Charity Money

thumbs upIf you’ve been present in my social media world in the past week or so, then you know that I’ve been doing some linking to a few different things that are raising money for a couple of different causes (a teacher friend has a campaign to raise money for some hands-on math supplies for her high-poverty students at DonorsChoose.Org; The Davy Jones Equine Memorial Fund is having an auction; Davy’s Angels are selling t-shirts with the proceeds also benefiting DJEMF). In addition to trying to raise some awareness for these activities, I’ve also donated to my friend’s campaign, bought a t-shirt, and have been getting outbid left, right, and center on the nifty memorabilia at the auction.

I like to put my money where my mouth is when I can. And I try to work it so I always have money for my mouth (thought I will have no trouble running my mouth for various charities and organizations when I can’t afford to donate; that is the very least I can do).

So, I feel I should make a full-disclosure about my charity money, the money I earmark to donate to various causes, charities, organizations, and whatnot because that money might involve you, too.

My charity money is the money I make garage sale-ing my life.

That’s right. If you buy any of my crap on eBay (stuffed animals will be going up in the next month or so, BTW) or any of the stuff I’ve made and put in my Etsy shop (new bracelets should be in the shop in the next few weeks), then the money you pay me will probably go to one of my chosen organizations.

Now, it didn’t always work like this. For the longest time, that money went to pay my bills. And then, when I started making enough money through my various day jobs and a little from writing, I started saving it up. It’s never been a big cash flow. More like a nickel trickle. And last year I came to a point where I decided to put those nickels to some good use.

Why am I telling you this? Because some people like to tell other people how to spend their charity money. Even if they have absolutely no connection to that person’s charity money, they still feel the need to tell them that there are other, more deserving organizations than whatever one they chose to donate to, oh, and by the way, there’s no need to tell people that you donated to any charity because they do it all the time without needing to mention it, you unhumble jerk.

I am telling people this so they don’t make the grave mistake of buying something from me (except my books; that’s bill-paying money and I’m fairly sure folks are cool with me paying my bills) only to then have me take the hard-earned money they gave to me in exchange for goods and give it to some organization that they don’t feel is deserving and would rather I not ever mention.

I am also telling people this so I can tell the people that don’t even buy my stuff, but still have a problem with the organizations I give to, that they can just shut the fuck right up, turn right around, and give to the organizations they think are more deserving. Don’t like me talking about my organizations? Then you talk about yours louder than I talk about mine. Or don’t tell anyone at all and just mute/unfriend/hide me. Whatever trips your trigger, floats your boat, and/or tickles your fancy.

But for the love of all that is unholy, just in general, STOP TELLING PEOPLE THAT THEIR GIVING PRACTICES/AWARENESS RAISING IS WRONG. Sweet mercy, you fucking buzzkills. Shaming people because their giving/awarness-ing isn’t to your liking is just a dick move and you’re a terrible person and you should feel bad. No, really. You need to analyze your need to belittle someone trying to do something good. Because that seems like a serious hang-up to me. Major personality flaw. Also, not a good look.

(For clarity’s sake and to cut off an argument before it starts, I’m not talking about valid criticism of an organization because not all of them act on behalf of the greater good. I’m talking about people shitting on a reputable organization and/or fundraising/awareness attempts because of blah blah bullshit bitchcakes. You know what I’m talking about.)

So, in conclusion, if you buy something from me during the garage sale-ing of my life, that money will probably end up going to a organization that I dig. If that offends you, then you should not buy my stuff.

Except my books.

Always buy my books.

Let Me Meditate on That

sunWhen I first started doing yoga about ten years ago, I sort of snubbed the spiritual/mediation part of it. It felt odd for me to include it since my whole purpose was to use yoga for exercise, not enlightenment. Let me just get my stretch and strength on. I don’t need to appeal to a higher consciousness to make it count.

Things like that, thoughts like that, have a way of coming back to bite me in the ass. Because here I am, ten years later, meditating.

Of course, like yoga, I’m using it more for health purposes rather than enlightenment.

