27
Sep 16

How to Be a Morning Person

It’s no secret I’m a morning person. If you’ve ever sent me a text after 9 PM, then it was probably clear to you that I’m a morning person when I responded before 6 AM the next day. I also really enjoy going to bed early, all curled up with a book. For me, early to bed, early to rise isn’t just good advice. It’s the only way to live.

How to be a morning person

I wasn’t always a morning person, but once I discovered how good it felt to wake up early and get shit done, I was hooked. Even if you only get menial or easy tasks done before 9 AM, it just feels so good to know that you’re ahead of the rest of the world. I love that waking up early gives me time that I wouldn’t otherwise have. It’s time when I get to do things just for me. So I try to make the most of it.

If you’ve ever wanted to be a morning person, but don’t know where to start, keep reading.

5 things you can do to be a morning person Click To Tweet

001: Set an alarm and don’t snooze.
The snooze button is your enemy. If you want to be a morning person, you have to break up with him. I have been using this alarm clock, and it’s definitely a game changer. It lights up before it’s time to get up, and it gets brighter and brighter as it gets closer to your alarm time. It’s such a nice and chill way to wake up. Sure, it still makes a terrible alarm sound, but I’m usually awake by that time anyway since the light slowly wakes you up.

002: Don’t look at your phone first thing.
If you take one thing from reading this blog, take this: Smart phone notifications are someone else’s agenda for your time. The only difference between those little app badge notifications and a pebble in your shoe is that once you remove the pebble, it doesn’t keep coming back.

If you check your phone first thing when you open your eyes, you are setting yourself up for productivity failure. Why? Because you’re starting your day with someone else’s agenda, and not your own. Let the morning be your time to use for yourself. I can say from experience that it’s almost impossible to wake up early for someone else because the motivation isn’t there. Also, why the hell would you go to the trouble of waking up early only to spend time looking at your phone? Seriously, that thing will be in your back pocket, just taunting you for the rest of the day. There will be plenty of time later to make sure you’re all caught up on Snapchat.

003: Make waking up early your morning linch pin.
I think the one key thing that keeps me a morning person is that if I don’t get up, there’s a whole series of events that don’t occur. If I don’t wake up early and feed Rosie, then she will start acting out. (Does anyone else have a dog that makes themselves vomit to get your attention?) If I don’t wake up early, then no one will set the coffee maker, because I do that while Rosie is horfing down her kibble. And most importantly, if I don’t wake up early, then I won’t work out. It’s too hard to go to the gym at the end of the day. I enjoy starting my day with some cardio and yoga. And my mental health is so much better for it. And even if I don’t get to the gym, I fill that morning time with reading or writing. And those are two things I wouldn’t have time for unless I got up early.

004: Be consistent. 
I’m not saying you can’t sleep in on the weekends, but what I am saying is that you can’t wake up at 5:15 AM on weekdays, and then sleep until 11 AM on the weekends. For me, sleeping in means getting up around 6:30 AM or 7. But, if I’m being honest, I still wake up at the normal time my alarm goes off on the weekends even if I don’t set an alarm. I do make myself doze back off though, just because the gym isn’t open that early on the weekends, and I know Chris needs the sleep so I shouldn’t get up and piddle around. (I still make sure to get up early enough so that Rosie doesn’t play her vomit game. Damn dog.)

005: You have to want it.
For a year or so there, I thought I might not be a morning person anymore. I was struggling to wake up when I wanted to, and hit the snooze button a lot. Well, one week of using a real alarm clock on the other side of the room changed my mind. I have been consistently waking up about 10-15 minutes before my 5:20 AM alarm, and it’s been awesome to get to the gym just as they open.

But the major thing that changed here is that I wanted to get up, so I stopped using my phone and used a real alarm clock. And by putting the alarm clock on the other side of the room, I cut out the opportunity for snoozing since I have to get up to turn it off. And I did this because I really wanted to get up and get back in the habit of working out.

 

What about you? What are your ride-or-die tips for being a morning person?


23
Sep 16

Fall Favorites

Yesterday was the first day of fall, and I would be remiss in my bloggerly duties if I didn’t share my fall favorites.

A list of my fall favorites

But let’s be clear, here. Nowhere on my fall favorites will you see the pumpkin spice latte. Why? Because I’m not a huge Starbucks fan since I live in a college town with a ton of independent coffee shops. But also because the PSL isn’t even the best seasonal latte that Starbucks offers. That would be the gingerbread latte. I will not argue this point. It’s a fact, and any who wish to say otherwise are fooling themselves.

