11
Apr 17

House Hunting for the Person You Want to Be

I mentioned on Twitter the other day that Chris and I have been doing some house hunting. We realized that we’re ready to get out of our current place and we’ve been falling in love with houses all over the city.

House hunting for the person you want to be

For Chris and I, the location of the house is more important than the house itself. I mean, don’t get me wrong. We don’t want to be living in some ramshackle shanty that happens to be in a really cool district. But we definitely don’t want to live in a dream house that’s nowhere near anything we do or like.

We know we want to stay in Norman. It’s where I work, and it’s close enough to where Chris works that it would be silly to go anywhere else. And we really love Norman. Sure, it’s boring sometimes, but it’s our city. And you really can’t beat a college town in the middle of summer. Then the city really feels like it’s ours.

(Yeah. I know. I work at the university and students are my livelihood. But you know what else students are? More traffic, 45-minute waits at restaurants, and impossibly long lines at Target. I appreciate all the tuition dollars that make their way into my paycheck. But I really savor those summer months.)

But here’s the thing: We’re struggling to figure out what kind of house it is we want. And the more we look, the more two very distinct paths emerge.

Our original intent was to purchase a home in a historical district. But all the historical districts are around the university. This would be great since I could easily walk to work. But it also sucks, because if a house is in a historical district, people get away with asking $200k for a cardboard box that’s duct taped to a milk crate. The listing will call it a “cozy fixer upper.”

I CALL IT GARBAGE.

The listing will call it a cozy fixer upper. I CALL IT GARBAGE. Click To Tweet

If you’re not familiar with the Oklahoma City metro area housing market, the majority of good, decent houses in a good, decent school districts are typically between $120k to $250k — depending on the size and the particular area. And historical houses are basically a bajillion dollars for 1,000 square feet, one bathroom, and zero closets.

Chris and I tend more toward the minimal side of things. (Though we’d gladly take this place on Main Street in a heart beat.) We don’t have a ton of tchotchkes or collections of things. Basically, everything we have means something to us. And we are well-known for taking a load of stuff to Goodwill once a week. So, we don’t need a whole lot of space. Besides, we currently reside in a house that’s just over 1,000 square feet, and it feels like a good amount of space for us.

So, our house hunting started with looking at what the historical districts had to offer. And we quickly became disenchanted with that because apparently you can ask for over a million dollars for a house that hasn’t been renovated since 1963 and is missing 30% of it’s siding. And people will pay for it.

(I have a theory that these people are rich alumni who want a place to hang during football season. They can eat my dirty socks.)

We expanded our search, and that’s when I could see two distinctive futures in front of us.

The further from the university we looked, the bigger the houses became. The more we searched the online listings, the more we kept coming back to “the dream house.” Nestled at the end of a cul-de-sac, this house was 2,200 square feet, two floors, four bedrooms and two living areas. I spent a lot of time imagining how awesome it would be to turn one of those living rooms into my library/office.

We did fall out of love with it pretty easily though. The online pictures were obviously taken by someone who knew how to manipulate the depth of field. When we saw the house in person, it was the choppiest, space-wasting floor plan I could imagine.

But there it was. On the one hand, we wanted a small historical house near the university. On the other, we wanted a huge, suburban place to keep up with the Joneses.

Chris and I had a come to Jesus sort of talk via Google Hangouts, because we’re terrible people who can really only communicate with some sort of digital interface between us. (That’s not entirely true. We are just more likely to be brazenly honest when we chat via computer rather than in person, where we will couch what we say in non-specific and overly nice terms.)

In this conversation, we really specified what it is we want in a house. Here’s our house hunting wish list:

