I recently read On Writing by Stephen King. After seeing that book recommended over and over by members of the IWSG, I figured it was a sa...

I recently read On Writing by Stephen King. After seeing that book recommended over and over by members of the IWSG, I figured it was a safe bet that it would be a great read. And it did not disappoint. I had never read any of his books since the movies I've seen always creep me out, but now that I know what a great writer he is, I'll have to give one a try. This one, as the title says, was about writing, and he had some very helpful tips and advice that I will definitely be incorporating into my work. But my favorite part was the first section, his memoir about his life and how he came to be the kind of writer that he is. Reading and hearing people's real-life stories are always my favorite. Fiction is fun, but I tend to connect a lot more with a story I believe to be real. And speaking of real...

It's time to get to the real point, which isn't to give you a book review of On Writing, because if you're interested in writing, you have either already read it or need to, so just go read it yourself. Today's topic is to say goodbye. I will no longer be writing here on "Mel's Empty Journal" because well...it's done. The goal of this blog has been more than met. My journal is clearly no longer empty. I will leave this site up if for nothing else, as a reminder for me that I am quite capable of writing for public consumption, without much worry as to who will judge me or who I may offend. As Mr. King said...
"Reading at meals is considered rude in polite society, but if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway."
Thank you for that Stephen. It has been over 7 years since I started this blog, and it took a good chunk of that time for me to realize I don't actually care about being a member of polite society. I care a great deal more about writing truthfully. Which is what I have attempted to do here and what I intend to do in the future.

And in the future, Brian and I are thinking of combining our creative efforts in the world of music and writing. As the opening quote says, art is here to support life. We have both worked hard at our respective art but feel like we're failing in some ways. But that is only the case when we think of it as being our one main purpose in life, where we live only for art and have no other responsibilities. But this is not reality. We have a very full life. We have kids. We have work. Our art is not the center of our life, nor should it be. It is here to help us grow, push us out of our comfort zones, inspire us.

With hopes of inspiring you as well, we are considering starting a new blog and email newsletter. We've thought of some ideas for it, like posting more regular music from Brian (and occasionally me), more writing from me (and occasionally Brian) mostly along the positive theme, and possibly even a podcast...maybe, we'll see about that. But there will definitely be music and writing. Before we decide for sure if we want to do this, we'd like to get as many people as possible on the email newsletter, for two important reasons. First, to see how much interest there is. And second, because we are more than a little sick of social media and would prefer to not have to spend so much time on there to share our work. You don't have to worry about us emailing too often as it will be rare if we have time to put something together more than once a month. So if you could kindly drop your email address in the box below, you will save us all the hassle of checking social media for one more damn thing.

Well my friends, all good things come to an end, I bid you a fond farewell, and such and such nonsense. Thank you so much for reading. You have given me my favorite gift... hope that writing is not a waste of my time. ♡

Happy New Year! And happy first Wednesday of the year, which means it's Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) day! Today's q...

Happy New Year! And happy first Wednesday of the year, which means it's Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) day! Today's question is:
What are your favorite and least favorite questions people ask you about your writing?
Well do I have a fun question to answer that question (wait, what?)! This question somehow manages to simultaneously be my favorite and least favorite! It is the seemingly easiest and most obvious question a writer will get...

"What are you writing about?"

Yep, it's silly for a writer not to like that question, but during NaNoWriMo 2017, that was THE question everyone asked. I quickly learned to not tell anyone that I was doing NaNoWriMo if I didn't feel like talking about it, but it was the first (and still only) time I'd done anything like that, so it was hard not to talk about it. If it was with friends who read my blog regularly or who know me well enough to know my history, it was a good question since they were likely already aware that I write about my recovery. But with anyone else, it was, well, awkward. To say "I'm writing about my eating disorder recovery" is a lot of information. Obviously if I'm writing about recovery that means I had to have an eating disorder in the first place. Most people don't want to talk about things like eating disorders, drug addictions, alcoholism, depression, mental illness, anything real and challenging and meaningful, etc. So, that's obviously all the more reason to talk about it! Which brings me to why it's my favorite question, even though I'm not yet to the point where I'm comfortable answering it.

Being afraid of people finding out my struggles with anorexia, depression, and OCD is something I'm just going to have to get over. Assuming I ever finish the damn book, I will have to promote it. And to promote is to talk about it with everybody I know and try to spread the word and get people to read it. That's going to be challenging enough without me having some weird paranoia about people finding out the thing I'm telling publicly. Duh, people are going to find out! Yes, there will be people who will judge me and not understand. Yes, it could even hurt my actual career, which has nothing to do with mental health or eating disorders. Well it shouldn't really hurt my career, but there is a chance it could cause some weirdness since I will soon be blogging for work, so if anyone started Googling my name, they'd find out.

But I'm not going to let that that stop me. First off, anyone who decides to hold my experiences against me is a douche bag and not someone I want to work with anyways. And second, the main purpose of writing the book and baring my soul to whoever may read it, is to help spread awareness. Awareness about mental health and recovery, which is something our society desperately needs. So, in some part of myself, I'll have to want everyone in my life to find out about this because the more people know, the more I've done what I've set out to do.

Probably would've been easier to have my first book be a work of fiction about something superficial that was easy to write and talk about it. But that wouldn't be me at all!

Happy 2019!

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Dear Grandma, This weekend, we celebrated your life. We celebrated with memories, laughter, and tears as we said what words we could...

Dear Grandma,

This weekend, we celebrated your life. We celebrated with memories, laughter, and tears as we said what words we could to attempt to express our love for you. To show how much you meant to us, how much we appreciated everything you did. To try and say our goodbyes. But I think my dad said it best when he said you were his favorite. I think we all agree with that. You and Grandpa were our favorite people. Without you, not only would we not exist, but without your love, we wouldn't be the awesome people we are today.

