January explanations

New Years usually calls for resolutions and newly announced goals. Since I haven’t posted anything in almost four months, I think I should probably explain what’s been going on.

Last year I talked about making big changes in my life. I (briefly) quit my job and moved two states over. I was excited for my new life and anxious to get out of the Midwest.

My new life in Pennsylvania turned out to be more difficult than I could have imagined. Work was not going smoothly, and I was making significantly less than I’d hoped. Actually, nothing about my move went smoothly.

My plan was to do a bit of traveling in that part of the country, maybe make a trip up to Canada, and save up enough money to move again in a year. Things went from bad to worse after the first month, causing me more stress than I could deal with. I found myself sinking faster than I ever have before. It was time to make another move.

In the middle of October I decided to move back to Indiana. It was something I never thought I’d do. I wanted to get out of this state, thinking that anywhere would be better than this cornfield. I quickly realized how lucky I had been in Indiana. I had friends and family that supported me no matter what.

I cried when I told my mom I was coming back. I felt like a failure. I made such a big deal about making my own decision to move away and it blew up so horribly. My mom didn’t scold me like I thought she would. She was happy for me. She told me to do what I thought was best, and that she’d support me no matter what. I really do have the best parents.

So, in the middle of November, the day before my birthday and four days before Thanksgiving, I made the 7 hour drive back to Indiana. The cats cried, and I cried, and it snowed while I was moving my stuff in to the apartment I hadn’t seen before signing the lease. It was an emotional week.

I started work the next day, then cried when I got home. I came back with nothing. I used all my money to put a deposit on the apartment. Half of my kitchen stuff had been packed away at my parents house or tossed out in July when I left town. My toaster and blender both broke down. My bookcases had been tossed when I moved out in July because there was no space in the truck to put them. Three quarters of my books are packed away in boxes somewhere.

I haven’t been able to replace any of the things I lost when I moved. I’m barely making it now, but I know in a few months I’ll be fine. I’m just lucky that I have the support of my family and friends. I don’t think I’ve ever been more grateful.

I’ve realized that my happiness starts with me. I was tired of how things were going in Indiana, so I moved. The problem wasn’t Indiana, though. It was my attitude and my constant excuses for not getting any thing done. My life in Pennsylvania was even worse. I wanted to do so much, but I found myself restricted in the strangest ways. Part of the reason I’m so happy to be back is that I have my independence again. I have the freedom to do whatever I want in my apartment, and a spacious bedroom to retreat to when I need a break from everything else. And, I’m happy to report, my cat is eating his food again. The last few months in PA he was barely eating anything. I could tell he was stressed out, and I knew the only way to help him was to get him out of that environment. He seems more comfortable in this apartment than he ever was in PA. He’s back to being a happy, plump kitty now.

I normally wouldn’t share this much of my life, but I’ve decided to take a new approach to things. I was frustrated and angry when I decided to move away. I was letting a bully ruin my work, which I used to enjoy. I was making excuses and not doing what I needed to do.

I’ve decided that the best thing for me to do is be positive. I am enjoying my job again. I no longer dread going in each day. I get along with my coworkers, and try to brush off any negativity. I’m writing again, and plotting and planning my moves for this year.

I bought myself a planner this week, for the first time in a few years. I loved having a planner and writing down what I need to do and making notes of things. I don’t know why I stopped using one, but I’m excited to keep myself organized now.

I have started a small reading challenge with a few of my friends. This month we’re going to be reading books that were made into movies. I picked “Water for Elephants”. It’ll probably end with me in tears, but I think that’s part of the challenge.

Thank you for reading this long post. I hope everyone had a good holiday, and I’m looking forward to all the great things we’re going to accomplish this year!!

 

-JBL

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I’m not ready to be a digital writer, but I guess I’ll start trying

The people that know me know that I like my books the old fashioned way, hardcover books filling up every free space in my home. But, that’s the problem with living in the modern world(you should know that I sighed when I wrote that sentence). The world is going digital, a fact I’ve been fighting since I first learned that you could read the newspaper online.

I always wanted to be a writer. I dreamt of going to the bookstore and seeing my books on the shelves. I wanted a bookshelf at home, full of copies of the books I’ve published. I was a weird kid. It took me a while to come around to the fact that more people are turning to digital platforms such as Amazon, blogs like this, or websites like Thought Catalog or even Cracked.

I recently downloaded an app on my phone called Wattpad. It’s a cool little place for writers to post stores, chapter by chapter. They offer tips and hints for writing, and readers are able to provide immediate feedback. It’s almost like having an extended writer’s group. I haven’t posted anything yet, I’m just reading and investigating for now.

