Thursday, September 11, 2014

#neverforget

You know how I commemorated 9/11? I got up. I went to work. I chatted with my coworkers. I went to the diamonds and had softball practice with my team. You know why? Because the terrorists didn't win. That's why. It was the most beautifully average day and that is the ultimate middle finger to them. As the saying goes, the best revenge is living well. I think that applies here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

here we go again...

Apparently saying "I'll help with fall ball" leads to being given a team to coach, so if anyone needs me over the next couple months, you'll have to get in touch with my invisible personal assistant to be penciled in. On the one hand, I'm excited to head back out to the fields... on the other, I was hoping to take a step back and "help" rather than "be in charge" but hey, duty calls. *straps on cape*

Hopefully this goes better than the last time I tried to coach a fall team, wherein I was essentially thrown to the wolves and verbally bullied by a bunch of 9 & 10 year olds and was miserable every minute I was there but didn't/couldn't quit because ~*integrity*~. At least I was able to recruit a couple assistants for this go-round. And a handful of the girls are returning from my summer team. It should be fun. Busy, but fun. The schedule should at least be fairly predictable though - practice 2x a week (or 3x if we really need it) and games on Saturdays. No driving all over central Iowa. No managing the league and worrying about scheduling/rescheduling. All I have to do this time is show up and coach. So that will be nice.

I'm a little worried though, in that this league is supposed to be a step up, competitiveness-wise, from the league I coach in the summer... not as intense as the travel/tournament team, but moreso than what I usually do. Therefore, I feel a bit underqualified, especially since I talked up fall ball to my summer girls to have them take their game to the next level, and... oops, they're stuck with me again. I'm not sure how to turn the dial up after so many years on the lower setting. Fake it 'til you make it, I guess. But seriously. WHO DECIDED THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?? This was why I didn't want to be in charge. So I could sit back and learn from someone else who knew what they were doing better. Argh. Although I suppose they wouldn't have handed me a team if they thought I was going to completely bork it up, even if they were/are desperate for coaches... right? Right.

This has turned into the worst pep talk of all time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"But Doctor... I AM Pagliacci."

Like most people (from what I can tell), finding out about the death of Robin Williams was incredibly jarring. My entire newsfeed was full of people who were stunned, shocked, sad. I don't want to say that some deaths are more significant than others… but some are, perhaps, more significantly felt. Death happens every day – nobody lives forever, we all know that. Celebrity death seems to be different, and it's interesting to observe the reaction that follows, because it’s shocking that someone we collectively "knew" is gone. We felt like we knew them, even if we only knew their work. Usually it’s a quick memorial tweet, or a "did you hear?" and a few moments of reflection, before moving on with our lives. But when it's such a larger-than-life cultural icon, someone who defined a genre for multiple generations… it was a hard-hitting punch to the gut.

This was different. This was heavier. The world felt heavier. I have not seen so many people so impacted by a single loss in quite some time. It's a hallmark to what a profound role Robin Williams had in each of our lives; few of us knew him personally, but he inspired us, he entertained us, he made us laugh. He paved the way for other comedians, other actors, other talents. The man was a true genius, on so many levels.

I mentioned this on facebook yesterday when sharing this link (Patton Oswalt had made the reference on Twitter), but here's the full context. It's from Watchmen, but when you apply it here, it's unfortunately ironic and very haunting:
Man goes to doctor. Says he's depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, ‘Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.’ Man bursts into tears. Says ‘But Doctor... I AM Pagliacci.’"

I think the fact that it was an apparent suicide makes it even more heartbreaking. Depression is an ugly creature. It's one of the few diseases that we tend to dismiss or blame the person suffering for (can you imagine telling someone with cancer or diabetes to "just snap out of it" or that "it's all in their head"? I think not.) This is unhelpful, and this is why people hide it, stuff it away, until its often too late. Depression is a harsh reality for me. Nowadays, it doesn't come around as often as it used to, but when it does hit, it hits hard. There's really not much to do other than hang on for dear life until the light breaks through again. My heart hurts for Robin Williams, not simply because he was famous or talented, but because he wasn't able to find his way out of the darkness. He broke under the weight of living, when it became too much to bear.

