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Dear BioWare, About Mass Effect Andromeda

In which I pen an heartfelt letter to my old flame about rekindling our love affair.

MassEffectAndromedalogo

(Originally posted on HeyPoorPlayer.com)

Hey guys, it’s been awhile. What can I say, the ending was rough. We both said things we didn’t mean, but don’t for a second think that means I ever stopped loving you.

I’ve been hearing bits and pieces about Mass Effect Andromeda and I felt like I needed to let you know that I’m glad you’re moving on. It’s been a bumpy road and we’ve lost some people along the way, but maybe this could be the fresh start we both needed? Here’s the thing though, for this to work there’s a few things I’m gonna need you to keep in mind.

Click here to read the rest

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Mental Health is About the Journey, Not the Destination

With the recent proclamation that May would be Mental Health Awareness Month I was pleased to see my peeps getting some representation. Even if, at the time I wasn’t feeling any particular solidarity with them.

See here’s the thing, I’m crazy. Okay, technically I’m not supposed to say that. The reason escapes me at the moment, but something about stigma? Generalization? Whatever, it gets across the basic idea that on some level my mind is wired wrong.

I have a therapist, and take lots of medicine. It took a long time for me to seek help and even longer before I saw real progress. I have what they call fast-cycling massive depression. For awhile one doctor even thought I might be bi-polar, which was exciting and terrifying. Being bi-polar is like the diabetes of mental health, manageable, but not really curable.

When I switched doctors and realized that I never had anything resembling mania the focus shifted to my anxiety and the depression. Kind of a self-fulfilling circle there. I was anxious about slipping back into depression, which could last weeks, which made me more likely to become depressed because of how worried I was about it.

Really quick, being depressed is not the same as being sad, not even a little. I tried going to a counselor and she suggested a ‘gratitude journal’ so I could reflect on all the great things I have going for me. This was probably the least helpful thing any ‘professional’ has ever suggested to me. I already knew I shouldn’t be depressed, that I have no outside persistent influence that kept me from enjoying life. That’s what makes the depression so hard to deal with. Not only do I feel terrible, I don’t think I deserve to feel bad because I have it so good.

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Image by Mary Lock on Flickr under Creative Commons

If you take nothing else from this blog, take this, depression isn’t the same as being sad. When you feel sad, usually there is a reason and once you deal with that reason you can feel better. Depression offers no relief. It is constant and overwhelming, like drowning while everyone else seems to have no trouble swimming. “Why can’t you just kick your damn legs?” “Do you want to drown?” “You fail at everything anyway so don’t even bother trying to swim.” That’s depression.

Things have changed a lot for me over the past year. I like to think I’ve gotten better. Hell, some days I feel like I’m cured and over it all. So, yeah when I heard it was Mental Health Awareness Month, initially I didn’t feel the need to say anything. Not my place, I wasn’t feeling ‘crazy’ anymore. Until, I was.

This is where it gets hard and murky. Usually I’m fine. I follow my treatment plan, have a super supportive family, and practice cognitive mood techniques, even though I often think they are stupid. Even so, sometimes I feel the depression pulling me back in.

Recognizing it isn’t the same as fighting it. Being able to see when I’m becoming withdrawn and miserable doesn’t always mean I’m able to combat it, because usually by the time I realize I’m depressed again, it’s already too late. It can be set off by anything, or occasionally nothing. One minute I’m me and the next I can barely find the motivation to drag myself to my pillow fort in retreat.

What I’m trying to say is that mental health is hard and for a lot of people it will always be hard. There is no cure, no definitive diagnosis. You can spend years thinking you are chipping away at the problem only to discover that the cause may have been something else entirely. There’s no simple blood test for crazy. No magic pill.

I’m learning to forgive myself for my bad days. Trying to show myself that one bad day doesn’t mean I’ve fallen all the way back to the start. Sometimes it will be a struggle, and sometimes it will feel like too much. That’s okay. I have to tell myself that this is okay.

If you or someone you care about suffers from an invisible mental health issue, let them know that it’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to not always feel ‘normal’ or sane. You have to just keep going because, eventually, there will be a good day again.

Need help? United States:
1 (800) 273-8255

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

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Path Finding for Grown-ups

BloggingPrint

With great power…

Here we are, one month into my new and exciting life as a freelance writer. It’s still amazing, and most days I still feel like I don’t deserve this kind of opportunity. It’s not that I don’t have any confidence in my writing, hell, if anything putting myself out there more has increased my confidence. It’s really just that as I put more work out into the interwebs I start to wonder about the type of work I’m making. This opens up all sorts of scary self-critical thoughts.

