Singing: The Ultimate Detox

Image courtesy of thehoopla.com.au

Image courtesy of thehoopla.com.au

Perhaps it is because I’ll be singing karaoke in January or maybe I just need to howl at the moon—whatever the case, I’ve recently found myself singing loudly, well, everywhere. I do most of my singing on my commute to any one of the three colleges I teach at, but I also sing at home and while running errands.

A while back, I wrote a post on the link between grief and song, but my current penchant for belting out various tunes has me wondering what other connections there might be between singing and everyday life. Here’s a short list of possibilities I’ve come up with:

  • I just like the feeling of being loud
  • Singing acts like a catharsis, a release of frustration (I am a teacher, after all) and, as previously mentioned, grief (I recorded a podcast about my very recent journey with grief after the sudden death of a family member.)
  • I’m super serious about prepping for karaoke
  • One of my not-so-secret wishes is to be a rockstar, and singing loudly helps me live out this dream, even if only for a pretend audience

Whatever the reason (and the list above is by no means exhaustive), I find I always feel refreshed after indulging in some screamo or holding an extra long note. I’m not super into regular “cleanses” that involve only drinking juices or other dietary restrictions, so maybe singing is my detox and way of giving voice (no pun intended) to all that is not language within me yet.

Your turn: Do you like to sing? If so, what are your reasons? Is it for fun or might there be another purpose?

An Imagined WA (Workaholics Anonymous) Meeting

Image courtesy of onlinecareertips.com

Image courtesy of onlinecareertips.com

(Note: This post is the first of it’s kind for me—I wrote it in about five minutes. No editing. No nothing. Stream of consciousness. Makes me nervous, but I trust this is a safe place to let some of this out.)

Hello. My name is Michelle, and I’m a workaholic.

(All: Hi, Michelle).

It might be the result of being the only child of a single parent or just beginning my life with a type-A personality, but I tend to work myself to death. No one asks this of me—I demand it of myself.

And yet, as I get older, I realize I can’t keep up the frenetic pace. I started thinking there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t keep up break-neck speed. But it wasn’t until my husband said, “I’m worried about you” that I was willing to admit that it was my schedule and the pressure I put on myself that was the problem.

This means taking on less work. This means less money, which, as a former welfare recipient, honestly scares the shit out of me. I don’t ever want to rely on the system again. But that can’t be synonymous with not relying on those closest to me.

Yes, it means less of what I’ve grown used to, but what else might it mean? More free time for sure. More time to write, to make art, to sleep (oh, glorious sleep!). More energy for my students. More time with my husband. More reading. Kinda makes the old adage “Less is more” take on a whole new meaning.

Its tough redefining who you thought you were. I thought I was the perpetual happy-go-lucky person, then my depression worsened. I thought I was a type-A person through and through. I think it might be true to a certain extent, but it’s wiping me out. It’s wrecking my health.

I’m scared. I’ve been here before. But all the scary steps I’ve taken in the past have paid dividends, though not always right away. I have to trust (God, myself, the people in my life) that this will also turn out OK.

If We Were Having Coffee…Winter Edition

No picture of me with a drink today. I'm sniffly :(

No picture of me with a drink today. I’m sniffly 😦

(Not sure what this series is about? Check out the first post here!)

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I’m not quite ready for school to start. For as much as I enjoy teaching, the holiday break didn’t quite feel like enough time. Perhaps this is because I was sick through most of break (see above photo) and am still trying to get over whatever it is I have. I had my first day of class this past Thursday and am happy to report it went well. This week starts the real grind with assignment sheets and keeping up with reading and grading.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that Poetry Monday is on a hiatus. My poetry well is experiencing a bit of a drought. I started Poetry Monday because my cup was full, and I had so much to share. Now I’m struggling a bit, so I’m putting it on an indefinite hold (though I’ll reassess at the mid-year point) to fill my well again. In the meantime, I’ll be sharing other fun things on Mondays (and other days too).

