07
Sep 17

Nightmare Fuel: What’s Been Keeping Me up at Night

Admittedly, I don’t need anymore nightmare fuel than what my brain already supplies. BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN THAT I DON’T CONTINUALLY FIND MORE THINGS TO BE SCARED OF!

Nightmare Fuel: What's Been Keeping Me up at Night

Original photo by Jack Cain

I’ve always been a horror movie fan. I love to be scared, and I don’t know why. For my eleventh birthday, my mom took me and my friends to a haunted forest trail (one of the perks of being an October baby is all the Halloween birthday activities) and then we came back to my house and watched Halloween. When I was even younger, I read ALL of the Mary Downing Hahn and Peg Kehret books the school library had. When I got older, I rented scary movies. Now, I spend so much time reading creepy stories in subreddits, or obsessing over Candle Cove.

What can I say? I like nightmare fuel.

What can I say? I like nightmare fuel. Click To Tweet

So, I thought maybe some of my readers might like to be as scared as I am about stupid stuff too. So, without further ado, I present to you a list of 10 things that have been my most recent nightmare fuel.

001: Reading the Dear David tweets.
Somehow, I’d missed these until Mari Farthing sent me a text about them. Then, naturally, I went through every last one. Basically, some dude has a creepy boy ghost with a smashed-in head haunting his apartment, and the ghost wants him dead because the dude asked too many questions. (If this doesn’t make sense, head on over to the Storify of those tweets.) And while I enjoy a good scare during the day, I’ve managed to find myself only reading these tweets just before bed.

Nightmare Fuel

002: Remembering that scene in The Exorcist where Regan crab walks backwards down the stairs.
Fun fact: Since I was born in the ’80s, I didn’t see The Exorcist in theaters. And unbeknownst to me, the version I rented at the Hollywood Video (RIP video stores) on Santa Fe and 15th in 2002 was the director’s cut. So, I got all manner of additional scary things that, while cinematically problematic, were HELLA TERRIFYING. One of those things is the scene where Regan comes down the stairs, crab walking backwards in her nightgown. It’s kind of a throwaway scene, just because there’s no shots of other characters reacting to it, and it cuts away super fast and isn’t mentioned again. But it’s still scary, and not a great thing to think about just as you’re dozing off at night.

Nightmare Fuel

003: Walking my dog in my historic, tree-filled neighborhood after dark.
Sometimes, I’ll go out at night, and when I get home, I have to walk Rosie one more time. This wouldn’t be necessary, but SOMEBODY refuses to poop in the backyard and MUST do so in the yards of neighbors. (I’m not a monster — I bag it up.) Anyway, this means that I find myself walking the dog along dark sidewalks and under the branches of trees that have been around for at least a hundred years. And this means I see things hiding behind those trees. Sure, Rosie would probably alert me if something was going on, but she’s also kind of a jerk who would probably befriend the Slenderman-like entity who is following us all around the district.

(Side note: Slenderman probably lives in Norman, Oklahoma. Slenderman probably enrolled at OU, but dropped out after a couple of years. He’s probably a townie now that lives in that old neighborhood behind Griffin Memorial Hospital, and he DEFINITELY shops at the Walmart on 12th and drinks at Opie’s. And he follows me and Rosie around on our walks.)

004: Google searching for pictures of ghosts.
I don’t know why I do this, but I do it a lot. I just want to see if any new ones come up, because I’m pretty sure we’re real close to the point where the camera on your smart phone has like eleventy-billion megapixels, and can totally pick up ghosts.

If you’re the type of person who is easily frightened, I don’t recommend you do this. Those pictures are hella scary, and at least 85% of them are fake. So, not only do you wind up terrified, but you don’t get the real pictures you’re looking for.

005: Assuming the drunken revelry of my college-age neighbors is actually supernatural entities.
There is nothing quite so terrifying as being torn from a dead sleep by the sound that is the banshee cackle/crying of a drunk college girl. My college-age neighbors like to hang out in their driveway at night, which just happens to be eight feet from my bedroom window. And apparently they like to drink Skinny Girl Margaritas, if I’m reading the garbage pile beneath my bedroom window correctly. They drink, they laugh and cry, and I wake up. And when I do wake up, it’s with a pulse of 180 because I’M TERRIFIED BY THAT SOUND. This pretty much guarantees that when I do fall back asleep, I have a nightmare that includes the sound of their shrieks.

nightmare fuel

Source

006: Seeing the Avery White Rascal beer label.
This has always scared me, but I just remembered about it because someone sent me a snap of it with the caption that it was his nickname in high school. Just look at that devil and tell me you won’t see it dancing in the corners of your room when you’re trying to sleep.

ghost pictures

007: Washing my face.
Yeah. So, remember my real life ghost pictures? It’s still an issue.

Nightmare Fuel

008: Thinking about how the demon from Paranormal Activity followed that woman her whole life and didn’t just haunt one particular house.
Sure, I live in fear that the 90-year-old home I’m renting is haunted by the first owners. But I live in more fear of the idea that an evil ghost/demon could JUST FOLLOW ME WHEREVER I WENT. That’s not something you should think about as you’re shutting your brain down at the end of the day, but well, I do it anyway.

009: My dog being a creepo.
So, Rosie and I share a bedroom, which is generally pretty cool. I like having her nearby, and if she can see me, she’s not so anxious. The only times that it sucks to keep your dog’s bed near your bed are when you wake up to find your dog staring at you, or when your dog makes terrible genital licking sounds that integrate into your dreams. Basically, Rosie either wakes up in the middle of the night and just stares at me until I wake up. Or, she makes a sound that my brain will conjure up creepy images to — like intestines being squished into a tree trunk. (I literally dreamt that the last time she went on a midnight lick-bender.)