The gingerbread latte is the best seasonal drink at Starbucks. DON'T @ ME. Click To Tweet

I think it should also be noted that the gingerbread latte can’t hold a candle to the Sherlock Holmes at Michelangelo’s on Main Street. If you’re ever in Norman, you should have one.

Anyway, inflammatory latte opinions aside, I have a list of fall favorites for you. These are all the things I love about fall, and all the things I will always associate with the season.

Dark Lipsticks
I’m so excited for dark lipsticks. The vampier, the better. Now that we’re all done with the bright and happy summer colors, we can finally get a little more Wednesday Addams with our color selections. So, if you happen to see me during the fall, I’ll be wearing Burt’s Bees Ruby Ripple, Mary Kay Liquid Lip Color in Cherry Coffee, L’Oréal Infallible in Bold Bordeaux, and I’ll probably line them all with Rimmel’s Exaggerate Lip Liner in Obsession.

Scarves
So, even though I own several light summer scarves, I typically don’t wear them until fall. Because Oklahoma weather is so damn hot all summer, I just can’t stand the extra fabric around my neck. But in the fall, when it cools down to like a high of 80-degrees, I can finally swathe myself in whatever plaid pattern happens to strike my fancy that day.

Listening to Music With My Headphones
I have been told that people can actually do this all year long. Not me. Headphones are for fall. And so is introspective music listening. In fact, if you have a playlist/mix cd for me full of all the songs that will make me feel artistic and 10-years younger, you should send it my way. I need that type of vibe for all the writing I like to do in the fall.

Frito Chili Pie
I suppose this could also be eaten all year round, but nothing says fall to me like chili. And now that there isn’t a restaurant in my immediate vicinity that serves Frito chili pie anymore, I’m left waiting until fall when I have a hug crockpot of chili at my disposal. I don’t know why, but Chris and I pretty much subsist on crockpots of chili during the fall. And I’m so excited that I’m about to have Frito chili pie in my lunchbox almost every day.

Halloween-Inspired Reading and Watching Lists
The fall is when I feel the need to read and watch every spooky thing to prepare for Halloween. And even though Chris and I aren’t very big on Halloween, we do like the movies and books that go with it. This year, I’ll be reading the Harrow County graphic novels Countless Haints and Twice Told. I’ve heard so many good things about these, and I’m a pretty big fan of Dark Horse stuff as well as creepy stuff happening in the American South. And even though I’ve tried to read it like 3 times, this may be the year that I actually get through Danielewski’s House of Leaves. But I make no promises. As for watching, Chris and I already agreed to re-watch any and all shows and movies pertaining to Hannibal Lecter, so I’m really excited to have some more impure thoughts about Mads Mikkelsen feeding me my own leg at the dinner table.

My Ravenclaw Cardigan
Last January, Chris and I went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. We both had a lot of fun, and if I’m being real, the process of finding out what my patronus was on Pottermore totally made me want to go back so bad. (Side note: My patronus is a marsh harrier.) And while I don’t think another vacation like that is in the cards for a while, I still have my wool Ravenclaw cardigan I purchased while we were there. (It’s hella weird to buy wool sweaters in Florida.) I’m so happy that very soon the weather will cool down for me to wear it, because there is nothing more fun than wearing something to work that you bought at an amusement park.

Sitting in My Favorite Place on Campus
Imagine this: You’re sipping a hot, black coffee on a bench that’s dedicated to the memory of Ralph Ellison. Gripped firmly in your hands is your favorite pen and notebook just waiting for you to scritch-scratch your heart out across those blank, unlined pages. The leaves on the trees above you fall intermittently, and the fountain made of rocks from all 77 counties across the state bubbles quietly. On your right, you can hear the sounds of tap shoes and opera singers coming from Carpenter Hall — the windows open as if to send those sounds directly to you. The breeze rustles through the pages of your notebook, but you don’t mind because you’ve got a nice warm Ravenclaw cardigan and a nigh-impossible to manage blanket scarf to keep you warm.


20
Sep 16

The Transformative Practice of Saying No

Before you get too far into this post, just know that I’m not so good at saying no. I’m working on it, which is to say that someday I hope to be an expert who says no to like 89% of everything.

The Transformative Practice of Saying No

Saying no is hard for many reasons. For me, I think it’s a combination of expectations people have for my gender, as well as the how I was socialized to be accommodating and flexible IN EVERY SITUATION. (That’s a whole blog post in itself, and I have a short story I’ve been working with on the subject. Suffice it to say that I haven’t worked through it all and I’m still figuring out how to tell people that I actually have preferences and opinions.)