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I just wrote a letter to a friend. And it felt awesome! I think letter (or card) writing is a long lost art. Sure, people do it during the holidays, but what about the rest of the year? I vote we bring back snail mail somethin’ fierce!

I’d ask you what you thought of letter writing. I’d also ask when was the last time you wrote an honest-to-goodness handwritten letter.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that so far, I’m doing OK with my New Year’s resolutions. I think trimming down the number of goals has a lot to do with it. My goals also focus on areas of my life I really want to improve rather than on areas I “should” improve. Perhaps my favorite goal to work on thus far is daily meditation. I find I look forward to this practice. Who knew sitting still for a few minutes each day could be so rewarding?

I’d ask you what you hope to accomplish this year.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I want to offer one or two writing e-courses this summer and am nervous about it. The usual questions pop up (What if no one signs up? What if people sign up but don’t like it? etc). I’d tell you that I’ve been pushing those thoughts aside and have been trying to move forward.

I’d also tell you there was a way you could help me form these courses. I’ve prepared a short, eight-question survey to gauge interest in these types of courses as well as collect stats on the type of content people would love to see in a writing e-course. Interested in giving your two cents? Take the survey!

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that my life has all the marking of an adult life, but I still feel like a kid. I’m married. I have a somewhat steady income from my freelance work. I pay rent. But I’m always silly! I don’t know…I guess I figured that at some point I’d feel like I knew what I was doing. I’m actually just enjoying playing….that seems like the real me. I feel like even when my husband and I decide to have kids, we’ll still play. Perhaps that’s a big part of what parenting is: showing your kids how to play well at life.

I’d ask you if there was a moment that really made you feel like an honest-to-goodness adult.

Now it’s your turn! What would you tell me if we were having coffee?

If We Were Having Coffee…

A few days ago, I saw this post from Jamie over at Perpetual Page Turner. I thought, “What a super cool idea!” I love that, as a blogger, I can interact with my followers in a more personal way. So, I decided to follow suit and write my own “If We Were Having Coffee” post (thought I enjoy hot chocolate more. But, well, “If We Were Having Coffee” is a way more attractive blog post title than “If We Were Each Partaking in Our Warm Beverages of Choice”).

I've got my cocoa and cinnamon! And why yes, that is Katniss Everdeen behind me.

I’ve got my cocoa and cinnamon! And why yes, that is Katniss Everdeen behind me.

Here’s the idea: I share what’s going on with me right now with you, the reader, as if we were sitting together, cozy and sharing life over warm mugs 🙂 I’m going to ask you questions too, so feel free to respond via comment or e-mail (roaringout (at) gmail (dot) com). So grab a mug of your warm beverage of choice (hmm, maybe that alternate blog title would work…) and join me:

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I much prefer hot chocolate with cinnamon.

I’d ask you what your favorite warm beverage is.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I felt like the absolute worst teacher yesterday. I was caught in horrendous traffic with no way of getting in touch with my 8 am class. I arrived 20 minutes late, and my students had understandably left (our classroom is locked and I’m the only one who can open it). They did leave a note with the names of all who were present, which was responsible of them. I felt like “such a fucking failure” (to quote myself from a 10-minute freewrite I did during class time since no students were present). I harp on my students to be on time and to not waste my time, their time, or their fellow classmates’ time, yet that’s exactly what I did, though not intentionally. Even after I e-mailed the class to explain, I felt like it was not enough.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I also practiced being kind to myself yesterday. Everyone makes mistakes. The semester is a month in, and I’ve extended grace to many of my students. I shouldn’t feel ashamed to ask for a bit of grace as well.

I’d ask you about a time when you felt bad, but learned to practice being kind to yourself.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I’m super excited, though nervous, about selling my art at a local craft fair on Sunday. I’ve still got a bunch of prep to do, but it also means that I know I’ll prioritize fun, crafty work!

