Aug 17

How to Keep Bad Energy Out of Your House

I’ve discovered one really simple thing to keep bad energy out of your house.

I've got a really simple tip to keep bad energy out of your house!

Original photo by Viktor Mogilat

I know, I know. I’m getting super witchy and woo woo in my old age. What can I say? Some of us are descended from Avalonian high priestesses, and some of y’all are basic assholes.

Don’t hate on me because I’m magic.

Don't hate on me because I'm magic. Click To Tweet

And for those of you who think this is all hooey, let me just say this. Mindset is everything. So don’t act like the bad attitude you got at work doesn’t affect your home life. Don’t pretend that you don’t bring your negativity home. Don’t even act like you’re a ray of sunshine, BECAUSE YOU’VE ALREADY POO-POOED WHAT I HAD TO SAY.

So keep an open mind, here.

It’s important to keep bad energy out of your house for a number of reasons. For me, I like my home to be a place for rest, recharging, and dog cuddles. And if I’m bringing in negativity when I get home from work, or just stress from driving in traffic, it prevents that rest and recharge. (Nothing stops the dog cuddles when Rosie wants them. Though, to be sure, she doesn’t want them half as often as I do.)

The house I’m living in now is the first place I’ve lived that I’ve had 100% control over. From the decor to the schedule, everything is all me. And for that reason, this environment has been really good for me. Like, I’ve been more social and more positive-minded in the past 3 months than I have in the past 10 years. I’m excited about projects, and I’m envisioning a very good future for myself.

It’s really a great place to be.

But, with the semester starting up, and the stress of grading papers and contentious department meetings on the horizon, I knew I had to devise a way to keep the atmosphere in my home cozy and positive.

If you would like to do the same, then you can follow my simple steps to keep bad energy out of your house.

When you finally get home from work, don’t go into the house immediately. It’s easy to just get out of the car, barrel up the steps and bust into the house. However, if you do that, you’re not taking a moment to enter the house intentionally. Admittedly, this — the waiting — is the hardest part (SORRY NOT SORRY FOR TOM PETTY LYRICS) because I typically have to pee really bad when I get home. So, if you can wait just a moment, do. If you can’t, I totally get it, and I won’t judge.

When you finally get home from work, don't go into the house immediately. Clear your head. Click To Tweet

But the reason this moment is important is because you want to take that time to clear your head. Sure, Suzy sent you that passive aggressive email about that tiny error you made on the quarterly report. And yeah, that kid in the Land Rover almost hit you as you were going through the crosswalk. Your entire department spends all day complaining about management, and no one will drop it. They keep heaping one complaint on top of another, and their stirring up past grievances until the atmosphere is a roiling mass of anger. Oh, and you’re favorite soda in the vending machine? It’s been out for TWO MOTHER HUMPING WEEKS.

Do you feel all that bad energy?

Do you want that in your house? (Should you even be carrying it anyway?!) Because that shit will sit next to you on the couch as you try to unwind. It will follow you into the bathroom when you’re flossing your teeth. It will sit on your kitchen counter when you’re chopping tomatoes. And even worse — it will keep everyone else you live with company. In fact, in a lot of ways, all that bad energy will replace you in your relationship with those people or pets, because that’s what you’re bringing into the home.

That’s why you need that brief second.

Just stand there. Not too close to the door, and not super far away. Just at a spot where you’re comfortable, and don’t look like a goober to your neighbors.

Imagine all those things that you experienced throughout the day slowly dissipate, like they’re liquid evaporating off your shoulders. Once they’ve lifted, you’re free not to worry or think about them until you get to work the next day.

I like to close my eyes in this process. I take two or three deep breaths, and I literally imagine my work email disintegrating like moldy paper. I pretend that I’m stepping into an alternate dimension where I can’t be reached by coworkers. I envision all the homework that I have to grade has been impounded, and can’t be accessed until the next day.

Then, I unlock the door and step inside.

That’s how you keep bad energy out of your house.

It’s nothing revolutionary. In fact, it’s quite simple. But if I don’t do it, I will walk in the door with all those things weighing on me. And when those things are weighing on me, I don’t enjoy my rest/recharge/dog cuddle time as much.