  1. 1,600 square feet maximum: This may seem small to some, but it really is a lot of space for just the two of us. We know we want a bedroom for us, one for a guest room, and then we’ll both need some space to work when we’re at home. If that means we put some office space in the corner of a living room, or another bedroom, then that’s good. Plus, I grew up in a house about that size, and there was plenty of room for four people to avoid each other in there.
  2. Library space: Right now, my office in our current home serves as the library. I have no trouble putting my massive, messy collection of books in another bedroom in our new home. But if there’s a nook/small area in the living room for them, that would be awesome too.
  3. Two bathrooms: I feel I don’t need to justify this. When I used to live in a one-bathroom house with roommates, there was many a morning when one of us would drive to a nearby gas station to use the bathroom while the other was in the shower. I don’t want to live that life ever again.
  4. A location we love: There are a lot of fun areas in Norman, and they all tend to be around the university. We’re okay with paying a little more to be near campus and downtown, since those are the two main places we go. We have this beautiful vision of someday only owning one car, and even then, we mostly walk wherever we need to go. I don’t know if it will ever happen, but if it does, it’s going to be because we live around campus. But we’re definitely open to other neighborhoods that can offer us quiet, less traffic, and easy access to the highway for Chris.
  5. A non-galley kitchen: This is perhaps the most important thing on the list. The problem with the galley kitchen is that I’m really good at getting in Chris’s way when he’s doing something in our galley kitchen. Like, if I open the dishwasher while he’s stirring something on the stove, there is a good chance that we’ll bump into each other, or Chris will trip on dishwasher door. (Yes, just like what happened to Zach Braff’s mom in Garden State.) For the sake of our relationship, we need more space in the kitchen.
  6. Absolutely no wife-swapping: You may think that this item is a joke. It’s not. I would wager a guess that if you live in a more (but not necessarily) suburban area, you have people in your neighborhood that you suspect of wife-swapping. I’m not here to swinger-shame your groovy lifestyles, but I am saying that sort of thing isn’t for Chris and I. I think there are a lot of neighborhoods in the Oklahoma City Metro suburbs where wife-swapping, cheating on your spouse, and living a generally empty life is the norm. And that sort of things tends to stem from people earning a decent living, then coming home from work and not knowing what to do with their time. (I’m sure a level of marital dissatisfaction or a manic need for new and exciting things comes into play too.) Chris and I have side hustles, so we don’t want to get sucked into weird neighbor drama when our time off work is spent working on other things.
How wife-swappy is your neighborhood? Click To Tweet

So there you have it. House hunting in a nutshell. What do you look for in a house? What’s your house hunting wish list? How wife-swappy is your neighborhood? Are you selling a house near the University of Oklahoma? Wanna forgo realtors and sell it directly to me? Please?!

Thanks for sharing!
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03
Apr 17

Slow Living: What We Have Time for

For me, slow living is all about figuring out exactly what it is that you have time for.

As I write this, I should be grading. Hell, before I started writing this, I was walking the dog. And during the time I was walking the dog, I should’ve been grading too. I’m a college instructor. There are precious few hours in the day when I shouldn’t be grading.

Slow Living: What We Have Time For

And as a writer, there are precious few hours in the day when I shouldn’t be writing. Even if I count every idea scribbled on a Post-It, every notebook bleeding ink, Word Docs filled with rambling prose, and every last stolen minute I took to write, I still wouldn’t write enough.

But that’s the thing of it, isn’t it? Whatever we do isn’t enough, and we always feel like we’re running out of time.

Whatever we do isn't enough, and we always feel like we're running out of time. Click To Tweet

I had this thought on the dog walk, and knew I needed to get home and write it.

For me, I don’t feel like there aren’t enough days left in my life. I’m 31, which is relatively young. I do worry about the hours in the day, though. How is it already 3 PM? How did Tuesday pass me by? I swear, I need a weekend to recover from my weekend. Even though I still feel like there is plenty of time left in my life, I can easily see how it’s all slipping away, and getting me to a point where there won’t be enough time.

So I slow down. I don’t wish days away. I don’t live for deadlines or benchmarks. And even though I feel like I should be further in my career right now, I’m very content with where my life is.

I think we all see what’s possible and we want it immediately. We all see what others were able to accomplish with relatively little time, and we think we should do that too.

I definitely used to feel that way. I’ve been slowing down a lot lately. I’m obsessed with slow living, especially as I see others scrambling their way through life.

(Slow living, for those who don’t trawl the blogosphere/podcastosphere for content about how to take a chill pill, is living life at a slower pace. It’s taking a step back and enjoying life. It’s refusing to be manic, even when every other aspect of daily life would have you believe that you need to keep up. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend checking out The Art of Simple and No Sidebar.)