I’d ask you what opportunities are you excited about. What risks, however small or great, are you taking?

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you I’m also super excited yet nervous about getting married next month. I love that I get to spend the rest of my life with the most amazing man in the universe (I may or may not be biased…), but, oh boy, weddings are a lot of work! I’ve got most things under control, I just don’t like planning for long-term projects. I know everything will be worth it the day of; I just have to keep reminding myself of this fact.

I’d ask you to tell me about a time when you were nervous, but everything turned out OK.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I’m a bit frustrated with myself for not making more “me” time; that is, time to write, to be crafty, to read, to do things that I love.

I’d ask you what you like to do during “me” time. I’d also ask how you make time for the things you love to do, as opposed to the things you have to do.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I’m so excited about fall TV lineups starting again. I love so many shows (Supernatural and Walking Dead, anyone?) that I can barely keep track!

I’d ask you what your favorite fall shows are.

OK, I think that’s good for now. Your turn! Feel free to respond in the comments or via e-mail to me. I’m looking forward to your side of the conversation 🙂

One Second Every Day – January

Photo courtesy of 1secondeveryday.com

Photo courtesy of 1secondeveryday.com

When watching a documentary or reading a snippet about the life of someone famous or someone who’s done something noteworthy, I often wonder what happened in the life of that person during the silences. By silences, I mean when the announcer says, “This person got a job, and then six years later, they had their big break.” I always wonder what happened in those six years, months, days, minutes. What was their routine? What did they read? Who was their best friend? Who did they talk to when they cried?

The answers to the above questions are pieces of life that history doesn’t see fit to record. They are moments that history often forgets, and history shouldn’t. We shouldn’t because it is routine that is the lifeblood of, well, life, even if it’s not as exciting as our biggest victories or lowest valleys. Most of what happens to us is mundane, but in those routines, we have small variations that surprise us and, whether or not we like to admit it, we are delighted.

In that vein, I’ve embarked on this ironically app-inspired journey that I hope to continue throughout the year and beyond. I’m doing the 1 Second Every Day project (I found out about it via the Storyline blog). It entails recording a second of every single day with the intention of splicing those second together to make a sort of movie narrative.

I want to do this so that I have a record of how I spend my spare time and have a memory for each day that I live, no matter how small. Of course these days and months will be punctuated by excitement, but more than that, the reason I’m doing this is because I want to remember. I don’t want certain things to get old, like my finace kissing my hand, like my roommate doing something zazzy (a word of his own making). I don’t want to forget my drives to school or the work that I do (yes, that includes grading). I want to remember what I put my time towards. I think that’s important. I don’t know that I can articulate why, but I think it is.

I found out about this project a few days into January, so this month’s video is a bit abridged. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you’ll consider embarking on a similar journey of recording your seemingly mundane days. I think you’ll find there is always something noteworthy to record 🙂

(The song in the video is “Pictures of You” by The Last Goodnight.)

The Wanderer’s Guide to Life

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” ~ Douglas Adams

Galaxies are so large that stars can be consid...

Galaxies are so large that stars can be considered particles next to them (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I graduated college nearly five years ago, I would not have considered myself a wanderer (or hitchhiker, as is the case with Douglas Adams).  I was a girl with a very narrow focus on life, and I thought I knew what I wanted: a steady 9-5 job as an Editorial Assistant at a publishing company where I would climb the ranks and, when I got married (who knows when that was going to happen!), I’d move out of my mom’s apartment.  In my spare time, all I aspired to do was catch up on reading.

Fast forward a few years, and my life looks very different than the less-than-inspiring version I was aspiring to as a recent college grad (Not that having a steady job is a bad thing, I’ve just since realized I want something more than that).

When I stumbled across the above quote earlier today, it got me thinking of all the sometimes frightening but always wonderful turns my life has taken, particularly in the past three years.  As another exercise in gratitude, I wanted to list some of those changes:

I have two Etsy shops: Remember when I said I used to aspire to simply catch up on reading? I’ve since opened up to online shops where I sell crafts and fine art (btdubs, I’m having a 15% off February sale in both shops now through 2/15!).  Because I have this outlet, I’m constantly thinking of new ideas for projects, which keeps the creative juices flowing.