Meditation, taking that brief timeout to rest the brain, has proven to reduce stress levels and that is an area of my world that I’ve always needed help with. I have a tendency to work and stew and think and worry and work some more and never give myself a break. This summer, I decided to teach myself to give myself that break I need.

And I’d like to say that my anecdotal evidence supports the science I’ve seen. I feel much better mentally and my stress levels are quite a bit lower. I’m happier. It’s a nice, bright feeling. I rather like it.

So, if you’d like to give meditating a try, here’s how I do it.

First of all, I don’t think of nothing. A lot of meditating folks will tell you to clear your mind and not think of anything and that’s just an invitation to thinking about something and that’s frustrating when you’re trying so very hard not to think of anything. Total opposite effect that meditating is supposed to have.

If I want to clear my mind as much as possible and not think of anything then I focus on thinking about one thing. The easiest thing to do is just count breaths. Focus solely on your breathing (deep breaths in and out through the nose) and the numbers. That way you’re focused, but not really thinking. You know what I mean? I give myself a set number of breaths that I’m supposed to hit and when I get to that number, I can be done. Just doing even a small number that way relaxes me.

I’ve also used my mediation time to focus on other thoughts. For example, when I meditate in corpse pose (lying on your back, arms out a little, palms up, legs and feet relaxed, eyes closed) I picture myself breathing in happiness and breathing out unhappiness. It sounds stupid, but it’s fun, it’s relaxing, it’s positive, and it keeps my mind from wandering all over hell and thinking stressful thoughts. I end up feeling happier when I’m done because, well, I’ve been breathing in happiness, haven’t I? Yeah.

When I meditate sitting up, I’ll focus on other positive, productive thoughts, a short phrase that I might repeat to myself or a picture I’ll create in my head and concentrate on, but it’ll just be one thing for the entire period.

That sort of focus calms my mind and reduces my stress levels. It’s calming but for me it’s also productive because I’m focusing on something (like breathing in happiness). I’m doing as much as relaxing.

Second of all, meditating takes practice. Your brain needs to be conditioned to accept your quiet time. I try to meditate about the same time every day. That sort of habit helps. Some days I’m very focused and some days, my brain is like a monkey on meth and cannot be contained. I still do it on those days and get what I can from it. Even a little is better than nothing. But the more I do it, the better I get at it.

Which is really good for my stress levels.

I Don’t Know How You People Do It

Energizer Bunny

In the next week I’ll have a holiday party, three Christmases, grocery shopping, one floorset shift, and hopefully a haircut.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

And I can feel my anxiety rise every time I look at my calendar.

It’s not that I don’t want to do these things (okay, I’m not a big fan of grocery shopping), but it’s just a lot of me to do in a week. For once, this has nothing to do with my laziness.

I’m an introvert.

Someone explained it that when it comes to social interactions, extroverts take in the energy from being out and about while introverts expend it. As an introvert, this means I will be expending some level of energy for every activity I do the week in question. The routine stuff, like floorset and grocery shopping, doesn’t require as much energy as the holiday party and the Christmases will, but it will all cost me. I’m going to be more than wiped out by the time it’s all said and done.

As an introvert, I require a certain amount of preparation and recovery time from social interactions. Sometimes it’s not much. Sometimes it’s a lot.

This means I don’t go out as much as my friends. I’m not as socially active. I have one friend that I know might be home for dinner one or two nights a week, maybe. She’s always running. After work there are all sorts of activities that she or her husband or her kids are involved in. And that’s great! But I have no idea how she can manage it because for me, it would be so draining that I’d be dead within a week.

She is an extrovert. And I’m little jealous of that.

Being an introvert can be a bit tiring. I don’t go out as much with my friends as maybe I should or maybe I’d like to. There are times when my energy is riding high and I’m good to go. Lots of times, it takes all I can muster just to get through the regular social interaction of my day. As a result, people stop asking you to do things because they know the answer will “always” be no. It’s kind of a bummer.

I’m not trying to whine about it. I’m sure there are bummer aspects to being an extrovert, too. I’m just not sure what they are.

