Tuesday Update

On Thoughts

“Never give up on someone you can’t go a day without thinking about.”

Bullshit.

Maybe your brain is perfectly healthy and never betrays you, but that hasn’t been my experience.  Sometimes my brain is really stupid and gives me thoughts like “Hey, you could totally just…turn the wheel and run your car into oncoming traffic.  Wouldn’t that be cool?”  Then I have to shake my head and say, “Brain, we talked about this: that would NOT be cool; that would be deadly and it would hurt people and, besides, what would become of Layla?”

Sometimes my brain says things like, “Everything is pointless and life sucks and you should really just stay in this bed forever.  Why bother doing anything else?”  And I have to remind it: “Okay, but tomorrow you’re going to want to eat and buy shoes and so I have to get up and go make money in order to make that happen.”

Your brain offers you thoughts and you get to choose what you do with them.  (…usually, I should say.  Mental illness is a different issue and doesn’t always allow you to do that.)

The same is true of people.  You hear a song and your brain says, “Hey, you know who that reminds me of?”  Or you’re all by yourself, watching TV, and it suddenly tells you to invite that person over.  Or they just pop up into your head.  That doesn’t mean they’re “meant for you.”  It means you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about them thus far and it’s a habit you may need to break.  It doesn’t mean you can’t give up on them.

What it should say is this:

Never give up on someone who makes you happy the majority of the time.  Never give up on someone who treats you well and makes you feel safe.  Never give up on someone who has proven they want to be with you and makes a concentrated effort to spend time with you.

Never give up on somebody who has proven they won’t give up on you.

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The Eclipse

I want to write this down so I don’t forget.  There will be other eclipses, and I may even get to see some of them, but none will be quite the same as my first.

I was off on August 21st, 2017 by sheer luck.  I knew the solar eclipse was coming but I was so busy that I didn’t pay attention to the details.  Which is a shame, because it’s the sort of thing my dad would have gotten extremely excited over.

Fortunately, his brother did, and my cousin texted me the week before to invite me to their black-out party.  They live just outside Columbia, South Carolina and were in the path of totality.

Shortly after one that afternoon, I was playing Apples to Apples with the kids when one of them announced it was starting.  We all stepped out front, eclipse glasses in hand.  I couldn’t see anything from the porch and stepped down the two steps into the yard before putting the glasses back on.

They worked.  All I saw was black except for one muted spot of light.  Instead of a perfect white circle, a semicircle section on the right blended in with the darkness.  We went back inside, returning to the yard occasionally so we could check its progress.  The dark spot kept getting larger until the sliver of sun we saw through the glasses resembled a crescent moon.

I kept removing my glasses and putting them back on to marvel at how bright it was.  The sun was so powerful that, even when three-quarters of it was blocked we still couldn’t stare at it directly.  It was so strong that the sky didn’t change – not yet anyway.

We were in the backyard now and somethings were changing.  The temperature dropped, degree by degree, causing the air pressure to shift.  Even the shadows were affected.  Instead of the usual shapes, everything reflected the crescent of the sun.

And then they were gone.

The moon couldn’t block the sun completely.  A ring of light surrounded the dark circle, but the sky became as dark as dusk.  We could see Venus to the right of the moon and even the bees and crickets got confused.  The bees rushed to get home to their hive and the crickets began their nightly symphony.

We stared for a minute.  It was 2:41 in the afternoon and it looked like eight at night.

Then it was over, the moon leaving so the sun could return to its full power.  Venus vanished and it began to heat up outside.

Maybe there’s a lesson or a message in this, as there is in everything if you choose to look for it.  But there doesn’t have to be a moral for the experience to be valuable.

It took me three and a half hours to drive home on what is usually a two-hour route.  It was worth every minute of it to see the eclipse at its totality.

If you want to see these posts early (or just support me in eventually making a living as a full-time writer), subscribe to my Patreon.  You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

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Charlottesville, Virginia.

This post is going to be a bit scattered, but I have to say something.

What’s happening in Charlottesville right now is what I was afraid of back in November.  When Trump said he would “Make America great again,” I kept wondering what he meant by “again.”  When was the golden age he was trying to get back to?  Based on this demonstration, it’s clear what these people consider “great.”  “White power,” they chanted.  All because a statue was removed – a statue of a general from the losing country.

