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Mesothelioma Awareness Month: My Small Tribute to Cameron & Heather

23 Sep

Cam_Lil_HVSJ

I was honored when Cameron reached out to me and shared his family’s touching story. Eight years ago, his wife, Heather, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Three months after she gave birth to their daughter, Lily, Heather was told she only had 15 months to live. Could you imagine being given an expiration date? Well, she was. But, after a life-saving surgery, which included the removal of her left lung, she is alive and thriving more than ever. Below is a picture of the blessed family.

Since Heather is one a survivor of the rare cancer, their family made it their lives’ mission to spread awareness of mesothelioma, which is a preventable disease that takes so many innocent lives. In honor of the 10th annual Mesothelioma Awareness Day (which is September 26th) they reached out to me to help spread the word by dedicating a blog post to share some eye-opening fats about mesothelioma.

“Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer that attacks the lining of the body cavity called the mesothelium. The only known cause to mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Asbestos exposure was first linked to mesothelioma cancer in 1964. Worldwide mesothelioma cases are expected to reach their peak around the year 2020. Mesothelioma commonly sits dormant in the body for 20-50 years after initial exposure to asbestos. 80% of all mesothelioma cases occur within the lining of the lungs. There are two other recognized types; peritoneal mesothelioma occurring in the abdominal lining, and pericardial mesothelioma occurring in the heart’s lining. Between 2,500 and 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year. On average, they are given 10 months to live. Mesothelioma is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 50 and 70, but it is not uncommon among younger generations who may have experienced second hand exposure. Mesotheliom incidence in women is on the rise because many women experienced second hand exposure from parents or spouses who worked closely with asbestos.” –Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance facts and statistics

On the culprit: Asbestos

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is classified as a known human carcinogen, because of its association with mesothelioma. On average, 30 million pounds of asbestos are still being used in the United States today. The substance can still be found in many homes, schools, and commercial or industrial buildings. Even 30 years after the peak of its use, asbestos still remains as the number one cause of occupational cancer in the United States. During the 1930’s until the late 1970’s asbestos was at its peak production and use. US Navy veterans who served during World War II and the Korean Conflict have the highest probability of having asbestos related health problems. Asbestos is used as building material in several developing countries throughout the world, including India and Brazil. Industrialized nations such as China, Russia, and Canada also continue to mine and use asbestos as material for consumer products. On July 12, 1989, the EPA issued a final rule banning most asbestos-containing products. In 1991, this regulation was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. As a result of the Court’s decision, only a few asbestos-containing products remain banned. This year 10,000 Americans will die of asbestos-related diseases such as lung cancer or mesothelioma and 200,000 people will be living with asbestos. To this day, asbestos is still found in many schools, homes, commercial, and industrial buildings. Asbestos was once used in common household items such as toasters, hairdryers, and over 3,000 other consumer products. The EPA estimates that there are asbestos containing materials in most of the nation’s approximately 107,000 primary and secondary schools and 733,000 public and commercial buildings.” –Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance facts and statistics

My ex-boyfriend used to work in flooring. He had to wear face masks sometimes, but only when it was known that asbestos was under the tiles. It’s extremely dangerous for people to do this type of work for that reason. I remember he got pretty sick once, and we were both worried it could have been from asbestos exposure. So, asbestos isn’t as rare as you might think. It could be under the tiles in your house. Keep this in mind when considering remodeling your home.

“Asbestos may be found in many different products and many different places. Generally, any of the following materials* installed before 1981 are presumed to contain asbestos:

Sprayed on fire proofing and insulation in buildings

Insulation for pipes and boilers

Wall and ceiling insulation

Ceiling tiles

Floor tiles

Putties, caulks, and cements (such as in chemical carrying cement pipes)

Roofing shingles

Siding shingles on old residential buildings

Wall and ceiling texture in older buildings and homes

Joint compound in older buildings and homes

Plasters

Brake linings and clutch pads

* this listing is not complete

Buildings constructed prior to 1981 will have asbestos postings in most mechanical rooms.” –Princeton University Environmental Health & Safety

I hate to ask the obvious question here, but if Mesothelioma is preventable, and people are aware how dangerous asbestos is, then why are they still using it?!?!?! Where is the common sense in this?