See, right now I have maybe three steady gigs. None of which pay much on their own, but between the three of them I make just enough to cover my health insurance so that me working from home isn’t a financial burden on my family. I get to pick my own topics, mostly, which is great, but there is more potential in writing a certain way.

One of the places I write for pays based on shared ad revenue. For those uninitiated that means that the more people click on and read your piece the more you take home at the end of the month. Here’s my conflict, do I write stuffy, but impartial journalism, or do I go overboard on editorializing to drag in readers?

At first I scoffed at the idea of using potentially libelous headlines, but as the editors modified mine and I got more hits as a result I saw the value. Honestly, it makes me uncomfortable and I try to pick topics that won’t generate as much anger from the comments, so the ones that don’t do as well.

This got me to thinking, I’ve spent all this time wanting to be a writer, but now I finally have to figure out what sort of writer I want to be. It’s tempting to take the moral high-ground, but even though the husband keeps us fed and sheltered I don’t want to leave him solely responsible for our income indefinitely. I want to be successful, but I’m not sure what I think that looks like just yet.

One of the nice things about working for yourself is that you can restructure your job on the fly. Every week so far I’ve tried a slightly different approach to my craft. Shifted my focus from one outlet to another to see how much of a difference it would make to my overall take-home. Now, I’m feeling unsatisfied with fighting over ad clicks to make a buck when I could be doing more to hone my craft.

Ultimately, I need to figure out what my overall goal with this job. Do I want to be a jack-of-all-trades freelance blogger who’s work is scattered into the digital wind. Writing bits and pieces here and there just to make budget each month? Maybe I should just go off the deep end and embrace the new wave of salacious reporting that drives ad numbers. Do I want to make my mark as an author? Write actual books and have some sort of legacy?

Truth be told none of these options would be wrong. I might harp on the current mainstream media for deviating from what I was taught journalism was, but they are a product of their audience and I can hardly fault them for that.

Maybe my answer lays someone in the middle. I guess I don’t really know yet, but for now I’m planning to just take it one week at a time. Each morning I’ll refocus my efforts on the direction I’m trying out and most importantly, I’ll keep writing.

 

Image used under Creative Commons

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I got what I wanted, now what do I do with it?

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I am officially a freelance writer now! Cue parades, confetti, and, oh hell I don’t know, champagne? Look, I’ll work out the grown-up celebratory obligations later, for now, I’m just happy to be here. You might be wondering what ‘here’ looks like, and only three days in, so am I.

I’ve been struggling for years to figure out what I wanted out of life and how to get it. For a while things got pretty dark and scary, mental health is a real issue, don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Eventually, my husband wondered if I wouldn’t be happier making money from writing. My knee-jerk reaction was, well duh, of course I would, but we live in the real world and need things like shoes for the kid, dog food, and electricity. Then we really sat down and started hashing out the details of what exactly it would take for me to be able to work from home. Suddenly there was a glimmer of hope.

I spent the next few weeks looking for places that would be willing to pay me to sling words at them. I had a few close calls where I thought I was onto something, but ultimately I was only able to pull in one steady commitment. I’d like to say there was some sort of divine inspiration that hit at this point, but really I just wanted out of the life I was finding myself trapped in. So I gave my two weeks notice and started looking for more freelance gigs.

Two weeks passed and now I work from home. I get up with the husband and kiddo everyday as usual, but when they leave I retreat to the office and spend the day writing, or reading about writing, or emailing people about maybe paying me to do writing. This new life is everything I wanted, and nothing like I expected, all rolled together.

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Lose this hand and I have to pawn the dog.

I’m spending more time with my son again. Can’t afford to send him to daycare if I’m not doing “real” work, so after school he comes right home. Throwing caution to the wind I went ahead and volunteered to help coach his soccer teams (yeah, teams plural). Soccer is kinda my lifeline with the outside world at this point. Don’t want to give in to my hermit tendencies too much.

The hardest part of working from home? Convincing myself that it counts as work. It doesn’t help that I’m just starting out and not really bringing in the big (or even small) bucks as of yet. It’s stressful to feel like the race started without you and now you’re playing catch-up.  These things take time, and speaking of time, learning how to best utilize yours once you have only yourself to answer to is disorienting. Suddenly, I have the option to do everything or nothing, all within the same day. It’s motivating and overwhelming all at once, but honestly, there is a part of me that loves it.