Most of your kids (& their better halves), all grown up
Photo Credit Terry Ortiz
It was fitting that we celebrated you on Thanksgiving weekend, as we were all so full of gratitude for you and the life you lived. Despite our sorrow, we had much to be thankful for as you left us with so many good memories. We celebrated with delicious food (your sourdough waffle recipe, thanks to Kathy & Terry!) and fun times playing your favorite games, Yahtzee and Scrabble. I won the Scrabble game, thanks to Aunt June's help and knowledge of the rules, which she undoubtedly learned from you, so thanks! 😄

Trying to channel your vocabulary
Photo Credit Terry Ortiz
So much of the family came. It was so great to see everyone, so good to catch up. I tried to visit with everyone and wish I'd had time to talk more with each person. But the time I did get was wonderful. It was enlightening to be reminded of how many similarities we share, from your kids on down to your great grand-kids. We all have so much of you and Grandpa in us. We tend to be stubborn smart, strong, and independent, talkative social and friendly, loud and opinionated passionate and excitable. We remember everything and pay way too much attention to detail. The men in the family have a deep respect for women, never doubting that they are just as capable as any man. And the women work hard to earn that respect, to respect ourselves, and to never doubt our abilities. We all try our best at everything we do in life, especially parenting. We all love our families dearly. It's so nice to hang out with people that I can be myself around, and not worry that I'm talking too much or being too honest. It seems rare in our world to have a family that communicates so well.

The whole gang that made it to your Celebration of Life
Photo Credit Terry Ortiz
And we have you and Grandpa to thank for all of it. Funny how mourning you helped me feel so much more connected to our family. Connected in our grief, love, and gratitude for you. But also connected in our journeys. Life is challenging. It can be mean and cruel at times, filled with loss and sorrow. But it can also be happy and beautiful, often all these opposing things at the same time. Like this weekend. It was hard to say goodbye to you, harder than I can express in words. But even in those moments where it was the hardest, it was also full of joy and peace. Joy because we were together celebrating you. And peace knowing you get to have some now.

About half your grand-kids made it!
Photo Credit Terry Ortiz
I won't pretend to know there is a heaven. I'm not afraid to admit to not being sure of such things. After all, how can we really know until we die? We can't...but we want to. And like most, I'd like to believe that death isn't the end. That there is an afterlife full of our passed loved ones, our favorite places and experiences, and peace unlike any we've known in our lives. But I do know for certain if that place exists, you are there, with Grandpa, and Regina, and all your family that's already finished this life. And if you're there, you're hearing our silent prayers to you. Our thanks and tears and endless love that is always being whispered from our hearts.

Thank you for your life, lived so selflessly for your family. Lived so fully. Lived so good.

You will always be our favorite.

You and Grandpa on your wedding day, Jan. 29th, 1946

I'm a day late on my Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) post for this month. I won't apologize or make excuses, I'l...

I'm a day late on my Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) post for this month. I won't apologize or make excuses, I'll just tell you a little about what's going on in my life right now.

The biggest time suck has by far been work. I've been working a lot of overtime because I'm completely slammed.

My mother had surgery a week ago and I'm heading to NV to check up on her this weekend.

All the stress and worry is clearly effecting my body as I feel like shit. Go figure.

But the main purpose of this post is to write out a little of my grief. My grandmother died last night. She was 92 and went peacefully in her sleep. As sad as I am for the loss that I, and the rest of my family, is feeling, it comes with something almost like happiness. A feeling of wanting to be happy because she'd been ready to move on for awhile now. And dying at such an old age, without any pain, and in your sleep...isn't that everyone's wish for how to go?

So as I work through this bittersweet grief, it helps to concentrate on what an amazing woman she was. She left behind 6 kids, 21 grand-kids, and I think close to 30 great grand-kids (if a family member who knows the exact number reads this, let me know!). Over 50 people exist today because of this woman. Isn't that just incredible? She grew up on a farm in Kansas during the great depression. She would've been a teenager during WWII, and one can only imagine the challenges of living through that. She raised 5 boys and 1 girl, and not just in one town. They moved from Kansas to Alaska to Oregon during their childhoods, giving them all many adventures. But best of all, she loved and cared for them and taught them how to be good human beings. And I'm sure all of my family will agree with me when I try to express how incredibly thankful I am for that seemingly simple thing: showing her family love and kindness.

So it is with love and gratitude, more than any other emotions, that I mourn the loss and celebrate the life of my grandmother. I love you, Grandma!

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Can't I just get a few minutes of peace and quiet? Can't I have a minute, hour, day to myself where no one needs me? Why did ...

Can't I just get a few minutes of peace and quiet?

Can't I have a minute, hour, day to myself where no one needs me?

Why did I think I should have kids again?

Why did I think I would be a good parent?!
If you're a parent, it's a safe bet you've had these thoughts. Parenting is a gigantic test of patience. It can give you some very bad moments where you doubt your choices and abilities. But that's okay! Despite our best efforts to be super-mom or dad, we're still just human.

But I want to be the best human possible, so I'm always working on self-improvement. I read a lot of Darius Foroux's blog, and recently I read his tips on finding clarity in life. I sent the article to Brian and his first reply was "So we just need to get rid of the kids!" (In case you have no sense of humor, that was a joke.) Obviously we're not going to get rid of the kids but his point was exactly what I was thinking as I read it. How can you "remove distractions" when the biggest distractions are living beings like your children?

One of the biggest challenges as a parent is figuring out how to find moments without children distraction for yourself. And I know what you're thinking, those moments are few and far between, or in some cases, they simply don't exist.

They actually do exist, but like everything else in life that you feel like you don't have time for, you have to MAKE time. Those moments aren't going to just fall in your lap very often, you have to TAKE them. That means doing what I just did so I could write. I was attempting to work in the living room with the kids bouncing around me and chattering and after a few minutes of it, I thought, what the hell am I trying to do? So I said, "alright I'm going upstairs, you guys are just too distracting." And I marched upstairs, closed my door, put on some music, and got to work.