It seems like we only talk about depression and mental health after a news-making tragedy. So, okay. Let's talk about it. Let's have a productive discussion on a widespread level. Let's try to understand it. Let's reach out to people that are suffering prevent things like this from happening. Even though it seems like this big intangible thing, it's not. People you know, perhaps people you are sitting in a room with right now, are suffering from this, most likely in silence. It affects more people than you can possibly imagine. What can we do? I don't know. But acknowledging it for what it is and working to erase the stigma so people aren't afraid to reach out for help... that seems like a good start.

Hugs to all of you.

Friday, July 18, 2014

More Than Just a Game

I have just completed my ninth season of softball coaching. I started in college, responding to a call for volunteers to help with a local youth softball program, because I was homesick for the sport. Nine summers, eleven teams, and over a hundred kids later, I am on the board of directors for the organization and in charge of organizing the entirety of the recreational league program. I can't imagine not having it in my life, even during the busy stretch where I'm not sure I'll make it through and I get cranky and think, maybe this should be my last season. Because every time I think that, a different voice in my head responds, But it won't be.

It is something that I feel I will never be able to properly put into words. I've rambled on about little bits of the day to day before; I've written a few "big" pieces on the matter (like this one). But the magnitude of it all escapes me; why I do what I do is easy enough to articulate, but what it means... to me, for me, for the girls I coach... that's something else. Most days it's pretty easy; I take it at face-value. I help them learn to be better softball players, better teammates, and, with any luck, better people. Other days, the lens zooms out and I get a glimpse of a bigger picture and it's huge. It doesn't feel like much, but it goes beyond the simple act of throwing or hitting or catching a ball. There's so much of life intertwined with it. So much more teaching involved than I'm even aware of. And it almost knocks the wind out of me when I think about it too much. The things I say, the things I do - none of it is a throwaway word or action; like a parent, they are watching what I do. I could be affecting them, for better, for worse.

This particular bout of introspection was triggered by an article I happened to click on last night in my facebook news feed. It was nothing new or revelationary; hell, I'm not even sure that I haven't read this exact piece before. But it echoed something that I have been very mindful of, especially this season, for whatever reason. I have made a very concentrated effort to avoid discussing weight or body issues around my girls. It's something I have to watch myself on even more closely than swearing or making snide comments about, say, the other coaches when they are being rude. I can check my language; it's easy to avoid the 4-letter words. It's easy to stop myself from being snarky - sportsmanship, sportsmanship, sportsmanship... It's something I try to drill into their heads, and I may be a lot of things, but I try my damndest not to be a hypocrite.

It's really, really hard to bite back the self-deprecating comments. It's hard to hide my body image issues. It's hard to not make remarks about how sometimes I have to size up on my shirts or how they're all in much better shape than I am. If something like that does slip out, I'm quick to blame it on age. Never on size. I don't want them to even think about this or that body type being good or bad; I have some girls that are still shaped like toothpicks; I have others that are starting to fill out. I don't want them to play the comparison game. I don't want them to internalize that message - not from me. I may not be happy with myself, but I don't want them to know that.

Because if I can act like my size, my body, is no big deal... maybe they'll internalize that instead of the other messages they get. If I'm happy with myself, then hopefully they will sort of subconsciously learn to be happy with themselves, too. I'll lead by example that way, even if I have to fake it every step.