The stats are frightening, and while I never believe in people receiving expiration dates, I do believe in miracles. Heather beat the odds, so if you or a loved one is living with mesothelioma, there is always hope. Miracles happen. People are saved every day. Heather is a prime example.

Heather- my heart goes out to you and your blessed family. Thank you, Heather and Cameron, for sharing your story with me. I wish your family nothing but the best life has to offer. I only hope this blog post will reach at least one person in some way.

The 10th annual Mesothelioma Awareness Day is Friday, September 26th. Help spread the word on Mesothelioma Awareness! You never know. It could end up saving someone’s life. Knowledge is power.

Links:

http://www.mesothelioma.com/

http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather/awareness

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Writing, Wishing to Write, or Wondering if You Should Have Ever Written at all?

19 Sep

After finally revising the first novel in my fantasy trilogy for the, oh I don’t know, thousandth time, it’s finally time to start querying agents again. But, now that I’ve started, and I’ve received a request for a partial manuscript, it’s starting to terrify me. I’m writing the third and final book in the series as we speak, which I’ve been wishing to write for some time now. Before I could, I knew I had to go back to the first book and give her an old fixer upper. A SERIOUS revision. I’m not talking about simple editing for mistakes here and there. I mean…I changed the entire POV. The first book was written in the first person POV, and the second book was written in the third POV. By the time I sat down to write the third book, I realized how wrong it truly was.

I looked myself in the mirror one day and told myself it had to be done. It needed to be changed. So, I dreaded it for a few weeks, and then I got to it. A few months later, I finally finished. I re-wrote the entire first book, not only changing the POV but strengthening each sentence the best I could. When I tell you it felt like it would never end, I mean it. However, I’m glad to report that it is done, and I am so much more satisfied with the first book than I ever was before. I smartened up my main character, and was able to add in certain foreshadowing for events and characters that are introduced in the third book. It was easier because I already know what’s (basically) going to happen in the third book.

With all this being said, I still have to revise the second book, but I’ve decided to put that on hold and just finish the third book already. Honestly, I can’t consider revising another novel right now. It gives me a headache to simply think about doing it.

I’m about to start chapter 5 of the third book. I am confident that the final book will be the best one, which is starting to frighten me a bit. I ask myself, shouldn’t they all be equally as exciting? Are they? Now that I’ve revamped the first book, I know I owe it to the second book to make it just as page-turning, but it’s daunting. The third book is off to an exciting start, and I have people waiting to read it who have been pressuring me for months.

This leads to me to the most terrifying aspect of it all: the dreaded series in general. I started watching True Blood, and although I’ve never read any of the novels, I started looking up on the internet which was better: the books or the show. This was the worst mistake I could have made. First, let me just state that typically I think the book is better than the movie (although sometimes the movie can be better). You just get so much more out of reading the book, mainly the character’s inner thoughts or desires. You also get to have more fun imagining what the character looks like in your head. I’m going off topic. Let me get back on it.

When I started googling about True Blood vs. the novels, I found all of these websites with chats and discussions and interviews. But one site I pulled up made me feel quite sick, actually. It said that the author had been receiving death threats for the way she ended the final book in the series. I don’t mean a few, I mean, A LOT. It said she even wasn’t going on tour for the final book to basically avoid the hatred coming her way.