Even so, I know that saying no is important because I want to have time to do what I want to do. Too often saying yes means adapting to someone else’s agenda for your time. And while there are times when you absolutely have to devote your energy to things you don’t want to, it really sucks when you find you’ve willingly devoted your energy (and the fucks in your bucket) just because you’re being accommodating and trying to help someone else out.

Picture this:

It’s Friday at 5 PM, and you’ve had a terrible week at work. You’ve agreed to go out for drinks with a few coworkers because it sounds fun, but also because it’s habit to say yes. By the time you leave the office, all you really want to do is put on your pajamas and talk to a pile of takeout Chinese about your week, but you go out anyway, because you said yes when you were asked.

You wind up staying out later than you planned, so naturally you sleep in on Saturday. But you still don’t get enough sleep because you told someone yes when they asked you if you wanted to the farmer’s market. While it’s not really your thing, you haven’t seen that friend in a while, and maybe it would be nice to have some local produce.

After looking at vegetables you don’t even like for two hours, you head home to work on a project. Someone contacted you about writing a story for their blog, and you said yes. Retrospectively, it’s nothing you really wanted to write, but you said yes without thinking, so you spend 2 hours on Saturday doing it.

After you send off a crap draft that means nothing to you, you take a shower and get dressed so you can go to a party that is full of people you used to know pretty well, but not so much anymore. You said yes to the Facebook invite, but the whole drive there, your head is screaming no. 

You leave the party by midnight, and hit the bed hard. There were ten personal projects you wanted to do earlier that day, but you didn’t get to them. And you know that you won’t be getting up early on Sunday to do them because you’re exhausted. Who the hell does that many things in one weekend? Fucking crazy people. You know you’ll wakeup around 7 Sunday morning, which will give you enough time to do a load of laundry and get groceries and maybe prep some lunches for the week before you have to go to Sunday dinner with your family.

So, that whole scenario sucks, and I can’t tell you how many weekends of my adult life have looked like that. It may sound dumb, but I’ve spent a lot of time saying yes to things that I had no desire to do. I mean, I’m an introvert. I like to spend time reading the internet on my couch while my dog snores loudly by my side. I like to coerce my boyfriend into having date night at home so we can have popcorn and watch a movie we’ve seen a million times before. I don’t like going to loud places, being in large crowds, spending money, or feeling like I never got a break when it’s my day off.

So, how do you go from saying yes and giving all your time to others, to saying no and filling your time with what you want?

Saying No Takes Practice

As dumb as it may seem, saying no takes practice. It’s hard to say no when we’re hardwired to be positive. (I don’t know if we’re hardwired, it just kind of feels that way.) Also, the things people ask you to do are generally good things. Even now, if you were to ask me to attend a party, I’d probably say yes out of reflex. Parties are great, right? Well, for some. The thing about parties is that I get a social hangover. I hate having to be “on” for a large group of people, and I hate situations where I can’t just have small one-on-one conversations. Those are very exhausting for me. So parties, for the most part, are a no-go.

One thing I’ve found that makes saying no easier is giving the recipient of my no an alternative. When I tell someone I can’t work with them on a project, or that I don’t want to go to a big happy hour meet up, I usually try to suggest something else. Like instead of working on a project for someone else, I’ll suggest ways we can collaborate that are equally beneficial. I absolutely work one of my goals in there too, so I don’t feel like I’m saying yes and getting nowhere with my own work. If someone wants me to go to a big party, I’ll make an excuse about why I can’t go, but ask if they want to go have coffee or lunch sometime soon.

It’s taken years for me to get here, and I’m not 100% perfect at it, but this is how I started practicing saying no.

How I’ve Been Saying No

I’ve been saying no a lot lately, and more preemptively than anything else. I’ve functionally become inaccessible to my friends, which isn’t ideal, but it’s how things have to be right now. I’ve hit a point where I’ve realized that if I have to give 8 hours a day to a job, then I should also be giving 8 hours a day to passion projects. And saying yes to passion projects means saying no to going out, to hanging out, and to even texting back and forth. (Though, admittedly, I’ve been pretty incommunicado since discovering this super simple phone hack.) I also find that I don’t engage with people who I know will ask me to do things. I get tired of saying no, and I know they get tired of hearing it and sometimes get mad. So, I will simply avoid situations where people can ask me to do things I don’t want to do.

I’ve also been saying no to extra work a lot lately. This semester, I’m only teaching 4 classes instead of 5. (“Only” being a relative term, here.) I’m also trying to be very purposeful about how I spend my non-working hours. This means saying no to Netflix binges unless they happen on the treadmill, and mindless internet wandering. Now, if I could only cut out the mindless Snapchatting, I’d be hella productive.