When I picked up the coaching mantle those many years ago, I didn't even think about it in terms of being a role model. I just wanted to get back to the game, and to "pay it forward" in a way. But I'm in kind of a unique position where I stand now. Most of the other coaches in this league are parents; I am the "other." There is less of a guard that is up, and that can go both ways. They may be more relaxed, but they are also more sponge-like. I am younger than their parents (though that won't always be the case - eventually, as I age and they don't, I will be the Matthew McConaughey of youth softball, except not creepy - eventually, I will be old enough that they could be my very own daughters) so perhaps that makes me more relatable. I know when I was young, I always looked up to the older girls and young women who I deemed as cool or impressive. And I want to be someone they can trust; someone they can confide in, if they need to. A fill-in big sister or a young, hip "aunt" even.

As the article states (and countless others, and all of our own personal experiences), girls will mold their body image off of what they observe, what is demonstrated to them - intentionally or not. They will absorb that feedback from their peers, sure - but they will also pick up more than you can imagine from the adult females in their life, especially those they trust.

And the ages I coach - those are the worst, for this. I coached two teams this summer - one full of 5th/6th graders and the other full of 7th/8th graders. The age ranged from 10 all the way through 14. I remember those years. Those years were awful. I wouldn't relive them if you paid me. And while they're starting to come into their own, starting to form the core of who they are going to be... there are people like me that they are looking to. And I know better, I know better than to entertain any sort of negativity around them. It was something I decided long ago without ever making a declaration to myself: do whatever you can to avoid damaging their sense of self. Don't buy into the body image game. It's too late for me, but not for them.

It's stuff like this that makes me stop and realize that, yeah, I'm coaching softball, but I'm not really JUST coaching softball.

And it just kind of sunk in what a hugely terrifying responsibility that is.

So. There's that. I don't have kids and I might not ever have kids, but I'm definitely shouldering my duty as part of the "auntie brigade" - I can still hopefully provide some useful guidance for the girls that are going to have to walk down the same road I did.

It's scary, and at the same time, I'm ready and willing to step up. If I can save anyone, just one, from falling into the trap of bad thoughts and self-loathing, then that, to me, is something worthwhile.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Writing on Writing.

*blows on blog and a poof of dust rises in a tiny little cloud*

HI EVERYONE. So in an attempt to start blogging again (remember when it was a thing I did?), I agreed to participate in a blog hop because all I had to do was answer some questions about the writing process and all the hard work was done for me, right? HAHA. So cute. I really meant to do it, I started mulling it over in my little writer-brain and then suddenly it was a month later and it wasn't done.

I was tagged by my friend Calee (her post is here) aaaaaaaaand I was supposed to go live with my post on June 7.  As you may have noticed by the fact that it's not anywhere close to June 7 anymore, I have clearly failed in that mission. But, as they say, better late than never, right? Right.

Always, always with the best of intentions.

Sometimes the best way to deal with a slump is to just wait it out. So I did, and here we are. 


So, onward. And we shall discuss Writing.

As I've probably mentioned a time or two before... I started writing as a wee Kellylet... I think around age ten or so. At least that's when it sticks out most prominently in my mind. I'd staple together sheets of notebook paper (or, sometimes, I'd fold them in half and THEN staple them, to give them a more book-like quality) and scribble my heart out. I would always include a "comments" page on the back for people to essentially leave a little review (yes, that's right - I invented the concept of comment pages, all the way back in 1994, because I am a hipster). It was my not-so-subtle way of seeking validation, though I wasn't aware that that was what I was doing until later. 

My friend and I spent our recesses in fourth and fifth grade writing and illustrating stories, which were largely, in hindsight, Disney Princess fanfic. (Yes, this was before Disney Princesses were a brand, and before we had any idea what "fanfic" was... MORE HIPSTER POINTS!). As we entered middle school, and self-consciousness took over, I still wrote, but not for anyone to read. (And yes, there was an angsty poetry phase that lasted for most of the late nineties.) But it was always there. 

During Back to School time, my mom would stock up on spiral bound notebooks when the major retail stores would sell them for 10¢ apiece, and I was allowed ONE new notebook per month. I was pretty good about sticking to this, too, even though I knew where she kept the stash.