This moment wasn't going to "just happen." I had to create it. I had to say "no, I can't spend time with you guys right now, I need time for myself." As a parent, it's probably the hardest sentence you have to say and you have to do it on a regular basis if you want any focus or clarity in your life. Just because you have kids doesn't mean your life goals just disappear. On the contrary, I have WAY more goals now than I did before having kids. That might sound ass-backwards, but it's simply what happens when you have kids young (or maybe at all). You think you've got life all figured out and are ready to tackle parenthood. But until you have kids of your own, you don't understand how ridiculously hard it is to do all the things you want to do in life when you have little humans relying on you.

One of the beautiful things about being a parent is no matter how hard it is to do something as simple as write or read or exercise or just sit in peace and quiet for a minute, you wouldn't trade your kids for any of it. Yes they are a pain in the ass and by far the most distracting thing in life. But with all that distraction, they've brought a sense of clarity of their own to my life. Being a parent has taught me what is actually important in life. Kids force you to make real priorities because you simply don't have time for the rest. Especially if you intend to make or keep any goals outside being a good parent.

Wouldn't it just be easier to focus on being a parent and get rid of any external goals? Maybe that works for some people. I know plenty of parents that seem perfectly content to have their children as the sole center of their life. And if that works for you, then great! I'm happy for you. However, that has not been my experience. I love my children deeply, but I still have other things in life I want to do and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

I think it's good to keep your identity outside of just "mom". I have a career I care about. I have my writing I care about. I have personal health goals I need to keep. I have a husband I absolutely adore and need time with him away from the kids. None of these goals are so outlandish or unrealistic that I should give them up for my kids. If I did, it would actually make me a worse parent. I think it's really important that kids see their parents continue to work towards other things in life. They need to see that you don't have to give up your dreams to be a parent. They need to know that you can do both. Maybe your dreams and goals change as a parent, but that doesn't mean they have to go away.

Life would probably be easier if I gave up on writing. If I lowered my expectations of myself in my career. But what would that mean for my own happiness? What would my children learn from that? If you constantly sacrifice your happiness for everyone else in your life (even your children), you will continue to struggle. This is my never-ending battle as a people-pleaser. I regularly find myself a stressed out mess and what for? My own goals? No! Because I'm trying to make everyone else happy INSTEAD of focusing on my own happiness. Like there's some deep-seated fear that if I focus on myself, I'll let everyone in my life down. The logical part of my brain knows that is ridiculous, that I'll probably do a better job for everyone if I spend time on my happiness. But the stupid part of my brain thinks any time spent on myself is a selfish waste of time.

Hey, I'm a work-in-progress, that's just part of this little thing called life. And as I continue to work on that mythical feeling of "enough" that I can't seem to quite grasp a tight hold on, I learn a lot in the process. And one of those things I keep coming back to is that I absolutely have to quit worrying about everyone else's happiness before my own. And that means, taking time for myself free from distractions.

Even fleeting moments of clarity have the potential for that feeling of pure happiness and joy. When the distractions have fallen away, you are completely focused on the task at hand, and your path and goals become clear. If you don't give yourself the gift of distraction-free time, you'll miss out on that feeling. Just like those moments with your kids that give that feeling of being complete. You wouldn't want to miss out on those, right? Like all happy moments, they rarely happen on their own.

So go make it happen.

It's already October! And the first Wednesday of the month means it's Insecure Writer's Support Group time. This month's...

It's already October! And the first Wednesday of the month means it's Insecure Writer's Support Group time. This month's question:
How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?
Such a perfect question seeing as today is my oldest son Sebastian's birthday! And there's no life event like having kids! I mean one minute you're pregnant and the next, they're 9 years old! Seriously how did that happen so fast?

I'd have to say every major life event has affected my writing, often not in the way you might expect. Some of the most terrible events, circumstances, situations, etc., sparked wonderful writing, or at least motivation to write. And conversely, the most wonderful events, like having kids, brought most of my writing to a halt, at least at first. The first couple years of both my boys lives I spent pretty well consumed with them and didn't write much except to vent my new mom frustrations in a diary, or to write a quick blog post about how my baby was growing. But now that they're not babies anymore, having children has spurred all sorts of writing ideas. I'm constantly telling myself to "write that one down" when they come out with they're funny questions, crazy imaginations, and perfectly timed one-liners.

Writing has helped me through more things than I can count. But the biggest and first that comes to mind is my eating disorder recovery, and the seemingly never-ending battle with depression. Especially the depression and grief from Sebastian's NF1 diagnosis when he was 3. Even after living with this knowledge for all these years, it's easy for depression to sneak in if I let my thoughts drift to all the whys and what-ifs that come with a disorder like NF. It hits me when I look at my sweet boy, especially on his birthday, and can't help but still feel some of those "it's just not fair" feelings. But then I remember that I was given the gift of him, and what a beautiful, kind human he is. And that gets me through another day with the hope that somehow it'll all be okay.

And writing, like my family, will always be there to help me get through. Without writing, I honestly don't know where I'd be. Writing gives me sanity when I feel insane. It gives me happiness when I'm down and little else can. It brings me peace when life is full of conflict. Writing always helps me to make sense of things when all seems to be in chaos. Simply put, without writing, life would be a hell of a lot harder. And while this life is unquestionably difficult, it is also full to bursting with beauty, joy, wonder, and laughter. And so we must write about that, too.

July 2011
Photo credit Terry Ortiz

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Everything about suicide is hard. It’s hard to think about. It’s hard to write about. It’s hard to talk about. It’s in our nature to w...