 

For the first time I feel like I’m getting a peek at my most authentic self. The one who is free to be creative and unconventional. I can finally follow a dream and see where it takes me. It’s scary to have so many opportunities open all at once and know that if I fail now I have only myself to blame, but there is freedom in being able to fail. Having the choice to get up in the morning and do something that matters, if only to me, feels amazing.

Maybe a few months from now I’ll be back to trying to find a “regular” job that pays me to do ordinary work, but at least for now, I get to try to really be me, and damn, I’m lucky to even get that chance.

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Shame on You AOL/Huffington! NO More Literary Booty Calls

This is a great read about why Huffington Post are a bunch of pompous pirates and writers need to stop settling for the privilege of writing for them.

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Okay, so I just about calm down then see something that fires me up. So yes folks, I put on my war paint. And Huffington Post? You have simply gone too far.

Enough.

Some of you may be asking what has gotten my panties in such a bunch. A friend of mine, Chuck Wendig, who’s a fantastic writer and legendary blogger brought this quote to our attention yesterday in his post Scream It Until Their Ears Bleed—Pay the Fu&%ing Writers. In Chuck’s post, it’s easy to tell what set him off. Check out this quote:

THIS Folks, is what happens when we let FREE get out of hand. FREE has side-effects and one of the primary side-effects are hallucinations that the other person likes it and needs it and actually you’re doing them a favor.

Before we go any further, yesterday I mentioned that I love the work of…

View original post 1,963 more words

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Around the world

dragonwarning

Finally back again, not just to the blog, but also from three weeks in Germany. It occurs to me I’ve been living like a rock star and not giving all the awesome things I’ve been able to do nearly enough credit.

Since we last talked: I’ve helped coach my kid’s soccer team, run in many 5K’s, walked up a mountain, visited castles, zoos, and an aquarium. Lived another language for three weeks and traveled the world. I also survived a particularly ruthless intercontinental flight. It’s just the highlights of my life, but it reads like an adventure.

So, here’s the plan. More adventures, more doing amazing things and slaying the dragons of self doubt, anxiety, and depression. Bring on 2016, I’m ready.

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Writer’s Block

Photo Credit: JosephGilbert.org via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: JosephGilbert.org via Compfight cc

The words won’t come. I try to coax them out into the open. Sweet sing-songy platitudes call them forward, but they remain just beyond my sight. I know they are there somewhere, but the miasma has engulfed them. Frustrated I call louder, more urgent, insistent. Still the words won’t come.

I give up the pretense of being calm or rational and slam my fist as I demand they answer me. I know they are out there and now I can feel them laughing and mocking my building rage. I feel them, but I cannot hear them, they won’t even give me that much.

So many times they have lead me by the hand, feeding me reassurances that I possessed a measure of talent. They enticed me with visions of worlds yet explored and tales unconquered. How could I have not been made to think this was what I was called to do? My whole life believing, with a sense of entitlement, that these words belonged to me and me alone. Knowing that one day I would hold them close and they would tell me all of their secrets. I would wield them like a well sharpened sword and cleave a path to my destiny. Only now, they refuse and I can see my path crumbling like over-baked clay. The more I struggle to collect them the less substance they hold. Soon they will blow away and I’ll be left alone.

I thrust my hands into the darkness and flail helplessly trying to find some small purchase to take hold of. I almost think I’ve got something, but I’m overeager and loose my grip before I can even begin to reel it out into the light. I feel the anger rise up in my throat like bile and I spit it out into the air around me letting it fill the room like a heavy fog. With no vent to escape the dense clouds instead double back on me causing my eyes to tear up as my self inflicted hatred wounds every exposed part of me.

It is in these times I know the terrible truth of myself. My fraudulent nature, my unfulfilled desire to be more than I am. I know and I mourn the things I can never allow myself to want because in these moments I know I do not deserve them.

The cursor blinks on the empty screen, still waiting for me to begin. The words won’t come.

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“The First 500” Scholarship Contest

Awesome opportunity for my fellow writer types. Gonna make some edits and see if I can get in on this sweet action.

Faith & Fantasy Alliance

Tosca Lee at Realm Makers 2014Thanks to the generous contribution of Tosca Lee, the keynote speaker for the 2014 Realm makers conference, we are excited to announce the first of several scholarship opportunities available to prospective Realm Makers:2015 attendees. Are you dying to come to the conference in August, but sure financial circumstances in your life will prevent you from affording registration and housing? Then this scholarship opportunity might just be your chance.