I remember when other kids were all "I want to be a fireman/ballerina/doctor/astronaut" because career goals are much more open when you're young and not hindered by a thing called reality, all I wanted to be was a writer. Specifically, I wanted to write and publish novels. I wanted to walk into a bookstore and see my name on a spine. I wanted to be the library book that some kid checked out over and over because it resonated with them somehow. 

That's the funny thing about that sort of dream, though... while I may be unfit for several professions, the only thing stopping me from becoming a Writer is myself. 

I have folders upon folders of half-finished stories that have lived for up to twenty years* plastic totes/bins, most of which took up residence in my dad's basement. When he and my stepmom bought a new house, I was informed that I needed to reclaim my things. I can't bring myself to blindly toss everything out, though. There could be something worthwhile in there - either a spark of an idea that I can finish now, or something so absurdly horrible that we can laugh about it later. Either way, I've got some word-mining to do.

*EXISTENTIAL CRISIS, AHOY!

But I digress, and terribly. Here are the four questions I was supposed to answer:


WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

I'd love to tell you that I've been super MIA because I've finally buckled down and started writing a novel, as is my lifelong dream, but that would sort of be a lie. 

But I'm getting closer. Of the two or three ideas that I've been tossing around, I've zeroed in on one of them. I've been sorting out plot points, character profiles, themes, scenes, the works... in my head, at least. They've been rolling around for weeks. I've made playlists to accompany the actual writing, songs that fit the mood of the story either lyrically or musically. I've got a secret pinboard with imagery that fits what I want to do. (And, of course, hypothetical actresses that would play my main female characters, because this is obviously an important element.) My plot and scope are creeping around, getting a bit far from where I originally started... I don't know if that's good or bad, but it's starting to not make sense. I need to tie pieces together and have some idea of where I'm going. Right now, Point A and Point B are on different planets. I've got other elements that I can't decide if they're stupid or interesting; hell, I can't tell if the entire thing is stupid or interesting. Maybe it's trying to hard right now (yes, it has become sentient). 

I handwrote two pages the other night. They were complete shit, but it's still two pages, and it's a step in the right direction. I can always rewrite them later. To quote Terry Prachett, "The first draft is just you telling yourself the story."

Also, my friend Steph talked me (and Calee) into signing up for Camp NaNoWriMo, so... perhaps that's a kick in the pants that I need. I'm going to give it a shot, I can't do any worse than the last time I tried NaNoWriMo, wherein I lasted all of two days. If that.



HOW DOES MY WORK/WRITING DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?

I don't think there's anything particularly unique about my style of writing, to be honest... it's one of many tongue-in-cheek twentysomethings scribbling out personal essays of the nonfiction variety. There was one time I was reading a book of essays (I believe it was Sloane Crosley's I Was Told There'd Be Cake) and I had to set it down because I was so jealous. Her style was similar to mine and I was totally connecting with her narrative and her words, but the fact of the matter was that she'd actually sat down and turned her stories into a damn book. It was one of those cases of I could totally do this... yeah, but you didn't. There's no shortage of them, books of personal essays, but I don't feel like my writing is necessarily worthy of publication. (YET). Maybe the market is saturated now, I don't know. But you go into a bookstore, a huge bookstore - like Powell's in Portland - and you see all these numerous volumes of books and it's mind-blowing, how many people have put words to paper, how many people have done this thing that you want to do. And I had two distinct thoughts, at once: 1: there are all of these accomplished authors already, there is no room for me... 2: look at all these books - there is always room for one more.

I've been told by other Writers (capital W) that I have a distinctive voice; while I consider this to be a tremendous compliment, I am at a loss as to how to identify mine as being different than anyone else's. I just don't see it. Perhaps that's the biggest indicator of my amateur status, but sometimes I think it might be okay to go in without having a clue what you're doing. It's possible to know too much and think yourself out of whatever you were going to do. Though I'm worried that since I don't know what constitutes my voice, it might be easy for me to lose it. 

