder and not see lightning but if you are close enough to lighting to see it, you will hear the resulting thunder at some point however faint it may be. Unless of course you are deaf.

   Or something like that anyways... I am no expert on weather. In fact I am far less intelligent that I'd like to think that I am... and have others think that I am. But I am also far more intelligent than I feel many people give me credit for. And this is where much of my sadness comes in. It comes in regards to peoples perception of me and my abilities. It comes in the dissonance between what I know lies within me and what I gather of peoples impression of me... because of my lack of action. They don't know because I don't share. They don't see because I don't do. I just think. Think far too much, and spill far to little.  And due to my lack of practice in the making external what is internal, when I do, it isn't eloquent enough to be fully comprehended. Not like when I write. Although that could use some work too... but this thing called talking, it is my biggest downfall... if we're not counting connecting, because I'm far worse at that. At least I think I am...

   And so there it is. All still about what I think versus what others perceive. Too much time spent analyzing my own introspection. Too much thought focused on myself.

   I'm feeling pushed again, as a writer to go a new direction. At the same time as traveling the original one that I did not stick closely enough to, I confess... I need to get out of my head and write about others for a bit. Create characters. Maybe explore the people in my story that aren't me. Because while mine is the story I'm telling, it's really for the benefit of the supporting characters. Isn't that what life is about? What fun is being the hero of your story if you don't develop the characters that make up the world you are supposed to save?

   The time in my life finally came when I felt honest in identifying myself as a writer. But now it is time to shift from a journalist (in the sense of a personal journal or diary) to a novelist. Someone who sees others as stories as well. Not just herself. This worldview I've been looking through is feeling a bit narrow. And as it turns out the hand restricting my air supply is my own.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Do All The Packing!!!

   It's true! We're moving! Again... The house we've been living our lives in this past year and a half in has sold, and so us renters must find another place to rent. We just might have done that depending on what we hear back over these next few days. But packing waits for no one. Because new residence affirmed or not we have to be out of here soon, soon, soon! And so I spend days picking up the things we own in my hands, feeling their weight and their awkward shape as I attempt to judge their true value, whether or not they deserve the required box space, set them down to decide later, after I've accomplished some more straightforward packing, only to repeat the process with the next item. It's cathartic and heartbreaking at the same time. Heartbreaking because it's time to let go and I don't feel ready but I don't think I can bear the added weight either. Or because I'm ashamed for having allowed it through my door, my filters in the first place and that I've allowed it to weigh me... us, down all this time. Allowed myself to become so burdened by and tethered to things. Plastic and metal and glass... things that break and warp and gather cobwebs in their hidden corners where they stay until some big up-heaving life change. Some things I want to keep but can't. They refuse to come with me and I am saddened by their refusal to fit logically into our new space. Hurt by their lack of desire to evolve into something that can stay with me in this codependent existence we at one point or another entered into. Those silly self-righteous things. With their lack of awareness. They mock me. And yet it makes me care for them all the more.

   Then I remember that it's all just stuff. All of it. Even the best of it. That what really matters is the people I share my home with... and I feel silly for getting so stressed over the minutia of it all. I realize that I have far more than I deserve and even if half of this mysteriously disappeared or was otherwise ruined, I would still have more than I need. That I am incredibly blessed.

   And after all of that I realize that I've been sitting on the floor for 40 minutes trying to untie a really stubborn knot a pair of nylons, that I've worn once, made of themselves (a weird long story as to how that is even possible) and OH NO! I forgot that I have to pack for our trip this weekend too, and I haven't done laundry in well over a week!

Oh the joys of moving...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sing Me Something That I Know...

   As far back as I can remember I have been plagued by this feeling that I just don't quite fit in with my peers. In some ways this has been a great blessing and in others it has felt like a curse. It has fueled some really poor decision making, especially during my teen years. But who can't say they've experienced that to some extent? We all feel like the odd man out at least every once in a while. The problem is how we respond to that feeling when it becomes a looming overtone in our lives. For me I went through various stages of trying to fit in and then trying to rebel in my pre-adulthood years. Looking back what is most funny to me is how much more I "fit in" when I was trying my hardest not to. The way in which all of us high school rebels rebelled in such similar fashion that we wound up just being another group of separate sameness. We all bought our "uncool" clothes at the same stores, listened to the same too-heavy-for-mainstream bands (that were for the most part pretty widely accepted among the mainstream) and smoked the same cigarettes on the same corner every morning before school.