In fact, when I’m feeling those things, I can’t relax. I don’t want to walk Rosie, which is something I mostly love. I don’t want to read, which is my favorite past time. I don’t take time to nurture and develop hobbies the way I should.

When I let the bad energy in, I find myself mindlessly scrolling through my phone all evening, and that’s not productive down time for me. It makes me grumpy, and it makes it hard for me to go to sleep. And I know my brain isn’t getting the sort of rest it needs to do worthwhile work the next day.

How to Keep Bad Energy Out of Your House Click To Tweet

So, I want to issue a challenge to you. Keep bad energy out of your house by pausing to breathe on your doorstep. Let the things fall away. And heck, if you want, you can send me a video of you doing it via Instagram stories! I’d love to see what shape this ritual takes for you.

What steps do you take to keep bad energy out of your house? Are you descended from Avalonian high priestesses too?


P.S. Have you signed up for my newsletter? You get a sweet freebie for signing up, and you get my monthly newsletters! Pretty sweet deal, y’all.

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Aug 17

Everyday Writing Outline: How to Keep Daily Writing on Task

If you never outline your writing because you hate Roman numerals, I’ve got an everyday writing outline for you! And best of all, unlike your English teacher, I won’t be grading your final product.

This Everyday Writing Outline will help you with emails or any writing you do for your job!

Original photo by Andrew Neel

I always hated when teachers wanted us to outline our papers in a very specific way, and then they’d grade the outlines. Ultimately, what matters with an outline is that you get your ideas out there. THE FORMAT IS IMMATERIAL. But you try telling that to a middle school English teacher with a chip on her shoulder.

Today, as a teacher, I always encourage my students to outline. You need that road map that an outline provides if you want to get where you’re going. And it’s the best way for you to get your ideas organized. But most people aren’t aware of all the outlining methods available to them. Or, worse — they feel they don’t need an outline since they aren’t doing an academic paper or writing a book.

Well, here’s the thing with my everyday writing outline. There’s no format and anyone can use it.

::the sky opens up, angels sing::

That’s right. If you’ve been avoiding putting your ideas on paper just because you got burned by outlining once, I’ve come to your rescue.

And let’s be real. The sort of writing you do daily doesn’t really necessitate a beast of an outline. Really, you just want to make sure your emails are clear, or that you’ve said everything you need to say in your Facebook event invitation.

Check out this fool-proof everyday writing outline! Click To Tweet

Check out my fool-proof everyday writing outline below, and scroll to the bottom for a free download to help you outline your everyday writing.

The Everyday Writing Outline

Think about what you hope to gain overall with the thing you’re writing. Are you trying to persuade or inform? What reaction do you want to get out of your audience? Write all these things down, and let them guide what you have to say.

Specifically name your main audience. If you’re writing to your boss, you’re going to approach it differently than you would if you were writing for your coworkers or friends. For example, when I write to my boss, I use a fairly simple email greeting that includes a salutation of some kind, and her name. However, when I write to my fellow instructors, it’s not uncommon for me to start the email with “Greetings, Earthlings.” Because we approach different audiences differently, make sure you’ve clarified who you’re writing this for so you approach it with the correct tone.

(Also, yes. I’m ridiculous, and I’m sure my fellow instructors mostly hate me.)

Main Points
Make a quick list of the things you need to cover. I’m notorious for leaving stuff out of emails, which causes me to have to send multiple replies to the same damn email. (Don’t be like Marisa. Be a functional person.) If you’re sending out an email, just make a quick list of things to include. If you’re replying to an email, make a list of all the things you need to reply to. And, to make it easy on your reader, feel free to separate those items into a bulleted list. No one wants to read a big, boxy paragraph. Those are gross.

Usually, your everyday writing won’t include much research like you did in school. However, you may have to ask questions of others before you’re able to respond. So, think of that as your facts that will back up what you have to say. And, as with a research paper, cite your sources to make it clear to your audience. You don’t have to a do a full-on APA Style citation. It could be as simple as saying “Bob says that we can’t hold the conference in room B on Thursday, but that it’s fine for Friday.” Now you’re recipient knows where the information came from, and is more likely to be satisfied with your answer.