I freelance, well, everything: I mostly copy edit, proofread, and babysit, but it’s so different than a 9-5.  I’m grateful that I can make my own schedule and even have time for lunch with friends 🙂

I am in a healthy romantic relationship: I used to be the jaded, single woman who thought that all the good guys were either taken, gay, or my best friends.  Nothing I did to garner a relationship seemed to work.  And then one day (like so many people told me, but I never believed them), it just happened.  A friendship I had for about half of my life blossomed.  And it’s been awesome ever since.

I think it is rare to find a person (and I am lucky to have friends like this too) who loves you, flaws and all.  (I know, I know. I’m probably giving most people a toothache right now, especially so close to Valentine’s Day. If you are not in a romantic relationship, let me encourage to live your life fully now, not in a holding pattern.  The right time and right person will come).

I am a professor: I thought this title only came after numerous awards, books, hard work, and lots of coffee (well, tea in my case).  I’m glad that a local community college gave me the chance to be in front of the classroom.  I am in my second semester of teaching, and it has been by turns challenging and rewarding beyond any of my expectations.

I have recently been commissioned to make art: This is something I thought would never happen. I’m comfortable calling myself a writer, but not an artist.  The painting commission I recently received was a really great confidence booster.

I am living on my own (well, with a roommate): For the past two and a half years, I’ve been living with a college buddy of mine.  We play video games and banter about poetry, faith, and Gangam Style (ok, fine, mostly Gangam style).

I have an MFA in Poetry: When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I determined that I was done with school.  But then I heard about the Poetry program that my alma mater was starting.  I knew I had to apply.  It’s been a little over two years since I’ve graduated, and spending two years breathing, eating, and sweating poetry was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I have a chapbook: A chapbook is a shorter poetry manuscript (about 18-25 pages).  I put one together a few weeks ago, and I’m pretty happy with it.  I didn’t think I’d ever have the time or discipline to put one of these together.  Now I’ve got one and a goal of mine for this year is to get it published with a press.  We’ll see how that turns out!

I find myself continuing to explore different possibilities.  I’ve signed up for bartending school and am looking into certification to be a teaching artist.  I’m also applying to and saving for writer’s residencies and art classes just for fun.  I feel that the world is open to me, and I want to try everything I possibly can!

Ok, so perhaps there is no “Wanderer’s Guide to Life” as the title suggests, but I think that’s because to wander means to explore.  If you have a five (or seven or ten)-step plan for it, the fun is sucked out of the adventures.

Of course, wandering comes with its own worries and questions (for me, some of those questions are: what should I focus my time on primarily?  Do I want a career? Can I pay the bills doing activities I love?), but I’ve found that these bigger questions tend to work themselves out if you put in hard work and pursue the activities that make you feel alive.

If you would have told me about my current life situation five years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you. My options at that time were few because I made it so. My life as it stands now was unthinkable to me back then because it’s completely different than the stereotypical picture I had in my mind.  But when I think about my current circumstances, I smile and know this is exactly where I needed to land.

What is one event in your life that was a pleasant surprise?

5 Little Things That Are Simply Splendid

As I got ready to leave work yesterday, I was quite excited with the thought of the maple sweet mashed potatoes I would be making as my dinner side dish.  I thought of how awesome this simple food dish is, which got me thinking of all the little things I love.  So as an exercise in gratitude, I made a list of five “small things” I absolutely love and make my life that much easier/enjoyable (I didn’t include family, friends, or God because I think those are implied.  They are also not little ;-)).

1. New Book Smell – I know the world is moving to e-books and, to be honest, I may go that way someday myself.  But nothing can replace the awesome smell of pages fresh from the press.  As a kid, I loved smelling books.  To this day, I still smell the pages when I get an order in from Amazon.  I know, I’m weird.