I’m too busy looking on in amazement at how people can be so socially active and not need a day or a weekend or a week (or month, or…) to recharge. To me, extroverts are like the Energizer Bunny, just going and going and going.

Meanwhile, as an introvert, I feel like a dying laptop battery that’s gotta be charged every couple of hours.

I wonder if I can get a replacement off of Amazon.

When I Put My iPod on Shuffle

English: An 2G Shuffle iPod

I came across a Twitter hashtag that had people name the first 30 songs that came up on their shuffle. That’s a little timeline clogging for me, but I still liked the idea of it and decided to put it on the blog instead.

Okay, maybe this post belongs in Friday Funtimes, but I happen to think that the kind of music a person listens to reveals a little something about themselves. For example, it says a lot about someone who loudly proclaims that any one genre of music sucks. A whole lot.

So what do my 30 songs tell you about me (aside from the fact that my taste in music is questionable because that’s already been established)? Also marvel at the sense of humor my iPod has. I’m telling you. This thing is sentient.

1. “Let Him Fly” -The Dixie Chicks

2. “Your Mama Don’t Dance” -Poison

3. “Laugh Kills Lonesome” -Michael Nesmith

4. “Hold On/Luka” -The Dan Band

5. “Can You Dig It?” (Peter Version) -The Monkees

6. “I Hate Everything About You” -Ugly Kid Joe

7. “Magic Man” -Heart

8. “Sound of the Underground” -Girls Aloud

9. “A Girl’s Gotta Do” -Mindy McCready

10. “Groovy Kind of Love” -Phil Collins

11. “What’s My Name Again?” -Blink-182

12. “I Hate Myself For Loving You” -Joan Jett

13. “Mo Run Gael, Dileas” -The Rankin Family

14. “Bad Medicine” -Bon Jovi

15. “Penny Music” -The Monkees

16. “Bang Bang” -Nancy Sinatra

17. “The Light of a Fading Star” -Flogging Molly

18. “For Pete’s Sake” -The Monkees

19. “Abba Medley: Mama Mia/Fernando/Waterloo” -The Dan Band

20. “Mother, Mother” -Tracy Bonham

21. “Highway to Hell” -AC/DC

22. “Girl, Girls, Girls” -Liz Phair

23. “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” -Michael Jackson

24. “I’ve Just Seen a Face” -The Beatles

25. “Why Haven’t I Heard From You?” -Reba

26. “She’s Always a Woman” -Billy Joel

27. “Carmina Burana” -O Fortuna

28. “Only God Knows Why” -Kid Rock

29. “Get Up” -Dropkick Murphys

30. “Check Yes or No” -George Strait

A few notes on this list.

-This list does not accurately reflect my love of covers, mash-ups, and 80’s pop.

-If you knew Gaelic, you’d understand why putting “Mo Run Gael, Dileas” in between “Bad Medicine” and “I Hate Myself For Loving You” is either baffling or brilliant.

-Sticking AC/DC between Tracy Bonham and Liz Phair is pretty funny.

-Considering I own every album The Monkees released and then some, I’m shocked that only 3 songs made the list.

-Ditto only one Michael Nesmith song making the list, not because I own all of his albums, but because of the four I do own, shuffle loves them.

-“Carmina Burana” in between two ballads will drop your transmission. Talk about shifting gears too fast.

-None of my R&B, hip hop, rap, jazz, blues, bluegrass, or classical made the list.

It’s The Getting There That I Hate

A CTA brown line train leaves Madison/Wabash s...

I like to visit places, but I don’t like the traveling it takes to get there.

This past weekend, I took the train to Chicago and then hopped a cab to the hotel for Cubs Con. Now, driving to Chicago, I don’t mind. Last year I drove and stayed in the hotel and all was groovy. Not knowing where I’m going sometimes gets me riled, but most of the time, I breeze right through it. But taking the train and taking a cab, that makes it more of a trip. Control has been wrenched from me. I now have no control over when I make it to town. I have to rely on someone I don’t know to drive me to the hotel and then pay them for it. It raises my level of anxiety.

