What Maya Angelou Taught Me

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I have been a longtime admirer of Maya Angelou.  She has been a favorite of mine ever since my love of poetry blossomed in elementary school.  I tend to revisit a few of her most famous works when I am in need of hope or inspiration.  A couple weeks ago I had the urge to read Phenomenal Woman, Caged Bird and Still I Rise.  Every time I read them I am filled with gratitude that she put these words together.  I feel empowered.

She taught me to never let this cruel world break my spirit.  I am the first one to admit that I am a sensitive soul.  I often think the best of people even when this may not be the case.  I still believe that the world is mostly full of good people.  I am naive.

Sometimes, I wonder if I need to readjust my attitude or maybe adopt a more realistic view of the world and its inhabitants.  But that would require me to change my own character.  When I read quotes from Dr. Maya Angelou I am reminded to keep my head up in a negative world.  I am reminded that I must stay true to myself.  I am reminded that the world needs people who continue to love in an unlovable world.  We are all humans sharing the same space.  It is not a sign of weakness to be kind to unkind people.

So, thank you Maya Angelou for lifting me up when I needed it and reminding me that it’s okay to be me.

 

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Smartphones are Running our Lives and Five Ways to Detox from Technology

 

Have you ever thought about what life was like pre-cell phone?

I grew up right on the cusp of the cell phone boom.  My senior year of high school I shared a motorola flip phone with my mom.  I kept it on me for emergencies and generally used the landline for making calls. ( I had a Garfield phone in my bedroom which is a totally irrelevant point, I just want everyone to know I had a Garfield phone.)  Before that, I had one of those phones that came in a huge bag that had to be plugged into the car.  I’m pretty sure it charged 8$ for a 30 second phone call.    In college I had a cell phone but reception was so bad in Kalamazoo that I didn’t really receive calls, I only received voicemails.

Then, within a span of a couple years, Verizon decided to take over the cellphone game and put up towers everywhere.  Smartphones were starting to become  mainstream and texting was becoming ‘a thing’.  By my mid-twenties I was using my phone for pictures, texting and GPS.  Nowadays, I am typing this on the computer while my phone sits in front of me because I am texting all day.  I am checking facebook periodically.  I am scrolling through Pinterest.  I am taking pictures and Instagramming.  I am addicted to my phone.  In fact, everyone is addicted to their phone to some degree.  But, the attachment I have is nothing compared to the all consuming addiction I see in people that are younger than me.

For a lot of adults and the majority of teenagers, life does not happen unless it is documented on your phone through facebook, snapchat, instagram, the list goes on.  This terrible habit is never more glaringly obvious than when I attend a concert.

Every time I go to a concert, it gets worse.  last week, I had the privilege of seeing Lana Del Rey at the Masonic Temple in Detroit.  The second that she walked onto stage 85% of the people in attendance had their phones up to document the whole thing.  I’m not trying to say that cell phones shouldn’t be used to take any pictures or videos at all.  I would have taken a picture or two if my phone hadn’t died earlier in the night.  In fact, it was a blessing in disguise because it wasn’t an option to use it at all.  Thus, the distraction was completely gone for me.  It also allowed me to completely focus on the concert.  I actually had a great sense of freedom.  I felt sorry for all the people that were slaves to their cell phones.

Instead of making a memory, they were trying to capture the physical memory with their phone.  They were seeing the concert through a screen.  Does anyone even go back and watch the video that they took?  Do they print out pictures from the concert and look at it with a nostalgic feeling, or do they look at it and just remember that they were so focused on capturing something that told everyone where they were or what they were doing?  The couple next to me were taking selfies during the concert.  When the girl walked away, her boyfriend sat down and started scrolling through facebook.  My guess is that he was there because his girlfriend wanted him there, but I still can’t imagine needing to see what people are saying on facebook over watching live music.

The pictures that I’ve taken at concerts have never actually left my phone.  I ended up deleting them to make space for more important pictures.    Why would anyone re-watch a video of a concert that they were actually at?  Especially when it’s the bootleg quality that comes off of a cellphone?

Sometimes, I wish that smartphones didn’t exist.  I am guilty of using my cellphone to fill the space during commercials or really any space where I have nothing to hold my attention.  It is a sad state to be in.  I am owned by this technology and I am missing the real world around me.  Have you ever thought about how exhausting it is to have to update your social life?  Or how long it takes to set up plans through texting?  It’s really fucking difficult.

When I see someone on the street, walking and staring at their cellphone, I want to shake them and scream “you are missing EVERYTHING!”  The cat video can wait.  Actually, it doesn’t even need to be seen at all unless it is literally a cat that sprouted wings and is flying around.  Because we’ve all seen it.  We’ve seen everything.  And it’s at our fingertips.  It’s making us rude.  Impatient.  Selfish.

Which is why I have come up with 5 exercises to help us detox from our cellphone addiction.

1.  Go for a walk sans cellphone.  

You don’t have to go for a five mile hike without it, I’m just suggesting a walk around the block.  But you MUST leave it at home.  Don’t even give yourself the temptation.  If something happens, like a rabid squirrel attack, there will be someone around who will call 911 for you.

2. Turn it off during concerts.

Take one picture.  I mean it-ONLY ONE.  Don’t take a picture of the performer singing your favorite song.  It won’t translate through the picture.  It will actually look like shit.  Just stop.  Seriously, I will knock it out of your hands.  After you take ONE PICTURE, turn it off and don’t look at it until the concert is over.  There’s no need to text, tweet, facebook or take phone calls during a concert.  You bought these tickets to be present with the music.

3.  No cell phones on the table during any meals.

Leave them in your purse.  If someone doesn’t have a purse to put their phone in than take it and put it in your purse.   You are in real life, with real people, sharing a real meal.  Don’t ignore the people in front of you.  Don’t take a picture of what you are eating because no one cares what you are eating.  Seriously, it’s food.