   Don't get me wrong, I actually liked the aesthetic (still do... sorry) and some of the music. But in trying to be different and proud I wound up eschewing the things which actually made me different. I narrowed my focus and my tastes to only those things that were cool within the uncool crowd. If anyone hinted that they knew of my secret love of mellow music with tight harmonies, or my preference of tense thriller movies over the gruesome shock factor movies everyone seemed to be boasting, I would swear up and down that it wasn't true. I was scared that my interest in or love of some things would negate the validity of my status in others. That I would get the dreadful label of "poser" if I didn't preemptively inform everyone that "No, really, I was wearing my Dad's ties before Avril did it in that cheesy video" (that I secretly loved). And even though it was true I stopped wearing them when she started because she was making a mockery of our subculture with her badly written lyrics and bubblegum infused style. I didn't want to be associated with it... at least not publicly.

   I also wouldn't admit to knowing all the lyrics to my parents Simon & Garfunkel albums, or the songs on the country radio station we always had playing in the family home and cars... If you asked whether I enjoyed playing board games or putting together puzzles with my parents I would definitively tell you no. Mission trips and family vacations? I did those because I had to! Totally sucked. I basically didn't like anything... liking things, being enthusiastic wasn't cool, unless of course it was stuff that creeped "normal" people out. In fact I went so far as to pretend I liked spiders for something like two years... in which I actually picked them up with my bare hands to carry them outside and save them from being squished, all while my stomach was tying itself in knots and I was desperately attempting to not hurl the thing at the nearest hard surface and run the other way! All to prove what a bad ass I was. Seriously. What could be more lame?

   Things started to change as I began to heal from some of the bad decisions alluded to earlier... in the midst of the healing process, while I was just vulnerable enough to be open to it, I was introduced to a band I would likely never have listened to during my rebel stage. To this day I am not one to loudly endorse a particular musical group, mostly out of fear that they won't stand the test of time and I will look back on my enthusiastic writings about them and feel the same way I do when I crack open one of my high school diaries. Embarrassed. Because I really don't know that much about music, except for the way it makes me feel and the impact it has on my life as a result.... but Bleed American by Jimmy Eat World was a saving grace to me at that time in my life. I think most people found themselves uplifted and comforted by the single The Middle. I was no exception. And I still feel that way when it comes on, but I hadn't yet heard that song (if I remember correctly) when the album made it's way into my hands and then made it's home in my car stereo, where it for the most part stayed on repeat for years. It was energetic and mellow, challenging and comforting. Something about it felt like home. I could listen for hours, days, weeks on end without growing tired. I would change the CD only because I felt like at some point I should, only to return to it shortly thereafter. It was cathartic. I fell for it. And for once I wasn't afraid of what the rest of the rebels might say. They were already talking about me in much worse ways so what did I have to loose? I wore Jimmy Eat World Tshirts to school and sang along at the top of my lungs with the windows rolled down regardless of who I might pull up next to at the next stop light. I cried through Hear You Me more times than I can count. And I resolved over and over to not spend my life wondering, standing in the back just looking around...

   A Praise Chorus is what I think of immediately when I think of that album, that band, but most importantly that time in my life. A time when I freed myself up to like what I like because I liked it, and that's it. A time when I decided to re-inhabit my own body and do everything I could to be the person that I wanted to be. It's no surprise it felt like home... the chorus of it with things, snippets, of songs I didn't even know that I knew. A reminder of a childhood spent listening to and learning things about other people's lifetimes... not just mine. Not just my high school bubble of black clothing ripped apart and put back together with safety pins while Korn songs played in the background as I snuck another cigarette hanging out my parents bathroom window. It subtly reminded me that I was more than the stage I was in. I was a whole person, not just an image of one.

   And so all that being said, I did something I've always been a little leery of... something that felt like giving too much importance to a fleeting thing. A lyric. I tattooed a lyric on my skin.... well technically I didn't do it, a very talented artist did ... but still. I got a lyric tattooed on me in permanent ink. But if there was ever any lyric it was this one... because it is the opposite of fleeting. It has already lasted the test of time. And while it reminds me of the feeling a particular album gives me first and foremost, it also reminds me that there is more to me than one genre. I can and do love Tommy James and the Shondells, Joan Jett and Jimmy Eat World. And that is more than ok in my book.

Over and over... and over... and...

Friday, January 11, 2013

DIY Gothic Rhinstone Phone Case

   I've been seeing a lot of really awesome phone cases lately from flat Iphone cases adorned with beautiful artwork or cleverly designed textual messages to the super built up Kawaii cases covered in bright neon colors or cool pastels with the cutest baubles and cabochons one could possibly find. There are even some awesome edgy cases with crosses made out of studs... but despite my seemingly endless searching I could not find what I was looking for. A phone case that was gothic verging on gaudy. The heavily accessorized Kawaii feel with a darker color palette and embellishments a tad more "serious" and sophisticated than Hello Kitty and skulls with bows. I'm picky what can I say.