Questions the Audience Will Have
Remember when we talked about writing for an audience? Well, almost all everyday writing has an audience. Because you’re trying to communicate with another person, you want to make sure you’re clear. So, in order to do that, you need to anticipate questions your audience will have. And then see where you can answer those questions within your writing.

Get the free everyday writing outline worksheet here! Click To Tweet

Get Your Everyday Writing Outline Worksheet Here!

It’s simple enough, right? And if you sign up for my newsletter mailing list, you can get a free downloadable worksheet to guide you through my everyday writing outline. Print it out and put it in your cubicle! Save it as your desktop background! Passive-aggressively slide it under the office doors of all the people you work with who write illogical emails! Do what you want with it!

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Aug 17

Dollar Tree Drug Test Kits: Comparison is the Bringer of Joy

Comparison may be billed as the thief of joy, but yesterday because of Dollar Tree drug test kits, it became my reason for it.

I saw a girl buying some Dollar Tree drug test kits, and this is that story.

Original photo by Brooke Cagle

Let me explain.

Firstly, if you know me in real life, then you know that I’m catty. I gossip too much, and I’m mostly not a great person. I’m working on that, but I felt I needed to say that to give you a frame of reference for why the following story would bring me so much happiness.

Because I enjoy getting a good deal AND buying cheap plastic crap, I like a good trip to the dollar store. My local Dollar Tree is a treasure trove of paperbacks, personal care products, and cheap Sour Patch kids. Naturally, I shop there often.

After reading Tracy’s post about watercolor Skillshare classes, I decided I was going to sign up for Skillshare, and try my hand at some painting. But I didn’t want to buy expensive watercolors in case I absolutely hated the process. So I figured buying garbage paint from the school supply section of Dollar Tree would hold me over until I decide to pull the trigger on some real paint.

And naturally, I needed tea light candles and a vase for my grocery store hydrangeas I was planning to buy, and I can’t leave Dollar Tree without at least three paperbacks. (I wound up buying 5 yesterday. SO MANY MAINSTREAM FICTIONS GOODIES!)

Anyway, I went at a great time because it was quiet and chill. I hate going to Dollar Tree when granny has all 7 of her grandchildren in the store to purchase candy before going to the movie theater, or when unsupervised teens try to casually steal the hair dyes. And let’s be real: The only time shopping is good is when there is no one else in the store. That’s why Mondays are the best days to do your combo Dollar Tree and grocery store runs.

I grabbed my items and briefly considered picking up some Hot Tamales and Twizzlers. I didn’t though, because I’m trying this new thing where I don’t eat like a toddler that was locked in a candy store over night. So I made my way to the line. And that’s where I got my moment of clarity.

In front of me stood a young woman. She was a college student, and I could tell because she was wearing the requisite short running shorts and an oversized Delta Omega Pi Theta Alpha Kappa or whatever shirt. Her nails were manicured, her tan nearly perfect, and her hair was very clean and freshly styled.

Did you know Dollar Tree sold drug test kits? Click To Tweet

And in her hands were 3 Dollar Tree drug test kits.

Yes. Dollar Tree drug test kits.

I know. I thought they only sold pregnancy tests which they stock right at checkout, like the one impulse purchase you can’t leave without is a hella cheap pee stick.

She was quite fidgety. Though, I suppose it’s hard to play it cool when you’re buying drug tests.

A cashier opened up a new lane and she darted over. As soon as the cashier dragged those boxes across the scanner and dropped them in a bag, she slapped $4 on the counter, grabbed her merchandise, and sprinted out.

She didn’t even wait for her change, which really confused the cashier because you can buy like three-quarters of an item at Dollar Tree with the money she left behind.

And that’s when comparing my life to the lives of others brought me immense joy.

Don’t get me wrong. I wish this young woman the best. I hope everything turns out for the best, and I hope that she gets the answer she wants from those drug test kits.