2. Baby Laughter – Seriously, how can you not hear them laugh and keep a straight face?  I don’t have a kid and don’t want kids for quite some time.  But when I’m out and see a little munchkin in her stroller, I always smile.  The heartiness of a baby’s laugh provides a bright spot on even the most crap-worthy day.  Case in point:

See?  You couldn’t keep yourself from smiling could you?

3. Tabbed Internet Browsing – I’m really ADD when I surf the web.  The ease of pressing CTRL + T to get the information I want is such a fabulous convenience.  Every now and then, I’m on a computer that isn’t mine and isn’t equipped with tabbed browsing.  The clutter of all those windows brings about my sad panda face 😦

My Wikipedia-famous Posh Spice picture

4. Bobby Pins – For most of my life, I had super long hair (mid-back length).  I cut it short when I graduated college in 2008 and haven’t looked back since.  For a while I looked like Posh Spice with the short back and longer bangs.  Then I cut it even shorter.  Now I have a pixie cut with long-ish bangs.  This is when I became fond of bobby pins.  I can’t put my hair in a pony tail, but I don’t like having bangs in my face most of the time.  Bobby pins are a simple wonder that I am infinitely grateful for.  Eating my bangs doesn’t sound pleasant.

5. Maple Sweet Mashed Potatoes – While the thought of eating my bangs is unpleasant, I could eat sweet mashed potatoes every day!  And they are so simple to make.  I use the recipe found in Jae Steele’s book “Get It Ripe.”  She adds a bit of maple syrup to her mashed ‘taters and I have to say it’s a delicious addition!  Here is the batch that I made last night:

Om nom nom!

What’s one “small thing” you would add to this list?

Doing Nothing is the Most Productive Thing To Do

Most weeks, my life consists of work, laundry, volunteering, and sometimes cooking.  My weekends can get even more hectic with family parties, dinner with friends, weekend events, and catching up on errands thrown in.  It’s all good stuff, but it can get overwhelming.

This past weekend was the first in a while where I could just sit back and enjoy the luxury of doing nothing.  Sure, there are things I could have been doing, like cleaning or writing a book review.  But I often forget that sometimes doing nothing can boost productivity later.  Monday is coming to a close and I felt rested for most of the day, which is a plus of rest!

Well, I did do a couple of things this weekend.  I finally finished a book I borrowed from a friend over six months ago (The Book Thief by Markus Zusak…good stuff!).   I even made some yummy Black Bean and Brown Rice chili (I added ground beef later):

Speaking of food, my boyfriend and I also gorged on junk food while watching the Jason Statham/Jet Li gem “War.”  Also (perhaps more importantly), my boyfriend and I completely obliterated a score I held in Geometry Wars 2.

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2

For those of you not familiar with the game, Geometry Wars 2 allows those of you despise Math to do what you’ve always dreamed of: shoot shapes!  There are several shape-shooting modes, but my favorite is called “King.”  In King mode, you fly from circle to circle trying to shoot the multicolored shapes and snakes while avoiding contact with them.  Shapes cannot get to you while you are in a circle.  The catch?  The circles start to shrink and disappear about 5 seconds after you enter one and you can only shoot while in a circle.

I could play this game all day.  In about a half hour, my boyfriend and I completely obliterated my previous high score of about 1,300,000 with the ridiculous score of 11,749,880. When we completed this feat, we must have had the perfect combination of salty ridge chips, Reese’s peanut butter ice cream, and Jason Statham badassery running through our veins.  I guess I did accomplish something this weekend.

 

How about you?  What are some things you like to do (or not do!) on lazy weekends?