Airplanes are no better. I’m impatient. When I get on and sit down, everyone else needs to sit the hell down, and the show needs to get on the road. Or in the air, as the case may be. Same when we land. Get your shit and get off the plane. It shouldn’t take you twenty minutes to get together your shit. It didn’t take that long to stow it, dammit. And God help the world if I ever get on one of those planes that get stuck on a tarmac for more than twenty minutes. There will be blood.

Once I’m in the air or on the train, I’m good. I plug in my music (or in the case of flying, I prefer cartoons), read or write, and mostly relax.

Once the plane lands or the train pulls in, the anxiety comes back and doesn’t abate until I get to the hotel. Once I’m at the hotel and get through the whole checking in process and get to the room, I’m good to go again. And while I’m there doing whatever I came to do, I have a great time.

The anxiety starts all over again when it comes time to go home, starting with the checking out process.

I admit it. I’m kind of a bratty traveler. I’m not bratty to the other travelers (usually), but I feel kind of sorry for anyone traveling with me. It’s kind of like entertaining and reassuring a two-year old (hence the need for cartoons while flying). My tantrums are quiet ones and I can be quite short with people and I might murder the other passengers in my mind many times over, but for the most part, I’m kind of a whiny handful.

Traveling on my own, there’s nobody to wrangle me, so I’m on my own to behave myself.

By the time you read this, my trip will be over. But I’m typing it up the Thursday before. So you won’t know if I survived (or got arrested) until tomorrow’s post, I suppose, because I should be writing it today.

If you don’t hear from me by tomorrow, start getting together the bail money.

Having Illicit Fun

fun

This isn’t nearly as illegal as the blog title makes it sound, but I do feel like I’ve been breaking some rules.

You see Cubs fans don’t think their team should have any fun during a losing season. Seriously. No fun for you. They want their team to carry the weight of the misery of losing without so much as a smirk. Never mind the fact that they all predicted this team to lose 100 games, but by God, they’re not supposed to ENJOY any of it. You’re not supposed to have a good time if you’re losing.

So if you apply this logic to my life then I’ve been having illicit fun since about 1994 because that’s when my losing seasons really started in earnest.

That’s when I stopped having boyfriends. That’s when I started gaining weight. That’s when my social awkwardness really became exposed. That’s when my anxiety skyrocketed.

And it pretty much went downhill from there.

My parents separated and divorced and left me to my own devices. I chose not to go to college in part because I didn’t think I was good enough to get a scholarship and I knew I couldn’t afford to pay for it myself. I also didn’t go to college because I’d been busting my ass all through high school with no reward and I was tired. I wanted to take a semester off. I also put off going to college because I didn’t know what I wanted to go to college FOR.

From there I’ve worked several “crap” jobs, engaged in a relationship that was doomed to fail and put me off any sort of serious relationships for a very long time, dealt with depression, never moved out of my dad’s house, avoided many adult responsibilities, dug myself a hole of debt to chase a dream, and generally failed at every endeavor I’ve ever attempted. I’ve never been out of the country, never been farther west than Kansas City, never taken a cruise.

I am the poster child for losing seasons.

And yet, I’ve had more than one good time.

While I was boyfriend-less and rudder-less going into my senior year of high school, I had a blast sleeping in the hallway in the mornings before school, playing Spit in study hall, going to my first Monkees concert, and rocking a 60’s vibe all year.

While working at Wal-Mart instead of going back to college after a semester, I colored my hair a rainbow of colors, went to a lot of wrestling shows, raided Chicago with my Clique, and ran Wal-Mart with the rest of the lowlies.

Then I blew a lot of my money supporting an indy wrestling fed when I maybe shouldn’t have. But I had a great time doing those shows and spending most of my weekends in the Chicago suburbs watching guys wrestle before heading downtown to roam and not getting home until 5AM, meaning I was up for 24 hours.

During my last go round at Wal-Mart (which to most people is the equivalent of losing every day), I spent many days off and vacations going to Wizard World and DragonCon.