And then Trump said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”  Because clearly both sides are equal here.  But this man was endorsed by the leader of the KKK.  He rallied about taking our country back.  The seeds were all there.

This isn’t about free speech any more.  When you’re carrying torches and guns, it’s about more than that.  When someone protesting you is murdered, it’s more than that.  When the symbol on your arm is the same symbol worn by those who literally killed billions of people, it’s more than that.  This was proven when a black man was literally beaten at this protest.

I don’t have a solution, but I know it starts with calling racism and Nazis what they are, not equating those things with those protesting them.

 

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4 Times You Should Say “No.”

I love the word “yes.”  When I say “yes,” I get to try new things or make someone happy.  I believe the word can really enhance your life.  But sometimes I go a little overboard and end up over-extended.

“Yes” is great, but sometimes you just really need to say “no.”

  1. When you’re overextended already – Believe it or not, you are not Wonder Woman.  You can’t go nonstop and you can’t do everything.  Once in a while, you have to rest.  So if you’re already exhausted or the workload you have is keeping you busy, you’re better off telling someone “no” than taking on extra that is going to burn you out.
  2. When the thing makes you uncomfortable/goes against your values – When I was a kid and people asked me if they could cheat off my paper, I always felt bad saying no…but I would have felt worse if I had let them.  This goes for adult things as well.  If it will make you feel guilty (or hurt you in any way), you are allowed to say no.  I encourage you to say no.
  3. When someone is repeatedly asking for favors and never helps you in return – I’m a huge believer in the golden rule.  You should absolutely treat other people the way you want to be treated.  But some people will take advantage of that and you should take care of yourself too.  If someone consistently asks you for help and is never around when you need something, it’s time to stop helping.
  4. When you just don’t want to – This may make me sound like a bad person, but I don’t actually care.  If you don’t want to do something, you don’t have to.  Period.

“But Kari, what about…”

Absolutely there are exceptions.  Maybe you’re tired, but it’s your best friend in the entire world and they really need you.  Or your schedule is booked but it’s a person who has never failed to help you out.  Maybe you really don’t want to do it, but they really can’t do it.  Err on the side of kindness, but remember to be kind to yourself too.

If you want to see these posts early (or just support me in eventually making a living as a full-time writer), subscribe to my Patreon.  You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

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Welcome to August!

I have been SUPER busy lately, and the only way I’ve been able to get through it is to take one day at a time.  This is a valid method, but sometimes you’ve got to play the long game.  So, in the interest of that, here are my goals for the month.

  • Finish four books I’ve already started.
  • Write 6000 words (this is a low goal, Kari, come on).
  • Get caught up on your travel journal (WHY DO YOU DO THIS??? IT’S BEEN A MONTH SINCE YOU’VE BEEN ANYWHERE!)
  • Sign up for 401K (wow, adult much?).
  • Fix paystub problem (this has been on your radar for months, Johnson).
  • Stick to the preplanned budget for the month (which…is not your strong suit, but come on).

The next step is to figure out some rewards for if I do this, so…

  • Buy the three books on my (most timely) wishlist.
  • New coffee mug.
  • Day or weekend trip to Asheville.
  • That Kate Spade bracelet I’ve been looking at for months.
  • Nice dinner at Cowfish.
  • New pair of shoes in September’s budget.

Of course, my other problem is that I have a bad habit of letting myself have rewards without actually earning them, so who wants to keep me accountable?  Anyone?

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Introvert Problems

I’ve been working hard this month.  I came back from my beach vacation and dived into both jobs, working three and a half weeks without a single day off.  I was getting a little burned out.

…my candle literally just went out.  Spooky.

I finally took a day off and spent it sleeping.  It helped, but going back to work the next day, I was still feeling unmotivated and a little angry at, well…everyone.

I thought I needed another day, or maybe a few of them, when I didn’t have to talk to a single person.  I am an introvert.  Sometimes I need me-time.

I arrived at the mall Saturday, determined to make it through the full work day and looking forward to the short shift that followed on Sunday.  Most of the day did feel like going through the motions.  At seven, though, a woman came in with her daughter carrying a Disney bag.  I had to ask.  They had gotten two Tsum-tsums (one was Marie) and were planning a trip to the park.