But comparing my life to hers brings me immense joy because I will never have to be that age again. And because of that, I will never find myself in a position wherein I need to purchase Dollar Tree drug test kits.

(We’re all where we’re supposed to be, and I don’t gotta be there no more.)

Though being a 30-something in a college town can make you feel old ALL THE TIME, sometimes it makes you feel super grateful.

With age comes wisdom, and jobs that no longer test for drugs because they require so many other credentials and have such a low turnover that they know you probably won’t do anything harder than the occasional Benadryl. With age comes the realization that no matter what is going on in my life, I never have to relive my twenties again because they were THE WORST. I will never find myself in the position where I put my faith in a $1 drug test.

So, to the young woman who I saw at the Dollar Tree on 12th and Alameda, I hope your week improves. I hope you get the result you need to get, and I hope it means you get the job or whatever you were testing for. We all had summer indiscretions in college, and I hope you aren’t punished for partying the way that a vast majority of people do at your age.

And to myself, I remind you that everything is coming up Millhouse, and you ain’t gotta buy no Dollar Tree drug test kits.

Dollar Tree Drug Test Kits: Comparison is the Bringer of Joy Click To Tweet

Am I a terrible person for sharing this story? Have you ever seen a stranger that reminded you how good you had it? How accurate do you think those drug tests are? What is your favorite item to buy at Dollar Tree?

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Aug 17

How to Start a Big Writing Project

One of the questions I get all the time is how to start a big writing project. Admittedly, big is a relative term, and means something different to everyone. But whether you’re a middle school student working on a five-paragraph essay or a doctoral candidate trying to crank out that thesis, getting started can be a stumbling block.

Tackling a big writing project can be tough! But I've got 5 tips to help you get through your next big writing project right here.

Original photo by Kari Shea

I feel right here is a good time for me to make a disclaimer.

If you’ve seen me on Twitter, then you know how prone I am to procrastination. There isn’t a week that goes by that I’m not putting something off by looking at all the tweets. So, if you feel that I may need to heed my own advice that I’m about to give, you wouldn’t be wrong.

Do you struggle when it comes to starting a big writing project? Click To Tweet

And while I admit that there is a fair amount of procrastination to my process, there is even more getting down to business. After all, I’ve completed more than one big writing project in my day. Whether it was my master’s thesis or books for ghost writing clients or the syllabus I’m working on now (HOW IS IT AUGUST ALREADY?!), I have a tried-and-true process to get you started on that big writing project that you need to crank out.

001: Minimize distractions.
This is when we close that Twitter tab on our browser. In fact, we shut down the whole browser. We close out everything that isn’t the word processing software we happen to be using. And we put our phone in the other room. And make sure the notifications are off.

I’m not trying to be jerk here, but you can’t write if you’re distracted. There is literally no such thing as multitasking, and if you think you’re succeeding at doing two things at once, you’re really just half-assing those things. (If you’ve got three things going, you’re third-assing. I could go on forever with the fractions.) Multitasking is a great way to make minimal progress on multiple things at the same time. So do yourself a favor and focus in on writing. That will make you get through your task a lot faster, and it won’t seem as daunting.

002: Get in the right headspace.
I know exactly what I need to create the perfect environment for writing. It’s taken me so much time to figure this out, but I’m glad that I finally have. I know I need quiet. I know I need to minimize external stimuli. I know that I need to be as far away from people as possible.

For that reason, I NEVER post up in a coffee shop. In fact, I can barely read in those places. Maybe there is an ideal, quiet coffee shop in an alternate universe that would be perfect for me, but for now, I live in a college town, and every cafe is chock-full of loud-ass students.

When I picked a new place to live, I made sure I found a place that had a space I could use as an office. I know I need the dedicated space to catch all my paper clutter associated with teaching as well as a place where I could sit and do any big writing project that came my way.

I know not everyone can have a dedicated space to work on a big writing project, so you gotta work with what you got. I highly recommend Ambient Mixer to help you tune out the world and get shit done. Invest in some headphones that cancel out other noises. And let everyone around you know that you are not to be disturbed. Because every time you stop to acknowledge a distraction, it takes you that much longer to get back into that headspace, and even longer to get your writing done.