Lastly, there is another quote (you need a quote for something? COME AT ME. I collect quotes like Ariel collects sea trash) - "Don't forget - no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell." Charles de Lint. 

I like that a lot. Not to get all "WE'RE ALL SPECIAL SNOWFLAKES" or anything, but it's just a reminder that two people can experience the exact same thing, and come away from it feeling completely differently. I am unique; I have a unique perspective. I can take a story that's maybe been told a million times before (haven't they all?), but I can put my own unique twist on it. 

WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

Because... I have to? The words just come and I have to get them out or they bottle up inside me until I don't feel like myself. Writing - not fiction writing, per se, just writing in general - has been my lifeline, my constant. It's been therapy when I needed it most; it's been a tool of communication; it has been a marker for watching how I've changed and grown. At its most base level, that's what it is: trying to communicate and connect with the world, with people like me, my tribe, my soulmates. 

I think that's where I struggle with fiction. It used to come naturally; it doesn't now. There's this notion that a story comes out because it's something you have to tell; it will eat away at you until you free it. But for the fiction pieces I'm working on (playing fast and loose with the term "working")... there's no immediacy. It's something I want to write because I want to write an interesting, compelling, hopefully emotion-inducing story. But not because there is this repressed story that needs to get out. So I have a hard time getting enthused over it because, big whoop, it's just another story among millions. 

If these ideas, these stories, never go out into the world, the world will not suffer a void. They are unnecessary, probably. I have yet to hit any great human truth that needs to be shared. Perhaps that is the challenge that lies ahead of me.


HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

HAPHAZARDLY. I like the idea of drafts and outlines, but oftentimes, it comes down to just sitting down at a keyboard and pounding away until coherent sentences come out. 

I'm currently working out of order. A scene here, a scene there. This is the opposite of how I used to write fiction, when I'd just start at a point and plow through until I lost momentum or interest (usually about four days later when something would pull me away.) Better? Worse? We'll see. I'll just have to make sure to fix tone shifts on my first round of edits. (Edits?! Ha. I rarely if ever edit. Most of what comes out on this blog is just flat-out stream of consciousness rambling. Editing is going to be an interesting process for me, but I'm actually looking forward to it, once I can just get the first draft hammered out.)

Other than that? I'll have to let you know. I don't have a process yet.

For nonfiction/blogging, my process is still pretty haphazard, but like I mentioned, it's pretty stream-of-consciousness. I used to be opposed to editing altogether: what came out is what came out, as raw and as unpolished as it was. Not so much now, though I don't have a lot of time to spend revising, so it's still pretty rough. If it gets published at all.

There's a site called 750 Words that encourages you to just sit down and start writing whatever comes to mind (also known as "stream of consciousness" writing) and by the time you get to about - you guessed it - 750 words, your scattered thoughts will start to form something cohesive. It's a great exercise for when you don't think you have anything to say... you'll find you do, but it's often buried. 

I should do this more, and I don't. I have started journaling rather sporadically, and I've found the aforementioned theory to be true. What starts off as half-thoughts eventually drives its way into a tangent and usually by the time I'm done, I feel like I actually wrote about something.

**

So, that's my bit. Frankly, just writing all of this has gotten me all jazzed to write more now. I HAVE AWOKEN THE BEAST. Or something. It's in my veins, it's always been there... time to go fulfill a twenty-year promise to myself.

**

Without much further ado (I excel at ado, guys), I pass the torch to... CASEY


Calling the Great White North his home, Casey's spent the last few decades in pursuit of creating killer content. From novels as a kid, comics as a teen, to blogs and photos once he could grow a beard, he'll use whatever's around him to create amazing stuff.

When he's not creating, he's parenting, exploring and trying to make life as awesome as possible for everyone around him.

Because a boring life's not a life worth living!