I’ve stepped back and realized that I’m supposed to be here. I am embracing the marathon mindset, because I know everything is a slow burn. I’m making time for picnics. I’m saying no to things I don’t need. I’m creating space to breathe when the rest of the world is underwater. I refuse to choose busy. I’m setting my own agenda. I’m living my own damn life, y’all.

This got me to thinking about the things I value, and the things I have time for. It made me realize that the only reason I want to be further in my career is because I want writing to be the day job, not the side hustle. It made me realize that I’ve been valuing that paycheck and health benefits more than I have the very thing I was meant to do with my life.

And while I can’t very well quit my day job (unless some rich benefactor wants to pay for my existence while I hole up in my house and write my butt off), I can focus more on what I have time for.

Even though I know what I want, I haven’t made time for it. I have, however, made time for Netflix, fast food, too much social media, and Tetris. I’m shocked by how much time I’ve spent zoning out while staring at the TV, or poisoning my body with garbage or just scrolling through my phone, or just rotating those little tetrominos. (That free app is killer. I’ll delete it, but add it one afternoon when I want to shut my brain off — usually after grading like a fiend. If there’s a way to completely block an app from your phone, I’d love to know because I don’t have that level of willpower.)

Even though I’m not happy I’ve spent time doing that, I know why I have. It’s easy to shut down your brain. It’s easy to zone out. It’s easy to consume. But that’s the thing about slow living. It’s hard. It’s deliberate. It’s focused.

For me, slow living is figuring out everything that is important and vital to my existence, and letting the other things fall away.

This realization is one thing, taking action is another.

So for today, I’m starting. I’m taking stock of the things I have time for.

I have time to write. I have time for Chris. I have time for family. I have time for dog walks. I have time for daydreaming. I have time for deep conversations about magic and spirituality. I have time to listen to my favorite records over and over and over. I have time to read poems in the middle of the day because that’s what I need to do. I have time to cook a meal made of real food that won’t put me in the hospital or give me a heart attack.

I’ve been taking stock of privilege lately. I have benefited immensely from the privileges I possess. And yet, I’ve operated as if everything I have will someday be taken away from me. I’ve been overly hungry. I’ve been like Smaug the Dragon laying on my hoard. I’ve been manic. I’ve believed that I needed to work myself to death. I’ve believed that I don’t have time to take care of myself. I’ve believed that I needed all the things that were being sold to me.

This is all fairly woo woo and vague. But if you’re here, then I have to believe that 1.) you know that’s who I am and what I write about, and 2.) you’re here for that.

I’m here for that too. This is what I have time for.

Slow living is what I have time for. Click To Tweet

P.S. The whole time I was writing this, Non-Stop from Hamilton was running through my head.

Have you ever stepped back and wanted to slow down? Why do you write like you’re running out of time? What do you have time for?

Thanks for sharing!
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31
Mar 17

The Real Beauty and the Beast Controversy!

Last Friday, I went to see Beauty and the Beast with my mom. We enjoyed it, but I was surprised that I didn’t hear about the real Beauty and the Beast controversy on the news.

The Real Beauty and the Beast Controversy

(Side note: James Dickson has some super great posts on his blog breaking down the story elements in the new adaptation. They are nuanced and intelligent and totally worth reading — everything this post will not be. You can check out Part I here and Part II here.)

I heard about the controversy the conservative blogosphere went bananapants over, but 1.) That wasn’t that big a part of the movie, and 2.) IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH QUEER CODED CHARACTERS YOU NEED TO NEVER WATCH DISNEY MOVIES AGAIN BECAUSE IT’S LITERALLY IN ALL OF THEM AND THEY JUST WENT ALL OUT WITH LEFOU THIS TIME AROUND.

Obviously, spoilers ahead. I mean, unless you already watched the animated movie. Because, even the little changes they made for live action don’t change the overall story. You know what happens. So maybe these aren’t technically spoilers. I don’t know. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK OR WHATEVER.

So, as you know, there’s an enchantress who curses a prince and turns him into a beast. She does this because he’s a massive jerk and deserves to look like a buffalo for a while. (His servants don’t deserve to be turned into housewares and decor, but they are. I’m pretty sure there’s a rule against this in the enchantress code of conduct. But then again, maybe not back in 18th century France.)