But Shouldn’t I Be Saying Yes?

Nope.

No, But Really

Why do we think that the whole world will open up to us if we say yes? I think pop culture and pop psychology want us to think that mindless positivity and acceptance of any and all invitations will lead us to a beautiful new life. But that’s really stupid. Seriously. If you say yes, you have to mean it. And to mean it, you have to want to say yes. If you don’t want to say yes, saying no is really the best answer.

And let me leave you with this. I’m sure you’ve heard someone say, “Saying yes to something means saying no to something else.” Think about that the next time you say yes to anything. What are you saying no to? And if you’re saying no to something you want to do, then is it really worth it so say yes?


16
Sep 16

The One Big Blogging Secret I Learned at #Megaphone16

This past weekend I attended Megaphone Summit in Arkansas. Allison drove me in her swanky as hell minivan, and together, I like to think we really conquered Fayetteville.

This is the one big blogging secret I learned at Megaphone Summit.

(Please note that here I’m using the word “conquered” to mean “ate too much damn cheese and then fell asleep real early in.”)

Wanna see what I brought with me to Megaphone Summit?

On Friday, we ate too many cheese fries at Farrell’s. Then, on Saturday Allison won a brewery tour with Hogshead Tours, and she brought me along to Columbus House Brewery.

The fine folks with Hogshead dropped us off at Hammontree’s for a dinner of fancy grilled cheeses, where we got in some much needed girl talk and more beer.

The weekend was so jam-packed with information and experiences, that I was pretty much dead on my feet by Sunday. I wish that there had been a 2-hour break on Saturday afternoon where we could all just sit down and sip coffee while talking quietly so I could’ve gotten to know more of the attendees there. (Two-hour coffee breaks are why they don’t let introverts organize blog conferences. Though, I guess I did that once.)

The weekend was full of inspirational and informative talks from a lot of different bloggers and blog-adjacent professionals. Thanks to those sessions, I now feel fairly comfortable with FTC regulations, XML sitemaps, and the Adobe Light Room app. (Seriously, if you aren’t using it, it’s a freakin’ game changer.)

I finally met Rachel in person, I got to see Cassie again, and Stephanie gave me a big ol’ hug. I was super excited to hear Jackie talk again, and I have to say that she basically hit me on the back of the head and reminded me to be Marisa, which was exactly what I needed to hear.

I wish I could give you a complete rundown of all the sessions, but I feel like my head is way too full of the information I learned. Couple that with the fact that I waited a whole week to write this post, and, well, you see why I’m not being super specific. But that’s the beauty here. See, the big blogging secret I learned isn’t a specific thing that anyone said.

The Big Blogging Secret

The big blogging secret was implied by every last damn person who spoke, if not stated outright. You have to just do what you want to do.

You have to just do what you want to do. Click To Tweet

You have to stop asking for permission.

You have to go for the thing you decided you wanted.

You have to harass the gatekeepers until you get where you want to be.

You have to be relentless.

Basically, the big blogging secret is something we should all be doing in our everyday lives.

On Asking for Permission

I realized a couple of years ago that I’ve spent a lot of time asking for permission, at least in the metaphorical sense of the world. I kept buying books on writing, hoping that every time I cracked the spine on one of them that I’d finally be where I wanted to be as a writer. I spent a lot of time enrolling in adult education classes that I wanted to make me interesting so I’d somehow be worthwhile. I let ideas simmer in my head until they completely fizzled out, simply because I didn’t think I was qualified to do anything with them.

And all the time I was surrounded by people who had the confidence to go and do exactly what they wanted. In some cases, I was in awe. In others, I was pissed that someone who wasn’t as good as me would even try to go after something. (I’m quite petty and jealous. It’s something I’m working on. So is Jackie, if you haven’t read this post already. It’s good stuff.) But even so, I never went after the things I wanted.

Megaphone Summit was a reminder that I have to just do shit. Full stop.

#RealGoodGutPunch

Lately my life has been full of what I’m going to call “real good gut punches.” Those are the moments that make you realize something, the pieces of art that hollow you out a little so you can hold more, the people who metaphorically hold you like a baby before you can even realize that you needed them to do that. Lately I’ve felt like I’ve had a couple of real good gut punches, and Megaphone Summit was definitely one of them.

#Megaphone16 was a #realgoodgutpunch. Click To Tweet

(If you make a connection between gut punches and me mentioning that Allison and I ate too much cheese, I will light your hair on fire.)