This is the problem with a series, for me, and why I never wanted to write one. First of all, I’ve been hooked on series, and when they end, I’m always so…sad inside. I want the author to write more. I want it to last forever to fulfill my desires to read more of the characters and/or the world they live in. I never wanted to do that to my readers. And, if it’s a good series, readers will want more. And if you end it in the way they don’t want it, then what? Seriously, death threats??? Second, when you begin to write a series (as I’ve discovered), the world you create and the characters that inhabit it have the potential to go on forever. And I mean forever. Hell, I could probably write a book on each of my characters’ lives before my protagonist stumbled into their world. Third, I keep reading that you should never pitch a series to an agent. Pitch the first book, and that’s it. IF it ever gets published, mention the idea for a series. But, I can’t grasp this idea. For starters, because some agents take months to get back to you. By the time I finished my first book, queried agents, and then heard back from them all, I had already written the second book. So, all of those rejections kind of stung. But now, I see why all of the agents said no. The book was a baby. It wasn’t ready to be born. It was so new, so early in its stages of development. But I have to say I disagree with the notion of holding back your story on the hopes that the first book will be picked up. Aren’t we writing to tell the stories that must be told? Aren’t we writing what inspires us, and aren’t we inspiring others with what we write? If so, why wait? If every writer who wrote a series waited to hear back from agents before they wrote the second, third, fourth, or even fifth book, I wonder if there would have ever been a second book. I can’t lie, the rejections that come in don’t necessarily inspire you to continue to write the book that continuously gets rejected. But, I can’t help it, I believe in it. So every “no” I get makes me feel closer to a “yes”. Cliché? Sorry.

But now…now that I’ve started querying again, I can’t help but feel terrified. What if the agents reject it this time after all the work I’ve put into it? Try again in five years, maybe? With a different title? The worst question I ask myself in my head is: is this all a waste of time? As soon as that thought enters, I kick it out. I actually punt it like a mental football. Because, well, writing something you love is never a waste of time, even if it never sees shelves in a bookstore. I write because I love to. Because I want to. Because I need to. And even though right now, and for the past two and a half years, only people who are close to me have read it, it’s more than enough. Because they’ve enjoyed it. I’ve seen them grow to be attached to the characters and love them as much as I do, even when they weren’t as mature as they are now. And if I can make one person’s day and/or night more thrilling just by reading one of my books, then it’s all been worth it. Not to mention, if I wasn’t writing this trilogy the last few years, I’d have no excuse not to be in a relationship right now. Christmas in sweat pants, here I come!

Happy Valentine’s Day to the Lovers & the Loners

15 Feb

Happy Valentine’s Day to all the lovers and the loners out there. To those who have someone and those who don’t.

For anyone who didn’t have someone to kiss today, or someone’s hand to hold, it’s alright. Neither did I. But life is not necessarily about needing someone else. It’s about being with someone who makes you whole. Someone who makes you better. So just because you’re not with that person today doesn’t mean you won’t ever find them.

I heard a lyric once that really stuck with me:

‘They say love is a trap door that you really can’t look for’

(It’s a song by Dia Frampton (half of Meg & Dia) called Love Can Come From Anywhere. She did an exceptionally amazing rendition of ‘Heartless’ by Kanye West too. She was playing piano and singing. Three words: Look it up.)

Anyway, those lyrics stuck with me for a few reasons. For starters, it’s unbelievably accurate. Love can come out of nowhere. One moment, you’re walking down the street and the next moment, time stops. It sounds cheesy, but yes, it does happen like that sometimes. And there are a few things you need to know to be prepared when it happens. If you come across someone who stops you dead in your tracks and you look at each other, feeling as if you know each other, or want to know each other, then it’s a sign. Seize it. Because just as fast as it can come, it can disappear, leaving you wondering ‘what if I had…’ 

Another reason those lyrics hit me so hard is because I see so many people, searching for love, and through any and all mediums. Bars. Internet sites. Everything. While I’m not knocking those approaches to finding love, I think love is something you really can’t go on a mission to find. It’s just one of those things you have to be open and ready for, for it to find you.

Sorry if this post is a little corny. I’m going to end it by saying I think adults are all just little kids that grew up. As I get older, I realize this is at least the way it should be. Keeping a child-like spirit alive in your heart is what keeps us young. It’s what keeps us open to receiving certain signs. If you lose your innocent, honest perspective of the world around you, you miss a lot of things.

My father has passed a lot of wisdom down to me over the years. I was complaining of getting older, and he told me two things I’d never forget:

1. Getting older sucks, sure, but it beats the hell out of the alternative.

2. Don’t look at a birthday and getting a year older as something you dread, look at it like you survived another year. It’s something to celebrate.

I took these two pieces of advice and mixed them with my own interpretations of getting older, but keeping my fresh outlook on life similar to a child’s. I have a license to drive. I can eat ice cream for dinner if I want. Sh#t, I can do whatever I want in life! And that’s pretty damn cool.