I consider myself hella knowledgeable when it comes to matters of enchantment and witchcraft because I watched The Craft like a million times in the fifth grade, and a friend of mine used to hide her Wiccan accessories in my house in high school so her Bible-thumping parents wouldn’t find them.

I believe this makes me an expert in enchantments, witchcraft, and all manner of magic. (P.S. DO YOU WANT TO START A COVEN WITH ME?!)

In the new live action movie, the enchantress not only bewitches the prince into the beast, but later she gives Belle’s father a healing tea, and even hangs around to un-enchant the beast when Belle is crying over his dead body.

So here’s the real Beauty and the Beast controversy. LET ME TELL YOU.

Let me tell you the real Beauty and the Beast controversy. Click To Tweet

The great thing about possessing magic or being a witch is that you can basically adopt a “set it and forget it” mindset when it comes to spells and curses. It’s a lot like the Ronco Rotisserie oven in that way. (Tell me you don’t think there’s magic in the skin of a rotisserie chicken. It’s that good.)

Anyway, in the new live action Beauty and the Beast, the enchantress sets the curse in the beginning of the film, and at the end, she is sauntering through the ol’ castle and undoing her handiwork when she sees the beast has been loved for the beauty he possesses inside.

THIS IS SUPER BUSH LEAGUE. (And the source of the real Beauty and the Beast controversy.)

Here’s the thing enchantresses of the world all know: If you’ve done the spell correctly, then you don’t have to be around when it’s time to be undone. YOU SET THAT IN THE SPELL. Also, if you doomed a dude to be a buffalo man surrounded by talking harpsichords, crockery, and timepieces, DO YOU THINK HOMEBOY IS GONNA BE SUPER CHILL ABOUT IT WHEN HE TURNS BACK INTO A HUMAN?

No. No he’s not.

In fact, I can’t figure out why no one snuck up on Agatha the Enchantress at the end of the movie and shanked her. Surely Mrs. Potts wanted some vengeance since her little boy almost became a teacup forever. Surely Lumiere (with Ewan McGregor’s outrageous French accent) wanted the enchantress to know what it’s like to hold fire in her hands and on her head. SURELY HE WOULD TRY TO BURN HER FOR THE WITCH SHE IS.

Like, are we pretending that this poor provincial town somehow exists in a historical France that is immune to witch hunts?! BECAUSE THAT FRANCE DID NOT EXIST.

The real Beauty and the Beast controversy is that a witch didn’t set and forget her spell, and that no one was mad at her for almost dooming them to a life as inanimate objects/a beast. WITCHES HAVE BEEN BURNED FOR LESS.

WITCHES HAVE BEEN BURNED FOR LESS. Click To Tweet

To conclude:

Is this a super weird hill to die on? Yeah.

But I’m dying and this happens to be the hill I’m on.

P.S. No offense to Dan Stevens, but I’d run off with Gaston in a heartbeat. Know that this greatly influenced by decision.

Thanks for sharing!
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29
Mar 17

The 40 Reasons “Why Do You Write?” Challenge

Have you heard of the 40 Reasons “Why Do You Write?” Challenge? Bryan Hutchinson over at Positive Writer posted about it on Sunday. Because I’m super defiant and love a good challenge, I thought I’d take a whack at it. Plus, I really wanted to take stock of why I write.

Why I Write

Without further ado, here are the 40 reasons why I write.