I spent at least a half hour with them, talking about my time working at Disney World and showing them the pink bags we had on sale.  They were extremely sweet and it really was like talking to two old friends.  When they left with their purchase, they were overjoyed with what they got and excited about coming back.  They were my last sale right before I clocked out, and I actually left work feeling less tired than when I’d gotten there.

Since I got out early, I had time to go to Lush after H&M.  The service there is always great, but this time I got to work with Justine, and absolute sweetheart who accidentally cursed in front of me and whose tattoos I found delightful.  We realized we were from the same county and she could relate to the stifled feeling I sometimes get there.  When she noticed my Gryffindor tattoo, we got to compare Gryffindor and Slytherin qualities.  It was a lot of fun and she hugged me three times before I left.

Sometimes I need me-time, but what I’ve really been missing this month are truly personal interactions: spending time with someone and finding out what they value, what they hate, who they actually are.  It’s hard to get that when I’m trying to make a sales goal at Kate or trying to move the line at Amelie’s.  And it’s hard for me in general since I don’t seem to connect well with people, even people I’ve known for years.  (On a related note, how do you turn a work friend into a friend-friend?  I’m asking for a…well, a friend.)  But when those connections come along, they’re worth savoring, however briefly.  And they always make my job more fun.

If you want to see these posts early (or just support me in eventually making a living as a full-time writer), subscribe to my Patreon.  You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram.

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Love and Work

I love most Disney movies but, if I had to pick a top ten, it would include The Princess and the Frog.  Tiana has a dream all right, but she turns it into a Goal and works her butt off in order to achieve it.  I always liked what her dad said: “You wish on that star, but it can only take you part of the way.  You have to help it out with hard work.”  And she does.

Then, things don’t go exactly as she planned.  She falls in love.  And she has to choose between Naveen and finally getting the thing she’s worked so hard for.

There are a lot of romantic comedies marketed towards grown women that handle this storyline with less grace than this animated feature.  Woman works hard to get what she wants, man comes along and shows her that all work and no play blah blah blah.  Love is more important than life-long goals anyway, right?

But at the beginning of The Princess and the Frog, Tiana has made it.  She should be reaping the rewards of her hard work except someone moved the finish line.  So she does something desperate in order to get what she’s already earned: she kisses the frog.

This is where the storyline deters from a typical story like this.  Tiana does fall in love with Naveen, but only after he learns the value of hard work and after he decides to prioritize her goal as much as she does.  She does choose Naveen over finally seeing her dream come true, but it’s a corrupted version of her dream anyway: a version that requires hurting people she cares about and a literal deal with the devil.  It makes her realize why she’d had this dream to begin with.  And, in the end, Naveen does everything in his power to make her dream come true.  She did choose his safety over the restaurant, but if he had sat at home while she built Tiana’s Place from the ground up, that boy would have been back on the street again.

All that to say, I saw an article this week that said millenials were prioritizing education and careers over marriage like it was a bad thing, but if your spouse isn’t as invested in your future as you are, there’s nothing wrong with wanting more.

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Land of the Free

It’s July 4th, which means I should probably be posting something patriotic right about now.  Except…I am the least patriotic person you will ever meet.  There’s a lot of things going on in our country right now that I disagree with and I think the fact that we have a literal pledge of allegiance (guys…nobody else does that; seriously) is a little…off.

I have been thinking about this all day and here’s what I’ve decided: America is a work in progress.  There is a long way to go.  We enjoy many freedoms other countries may not, but we have far too many citizens who don’t get to partake in that.  I disagree with the idea of “make America great again,” because we must move forward, not backward, and include all people if we truly want to be great.

I keep seeing these words: “Land of the free because of the brave.”  I know that’s true.  I know it began with the Founding Fathers who risked executions to declare their independence, followed the Union army as they fought to keep the nation together, and continues to show, to this day, in our military who only want to keep its citizens safe.  But that’s not all.

We are free because of the slaves who risked their lives to escape their bondage.  We are free because of the women who marched and endured imprisonment to earn the ability to vote.  We are free because of the brave souls who through the first brick at Stonewall and fought back against discrimination.