   So I decided to experiment with the basic rubber case I had, and now that I finally have a finished product worth sharing I thought I would tell my readers what did and did not work for me. I already owned a lot of the add-ons as I am the opposite of gentle when it comes to jewelry, so much of what you see it broken off parts and pieces from my own collection over the years (the mini dice, black clover and some miscellaneous beads including the awesome netted one). The cross and flowers I got at my local JoAnn fabrics and the rhinestones were purchased on Amazon along with the skull bead and some of the other supplies I will list below.

What You'll Need:

  1. Rubber phone case to fit your phone
  2. Assorted decorations of your choice (make sure rhinestones are basic flat-back without any adhesive already on them I recommend an assortment of sizes of 5mm, 3mm and a few even smaller like the ones found in nail decorating kits)
  3. E-6000 adhesive 
  4. Wax rhinestone picker pencil (do not skip this item, it will safeguard your sanity, I promise)
  5. Toothpicks
  6. work surface to protect whatever table you're working on (I cut a large piece of cardboard and used a Starbucks bottle cap for glue)

 Simple But Time Consuming Steps:

  1. Clean case
  2. Decide in advance roughly where you want your larger baubles
  3. Apply the biggest pieces first (Based on size you may prefer some decorations to be added on top of the layer of rhinestones to add height and some directly on the phone, now is the time to apply all that will go directly on to the phone case) by applying small dabs of glue to the contact points between the decoration and the case, then affix in desired location. 
  4. Lay out rhinestones face up (flat-back down on work surface just like it would be on the finished product).
  5. From there it is best to begin with all openings for camera, ventilation and sound (that are on the flat back surface of the phone, leave edges/sides for the end) to ensure that you don't wind up with an awkward empty space where a rhinestone won't fit.
  6. Apply a thin layer of glue in very small sections, it gets hard/non tacky quickly (not dry)
  7. Pick up Rhinestones by touching the tip of your wax pencil to the center/top of the "stone" and lifting very carefully, hovering over the glue until you have the right placement and quickly touching down. The pencil has enough grab to hold small rhinestones until something stronger like the glue makes contact, and then it lets go easily (if you're careful not to touch the pencil tip to the glue that is)
  8. firm the rhinestone or slightly adjustment placement with toothpick. 
  9. Repeat all over until covered (again leaving sides until back is finished)
  10. Add any smaller decorations you had set aside earlier on top of the layer of rhinestones in the same method as used for the initial larger decorations.
  11. Apply contrasting color rhinestones to the surface of any buttons on the side if your case includes them, being careful to avoid the flexible dip between the "button" surface and the rest of the phone case (which could make the buttons very difficult, if not impossible to use properly)
  12. Fill in sides
  13. Let dry before use

Helpful Tips / Lessons I Learned:

  1.  Separate rhinestones by size/shape. I found this saved me a lot of frustration.
  2. Tacky glue doesn't work. Hot glue doesn't work. Pretty much every glue I had didn't work. E-6000 is your best bet.
  3. Clear rhinestones with foil back seem to be damaged by this glue. Not sure what to recommend in this case. Maybe a higher quality rhinestone? Opaque ones seem fine.
  4. Glue comes out fast. Hold tube tip facing up once you've got the amount you need and are ready to close it up (which you should do in between each section) and ensure that you keep removing the glue that will inevitably seep out until the flow stops before putting the lid back on or the lid could become glued shut. Using this glue takes practice but you will get in a rhythm (especially when the tube is emptied a bit) I promise. Keep trying.
  5. Apply glue directly to phone case and spread with toothpick. I started by squeezing glue into the bottle cap and transferring it to the case with a toothpick. I wasted a lot of glue and toothpicks due to it's fast hardening time. You may still need to begin this way to avoid getting too much on the phone case if it's a new tube of glue since so much comes out at once in the beginning. Practice, practice, practice. 
  6. Work in a well ventilated room. It gets fumy.
  7. Wear a mask if you feel at all light headed or headachy. Take breaks when you need to. Open the windows. Light a candle for the smell. Go for a walk outside. Don't rush the process.
  8. If you seem to be accidentally touching the glue too much wear gloves. Seriously it's some heavy duty stuff. I may be paranoid, but I prefer not to take any chances.
  9. Respect the 24 hour dry time. It may seem ready, but a day without a case isn't going to kill you, don't let all your hard work go to waste!

ENJOY!! (and maybe even share some photos of your finished case in the comments when you're done!)

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