Everything about suicide is hard. It’s hard to think about. It’s hard to write about. It’s hard to talk about. It’s in our nature to want to run away from things that cause so much fear and heartache. We’d much prefer such things didn’t exist. But they do. Suicide and suicidal thoughts are part of our reality, even if we never attempt it. Being someone who has suffered with depression for as long as I can remember, I feel it's important that I spend a moment to talk about suicide prevention.

I’ll start with my own story. One I’d prefer not to think about. In fact, I spent a good part of my recovery trying to just forget those terrible feelings of despair, of hopelessness, of giving up. But I think the most important part of prevention, is awareness. And awareness only comes by talking about it. By sharing our stories. So I’ll share a brief part of my own. You’ll have to read my book if you want the full story (when I finally finish it).

I was 16. I was anorexic. I was extremely depressed. I spent most days wishing I could just make it stop. I had already been in therapy for what felt like a long time, but really it was like 6 months (but when you're a teenager, that's like a lifetime). I was already on anti-depressants. I had even been through a short stint of inpatient therapy for my eating disorder. Nothing was working. I was more depressed than ever. Suicidal thoughts were part of my daily life. But with anorexia, it makes you hate yourself so much that you believe you're not worthy of even a quick death. The only allowed suicide is a slow, painful, agonizing one of starvation. But that didn't keep me from wishing I was brave enough to just end the pain.

That’s how I thought. I didn’t think of suicide as weak. I thought of it as a brave thing to do. To be strong enough to just end your own life. I felt far too weak and terrible about myself to believe I was capable of having the guts to show everyone that all that mattered was my pain. Mine. That my pain was so great, that no one else had possibly felt the way I did. It just seemed like a selfish thing to do. And in the state I was in, doing anything selfish was almost like giving myself love that I didn’t feel I deserved. So my brain just looped through that cycle of wanting to kill myself and then feeling like it was too selfish and then feeling shittier about myself for wanting to do something selfish and around and around until death would’ve been a sweet release to rid myself of the sickening and never-ending carousel from hell.

One time I attempted to take too many pills. Since killing myself wasn't really my goal, just hurting myself, all I took was a bunch of Ibuprofen and Tylenol. Clearly not a real suicide attempt, but definitely a cry for help. Even if it was a weak cry, it was all I was capable of at the time. I didn't know how to communicate what I needed, didn't even understand what I needed to fix it. I was not ready to admit how terrified I was or how much I needed people to help me. But I knew I couldn't do it alone.

I had done what I thought would’ve been the hardest part, and told my parents about my eating disorder pretty early on, but I wasn’t able to express to them, or anyone, how depressed I truly was. I was lucky enough to have parents that loved me and tried their best to help. No matter how much my depressed teenage mind was trying to tell me that no one cared and I should just end it, deep down I knew that wasn't true. My parents had shown how much they loved me too many times for me to just end my life on the premise that no one cared. So even though I couldn’t tell them everything, just knowing they loved me, helped more than I could possibly put into words.

Luckily I had a few friends who I was able to talk to and they were also instrumental in keeping me alive and helping me through the worst of it. Once rumor spread around the school that I was anorexic, my number of friends seemed to dwindle. People started to look at me funny, whisper behind my back, ya know, typical high school stuff. But on the other hand, I had a surprising number of random people I barely knew offer me kind words, an ear to listen, or a shoulder to cry on. I think back now about how much those few nice people made up for a whole bunch of jerks. Never underestimate the value of a few positive words for someone suffering, even if you don’t know them well.

And then of course, there was Brian. Not many people get to say their spouse saved their life at 16, but I do. And not a day goes by that I'm not grateful for him and everything he's done for me. He gave me what I needed most. He loved me and he accepted my love. Realizing that I was not only capable of being loved, but of loving that much in return, that’s what helped the most. That love helped me start to see that I had worth and purpose, that there was meaning to life. That I belonged here, alive, on this planet. He listened to me and cried with me. He didn't run away screaming when he realized how crazy I was. For whatever reason, he made the choice every day to stick it out with me, through all the hard years of recovery. And best of all, he's still here.

Now in retrospect, I can see very clearly that talking about it was what helped the most in getting on the path to recovery. I had to admit all of it out loud. All the dark thoughts, the fear, and how truly depressed I was. Opening up to the people who cared most about me was the ticket. And now, so many years later, it has been very healing to talk about the subject with a wider audience.

We must all stop being afraid to speak about mental health. The judgements, the stigma, the idea that it's "taboo". It's all ridiculous and needs to stop if we expect to make any progress. The reality is that a HUGE number of people suffer with some sort of mental illness. Even the people that haven't been diagnosed with something... I mean really do you know anybody who doesn't have issues? Know anyone really well adjusted and "normal"? Maybe there's a few out there, but most people have had at least some episode of depression in their lives. Life can suck balls sometimes. We all have shit in our lives that gets us down. It wouldn’t be so damn hard to deal with if we weren’t afraid to talk about it.

But even somebody like me who has been writing about it for years now, it's still a challenge for me, every time. There's a handful of people I'd rather didn't know so much about me, and I often worry they will find out. I worry that it could affect my job, my career, my reputation. But then I remember it's more important to be the person who isn't afraid to speak about it, than the person with a perfect career. I'll risk my reputation over and over again if it means I'm able to help someone. A reputation is of no real importance when compared to someone’s life.

We all have to tell our stories of how suicide has touched our lives. We can't be afraid anymore. Because it's not just our life that it affects. It ripples through way more people than you think it will. And those ripples go far and for a long, long time. You don't know who you will hurt if you don't talk. Or who you will help if you do.

Don't shut everyone out. Humans need each other. Anytime we try to spend too much time alone we go crazy. Alone, it's easy to go too far, to feel too depressed. For an unbalanced brain to convince us there is no way to fix this.

But the truth is that you can always fix it. No matter how fucked up you think you are, there is help. There is someone who wants to help you. There is someone who can help you. There are lots of people that care about you. Maybe you don't know enough yet, but I guarantee there's somebody in your life that cares about you and I know there's more people that will care about you if you let them.