I used to go back and forth, from having a negative outlook on life and then back to a positive one. It’s easy to continue thinking negatively once you start. But it’s a hell of a lot easier being optimistic. Especially when you realize you don’t have much to complain about, because the only one you can blame for having a sh#tty life, is yourself.

So cheers to being an adult in a (somewhat) adult body. And to people still thinking I’m seventeen because I’m so darn little. Thanks, genetics.

Let’s eat some f#%$ing cupcakes already!

Why the Past isn’t Something to Regret

11 Feb

 

I’ve strayed off the topic of love and relationships for a while. One reason being that I found myself pretty loveless for a while, or at least jaded. I wanted so desperately to believe I had found my soul mate and everything I was missing in life had been discovered. Wrong.

But I did discover a few things. You can find love in life, just as quickly as you can lose it. You can meet someone to turn your entire world into something completely different than what it was. It can be moving, changing, unexplainable. It can make you happier than you ever remember feeling before.

And when it disappears, it can leave you almost even worse than you were before. But was I miserable before? No. Well, maybe. But I was more miserable with the fact that I was torn in two different directions of where my life could possibly go.

Now let me bring up the topic of destiny once again. Yes, I believe everything happens for a reason. And something confirmed my belief in it again today.

I walk my dog every day. Every day.

 

Image

(Me and Pudgy)

As you can see, she’s a (drop dead gorgeous) Siberian husky. She has more energy than I do, surprisingly, and if I don’t walk her every day, I think she’d go a little bit insane. Now, to walk her, I put her on a harness. One reason for this is she will pull me to death if I have her on a regular leash. Another reason is I don’t want to choke the poor girl. The harness is a win-win situation. She can’t pull, and I can’t choke her on accident.

Today, I got dressed with my endless amounts of layers and prepared for the walk. I had my gloves, my scarf, and my hat already on, but for some nagging reason I decided I should change my sweatshirt. So I went upstairs and changed in a matter of a few minutes, and when I came back down, the harness was off of her, on the ground. A piece of it, by the loop where I attach the leash, had ripped in half.

Now, it may seem insignificant, but if I had walked her at the moment I was about to, the harness would have torn outside and she would have gotten God knows how far. I live on a pretty busy street. She could have been hit by a car, or ran straight to Main Street which is even more dangerous. It could have ripped during our thirty minute walk today, or yesterday, or the day before. But it happened today; while she was safe inside.

It confirmed my belief in destiny for a few reasons. One is if I hadn’t had the gut feeling to change my sweatshirt, it would have torn outside and who the hell knows what would have happened. Two- I happened to have a sewing machine to fix it. Three- that little old time in my life where I was (maybe somewhat) miserable, was when I was deciding whether I should pursue fashion design or writing.

It all comes down to this: our past choices lead us to who/where we are today. Even though I decided to pursue writing, my true love, over fashion design, having the skills I acquired in sewing have helped me help a lot of people. It has given me great joy in my life to make collections and show them in fashion shows. I still love designing and sewing. If I never pursued fashion design, I wouldn’t have had a sewing machine today to fix my dog’s harness.

But for me, it was easier to take that route then to admit my true passion, which is writing. When I finally decided to grow some balls and go after what I wanted in life, everything changed. Sure, I had self-published a few books here and there, but I didn’t really commit to writing 100% like I have now.

I realized that in order to make my dreams come true, I had to have the courage to admit what my real dreams were. I had to face the fact that people have told me it’s nearly impossible to make a living as a writer, and they were going to tell me it again, possibly forever. But you know what I tell them? People think everything is impossible. And it is, of course, if you don’t ever try to achieve it.

I don’t think the past is anything to regret. Sure, we’ve all made f#%&ing mistakes. Some may have been pretty bad, or embarrassing. Some may make us cringe every time we think about them. But our past choices lead us to where we are today. And you realize, maybe it wasn’t such a f%^kup after all. Maybe it all happened for a reason.

So I may have lost love, a few times, and I may still be learning how to love myself, but today- I’m going to love what I do. And that makes all the difference. 