And maybe that’s just the thing. The big blogging secret was a real good gut punch. But maybe the even bigger blogging secret is that you need a real good gut punch every once in a while.


13
Sep 16

Reader Rant: 10 Reasons I Stop Reading Books

I once met someone who always finished every book they picked up. I’m not like that AT ALL. I think I’ve quit a lot of books, and always for different reasons. And while I may eventually pick those books back up again and finish them, there are some things that make me stop reading books and never go back.

Here are the 10 reasons I stop reading books.

And with that, I give you 10 reasons I stop reading books.

10 Reasons I Stop Reading Books Click To Tweet

001: The author can’t write women characters.
Look. It’s not that hard. Like, if you want to write but you don’t understand 50% of the population, then you need to reassess your path. I mean, sure, there are a ton of famous writers who get away with it, and have built huge careers (and cocaine addictions and subsequent sobriety) on it. But it’s 2016, and I like to think that readers won’t let you get away with it. I know I sure won’t.

I think Kelly Sue DeConnick said it best:

“So, there’s the Bechdel test. I’ve got another test that works just as well. The Sexy Lamp test. If you can take out a female character and replace her with a sexy lamp, YOU’RE A FUCKING HACK.”

And any book that has that sort of female character in it is absolutely not worth my time.

002: The story relies on stereotypes.
Try harder. Seriously. If you can’t make a character real and authentic, then you need to work on a new draft. And as a reader, there is nothing more boring than reading stereotypical characters or dialogue or scenes. It’s predictable and lazy. Also, when you read a stereotype, it seems like a place holder that the author put in there so they could come back and fix it late. And placeholders don’t move the story forward.

003: The book doesn’t live up to the hype.
Sometimes the hype machine gets itself all worked up and makes you think it’s totally worth paying $30 to preorder a hardcover copy of what promises to be the book that will define a generation. And then you get it, and it’s garbage. I definitely don’t preorder many books these days, just because I’ve been burned one too many times. So I’m always leery when a book is preceded by the sort of fanfare one typically reserves for a fifteenth century monarch. And if the book doesn’t deserve that fanfare, I stop reading it.

004: It’s not my cup of tea.
Sometimes a book isn’t for me. Simple as that. It’s nothing against the book itself.

005: The story is inspiration porn.
I really hate stories that tell us characters with disabilities or diseases are inspirational simply because they have disabilities or diseases. Characters with disabilities or diseases should not exist to make able-bodied readers feel inspired and good about themselves. Characters with disabilities and diseases should be in stories though, BECAUSE THERE ARE PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES AND DISEASES IN THE REAL WORLD.

006: It’s one of those books that the pseudo-intellectual boys from college used to talk about.
I have a whole shelf of these, and I’m thinking about doing a blog post about them, and then giving them away to blog readers. I mean, I feel bad about giving you guys books I quit reading, but I also want that shelf real estate back and maybe these books are your jam. (Does anyone want a fuck ton of Bukowski and Salinger?) I only wish I still had the terrible mix CDs from the pseudo-intellectual dudes I knew in college. That would really be fun to go through.

007: The author’s hand is way too damn heavy.
I get my preachin’ on Sundays. At least, I would if I went to church. But suffice it to say that the minute a book starts preaching to me, I’m done. Or, if the book has a hella preachy tone with the message instead of just showing me the characters and their story, I’m out.

008: I can’t identify with the motivations of any of the characters.
This is pretty much why it’s impossible for me to watch Girls on HBO. Basically, I don’t understand why any of the characters do anything. And if I don’t get that, the story doesn’t make any sense to me. And if the story doesn’t make any sense to me, then it’s really hard to keep reading.

009: I can’t figure out what’s happening.
This one kind of piggy backs off the last one, but doesn’t necessarily require the previous condition. Sometimes, I feel like writers wan’t to pack as many subplots into a story as possible. Then, instead of being exciting and complex, the story turns into a garbled mess where I need a spreadsheet and a flow chart to keep track of all the stuff that’s happening and where the information all belongs. And it’s worth noting here that I’m absolute shit with spreadsheets and flow charts.

010: The author cares about the plot more than the characters or the story.
This is a very big pet peeve of mine. To me, the plot doesn’t functionally matter. I will gladly read books with no plot at all if the characters are interesting. But what I can’t stand is a quick-paced plot that I can’t care about because the characters are basically anonymous shadows of people. If I don’t have the thing to emotionally ground me in the story, then I don’t really see a reason to keep going.

 

What about you? Why do you stop reading books?