40 Reasons Why I Write (Thanks, @ADDerWORLD!) Click To Tweet
  1. I’ve always had a knack for it.
  2. Teachers and family encouraged me to keep it up.
  3. I communicate better in writing than I do in speaking.
  4. I daydream too much not to write it down.
  5. Writing is how I clear my head.
  6. I love the feel of a pen in my hand.
  7. I love the feel of a keyboard under my fingers even more.
  8. I want to feel in control of language, even though I also believe it’s the number one deterrent to communication.
  9. Someone has to fill up all the notebooks stores sell. May as well be me.
  10. I have a desire to be viewed as an intellectual, and writing scratches that itch.
  11. I like to express emotions in terms of the synesthesia they inspire.
  12. I love proving to money-hungry jerks with logical careers that writing is a thing you can earn money for.
  13. I enjoy breaking all the rules your English teacher taught you.
  14. I can’t just turn off my brain after the workday is over unless I write.
  15. I think writing is a gift from the Universe, so I have to share it.
  16. Without writing, I literally have no idea what my hobbies would be.
  17. I write because if I don’t, I get super depressed.
  18. Writing is like a puzzle I want to solve. I set out to make a paragraph, and I have to figure out where the pieces fit.
  19. I believe I’m smarter than 95% of the population, and writing reaffirms this. (NO APOLOGIES.)
  20. I write because I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write.
  21. Sometimes inspiration bashes me over the head like an avalanche, and I have to.
  22. Even if a piece I’ve written gets rejected, I don’t feel like I want to quit. Writing is the only thing I never want to quit.
  23. Writing is my calling. It’s my higher purpose. It’s why I’m on this planet.
  24. Because people automatically think I’m interesting when I tell them I’m a writer. #sovain
  25. I write because I empathize with a lot of people, and I want to give voice to the feelings this empathy brings me.
  26. I write because I can understand the motives of a person within knowing them for an hour. (Thanks, mean girls from my childhood. Your guileless transparency was a great primer.)
  27. I like sharing ideas with a broad range of people.
  28. I read Ramona Quimby, Age 8 in the second grade and decided I was going to be a writer. (Thanks, Beverly Cleary!)
  29. I write because it’s often like picking off a scab and digging around in the pus to find what’s causing the problem.
  30. I have stylistic intentions for my commas, and believe parentheses are like hugging your words.
  31. Writing lets me take stock of moments and record them.
  32. I want closure for so many things, and writing is the only way to get closure in a lot of situations.
  33. Because I want my thoughts to resonate with someone.
  34. I write to share my experiences with others.
  35. Because I literally have no idea what people do with their time if they’re not writing.
  36. I write because some day I want novel writing to be my day job.
  37. I write because you can’t name another Persian Mexican Native American writer that’s your favorite.
  38. Because writing is fun when I’m manic.
  39. Because writing is life-saving when I’m down.
  40. And finally, because 200 years from now, people will know my name. It’s all about the infamy.
200 years from now, people will know my name. #amwriting Click To Tweet
Thanks for sharing!
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28
Mar 17

Five Things I Learned from My First Writer’s Retreat

I’ve written a little bit about my stay at the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow, but today I want to talk about the five things I learned from my first writer’s retreat.

My First Writer's Retreat

I had fantasized about attending a writer’s retreat for many years before I was able to attend one, and it was definitely a life-changing experience. I’m convinced that it’s something I should be doing once a year. In fact, I may roll my yearly writer’s conference budget into a yearly writer’s retreat budget. No offense to conferences, it’s just I think I’d like the open time to write more than I’d like to attend sessions on writing.

In order to make future writer retreats easier on myself (as well as to make it easier on any of my readers who may attend one) I’m recapping the five things I learned from my first writer’s retreat.

Five Things I Learned from My First Writer's Retreat #amwriting Click To Tweet

001: Bring a night light.

Anyone else a super weird wiener kid incapable of turning their brain off at night? No? Just me? Okay. Here’s the thing. In a past incarnation of this ol’ blog, I wrote about how I’m afraid of the dark. And it’s not really the dark that’s the problem, but it’s this writer imagination of mine. I can easily think of all the things that might be lurking in the dark. In fact, I can list roughly a BAJILLION things that might want to end my life, and only like 3 of them would be real. This is always exacerbated by spending a lot of time writing. When your brain is in overdrive from writing ghost stories all day, it’s really hard to shut it off just because you should be asleep.

The Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow gives every writer their own bedroom, bathroom, and writing area. So, even though you’re in the same house as other people, you’re relatively secluded. And the darkness in Eureka Springs is just a little darker than it is in Norman, so naturally I left a bathroom light on every night I was there. Next time I’ll bring a night light.

002: Don’t be too hard on yourself.