“All men are created equal” has often been a catchphrase more than a truth.  Based on race, sex, orientation, and socioeconomic status, too many people are treated as if they don’t count, as if they must justify their existence.  We are not truly free until we are all free, and we still have a ways to go.

So be brave.  Keep fighting for justice and sticking up for those considered “other.”  If we are to be the land where all are free, it will be because you were brave.

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Work Anxiety

I started my new job this week.  Before you ask: yes, I am still working at Kate Spade.  I’m doing both.

Retail and food were two industries I never thought I’d be involved in because I’m not really a “people person.”  I put on a good show, but I am very often wishing everyone would just LEAVE ME ALONE ALREADY.

The real problem is that people give me anxiety, especially when there is a crowd of them or they expect something from me.

For a long time, that just wasn’t something I talked about.  But in each of my jobs, I have had a moment where I had no choice, where the anxiety was so overwhelming that I couldn’t hide it.

The first was at Kate, where I paused in the back room to catch my breath.  The new manager asked if I was all right and, when I couldn’t answer yes, asked what was wrong.  “I just have a lot of anxiety,” I told her.  She understood – dealt with it as well, in fact – and suggested ways she had learned to cope with hers during her years in retail.  A different day, when I was feeling overwhelmed to the point of tears, she gave me a job that was useful but would give me time to calm myself down.

At Amelie’s (that’s the new place), I mentioned it to two people.  The first, my trainer, suggested an herbal tea we served that was good for anxiety.  It worked too, and soothed my nerves wonderfully.  The second, a guy who was also new but had previously worked at Starbucks and Panera, told me he also had anxiety and that, when things were too overwhelming, he told his boss and just took a break.

Through talking about my anxiety, I found others who could relate to my struggle and had overcome it.  I also found ways to make it better, through following their advice and alleviating the stress of needing to hide it.  The worst thing mental illness does is trick you into believing you’re alone – and you’re not.  We hear it so much it becomes a platitude, but it’s the truth.

 

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Heroes

The Wonder Woman movie finally came out, after years and years of waiting for it.  I was worried.  For one thing, I have hated almost ever DC movie I’ve ever seen.  The most recent, Batman Vs. Superman and Suicide Squad, were exceptionally awful.

And yet, Wonder Woman was incredible.  Gal Gadot was the perfect actress for the role, playing Diana Prince as a powerful warrior whose kindness and compassion are her strength.  Chris Pine stole hearts and subsequently broke them as Steve Trevor, who is an actual nice guy who respects Diana and believes in doing the right thing.  The movie was populated by well-rounded characters, many of whom were also strong women, and it showed the pain of war as it affected communities and individuals.  This is mostly thanks to Patty Jenkins, the movie’s director who fought for years to bring the Amazon’s story to life.

It’s one of those movies that made me want to fight the patriarchy with my own bare hands, and a movie I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.  The same thing can be said of Cars 3.

In the third installment of the franchise, Lightning McQueen is getting beaten more and more by newer race cars.  Other veteran racers are retiring, but Lightning refuses to quit before he’s ready.  When  he wrecks horribly, it looks like he might not have a choice.  He doesn’t want to face the same fate Doc did, but since he’s not there anymore, Lightning can’t ask his advice.  Instead, he goes to the places Doc trained on, the dirt tracks and the forest roads, and meets those who inspired him.

Initially, it looks like the message is the typical millennial-hating garbage of the older generation: newcomers ruin everything.  Actually though, it’s the opposite: the message is that the older generation has to adapt if they want to stay in the game.  Lightning gets to continue doing what he loves because he’s willing to learn new things to do it.

Lightning has a lot of character development, but my favorite part of this movie was Cruz Ramirez.  After being told all her life that she’s “not a race car,” she’s given up on the dream.  When she learns to believe in herself – and Lightning takes her under his wing – she proves them wrong.

If Wonder Woman made me feel like fighting the patriarchy with my bare hands, Cars 3 made me feel like dismantling it brick by brick.  They talk about the history of racing, both the good and the barriers outsiders had to break down themselves.  By looking at their history they were prepared to move into the future.  Nothing is given to them freely, but they understand why it’s worth fighting for.

Both are empowering movies and worth supporting for the messages they share and the characters they bring to life.  They’re great if you need a pick-me-up.  So head to the movie theater and get ready for Feelings.

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