Even broke and unemployed, I managed to get to a Cubs game.

My point is that according to Cubs fans, I shouldn’t have been any of these good times. I didn’t deserve them. Because I was losing.

At first, I felt a little guilty about that. Here I’d had all of this fun that I didn’t deserve. I was supposed to be miserable, not alleviating the pressure of my mounting losses. I wasn’t happy with losing. Frankly, I’d rather be doing a lot more winning. It’s easier to have fun while you’re winning than while you’re using. I guess that’s because you’re not supposed to have fun while you’re losing.

And then I thought, “Fuck that shit. I’ll have fun whenever I can.”

Having fun in spite of losing doesn’t mean I don’t want to win. It doesn’t mean I’m happy with losing.

It means you’re not the boss of me.

And it means the fun I’m going to have when my losing seasons turn to winning ones is going to be a cause for jealousy.

I look forward to people going green.

The Fiction Writing Life

I’m sure I made a post about this before for Writing Wednesday, but I think it bears repeating for a Monday Megalomania because I feel that people not acquainted with writing for a living, or at least writing for publication, don’t understand how it works.

Most people that have a job leave their house, go to a place of work, make so much money an hour, come home and get a paycheck, either weekly or bi-weekly. Obviously, some people don’t have to leave their house. Some people are on salary. But whatever the variations, the basics remain the same. These are considered legitimate jobs.

I, on the other hand, am trying to cobble together some kind of day job out of selling Rejected, selling my jewelry, working jobs with DaLette, and anything else I can do in order to make money to pay the bills and have time to write for publication, in which I would also get money to pay the bills. None of these things are considered legitimate.

Why? Because it’s not a “traditional” job. I don’t get a regular paycheck. I don’t leave the house to do it. And a lot of people underestimate the amount of work that goes into the stories I write, thinking that I’m lazy and I’m not working hard enough to earn what money I do make from writing (or any of the other gigs I work to make money, but we’re going to stick to writing for now).

Allow me to illustrate the work that goes into a short story.

I get an idea. I decide to write this idea. So I write a first draft. Then I set it aside. Depending on the impending deadlines and how I feel about the story, I might set it aside for a couple of days or I might set it aside for a couple of months. It just depends.

Then I revise the story. And then I revise it again. And if I’m lucky, I can stop there and polish it up and call it done. But it’s not uncommon for a story to go through four or five revisions before I’m satisfied with it.

So, the story is as ready as it’s going to be at this point in time. I’ve got my prose all tight, the descriptions all lush, and the grammar so polished it shines. Now I have to submit it. If I don’t have a something in mind when I write it in the first place, the story might possibly sit there for a while before I can find a suitable publication for it. If I can find a suitable publication for it. That’s a risk I run, too. It’s entirely possibly that I write something that can’t be published (or at least, published for money; I aim to get paid for my work for the most part).

But, let’s say I have something in mind and so I send my story off. And then I wait. And wait. And wait. Depending on the deadlines, the reading periods, and many other factors, I can wait for months to hear back about a story. Most of the time, the waiting ends in rejection. And then I start all over.

But, let’s say my story gets accepted. Hooray! I’m getting paid! Except I’m not getting paid until the story gets published. And I’m getting paid the semi-pro rate (I won’t go lower) of 1 cent a word. Considering most short stories typically run anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 words, sometimes as many as 8,000, I’m not exactly raking in the big bucks. Or the immediate bucks. Depending on what the contract says, I can be waiting for a considerable period of time.

For example, my last story to get published, “Land of the Voting Dead” in Zombidays: Festivities of the Flesheaters, was accepted in April of 2010. I received my check, 53 bucks, November 5th of this year. I wrote and revised the story in December of 2009. I then added a scene to it in February of 2010 in order to meet the required word count. I revised it again. I polished it again. And then I submitted it. I easily had a week’s worth of work in that story.

And that was one of the easier ones!