The most important thing I want everyone to take away from this is:

You are not alone. Not now, not ever.

If you are feeling suicidal, please, please, please, find help. Tell someone. A friend, an acquaintance, hell a random stranger, anybody! You can find a crisis center in your area by going here. If you're in the US, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (Available 24 hours everyday).

Other resources:

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)
Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC)
The Mighty

Well hello there friends! It's the first Wednesday of the month and that means Insecure Writer's Support Group day. If you too fi...


Well hello there friends! It's the first Wednesday of the month and that means Insecure Writer's Support Group day. If you too find yourself an insecure writer, head on over to the sign up page and learn more about us.
September 5 question - What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?
I don't have a lot to contribute on the topic since I haven't been published... yet. Well I've been published on a few websites and guest blogs, but that's not the same thing. I did start writing my book last NaNoWriMo, so there is the goal to get it published at some point in the future. In all honesty, I haven't given it a whole lot of thought. I've read a little about what a pain in the ass it is. My husband Brian is a musician, and it seems to me that the music industry and the writing industry are pretty similar. You can try to do it yourself, and it's totally possible, but it requires a ton of time on your part to do all the marketing and advertising for yourself. Most of us have a hard time advertising ourselves, so the "going it alone" route is a huge challenge. I imagine the same is true for writing, that self-publishing is just as difficult as the traditional way. (Funny side note here, I attempted to use the talk to text thing on my phone to start a few blog posts. And it wrote "what's up Bubba Shane" when I said "that self-publishing". WTF, who's Bubba Shane?! 😂)

Anyways, I'd guess most writers would prefer to go the traditional method. At least if it was like it is in my fantasy world, a little something like this:
A publishing company wants my story, they do all the advertising for me, then my book is so awesome it does the rest of the work. I live happily ever after with bags of money. The End.
I have no idea what other writers' goals are really but I'm guessing they're probably not all that dissimilar to mine. I don't actually want to be rich and famous, who wants that nonsense? I do not. I just want time. Time for all the things I want to do in my life, like writing, so yes it would be great to get paid well. Not ridiculous rich, but enough money that you could relax and enjoy life and write when the mood strikes and not have to stress about money. But that's not the reality for most writers. It seems most struggle to make even a really bad living writing. I'm lucky I have a good day job that I like doing that doesn't make me miserable. Sure I want to write, but I wouldn't dream of attempting to give up my day job to do it. But someday, it would be nice to have the option of writing, getting published, and making some extra money doing it.

So I guess once I finish my book I will at least try submitting to a few traditional publishers. But it will take me many years to finish. Not just because there's a lot of work to do and I don't have a lot of time to dedicate to it right now. But because I am a terrible, awful perfectionist and it's going to have to go through A LOT of revisions before I'm ready to let anybody read it. Once that finally happens, I will be bugging all of my close friends to read it and give me constructive feedback. And then once it's been through all of my friends I might even have my family read it. And then, once it's finally been through all of those people and I've incorporated everybody's feedback and I'm actually liking the finished product, only then will I start looking at publishers. It's a long way off so I'm not going to stress about it right now. But before I even started writing it, I promised myself that if nobody wants to publish it, that I would do the work and self-publish. I'm writing it to try to help people. So I hope, when the time comes, I can figure out a way to get it into the people's hands that need to read it most.

What about you? Wish my fantasy world was real too?! 😁

Hey everybody, come see how okay I look! You wanna know how you can get a mediocre body and a face that looks its age?! I'll tel...

Hey everybody, come see how okay I look!

You wanna know how you can get a mediocre body and a face that looks its age?! I'll tell you EXACTLY how! First, have a couple of babies, then..

Say YES to…
  • Sunblock and shade (obviously)
  • Food that you actually like to eat (including dark chocolate, occassional treats, and even, gasp, gluten & dairy if you want!)
  • Exercise, that you actually enjoy doing
  • Drinking lots of water, wine, coffee, AND tea (because why limit yourself?)
  • Sleep!

Say NO to…
  • Food that you totally hate eating (even kale)
  • Exercise that you hate doing
  • Cosmetic products full of chemicals, including typical hair dye (helllloooo grey hairs!)
  • All cosmetic procedures and surgeries

Done. Congrats, you now look as average, and possibly as hippy, as me. You're welcome.

Maybe you think this is a joke, and it could be, depending on your point of view. Some people might look at that picture and think, "hey she looks great!" while others are thinking less than nice things about it. But you know what?

I. Don't. Care.

It is so wonderfully freeing to say that and finally, FINALLY mean it. I at least mean it enough that I posted that stupid picture. Do you know how hard it is for me to post a picture of myself that shows all my flaws like that? Really fucking hard. Especially showing you my belly when I'm sick, bloated, and not in my best shape. I'm still struggling with all my health issues and it got me depressed and feeling shitty about myself again. So I've been trying to work through this because I truly thought all my years and years of work to love my body had paid off, that I was past all this body loathing. And after several months of reflection, I came to some harsh realizations. The worst being that all the progress I thought I'd made, was completely conditional. Like, I love my body UNTIL...
  • I gain weight, even just a few pounds
  • My nutritionist tells me NO ONE should be eating gluten or dairy
  • I notice how old I look compared to women my age that are already using Botox
  • I see so many women getting liposuction and breast implants

This bummed me out for a bit and then I realized, hey awareness is the first step. Now I can move on with my life and get past this. My weight fluctuates. So what. Life happens, movin' on. My nutritionist was just trying to help. Her diet didn't fix any of my problems, big surprise, but I tried it and now I can write her and tell her she was wrong, ha ha! Next, wrinkles? Eh, just another part of life and they're mostly smile wrinkles so who cares? Last, cosmetic surgery? It's simply not for me, and that's okay. I shouldn't let other people's choices make me feel insecure.