PS - I know a lot of you reading this are also writers... you should answer these prompts, also. I would love to read your responses! Feel free to link up in the comments and we'll all nerd out over words together!

Friday, May 16, 2014

It Doesn't Have to Be Las Vegas

This time last year, I was in Las Vegas. If Bloggers in Sin City had carried on another year, I would be in Vegas right now. It's Friday, which means it would have been Pool Day. I finally overcame my fear of Pool Day last year, although you wouldn't know that because I kind of abandoned my Vegas recap posts about halfway through. This might be a good time to finish them, yes?

Anyway, last night at a time somewhere between 2 and 3 am (probably closer to 3), as I was thinking about it, this little song popped into my head and naturally I thought it was brilliant and I've already wasted too much time not sharing it with you, so... behold.


Do you want to go to Vegas?
Come on, let's go and play

I never see you anymore
Come out the door
You live so far away
We used to have a conference
And now we don't
I think I am gonna cry
Do you want to go to Vegas?
It doesn't have to be Las Vegas


(Go away, Kelly)

Okay, bye...

Do you want to go to Vegas?
And wear sequins down the strip
I think a getaway is overdue
I'm tired of talking to
People not from the Internet
It gets a little lonely
All this cold and rain
Just watching my newsfeed scroll by...
(Click, Click, Click, Click)

Do you want to go to Vegas?




Humor aside, I do really wish I was in Vegas right now. I miss how time would just seem to stop for a weekend while we had adventures in the desert, all the sparkle and sequins and lights, all the food and the cool night air and the laughing and the bonding and the general escapism of it all. I miss the people, I miss having an annual trip to look forward to. Despite the emotional rollercoaster that always accompanied the return, I never realized how much of a break that it provided for my own sanity. The last couple weeks have been pretty rough on me and I've been fighting with everything I have to not just stay in a crumpled heap every day. (Although, maybe all I need is just one good Crumpled Heap Day and then I'll be fine again. Kind of like a battery recharge, something, I don't know.)

Love and 8-second hugs to all my BiSCuits, wherever you may be this weekend.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Just For a Moment

I've been putting this off all day, hoping that at some point, the words would come to me and I could say something worth saying, something meaningful, something... just something, I guess. I'm waiting for the year when May rolls around and I don't feel that sinking feeling in my stomach, but I sort of think that that might never happen. It's permanently entwined with this time of year. It has gotten easier, if such things can get easier. There's still a hole, but it's starting to scar over. I'm not sure I even do have much left to say, anymore. All these years, I've been pouring my heart out, hoping to dull the edges of the fragments that were left behind, but they're still sharp, even when sanded down. It's like when you've cried so much you don't have tears left, just that ache, that lump in your throat. Where it might feel good to cry, but at the same time, what good would crying do? It doesn't change a thing. Not a damn thing.

So here I am, faithfully at my keyboard on May 5. So many things have been left unsaid since last year; big changes, small changes, milestones, this that and the other, all things that I've been meaning to write down, meaning to commit to history. My nephew turned one last month. The flame of a relationship flickered and burnt out. My childhood home is being dismantled box by box. These are things, important things, that I've wanted - no, needed - to talk about, but I just... haven't. But here I am, now. An electronic vigil, every year, without fail. Even if there are no new words, it's still important that I'm here, that I'm remembering out loud, remembering so other people can hear and so that in some way, her memory is still alive, safe with strangers, safe in this digital archive. It's the very least of things that can be done, and it's insignificant. But it's a tiny candle in the dark, it's my own tribute, the best I know how. Even the littlest of words. Even if just for a minute. Remembering. Like always. Because I won't forget. No matter where I end up, there's always a tiny little piece of my heart reserved for one of the most amazing friends I've ever had. Those years can never be taken away, even if future years were. And I would have rather had just those years than none at all.

Not the best photo any of us have ever taken, but it was the first one we took together.
Move out day, spring 2004. Sadler House, Helser Hall, Iowa State University. Best year ever.