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I shot an arrow into the mud, it rocked

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Pictured: Not me

Archery is pretty hip right now. I’m basing this entirely off of the fact that characters who can shoot a bow in movies tend to be rather badass, (Legolas, Katiss, that one dude from Avengers who didn’t really have a superpower outside of hooking up with Black Widow).

I’d mentioned to husband that I was looking for a sport that didn’t require so much work from my injured ankle and that archery might just be the thing. After I promised not to use this as a way to get out of running, he got on board and got me a bow for Christmas. Today I got done work early so I finally got to try it out. In short, it was pretty awesome.

After stumbling through the initial setup, using YouTube videos to guide my way, I duct taped a Styrofoam cooler up and stepped out back to do some shooting. The ground was pretty mushy from a rainy previous week which I didn’t consider a problem until the first arrow disappeared.

Apparently the ground just sucked it under like a spaghetti noodle. I found this quite impressive the first time it happened. Less so the second and by the third time I was convinced I’d accidentally found a secret portal to Narnia in my backyard. After a few slightly more successful attempts with the remaining arrows I managed to snap the tip off one and shatter the nock on another when I planted it firmly into a wooden beam. Really I was just impressed by how well the blunt practice tips were able to penetrate. That arrow really had to work for it.

While it sounds as though my career as a professional archer is being called into question I’m still fairly optimistic about my first outing. It probably helps that I have another set of arrows to fall back on.

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Beginning again, and again

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It’s that time of the year once again, when we finally stop a minute to take stock of our lives and realize we want to do so much more than we have been. A lot of people seem to scoff at New Year’s resolutions, claiming they are doomed to fail because there is nothing magic about a new year that will make salad and gym visits any more appealing then they were last year. I get that, but at the same time, it’s just nice to feel like you can push all the disappointments and setbacks from the previous year aside and tell yourself, okay, this time I’m gonna do this right.

So maybe that’s what I’m doing here. I had a small handful of goals or ideas which I wanted to pursue this year. I tried to keep them attainable, without being so vague as to make them meaningless. Firstly, I wanted to write more. I’m always saying I need to stop “being a writer” and just actually write something. Tada! Here I am. To help facilitate this a bit more I’ve signed up for a Blogging 101 Course over at The Daily Post. My first assignment? This post here, introducing myself, or rather reintroducing the purpose behind this blog. As for my great and glorious purpose, well let’s come back to that in a minute.

In addition to setting myself up with two nights per week devoted entirely to writerly pursuits, I’ve also decided to spend the following two nights working on my mad crafting skills. Yeah that’s right, I used to have a handmade toy business, but it was a tough uphill battle with all the new regulations coming in after all the lead scares. Plus, most of my favorite things to make were custom pieces for grownup collectors. I’ve been kicking around the idea of slowly building up a new business, but this time with a clear focus on nerdy, geeky, fandom loving custom works. Everything I love to make, from plushies to clay figurines. I missed crafting, this feels like seeing an old friend again. Like, an actual friend you liked, not the ones you put up with because your parents made you.

Aside from these two main goals I am of course doing the ‘yay fitness’ kick again. I’ve opted away from the boring “try to lose weight” plan and instead I’m focusing on actually doing cool fit person things. Last year I managed to run three 5k’s. This year I’m already planning my first 10k and want to add at least one more race than last year. If you’ve read around my blog in the past you know I am not a fit person by any means. When I say I ran a 5K I really mean that I managed to plod along without dying while making vaguely running like motions with my legs and arms, occasionally at the appropriate intervals. I’m not fast. I will never be fast, but I will finish and I will sign up for another race. I gotta represent my pudgy brethren.

Since I can only feign so much optimism about doing something I’m terrible at and don’t enjoy much I’m also taking up archery so I can be a badass. Just got my recurve bow in today, as such I am a fresh beginner in unmarked territory. Should be interesting to see if I shoot my eye out.

There you have it, all the things I’m starting to make myself the best version of me I can be. That’s pretty much what I think this blog is about this year. If you have any interest I’d love to have you along for the ride.

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I get why people turn up their noses at the idea of trying to start fresh each year. You don’t really get a blank slate, all your baggage and stress is still there on January 1st, ready to ride into the year with you.  I get their point, but I still think they are wrong.

It’s not about having to start over every year, it’s about letting yourself have a new beginning. Remember that great and glorious purpose I mentioned earlier? The point behind this blog? Just making a little place where I can go to remind myself that falling short or failing isn’t the end, as long  as I begin again.

(Too hokey?  No worries, I have all year to work on it.)