003: Create a road map.
You aren’t going to remember all those brilliant points that you thought about when you originally conceived this project. In fact, if you haven’t written any points down before you begin, congratulations on creating the hardest project of all time. I’m not saying you have to create a full-fledged outline (though, depending on the project, you probably should because it can only help), but you need to know where you’re going.

I used to work with a kitchen manager at this professional wrestling-themed barbecue restaurant in the parking lot of a Walmart (real long story for another time), and every day he’d grab an index card and write out what he needed to do. And with that card that he kept in his front shirt pocket, he never missed a food order or delivery. He kept his crew tight, and the kitchen ran like a well-oiled machine. We’d open the restaurant together, and he’d say, “You can’t get where you’re going if you don’t have a map.” Then he’d flick the corner of that to do list, and go about his day.

I still follow that advice. It’s not uncommon for the screen of my laptop to be surrounded by Post-Its with the nonsensical ramblings of a mad woman. But I need those because they have my ideas, and those ideas are the map.

004: Don’t overestimate your potential output.
If you wouldn’t go to the gym after a long period of inactivity and try to max out your squat, then don’t do it with writing. Sure, you’re probably not going to tear a muscle writing, but your brain and body aren’t used to it, and you’re going to do more damage than good.

Writing is like a muscle. You have to exercise it or lose it. And while I’m not one of those militant writers that believes in working on projects every single day, I do believe that you have to work most days. So, if you’re a student who has spent all summer doing nothing besides eating processed food and watching YouTube videos, you aren’t going to go back to school in the fall and suddenly be able to bash out a 10-page paper in one night.

Writing is like a muscle. You have to exercise it or lose it. Click To Tweet

(You might be able to. But, it’s going to hurt like hell. And you’re setting yourself up for failure. Even if you pass this one paper, know that some professors won’t put up with shitty writing, and at some point, it will come back to bite you in the ass.)

So if you haven’t written in a while, maybe set yourself a small goal. Maybe on the first day, all you do is create that road map for the paper. Then, on the second day, you organize your research and pull the quotes you want to use and create your reference list. Then, you’re already familiar with the topic, and you’re ready to go. Sure, it will require hours of work and revision, but you aren’t overextending yourself in the beginning.

005: Stop tongue kissing boys.
One of the biggest mistakes my students run into is not managing time. No one writes all day long. (I mean, maybe on occasion, but not all day every day.) There’s a lot to life that’s way more fun than drumming your fingers on a keyboard while your eyes stare blankly at a screen. And that stuff will always come before writing if you let it.

When I was an undergrad, a particularly folksy professor of mine asked the class of junior-level creative writers what we were reading for fun. As creative writing majors, we had to take so many writing classes in addition to literature classes, and our nights and weekends were spent catching up on Tolstoy and Milton and Brontë. Surely none of us had time to read for fun too!


As my professor so eloquently put it, “If you got time to be tongue kissin’ boys, you got time to be readin’.”

(I feel I should state for the record that at that time in my life, I couldn’t figure out how to get a boy to tongue kiss me. Also, I had never heard the phrase “tongue kissing” in my life.)

Here's the thing about writing: It's a lot more fun to do other stuff like tongue kissing boys. Click To Tweet

Here’s the thing about a big writing project: It’s a lot more fun to do other stuff like tongue kissing boys. But the writing will still need to be done. So, if you’ve got time to gallivant around town with any ol’ fella who will kiss you, you’ve got time to write. Be honest about how you’re time is spent, and plan out how you will be using your time when you’re in the midst of the big writing project. It will save you so much hurt at the end.

Now let’s say you’ve followed these five tips.

And then what? Well. Okay. Here’s the thing.

You still have to write.

That’s the thing about a big writing project. It’s still a lot of work. But, if you follow these five tips, I promise you that it will become easier for you to complete. That’s not to say that it will be easy. But you’ll learn how to approach a big writing project, and honestly, knowing how to do that is half the writing battle.