4.  Go a day without looking at or posting on social media.

I know, this one is difficult.  Maybe start with just one social media site.  So, let’s say that on a daily basis you check or post of facebook, twitter, instagram and snapchat.  Decide that on one day you will not open twitter.  Then, maybe when you build up the strength you can eliminate two for a day.  The trick is to slowly ween ourselves off of having to incessantly check.  Let’s get our lives back, people!

5.  Make a phone call instead of texting.

If you are trying to set up plans with someone, I promise it will go much smoother if you just call that person.  You will have to text back and forth 800 times to figure out exactly where you want to go.  Plus, it won’t kill you to have a little bit more human interaction.

So go forth into the world and use your own set of eyes.  Experience things as they happen and don’t feel like you have to document everything.  Keep things for you and only you.  Make memories that don’t include everyone on facebook or twitter.

I miss the ocean.

I miss the ocean.

I’m sick and tired of complaining about this Michigan Winter but REALLY?! This morning, I awoke to a fresh coat of white snow. I knew it before I looked out the window. My bedroom was deceivingly bright when I opened my eyes.

Nope, not sunshine….

Snow.

Until Spring decides to actually show its beautiful face I will daydream about what it feels like to have a sufficient amount of vitamin D inside my body.

I snapped this shot a few weeks ago in a parallel universe we like to call Florida. Specifically -Marco Island. It’s hard to imagine that a place exists right now that can produce an 80 degree day. It’s real, people. And Emerson just knows how to say it best….

Enjoy!

Writing the teenage voice-it’s really hard when you aren’t a teenager

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am actively participating in NaNoWriMo.   I am writing a young adult novel which involves teenagers (obviously).  I happen to LOVE young adult novels.  Seriously, can’t get enough.  So why not write one, right?

So, I’m just chugging right along until I have to write teenage dialogue….

Let me put this in perspective.  I have not been a teenager in almost 12 years. (HOLY SHIT I’M TURNING 30 IN LIKE 3 MONTHS) anyways…

I understand that in writing we have to write in the voice of other people ALL THE TIME.  I get that.  And I want it to be believable.

But when I think about teenage boys and what they probably sound like most of the time in real life I make this face….

Sometimes they are totally gross, right?!  People don’t want to read a book where the love interest is talking about doritos and boobs all the time.

So, I’m exaggerating quite a bit.

But, how do you find a balance between realistic characters and what people want to read?   Obviously, the love interest in my story is a teenage boy.  How do you make that person sound like a teenager while also being everything that the reader wants in a book crush?

Also, kids these days are pretty dang sophisticated and I don’t want to sound like some idiot pretending to be a teenager. ( I’ve read books like that and it’s not pretty.)

Girls are also WAY more mature than they were when I was a teenager.  It’s also very different now in terms of social media.  I think that the advancement of technology has completely changed the way that kids are growing up and is also forcing a lot to grow up quicker.

But no matter what, it’s a confusing age.

It’s also pretty amazing.

 

I think most of us remember it kind of like this….

Do you have any tips for writing in a teenage voice?

A case for sad stories: ‘The Fault in our Stars’ effect

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I was inspired to explore the reasons behind why I (and millions of others) are drawn towards ‘sad’ novels after reading a facebook status update from John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars. Here it is:

Sad day, man. I never really understood how sad the book is until now. Why did I make it so sad? Why have so many people read it? #tfiosmovie #tfios

If you don’t already ‘like’ him on facebook, you probably should.  He really has some lovely things to say and gives TFIOS fans a behind the scenes look at the adaptation of his book.  They are currently filming in Pittsburgh.

I can’t answer the first question.  Why did I make it so sad?  Only the writer can answer that.  I am certain that he has felt enough emotion or sadness in his life to convey such strong feelings through his writing and in such a courageous way.

I do agree with his statement that the book is incredibly sad.  If you haven’t heard of it or read it here’s the one sentence description from his website:

The Fault in Our Stars is the story of Hazel Lancaster and Augustus Waters, two Indianapolis teenagers who meet at a Cancer Kid Support Group.

Yes, the ultimate of sad story lines.  Kids with cancer.  To be rivaled only by stories wherein beloved pets die.  (Why do authors do that shit?  That’s just torture.)

After reading it, I had to tell everyone how much I adored it and of course that they HAD to read it.  But that came with a giant disclaimer.  This book will rip your heart out.  Then I would have to explain myself after getting weird looks.  And it did rip my heart out, but only in the best way possible.  I’m officially coining the term for what happened to me after I read it: The Fault in our Stars effect. I was flooded with IMMENSE gratitude.

Yes, I had a 10 minute sobfest.  I texted my boyfriend something gushy and weird and I’m pretty sure he responded with you just finished that sad book you keep talking about, didn’t you?  And I had.  After finishing up a good cry, I was struck by how lucky I am.  How wonderful life is.  I have my health.  I have fantastic people in my life.  The book made me see these things I sometimes take for granted in perfect focus.  Yes, TFIOS effect.

This is one of the reasons why I love a sad story.  But that’s not all.  Sometimes I read for a good escape, but that’s not the magical part of reading.  It’s magic when the author says something that truly resonates inside of you and you think yes, you really get it.  John Green really gets it.  All the while capturing the beautiful innocence of first love.  There’s some fantastic dark humor in there too, which I think is particularly important to keep the reader laughing through their tears.

It is a privilege to share something so beautiful with other readers, read their comments and think that maybe we have all collectively divided our sadnesses.

This is my case for sad stories.  Read them.  I beg of you.  Start here with TFIOS.  You may see things in a different light or find comfort.  You will probably cry.  Don’t read in a public space, just to be safe.