The Perks of Being Anti-Social

10 Feb

 

Wait…what? Are there any perks? I often get a little confused when I’m asked: are you an introvert or an extrovert? Because often times, more than 99% of the time, I’m introverted. I prefer to stay home, alone, reading or writing or watching a movie and spending time doing things that I like to do. What a lot of people (who aren’t writers) don’t understand about the writing process is that it takes time; a LOT of time. You can read a book in a day or two, but could you write one that fast? Typically, no.

It takes hours to write 10 pages sometimes. Other times, if you’re really into it, you can write 10 pages in less than two hours. It depends on the flow of the writing. Sometimes you can sit there and stare at a blank page for at least an hour, thinking about butterflies and monkeys, and then remember that you have to write something but you forgot what you wanted to write. Don’t you hate that?

Being introverted doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re anti-social. Sometimes, I’m anti-social by preference. I might just not want to be around other people. I might prefer to be alone, getting things done. But I can also be extroverted, at certain times. If I’m out somewhere and I feel comfortable with the people surrounding me (even if they’re strangers), I can be highly outgoing. But in order for me to be this way, the people around me have to be my type of people. This includes but is not limited to: open-minded, funny, a bit sarcastic, non-judgmental, happy, good people. Other times, in other crowds, I can be quiet as if I don’t even know how to speak. This includes but is not limited to: closed-minded, judgmental, shallow, ignorant people.

Sometimes I just sit back and watch conversations unfold, thinking in my head how I’d hate to be a part of the conversation. I’m usually sitting there with a thought bubble of being home, kicking rocks, and how it’d be a sh#t load more fun than this.

Being stuck in a crowd of strangers can be really appealing at certain times. It can be fun. It can be an experience. You can meet new people, make new acquaintances, learn things, teach things, and just have a good time. Other times, it can be painstakingly awful. So you never know what you’re going to get until you go out and do them.

I used to be much more extroverted before I knew who I was. It was fun seeing all the different types of people out there. But then I realized that a lot of people just aren’t my cup of tea. And I don’t say that to seem above anyone. I am not above anyone. But I do believe there are a lot of people out there, who maybe don’t know who they are yet, or maybe they’re too afraid to be themselves. They then turn to ‘pleasing’ other people, trying to make them laugh with rude jokes or shallow comments. I just can’t co-sign that behavior. Side note: it’s not funny. It’s never funny to make jokes at someone else’s expense.

If you feel like you have to put other people down to get a laugh, maybe you should do some soul searching. Maybe you should try to envision back to when you were a child and had a dream. If you had one, maybe go for it. It’s never too late. If you never had one before, think about what the number one thing you want out of life is, and then go for it.

I have a lot of tattoos. A LOT. The looks I get from certain people are enough to make me think ‘you suck even worse than you think I suck’. As much as I hate to admit it, everyone is going to judge you. By what you wear, what you say, what you do, what piercings/tattoos you have. The trick is realizing that the people who judge you off the bat are people you don’t want in your life anyway. Chances are- they suck!

Isn’t the point of life to be who you are, regardless of what other people think?  That’s the point for me. If it’s not, what’s the point of being alive at all if we’re living for everyone else but ourselves? 

Anthology Submissions & Girls (In the Men’s Bathroom)

8 Feb

I’d like to discuss two things today. One is the fact that this year, I’ve decided it’s high time to start submitting my work to get published.  I’ll keep you all posted. This year’s goal is anthologies. I really need to start putting some work out there. I also want to start writing some more creative non-fiction, so I’m going to quit wanting to do it and just do it already. I’ve had a work in progress, if you can call it that, for a few months now.

Since my house foreclosed, I started thinking about creating a collection of essays of moving moments throughout that intense process. It was emotionally and physically draining, and I thought, yeah, why not? The first few essays have come out really good. And I want to keep moving with this. There is only one thing stopping me- the sequel to my fantasy novel. I have 86 pages right now. I know I need to finish this before I move on to the next project. I know, just sit down and write it already, right!? If I really pushed myself, I could probably finish that within the next month. So that’s my goal. The only problem is once you get even a little sidetracked from your work, it could be a stake through the heart of it. So I’m trying to focus here.