If you haven’t read the “As I Write This” post, click on over. It’s a good primer on the writerly psychomachia that plagues me in every waking hour of my life. I struggle with impostor syndrome, feeling like everything I write is garbage, and worrying that I won’t ever do anything that’s good enough. And you know when my brain decided would be the best time to wrestle with all these things?

IN THE MIDDLE OF MY FIRST WRITER’S RETREAT.

(And also like every day.)

But take it from me. It’s going to be hard to not feel like you’re squandering your time and energy while you’re there. Because uninterrupted time is so hard to come by, I felt that I should be spending my days at the retreat working on the Next Great American Novel. And if I’m being honest, the majority of my thoughts aren’t Next Great American Novel so much as Spooky Ghost Story with Historical Flashbacks.

Don’t waste time worrying that you’re wasting time with the words that are coming out. Instead, just breathe that fresh Ozark air and get to typin’.

(Note: You will only find Ozark air in the Ozarks. If you attend a different retreat, then you should breathe that air.)

003: Healthy food is fuel.

I was ready to consume nothing but junk the whole time I was in Eureka Springs. I have some very unhealthy writing habits that were encouraged by a certain instructor. He was very fond of telling us about the amount of candy he would consume while in the process of writing, and I definitely picked up that habit. (For example, when I was writing my comprehensive exam essay for library school, I bought potato chips, cupcakes, soda, and frozen pizza to fuel my paper writing. I passed, but the whole next week I felt like I was going to die.)

While eating bad food during marathon writing sessions is a bad habit I’m definitely trying to break, it was relatively easy to eat well at the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow. Jana, the cook, made some of the best food I’d had in a while. Here butternut squash and caramelized onion galette was amazing, and I absolutely loved the yellow dhal soup. Then, our dinner at Ermilio’s, while not the healthiest meal in the world, was definitely more balanced and nourishing than what I would normally consume while in writer mode.

(Also, lest you think that I’m not still a human garbage disposal, know that I had Diet Coke, Peanut Butter M&Ms, and Starburst Jelly Beans every single day I was there. I just didn’t eat them as a meal. So, see? I’m basically a health food guru as a result of my first writer’s retreat.)

004: Fresh air and conversation is necessary.

Like I mentioned, I have a tendency to get all up in my head with negativity. But the best way to combat that has always been to step away. Luckily Mari Farthing likes to go for walks too. So on both Friday and Saturday we set aside time to explore part of downtown Eureka Springs. We definitely got lost on Friday just because we are flatlanders and the loopy curves of Eureka Springs streets as they go around hills is definitely not something we’re used to navigating. They didn’t have to send out a search party, but it came close.

Another way we stepped away from writing was in the evenings. Each night we had a full-on slumber party-style gab session, complete with wine furnished by Bethany Stephens, and the best gossip that the five of us could manage. We stayed up so late just chatting about life and work and everything else. It was amazing. In fact, that conversation has led to SEVERAL blog posts that will be coming down the pike in the near future.

005: Headspace is key.

This ties back into not being too hard on yourself, but know that your headspace is everything. I mean, just generally in life this is true, but it’s doubly true at a writing retreat. I struggle with an anxious mind. At any given moment, I’m thinking of all the other things I should be doing instead. It’s hard for me to turn off the to do list mentality, and I know I need to live in the moment more. And that was the sort of headspace I needed to be in before I started writing. I finally got there by Saturday, but since my stay was super short, I wish I would’ve gotten there sooner so I could get more done during my first writer’s retreat.

If you’re like me, then I recommend turning your retreat into a vacation/retreat. To do this, take a day or two to head to the place where you’ll be for your retreat. Then, set aside the first day as a vacation do. Get a massage, go to a nice restaurant, and definitely relax. Slow your body and brain down so that the next day you’re ready to bleed it all out on the page. It may feel like a wasted day, but getting your head right is going to be the best thing you can do for your writing.

Getting your head right is going to be the best thing you can do for your writing. Click To Tweet

Well there you have it — the Five things I learned from my first writer’s retreat. Have you ever been to a writing retreat? Do you have any expert advice for other writers? DO YOU WANT TO PLAN FUTURE A TRIP TO THE WRITER’S COLONY AT DAIRY HOLLOW WITH ME?!

Thanks for sharing!
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