010: Watching Snapchats and Insta Stories that are too much like found footage horror films.
Okay. So, I follow this YouTube makeup vlogger on Snapchat because she leads the sort of life that I never will. (You know, wears makeup that you can’t get at CVS, jets around to fancy events in New York for Sephora, and washes her hair more than once every two weeks.) Anyway, she posted a snap of her attempting to catch a plane at LAX, and it was of her running through the airport. But it was so much like a found footage horror movie (á la Blair Witch) that I started to worry about what I’d get a glimpse of just in the corner of the frame. And I went to bed that night imagining that scenario.

Nightmare fuel guaranteed to keep you up all night! Click To Tweet

Real talk: Even though I’ve just admitted all the things that scare me, I’m about to start binge watching past seasons of American Horror Story, and I’m definitely going to see IT in theaters very soon. So, I guess get ready for more blog posts about nightmare fuel!

What sort of self-defeating things do you do when it’s time for bed? What scares you? What’s your nightmare fuel?

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31
Aug 17

Reading People by Anne Bogel: A Personality Handbook for Fiction Writers

I was selected as a member of the launch team for Reading People by Anne Bogel, and I was really excited to dive in. I received a free advanced copy of the book in exchange for some social media buzz and bloggy love.

Reading People by Anne Bogel is a great book for writers who want to learn about different personalities they can give their characters.

Full disclosure: I’ve never been into personality typing, and the book is basically a survey course in the subject. I’d read little things about personality types, but I never cared. In fact, in high school we had to take a personality test to determine what sort of major we should pick in college. (I think it was a cheap knock-off of the Myers-Briggs test.) The result I got was writer or teacher, which was no surprise to me then. Basically, I’m so introverted and spend so much time digging around inside my head that I always know what I want.

(I do get fairly irritated when people say they don’t know what they want, though. LIKE HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?! YOU LIVE WITH YOURSELF. SIT DOWN AND FIGURE IT OUT.)

Anyway. Here I am now, working as a writer and a teacher. Thanks, cut-rate MBTI test from high school!

Did you have to take the poor man's MBTI test in high school? Click To Tweet

So all of this probably sounds like I’m the worst possible person to review Reading People.

FALSE.

Here’s the deal. As a writer, I’m enamored with different personalities. I create characters that get to play off one another, and I have to understand how different personalities can clash. (I’ve even thought about what kind of character I’d like to be in fiction!)

Reading People by Anne Bogel

Sure, you could create a story with some tired archetypes — “I wonder how this uptight librarian might converse with a swashbuckling pirate?” While I’ve never read that particular story before, I’d really want those characters to be more than just two stereotypes. Instead, you could look to the different personality types and the tests used for quantifying them to get the most out of your characters and conflict.

And that is why I’m wholeheartedly endorsing Reading People by Anne Bogel as a writer’s field guide for creating new and different characters.

What makes Reading People different?

I took a personality psychology class in grad school, and to say it was arduous was an understatement. But I really enjoyed making my way through Reading People. Why? Well here’s the thing about Anne Bogel’s writing: It’s like watching your favorite PBS show. (If PBS were to create a show about drinking warm beverages and talking about books, I’d recommend Anne to host. PBS hasn’t contacted me to discuss this, but I thought I’d throw this out there.)

Anne is always informative AND friendly. She doesn’t talk down to you in her book or on her blog, ModernMrsDarcy.com. In fact, her style is basically like meeting with a friend for coffee and just chatting.

And the kicker here for all you bookish fiends — my homegirl doesn’t just explain the personality types using basic descriptions. She tells you which of your favorite characters fit into what types! It’s the best because not only do you start to really see what the different personality frameworks mean, but since you’ve already been in that character’s head (if you’ve read the book), you get that insight into the personality type she’s describing!

Reading People by Anne Bogel

Why do fiction writers need Reading People?

For me, one of the biggest things I struggle with is making my characters fully-formed humans. Sure, my protagonist is fleshed out to the max, so much so that sometimes I see them on the street when I’m walking to work. But my others characters?

Not so much.

Reading People by @AnneBogel is a good resource for creating characters! #ReadingPeopleBook Click To Tweet

Stories need characters, and those characters have to experience conflicts. And what better way to figure out how to get two characters to butt heads than by figuring out which personality types butt heads?

So in order to figure out how my protagonist would interact with others, it’s great to have access to all those personality frameworks in an enjoyable-to-read book. Also, you’d be hard-pressed to find another book that covers introversion vs. extroversion, highly sensitive people, the Five Love Languages, Keirsey’s Temperaments, the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Clifton StrengthsFinder, and the Enneagram. This book is functionally a complete survey of the topic.

For example, I’ve been working on a scene in a novel where there is a lot of tension between a two characters who obviously like each other, but struggle expressing that to the other person in a way that they other person responds to. I made one of the characters a words of affirmation love language, and the other one is a physical touch love language.

(Clearly my characters need to read this book too so we can get over the tension and just get on with the story!)

And while this isn’t something I state in the actual text, it’s there in the planning and plotting phases to help me craft the story.

How can you get your hands on Reading People by Anne Bogel?

Reading People doesn’t come out until September 19 so you should pre-order now. If you pre-order, you get the audiobook free — read by Anne — and the online “What’s Your Reading Personality?” class.

Reading People by Anne Bogel

Have you pre-ordered your copy of #ReadingPeopleBook by @AnneBogel yet? Click To Tweet

So, tell me. What’s your favorite personality typing framework? What two personality types would you like to see in conflict in fiction? Did you also have to take the poor man’s MBTI test in high school? 

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28
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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23
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

Purpose
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.

Audience
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.

Facts
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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15
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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