At this point, if I ever get “At 3:36” published, I know the paycheck won’t match the work I’ve put into it. It wouldn’t be a far cry to say that I’ve probably have a month invested in that story spread out over a couple of years and I’m not finished with it yet. That’s a lot of work for one story.

But I only get paid on delivery and only for the final number of words on the page. I don’t get paid for all of the words I put down and then took out. Or put back in. Or changed. I don’t get paid for the rewrites or the research. Just the finished product.

Now, I’m only speaking for short story writing. That’s the only writing I’ve got experience making money from. And it really bugs me when people imply that because I’m not making a whole lot of money doing it, because I’m not getting a regular paycheck, that I’m not working.

I beg to differ.

I work seven days a week for very little.

Why?

Because it’s my job. And I love it. And one day it will pay better.

But it will never be a typical job.

People need to learn to respect that.

“Why Are You Single?”

I get this question far more often than I think I should. I feel it should be obvious why I’m single: I’m a fat, pasty bulldog that lives with my dad and a roommate and is in the process of trying to straighten out of the financial mess that I got myself into starting a few years ago. What man wouldn’t want that? Meow. Irresistable.

Okay, so maybe there’s a little more to it than that. I guess there’s actually a lot of little contributing factors to my singledom.

The first has to be the ending of my previous long term relationship. That ended ten years ago. No lie. The relationship wasn’t that great, it didn’t end on a positive note, and I was young and emotionally immature. It took me quite awhile to unravel all of the ends and outs of what went wrong. For years, I thought it was me. I thought me behaving badly was just how I was in a relationship and I avoided any prospect of getting into one to save the other poor soul, no matter how badly I wanted that person.

Years later, I realized that what happened in that relationship wasn’t the person I was and that I am quite capable of being a healthy individual in a partnership given the right partner and the appropriate communication.

Unfortunately, I missed a few opportunities in the meantime. Part of those misses were because of my fear of intimacy, but the other part were because of my obliviousness. I had a guy that I was totally enamoured with ask me to makeout with him and I didn’t because I thought he was joking. I thought it was because he was drunk and I was the only single girl in the room. It never entered my mind that he might have been serious.

There was another factor in that missed opportunity, as well as a few others, and that’s respect. The particular guy I was so enamoured with was part of a group of friends that I had worked really hard to gain their respect, to have them think of me as an equal and not just a girl tagging along. In my mind, to give in and make a try for this guy would lessen the respect this group had for me. I’d lose everything I’d worked for and the likelihood I’d be able to get it back would be lower than when I started. Yeah. Pride and respect trumped it all.

That has to be my biggest regret in life, that particular missed opportunity. I still think about what might have been sometimes, though those times are getting fewer and farther between.

And if all of that isn’t good enough, I imagine the fact that I don’t get out much doesn’t help me. I can’t meet anyone if I’m sitting at home. I’m not a big social outing kind of person. I go through phases. I’m going to a lot of baseball games this summer. I went out a lot when I was involved in the indy scence of pro wrestling. I’ve gone to several geek conventions. Bars aren’t really my scene and in a small town, there’s not much else to do. I’m more of a homebody anyway. And it’s no doubt cost me.

It is also entirely possible that a little bit of my singleness rests in the hands of the guys. I’m not exactly what a guy is looking for in a girl. I’m not the ideal they’re told by the media to seek. I’m pale and fat and a brunette. I’m a fighter and an ego bruiser. There’s not much about me that’s dainty or pretty. I don’t look good in a belly shirt and I like sports too much. There’s nothing stereotypical about me and that turns guys off, I don’t care what they say. Any guy who says they just want a girl that’s sweet and smart and looks don’t matter is blowing smoke.

Not many guys are going to spend too much time getting to know me to see if maybe I’d be good for them. Maybe if I was skinny, maybe if I was pretty, maybe if I behaved like a girl in the romantic comedies, they might hang around and give me a shot. But on looks alone, I’m more trouble with their buddies than I’m worth.

It’s hard to find a guy who doesn’t have a pack mind like that.

And I have yet to find one.

Of course, a big part of that is my hang-up.

I’m still working on a way to get unhung.