If you're on the everything-free diet and/or in the midst of cosmetic procedures, you might be thinking, "hey what a judgy bitch!" But before you jump to that conclusion, let me point out that these are MY issues, not yours. I have issues with these things because my self-esteem clearly still needs work. When you struggle like I do, and it seems like everyone is worrying about this crap, it's hard to not let it rub off on you and bring you down sometimes. And because, despite my best efforts, I still compare myself to my peers. While that is really annoying, it's a totally normal, human thing to do, so I'm gonna just let that go.

All of this gave me a few more insights into how to love my body, right now. Things like….guess what anorexia, fuck you, I'm not fat! And I'm not old!!! I'm 33 and I refuse to worry about every wrinkle, grey hair, and saggy piece of skin! Our society has turned aging into some sort of tragedy, and it just drives me crazy. It's just part of life. We are all going to get old and die. Period. So I'm gonna do my best to save my worry and stress for things I actually have control over or at least things that are truly important to me. Having a "perfect" face or body just doesn't make the cut.

Another insightful thing I'd like to share on the topic...Did you know that about 90% of cosmetic surgery patients are women? I don't know about you, but I find that really, really, really sad and disturbing. And something worth thinking seriously about, especially before you dive into a surgery or procedure. Maybe ask yourself, would I be doing this if I was a man? And if you answer no, then ask, why do I feel I have to do this?

I just want us to all feel good about ourselves, no matter our current physical condition or age. Not saying we're always going to be running around screaming I LOVE MYSELF! But at least good enough that our self-esteem doesn't plummet every time we gain a pound or find a new grey hair or wrinkle. And we don't feel obligated to pay a bunch of money to let someone cut on us to try to "fix" what isn't broken. I just want to encourage women to try to love themselves as they are, right now. I know how hard that is you guys. Remember I've felt terrible enough about myself to STARVE myself, so don't tell me I don't get it because I'm happily married or some shit (seriously I've had a few people say that to me). I get it, I do. Our society sucks at making us feel like we gotta fit into some perfect little box. But I want to help empower women to fight this SHIT that society is trying to make us do. Fuck that box you guys. Break free of it. Be yourself. Do you, whoever that is. And if the real you still wants huge, fake tits and a fat-free ass, then go for it.

But I'm gonna keep my small, less than perky tits, love handles, stretch marks, and smile wrinkles. Why?!

'Coz I'm a sexy bitch!

**Just a side note that I say “women” a lot in here, but really it's any minority or underrepresented group. So as far as the tech fi...


**Just a side note that I say “women” a lot in here, but really it's any minority or underrepresented group. So as far as the tech field is concerned, pretty much anyone who's not a white, hetero, male.

I spent July 20th & 21st at the ACT-W (Advancing the Careers of Technical Women) conference in Portland. I even gave a little speech of my own there, just a 5 minute Lightning Talk about “Using Adversity to Fuel Your Career.” I was a nervous wreck for several weeks leading up to this talk. I used to be alright at public speaking, but I hadn’t been in front of a crowd that big since my high school graduation (yeah that was over 15 years ago now). So I was feeling a bit rusty. Overall I’m happy with how it went. I could’ve talked slower, and steadier, and a hundred other things I could criticize. But the fact is it was way out of my comfort zone and I’m proud of myself for doing it.

I had never attended this conference before, or any other conference specifically for women in tech, so I didn’t really have any expectations of what it would be like. But let me tell you, I was very impressed with everything I heard and how much I learned. Speeches, sessions, and workshops from women of all levels, beginner through CEO. I heard inspiring research, stories, and lessons. I attended sessions on how to own your value, stay healthy in the workplace, negotiate your salary, be the MVP of your own life, discover your goals, and so much more.

As a woman, I think all of us have encountered sexism in our lives, and in the workplace, no matter what you do for a living. But if you’re a woman in tech, or any other male-dominated field, then you’ve likely encountered it even more than normal. As the infograph above shows, women hold less than 20% of tech jobs in the US. You may be wondering, why that is? Why aren’t there more women in tech?

When I started in this field in college, I had no idea why there were so few women. After a little while, I speculated the main reason was there seemed to be a general lack of interest in tech among most women. The why behind that seems to be mostly related to the fact that women aren’t “traditionally” encouraged to pursue careers in male-dominated fields. (Just goes to show you what a load of crap traditions can be.) Then, as I moved through my career, I continued to encounter sexism in some form everywhere I worked. I realized this was likely another reason for the shortage of women in my field. But even up until the conference, I didn’t realize the full extent of the issue.

As my weekend with a group of fellow women in tech showed me, my experiences are just the tip of the iceberg. Some of the stories I heard were just appalling. And it’s not like it was just a few people, it was pretty much everyone. I realized how overwhelming that must be for a woman just starting out in tech, or any other male-dominated field. Feeling like a small fish diving into a pool of sharks... and hoping to swim along without getting eaten.

As more recent stories in the media, such as last years #metoo campaign, have tried to bring to light, women are faced with an exorbitant amount of sexism from a young age. If you paid attention at all to that one, you realized just how bad it was. If you didn’t pay attention, or chose to pretend it was exaggerated, than I urge you to look again, with an open mind. Meaning leave any preconceived notions about sexism behind before you start reading.

“But in the workplace?” you may be saying. Yes, definitely, in the workplace. “But aren’t there laws against that?” Of course there are. And how many of us women have ever pursued legal action for any of this? I don’t have numbers for you, but I bet it’s an insanely low percentage. Why? Well geez, we’d all be constantly involved in a lawsuit if we did that! But the hassle aside, the fact is most of us are afraid to complain about it at work. No one wants to be “that girl” that made a fuss because some asshole keeps hitting on her. We don’t want to deal with the grief we will undoubtedly receive if we actually complained. We’ll be called a liar, a whiner, a baby, a whore, and any number of other unpleasant words, depending on the crowd. And the sad truth is most of us are just used to dealing with it at this point. Not to mention, we want to put on that strong facade. We’re tough, we’re used to this nonsense, we can handle it.