Some of my friends are looking more into independently publishing. Their goal is to publish and distribute their books themselves. I’m still hopeful for a more classical approach by sending out tons of manuscripts and receiving a few rejection letters in return.

My plan, for right now at least, is to use the wondrous Internet resources to continue to develop my writing. I have several pages bookmarked on my computer to inspire me whenever I get behind in my writing. My favorite is the charts giving you options for frequently used words, like “said”. I’ve joined several other online writing groups that send out weekly email discussions. It’s proved more helpful than I initially thought it’d be two years ago when I signed up for it.

I’m always curious to see what other writers are up to. Do any of you have a favorite app or website that you frequently use for writing?

Thanks for reading!

-JBL

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The seasons are changing (and so must I)

I have lived my whole life in Indiana. I’m used to the Indiana way, how people drive and live. So moving halfway across the country has been sort of strange for me.

The first thing I learned is that everyone runs red lights. And honks if you don’t. Or if you don’t go the second the light changes. Basically, everyone is an aggressive driver, except me. It’s been terrifying.

The second, and most important right now, is that the weather is different. It seems silly to worry about, but my year revolves around autumn things. I’m a November kid, so pumpkin pretty much runs in my blood.

I’m used to Indiana summers, which can stretch all the way to September. But here I am, nestled under a blanket in August, looking at the overcast almost-autumn sky. It was chilly when I went to work. My coworkers described it as gross and cold. But to me it’s perfect. It’s time to get out the jackets and prepare the pantry for pumpkin flavored everything.

I can feel the seasons changed here, before the pumpkin spice lattes are even available. It’s exciting to know that when pumpkin season starts, I won’t be drinking my latte on hot day.

The coolness brings me peace of mind, as well. I do better in the fall. It’s easier for me to take a breath and relax, and get through those rough days when the air is cooler and smells like leaves. I’m more inclined to write when I’m not sweating and uncomfortable.

I hope everyone out there is enjoying the weather as much as I am. Thanks for reading!

-JBL

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August is here

August is here, wether I want it or not

We’ve long since past the halfway mark, what have we to show for it?

On this side of the state, things aren’t quite right

Cats are being cats, friends are being friends,

But nothing else is as it should be.

Work is not what I want,

The food is not what I want,

The changes I’ve made are not what I want.

But it doesn’t really matter what I want,

What matters is what I have.

What I have is the chance to do something different,

The chance to change my own life.

What I need now is for me to shut up,

To get over what I think I should have

and remember that things could always be worse

-JBL

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Moving on

Dear readers,

I know it’s been a while, but I’m back!

I took a brief hiatus to pack up my entire life and move halfway across the country. I’m now living in Pennsylvania, so if anyone has a writing group, let me know!

It was terrifying and emotional, and I’m still not sure if I’m doing the right thing. I guess that’s part of the adventure.

My cat is slowly settling in, and I’m trying to do the same. It’s a nice, centrally located city that will hopefully provide me with some new opportunities. I’m planning trips to Gettysburg, Pittsburg, and hopefully Toronto.

I’m hoping this change will kick start something in me. I will be back to posting regularly, both short stories and essays. I’m making this move my fresh start, my chance to start over and stay positive about my writing.

This move has been really hard on me, even though I know it’s the best thing for me to do. Luckily I have supportive friends who know when to ignore me and when you shake me and tell me to stop being so dramatic.

Like I said, I’ve been on an extended hiatus, so I haven’t gotten much writing done. I have a hard time writing when I’m stressed, and lately I’ve felt like I’m drowning. I’m trying to get better though. Lately I’ve been thinking about fairy tales, but it seems like everyone else has too.

So, let’s try to stay positive, and keep writing. Hopefully I’ll have good things to post soon.

Thanks for reading!

-JBL

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A view from the balcony

I needed more inspiration to write today, so I changed my position in the living room.

I usually sit on the couch where it’s comfortable. Probably too comfortable. I put my feet up, maybe keep the TV on for sound, drink some coffee, have a snack. Suddenly it’s dinner time, and I need to do some dishes.

Clean the kitchen, do some laundry, my favorite show will be on soon, then I should probably get to bed early.

So many excuses and distractions that I forget that I have the apartment to myself all day, which is my ideal writing setting.

I turned off the TV, poured another cup of coffee, and took my computer to the table.

My view from the top

My view from the balcony

This is what I get to look at now, and it’s much less distracting to me. It’s beautiful and quiet, one of my favorite things about living in this small city. It’s a stark contrast to my bedroom window view, which is just trees and a busy highway.

Enough of this distracting blog now. I’ve finished my 3rd cup of coffee and backing up my computer. Time to get back to writing. I hope everyone out there is enjoying this beautiful day, and hopefully you’re being more productive than me.