Poetry Monday – Rainer Maria Rilke

Thanks for joining me for Poetry Monday once again!  I’m trying something a bit different.  I will be reading a prose excerpt from Rainer Maria Rilke’s collection “Letters to a Young Poet.”  The excerpt is from letter four.  I hope you enjoy it 🙂

Ripping Out the Hazard Lights

I recently read an interesting quote in the blog of one of my favorite authors.  Don Miller quotes the movie “True Grit” when he writes, “I do not entertain hypotheticals, the world as it is is vexing enough.”  Sometimes you’ve just got to stop worrying about what might happen and exercise some chutzpah.  I’ve done this recently by submitting a few of  my poems to a literary magazine I don’t think I’ll get into…but you never know.

 
My latest venture has been opening up an Etsy store.  I haven’t got much posted for sale, but it’s a good start on something I’ve wanted to do for a while.  If you’d like to check it out, go to: www.etsy.com/shop/roaringout or click on the “Etsy Store” tab on the menu bar of this blog </shameless plug>.  I’m a bit self-conscious about crafting, but there’s nothing to lose in putting yourself out there….actually, there can be quite a bit to lose.  If you invest in a business and it tanks, you lose money.  If you ask someone out, you risk rejection.  In any situation, there is always the possibility of failure.  And that possibility often casts a pretty long shadow.

 

But I prefer to think that despite success or lack thereof, I’m going to at least give it a shot; the effort and experience will be worth it in the end.  As Rob Bell, another fav author of mine, writes in his book Velvet Elvis: “Better to try and fail, because at least you were being true to yourself.  And the worst thing would be to live wondering, What if?”  This line of thinking has got me ripping out the hazard lights; I’ve stopped moving cautiously.  Speed or skid, I’m here for the ride.

 

And sometimes risk pays off.  Take this blog for example.  I’m so glad I ventured into starting it.  I’ve gotten a bunch of lovely notes saying how much people like what I’m doing here on “Roaring Out”.  Thanks so much if you’ve reached out to me!  Your support is much appreciated 🙂

Living for the Bright Spots

Happily Ever After.  This is a concept I don’t believe in.  It’s evident in my poetry and even in the way I live my life.  Sure, there is hope.  There is hope that circumstances will change and life will get better.  But these improvements are never permanent; there is always something more to work through.  And I don’t say this to be a downer, but to be a realist.

I think Jeanne Duprau said it best in her book “The Diamond of Darkhold” from the “Books of Ember” series.  This series takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where a community of people is re-discovering the life people lived pre-apocalypse.  One of the ways they do this is through books.  Towards the end of the story, the narrator gives us the point of view of one of the main characters: “Maybe there was no happily-ever-after, as in that book of Edward’s, but there was happiness sometimes, and she had it now, doing what she knew she was born for…” I’ve been thinking about this quote lately.  I don’t know that there is a necessarily an ultimate happy ending because life is far too complex for a black-and-white solution like that.  But there are definitely bright spots.

When I said that my non-belief in “happily ever after” is evident in my poetry, I mean that I don’t usually write about happy subjects.  Poems are found in moments of tension, in friction.  When I said my un-belief is evident in the way I live my life, I meant that I live for the bright spots.   There will always be some difficulty to wade through and I do what I must to push through, as do most people.  But there are moments of happiness and sometimes those moments turn into days of happiness.  I’m talking here, specifically, about time with my friends.  A bunch of us got together this weekend and it was a great time.  There is nothing like hanging around with people who love you despite your weaknesses, who understand your quirky sense of humor, who rag on you to show affection….at least in my world.  And I’m sure another bright spot will be Thanksgiving: time with family, rough-housing with cousins, catching up with relatives I haven’t seen in a while.  Bright spots, moments of pure joy.

Perhaps this is why “happily ever after” is only in fairy tales.  I know this has been said before, but it bears repeating: Adversity is needed to truly enjoy happiness.  Without it, life would be one continuous happy moment….and that lack of variety sounds boring.  Having said that, I know people’s bright moments look different.  So, what are yours?

note on the pic: These are two of my bright spots — my friends (from the left) dee and mel