Second, I’d like to bring up the men’s bathroom for a moment. Girls, have you ever used a urinal? Don’t. I’ve been thinking about the time I went to one of my favorite restaurant/bars (they play live classic music, duh), and the girls bathroom was completely flooded. Obviously, I had to pee. Obviously. Obviously this would happen to me because that is just how the f#%&ing cookie crumbles.

I told my girlfriend to make sure no one came in the men’s room while I was in there. Lo and behold- it was a urinal. When you gotta go, you gotta go.

Let’s just say it was an experience.

And no girl should ever have to pee in a men’s urinal. We aren’t…equipped for it. Let’s say it was a lot of balancing followed by cursing.

Side note: I’m quitting smoking. Again. Hello, E-cig! Shut up. I don’t care if it’s “cheating”.

At least I didn’t resort to crack. 

The Natural Speed, Plus Problem Solving Tricks to Getting Sh#t Done.

7 Feb

 

 

B12. I’m going to say it one more time. B12. The Vitamin. Do you like energy but dislike taking drugs? If you like to get things done, have energy, and stay focused, but don’t want to take meth or Adderall, I suggest taking B12 Vitamins.

No, I’m not a paid sponsor. I just enjoy having energy and being able to get sh#t done.

Take a B12 and have some V8. Problem(s) solved!

Of course, this won’t cure the rest of the bullsh#t in your life. So, other problems will not be solved. But maybe you’ll have more energy to decide on things you need to decide on.

Also, while we’re on the subject of vitamins. Take some Vitamin C while you’re at it. Build up that immune system. The flu is going around, fool! Protect yo’self!

Of course, taking B12 and Vitamin C won’t help you actually get things done. You have to sit down and get them done. It has to be a conscious decision. You can’t rely on outside forces and supplements to change you, or motivate you. That has to come from within your deep, dark soul. Ha. Seriously though, I am so sick of people being unmotivated all the time. I know the weather sucks and it’s cold. But who cares, at least there’s not a tsunami happening.

Side note: I just spent a good 30-45 minutes salting the icy death trap leading to my house. I’m pretty sure the mailwoman didn’t deliver our mail today because she didn’t feel like slipping on the ice. I don’t blame her. I can’t lift the heavy bag of salt. So it was an entire back and forth to the car, loading up a pot with salt with a solo cup. Dumping the salt until I ran out. Going back to the car and filling the pot with more salt. And so on. Until the bag was light enough for me to lift.

Things in life happen like this. Problems will present themselves to us. It may seem complicated or impossible, but we have to figure out an alternative solution to get sh#t done.

I once dropped a ring down the sink drain at work. I was alone. No one was there to help me. I didn’t want to be the a$$hole who clogged the bathroom sink with a dollar store ring. So I found a solution. And although I may or may not have been electrocuted in the process, it worked.

We had a vacuum there. It basically ONLY had a long hose to suction sh#t up. So I plugged it in the bathroom, and put the hose on the drain. It sucked the ring right up. Problem solved.

And yes, if you’re wondering, I opened the grimy, dirty bag and got my ring out of the hairy, fuzzy, dirty mess. With my bare hand. Now that is courage. (Joking)

But really, in all seriousness, sh#t happens in life. What are you gonna do, give up when it does? No. We can’t. Because we’re human. We are “capable” of solving things. I use “capable” lightly, because I’ve seen a lot of people get stumped over silly things. I am no natural problem solver by any means. I have never been able to solve a rubik’s cube and I’m f#%&ing amazed when people do. My brothers are so good at putting sh#t together it baffles me. I’m terrible at math. I can’t build a house or even a bookshelf. But things that I am capable of doing, I do them. Because I’m not incapable of doing them. And that’s that.

Sh#t happens. If your worst problem of the day is that you ran out of conditioner while you were in the shower, your life doesn’t suck even though in that moment you think it does. If you ran out of socks, use a dirty pair. Who cares. 

Don’t look at life like it’s so hard that it’s nearly impossible. Because if it was easy and perfect, it wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. And we’d have nothing to write about.