Thanks for reading

-JBL

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The art of letting go

I’ve been doing spring cleaning since the first glimmer of warmth appeared in March. I started early because of my planned move in June. I’m going to be moving into a much smaller place, and I really don’t want to lug too much on that long, seven hour drive.

It started out with just small things. Going through my clothes and random things I’ve collected over the past five years in this apartment. It’s strange how much you can accumulate in a few years.

A few weeks later, I went through my clothes again. I tossed more clothes in a box to donate, then started going through my shoes. I boxed those up and then sorted through my purses. I ended up with two more boxes, and I felt exhausted. I knew I could definitely get rid of more, but I wasn’t ready for that yet.

Every few weeks, I would rummage through my clothes again. Eventually I’d fill up another box and drop it off, then start over with a new box. This week, though, I went through every closet and drawer in my bedroom. It was terrifying.

I had gone through my stuff again, and had two boxes packed up when a friend came over. He asked if I had gone through my dresser drawers, which I had sort of rummaged through. Then he asked about my armoire…which I hadn’t even touched. My lovely wooden armoire was a gift from my great aunt. She decided to give it to me, only if I promised to take care of it and keep the inside organized. It had recently become my place to stuff clothes that I couldn’t fit anywhere else. I think I had it organized two years ago..

My wonderful friend offered to go through all my clothes with me, starting with my closet. He would pull out a shirt or a dress and hold it up, asking if I wanted to keep it. If I said yes, he’d ask when I wore it last. If I couldn’t remember, he’d tell me to try it on. Sometimes he just gave me a look that said “We both know you’re never going to wear this again.” It was true. He knows me pretty well.

By the time we got to my dresser, I was more than willing to toss out my old clothes. We filled up another box and I was ready to call it a day. Before I could stop him, he opened my armoire. I sat on the floor and dramatically begged him not to touch it, claiming I’d go through it later. “We’re doing this now,” he said. A few minutes later he tossed a stack of shirts at me. “I don’t think you need twenty sleep shirts.”

I reluctantly sorted my shirts and pajamas, then moved on to the pants. I had gone through my jeans a while ago, so I figured it’d be pretty easy. I forgot about the stack of khakis I had stuffed behind my dress pants. He looked at the pile and said “You can keep one pair, even though you never wear khakis.” He was right. I hadn’t worn khakis since I had to wear them for work…five years ago. I tossed aside the work pants and decided to try on the two pairs that still looked decent.

That’s when it hit me. Those khaki pants were not going to fit. Just like the mini skirts and dresses I packed up. Just like the concert tees and tanks I used to wear. I wasn’t a twenty year old college student any more.

“None of these will fit,” I told him.

“Are you ok?” he asked. I folded up the rest of the clothes to donate.

“Yeah,” I replied. I looked at the pile of underwear I was tossing out and the four boxes stacked up. “I forgot how long I had some of this stuff. I graduated high school ten years ago. And college like 6 years ago. As weird as this sounds, I feel like my body has changed since then. This stuff doesn’t fit me like it used to.”

“And there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said. He grabbed my hands and pulled me close to him. “You are still beautiful.”

I blushed. “I just never thought about it like that. It’s weird to realize that I’m not the same person I was when I wore that yellow skirt.” I sat down on the floor and took a deep breath. “I know they’re just clothes,” I shrugged. “But…”

“Sometimes it’s just hard to let go,” he finished. I nodded and fought back tears.

“I’m twenty eight. I’m not a college kid anymore. I know there’s no reason for me to be holding on to all that stuff,” I gestured to the boxes on the floor. “It’s just stressful to think about how much I’ve changed. I’m not ready to be so adult.”

“I know it’s hard,” he said kindly. “But look at what you’re doing now. Do you really want to go back to that goofy college kid I met back then? You’ve changed so much, but in the best way possible.”

“I feel like I’m very different,” I agreed. “I was thinking about the clothes that I’ve gotten this year, and I’m really excited about them. I have cute clothes for this summer that actually fit me. It’s a good feeling.”

I stayed on the floor for a while, feeling overwhelmed with the amount of stuff leaving my apartment and the sense of accomplishment that came with it. I know that things in my life need to change. It’s not like things are bad, it’s just time to try something different. A new state, a new address, a new balcony that doesn’t overlook a murky pond.

Thinking about making that big of change makes my chest hurt, but I know I need to just do it. I can’t keep holding on to things that I know I don’t need. From here on out, I only have space for the essentials. Including my cat.

Thanks for reading! I hope everyone else gets around to some spring cleaning. I promise you’ll feel better once you’re done.

-JBL

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