Okay, so what does this have to do with women in tech? Well considering we already receive shit in the workplace, regardless of our career choice, how do you think that works out for us when we choose a male-dominated field? Now on top of the “normal” sexism, we also have to deal with a flood of people who have absolutely no faith in our ability to do our job, simply because we’re a minority in the field. Remind me again, what the hell does gender (or race or sexual orientation, etc.) have to do with our ability to do a job? Oh right...it doesn’t!

I've recently been asking myself, how did I end up here? First, I was lucky enough to have a feminist as a mother. The kind that had to work and go to school full-time while being a single mom in the late 70s, when it was still okay to hire a man over a woman for a job because “he had a family to support.” (Not saying that doesn’t still happen, they just don’t usually tell you why anymore.) But hearing her stories definitely helped prepare me that yes, I will run into this type of discrimination no matter what I choose to do. But I am strong and smart enough to overcome it.

Next, and probably because of how I was raised, I honestly didn’t consider how male-dominated the tech field was when I was choosing my path. It’s not like I was trying to be brave in my career choice. I simply chose to pursue what I was interested in, and I’d been interested in computers for as long as I could remember. I created my first website in high school. And after I took my first programming class in college, I was hooked. I found what I was good at, enjoyed doing, and it paid well. Sold.

Lastly, I simply wasn’t intimidated by the men in my field. Because the men in the tech field are not the problem. Almost all of the sexism I’ve encountered in my career was not from other programmers, it was from other people outside my department or company (vendors, clients, etc.). But not other programmers. As one of my current co-workers said, we don’t care if you’re a woman or not, we care if you can code well!

So if you’re a woman considering a career in tech, I urge you to not be held back by fear of discrimination. Yes, you will encounter some. But guess what? You’re going to encounter some anyway, so you might as well choose what you really want to do, whatever that may be and however un-traditional of a role it might be for you. Who cares what everyone else thinks?! It’s your life. You’re the one who has to live it.

And since you read all the way to the end, you can watch my lightning talk if you'd like. If it's not loading below, click here instead.

Welcome to another edition of Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I finally remembered! Click the image above if you want to learn more abou...


Welcome to another edition of Insecure Writer’s Support Group. I finally remembered! Click the image above if you want to learn more about the group.

Today’s question is:
What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?
Well isn't that just the perfect question at a time that I happen to be contemplating that exact thing! Why do I write? What is my real goal here? Is this all a waste of my time?

Of course the first reply to that I think of is no, it's not a waste of my time as long as I'm enjoying it. But when you become wracked with insecure thoughts, you start to lose a little of your enjoyment. I'm a hack. I'm no good. No one wants to read my stuff. On and on goes the mind. But enough of that for the moment, and on to the answer to the question of the day.

My ultimate writing goal is to finish the book I started during NaNoWriMo, about my eating disorder recovery. I guess my way-down-the-road goal is to write many books, but I'm not in a place in life where that is possible. "If it's important, you will make time!" say too many, yeah, yeah, I know. And I will, someday. The fact is there is simply not enough time right now for everything I want to do in life. I am finally coming to some sort of acceptance about that and the fact that it's okay. Some things can wait. Not everything we want in life is going to happen right now. And some things, like writing a bunch of books, will be a lot more enjoyable when I have more time. As it is right now, I spend a minimum of 8 hours a day in front of a computer for my day job. When I come home at night, the last thing I want to do is sit back down in front of the damn computer, even if it is to do something fun like write.

So for now, the goal is to just finish the book, no matter how long it takes. As for blogging, I'm still contemplating my goals there. The goal of the blog for me has always been just to keep me practicing writing, you know, where people will potentially read it. Probably not the typical blogger’s answer, but I don’t really think of myself as a “blogger.” Like my blog name states, it’s really more of a journal. The key difference in my mind being that I don’t want to attract an audience through use of promotions or product giveaway gimmicks. I want you here because you like to read what I write.

So I guess my blogging goal is still the same. Just keep doing it. Unfortunately, that’s been a lot harder for me to do so this year. I’ve been struggling with all the usual writing insecurities, plus health problems that won’t just go away. There will be a few weeks where things are good. I feel healthy, I'm running and doing lots of yoga, I have energy and optimism. I'll feel like yeah life is great! Now I will start writing again! And then I'll get sick , injured, or have an allergic reaction to...I don't know what, life I guess.

And when that happens, in the pit of depression I go, and out the window goes the motivation to write. I’m sure I'm not alone, being in an insecure writer's group and all. I'm sure some of this is a normal part of the writing process or some such thing someone will say. But it all leaves me with that ugliest of thoughts. You know the one.

The thought of giving up.

Gasp! Yep that's right. I kind of want to give up on writing, for now. Throw in the the towel and just say enough already. Then maybe I could just focus on all the other things in my life that need my attention. Like my health, children, husband, family, friends, career, etc., etc. and on the list goes.

But there's another part of me, the somewhat obnoxious and stubborn part, saying...

Never. Give. Up.

Well shit it's been 2 months since I've posted anything. And I missed Insecure Writer's Support Group the last several months...

Well shit it's been 2 months since I've posted anything. And I missed Insecure Writer's Support Group the last several months as well! Where have I been, you may be asking? Mostly avoiding writing (insecure writer much?), but that's a different topic. For now I'll focus on the fun stuff.