What about you, fellow writers? How do you attack a big writing project? What are your keys to success? On average, how many hours a week do you spend tongue kissin’ boys?

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Aug 17

A Photo Session with Kathryn Trattner

Y’all. Book a photo session with Kathryn Trattner right now. You’ll be glad you did.

Here’s a fun Marisa fact: I absolutely hate having my picture taken. I think I get it from my mom, who probably has only actually appeared in like 10 pictures in the past 30 years.

Kathryn Trattner is a great photographer, and she took this picture.

Just having impure thoughts about Beorn, my dream man, a shapeshifter who feeds his guests honey.

Also, there was a time when taking a picture wasn’t a harrowing experience. And that’s because if the picture sucked, no one would see it. But now the second a photo is snapped, it’s on social media. So, I have what I call Facebook anxiety, and it stems from all the hella unflattering pictures my friends have tagged me in over the years.

(I would like the record to show that I don’t post unflattering photos of my friends, and yet they INSIST on posting terrible pictures of me.)

How many unflattering photos have you been tagged in on Facebook? Click To Tweet

So, here I am, living a life that’s been relatively uncaptured on film. Will history even remember me?

(The answer is no.)

I knew I needed to fix that, especially since I’m trying to be the type of person who loves my body. (That’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish and a story for another day.) Suffice it say that I’m not there yet, but maybe I’m a few steps closer?

(I can’t say yes or no for sure.)

Kathryn Trattner is a photographer who can capture the tiny details that may get lost when a less careful photographer is behind the camera.

Anyway, I have a friend named Kathryn Trattner, who is an amazing photographer, genius writer, adorable person, and probably some sort of fey creature who dwells under mushrooms when no one is looking.


I asked her to come take my pictures so I could have some updated photos for the blog and social media.

Kathryn is an awesome photographer. She does a great job of making you feel comfortable in front of the camera, and she gives great direction when it comes to poses.

Though, I feel I should state for the record that she refused to photoshop pics of Selma Hayek over me in these photos. She said something like “that’s not actually photography” and “why don’t you just get pictures of Selma Hayek from the internet and leave it at that?”

She’s pretty wise, even if she won’t help you pretend that you’re Selma Hayek.

I’m sure her business cards now say “Kathryn Trattner, Photographer, not a Selma Hayek photoshopper.”

Apparently photoshopping celebrities over your face isn't photography. Click To Tweet

We took these photos in my living room, and in my tiny backyard on what felt like the hottest day that our little parcel of Hell has ever had. But Kathryn knows the good angles, and that’s why you can’t even tell how sweaty I am in all of these.

(Side note: My mom knew that there had been a photo session at my house, so when I posted this, she assumed that Kathryn had caught some orbs or whatever in her photos. Then she was real disappointed by my real life ghost pictures.)

I’ve captioned these photos, just so you can get a better understanding of what was going through my head.

These photos were taken by Kathryn Trattner, a great photographer in the OKC area.

Are we still doing white manis?

Sometimes I just stand in the middle of my living room and hold a mug because I was raised by a Sear’s catalog.

The one drawback of wearing red lipstick when you intend to smile is that you look like Heath Ledger as the Joker.

I’m standing in the woods. Do you think Beorn will find me? I mean, he can change into a bear, and surely my period will attract him.

Rosie Puppins, stealing my thunder with her effortless poses.

Say, fellas, do you come around her often? How’s about buying a lady a drink?

I farted.

No, but like, seriously, Beorn. Wherever you are, I want you to know that I love you and I’m not just saying that because I want to eat honey-slathered bread for the rest of my earthbound days.

If you’re interested in booking a session with Kathryn Trattner, you can contact her right here. And if you have a super artistic photoshoot in mind, you should ABSOLUTELY CONTACT HER. Seriously. There’s going to be a day when we find ourselves a pond and I wear a creepy witch dress and take pictures in it like I’m some sort of wraith Lady of the Lake.

A Photo Session with @K_Trattner Click To Tweet

(Please don’t steal that photoshoot idea. You can do your own creepy shoot with her instead.)

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