Last week, Brian and I went to Saint Lucia for vacation. Yep, just the two of us again, no kids (thank you so much Grandma Paula, you're the best!). And yes, we just took a vacation last year too. Spoiled much? Oh yeah. But this one was a celebration. This July, we'll hit our 15th wedding anniversary. That's a pretty awesome accomplishment, one we're quite proud of and felt it was something worth celebrating. And our favorite way to do so is to travel. Lucky for us, the in-laws had time-share points that needed to be used and we were happy to help them out. :)

So on the evening of April 19th we headed to the airport. After having missed our first flight last year to Belize because 6am flights simply do NOT work for us, we opted for the red-eye flights instead this time. It's not really any better because sleeping on an airplane in coach has got to be the most uncomfortable thing ever. I think we maybe accumulated an hour or two's worth of sleep the whole way there. That's over 5 hours to JFK and then 4 1/2 hours to Saint Lucia. It was exhausting.

But we made it. We stayed at the St. James Club Morgan Bay resort, which was of course on the opposite side of the island from the airport and shuttles and cabs to take you on the over 1 1/2 hour drive were, as you can imagine, a bit pricey. So we opted to rent a car. They drive on the left side of the road. The steering wheel is on the right side of the car. This was by far the biggest challenge, and subsequently, greatest learning experience, of the trip.

I'm on the wrong side of the car?!
The island is not very big but it is incredibly mountainous. That makes getting around quite the journey. There were no traffic laws, or if there were, no one followed them. The roads were insanely windy and narrow. There were very few posted speed limits and even less street signs. People pass any time they want to, even on a hill with no visibility and another car coming right at them. Emergency breaking to prevent head-on collisions are just a normal part of driving in Saint Lucia. But we made it, safe and sound...well alive anyway. I honestly wouldn't recommend renting a car there for anyone who isn't up for a serious driving challenge.

View from our room
We arrived at the resort in the afternoon, just in time to get settled, take a quick swim in that beautiful ocean, and grab dinner before crashing early out of pure exhaustion. But our room was awesome. Ground floor and only a very short walk to the beach. We mentioned it was our anniversary when we booked it, so maybe that's why they gave us the good room. And a bottle of champagne. The resort was very nice and the staff were always super friendly, helpful, and fun.

Beautiful beach
We spent the first several days doing exactly what we wanted. Laying on the beach with a drink in hand, soaking up that sun. Actually I was heavily sun blocked, under an umbrella, and/or wearing a shirt most of the time because I burn like a redhead and we were close enough to the equator to make the sun all the more intense for this pasty chic. I learned a valuable lesson about the expiration date on sunblock. Turns out it actually does mean something. Weird right? Ah well, what's another dozen freckles when I already have thousands?

View from the spa
I mostly laid on the beach and read. I indulged at the spa one day. Brian went sailing a few times. We both went kayaking but I didn't make it 20 minutes before the waves started to get to me and I had to go back. (Yep I even get motion sickness on a kayak, wtf.) We did lots of swimming in the ocean and some in the pools. We did yoga a couple times. But mostly we just enjoyed some much needed rest and relaxation.

View from the hilltop pool
Every evening we made time to watch the sunset. Something we rarely make time to do in daily life. It's the little things like that about vacation that make it so nice. And the sunsets did not disappoint. 

This doesn't even do it justice
Who needs a selfie stick when you got long-ass arms?

Wednesday nights are beach party night at that resort. There were bonfires and tons of local food and drinks. There were guys walking around and doing stunts on stilts and a bunch of people dressed up in some funky costumes. I never heard what the costumes were about, but the Burners in us felt right at home. The staff were so good at creating a party atmosphere. There was entertainment every night  we were there, with a variety of live music and a couple nights there was even karaoke. Brian of course participated. Go check it out on his Instagram.

Beach party
It's not every day you get your picture with the devil
We had planned on hiking the Pitons while we were there. But after talking to a few people, locals and tourists, who had done the hike we'd intended, we realized we were not in shape, or in the mood, for that strenuous of a hike. Everyone said it took 4 hours round-trip, with the first part being moderate but very hot as it's in the jungle. The higher you get (the peak was 2,500 ft and the hike included 2,300 of it), the more it cooled off, but the more it turned into rock climbing instead of hiking. Even Brian wasn't feeling up for it, and he's the good climber! So I didn't feel bad slacking off. Instead we did the Tet Paul Nature Trail that was near the Pitons. Super easy walk but still great pictures. All the benefit for no work! Well I drove there so I wouldn't have to take Dramamine, so that was still work. Crazy ass drivers and the road there were even windier and narrower than the one from the airport.

Mountain on the far left is Mt. Gimie, 3,117 ft.
Gros Piton, 2,579 ft.
Petite Piton, 2,425 ft.
After the walk we headed back to the nearby town of Soufriere to find some lunch. This town, and the drive there, was educational. It gave a more realistic feel of what life is like for locals. It's not resort living for them. From what we saw, the majority of jobs are working in tourism or on farms. Many people appear to be living in poverty. It was pretty similar to Central America in that regard. Every country we've been to now always leaves me with those guilty feelings. You know the ones. The "man do we have it good and don't truly appreciate it" and "geez I wish I knew how to help"? Yeah those. Two of the many reasons traveling is an important thing to do. Especially for us spoiled Americans.

Anyways, back in our privileged life.... before heading back to the resort, we enjoyed some snorkeling at Anse Chastanet Beach. The water was so clear right off the beach here so I didn't have to get on a boat (win!). And Brian decided to test the waterproof-ness of my phone. Thankfully it held up and he got a few good shots.

Not sure what kind of fish but they were very pretty
Sea snake ahh!
I ended up in the middle of a big school of these guys, so awesome
The skinny one is a pipe fish, there was also a huge school of them not far from us
And then like that, the week was over. More red eye flights and then we were home. Tired but very happy. Saint Lucia was a wonderful vacation. I would highly recommend it if you're looking for a Caribbean destination. Relaxing and spending some real, quality time together was the best way to celebrate our soon-to-be 15 years of marriage.