Why Morning Rituals Are Essential

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Full disclosure: Most of my mornings suck. In a perfect world, I’d start my day off like a Folger’s commercial , bundled up in a soft robe sipping a freshly brewed cup of coffee and randomly smiling to myself while the steam floats across my face, instantly perking me up and giving me a mini-facial in the process. I don’t believe it’s magic in that cup (coffee drinkers may disagree), but instead, partaking in that morning routine helps them ease into the day instead of blundering towards it like a train wreck.

A speeding locomotive heading towards disaster precisely describes the way I begin most of my days, except I’m not as swift. Generally, I roll over and scroll through my phone, check emails, texts and (insert embarrassed face here), Twitter. Then I lay around for a few more minutes and ruminate over what I have to do, why I have to do it and how I’m gonna do it. By the time I get out of bed, my mind is sufficiently cluttered, and the worst part? I’m usually not motivated. At all.

At one point in time, I practiced a simple yet effective morning ritual where I took a few minutes to clear my mind, think of a reason I was happy to be alive (because let’s face it – some days this is extremely difficult) and eat breakfast before I headed out for work. Since I’ve been working from home, it’s been a struggle to maintain a lot of the structure I had when my schedule was less flexible, hence the reasons my mornings aren’t as stable as they once were.

Bottom line is I know I need to re-establish a morning ritual ASAP because there are obvious benefits:

MORNING RITUALS HELP YOU TO CENTER YOURSELF:

There’s nothing like an established morning routine to help you focus on what’s important and mute all the background mental chatter.

THEY REDUCE ANXIETY:

Whenever I wake up anxious, I feel like crawling back into bed and resigning myself to a life of abandoned accomplishments and responsibilities. I hate not being able to silence the thoughts that instantly bombard my mind like what type of work day I’m going to have, fitting in personal errands and/or enjoyable tasks before work, paying bills, eating and… dammit it’s almost time for work. Basically my blood pressure rises before I do! But employing some sort of morning ritual helps me to slow down and minimize stress before I face the day.

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When Introductions Go Wrong

The second day of  the February Tumblr challenge poses the question: How do you introduce yourself to people? While I wish I could say that I float into a room of strangers on a cloud illuminated by my sheer awesomeness, the reality isn’t all that special. When I introduce myself to people, I begin with a genuine smile and a handshake followed by “Nice to meet you,” or something to that effect. Pretty standard stuff, ya know?

But in an effort to keep things interesting, I decided to compile a list of some of the strangest/most humiliating/annoying introductions I’ve ever experienced. Typically, I’m pretty lax on the “first impressions are everything” mantra, but when introductions go wrong, I’m forced to reconsider that stance.

THE WIMPY HANDSHAKE

I. HATE. THIS.  But before I go too hard on those who begrudgingly dole out wimpy ass handshakes, perhaps they have legitimate concerns about catching germs or they have a hand phobia or something. Or maybe they’re just not into handshakes, but there has GOT to be a better way.

Maybe that was the case with one of my distant cousins, who I recently met for the first time. I offered my standard greeting and extended my hand but she stood there and glared at my hand like it was smallpox-infested. I was on the east coast, so maybe my Texas twang caught her off guard? Maybe the gesture was too formal (She didn’t strike me as a hugger)? I still don’t know but eventually she moved past whatever rendered her temporarily speechless and paralyzed. Then it happened. The weak ass handshake that consists of extending two fingers (most often, the index and the middle finger) accompanied by an under-eyed glare.  If you don’t wanna shake my hand, then I’d rather you didn’t than offer me two fingers to shake. It’s just… awkward, and halfway tempted me to swear off handshakes altogether.

THE STRANGER  WHO LETS YOU KNOW THEY’VE ALREADY BEEN BRIEFED ON YOU BY A MUTUAL ACQUAINTANCE

No matter what I think I know about a person prior to meeting the, that supposed knowledge will NEVER have an impact on the way I treat you, especially during an initial introduction. But some people simply cannot hide the fact that they’ve heard all about you from a relative, co-worker, friend or mutual associate before meeting you.

I once met a friend of a friend whose first words to me were, “Oh so you’re the one who worked with her,” referencing our mutual buddy. She then proceeded to side-eye me for the rest of the evening. Since I don’t have the most sordid past (in fact, it’s pretty damn boring), all I could think was what the HELL did this mutual friend tell her?!

THE NON-INTRODUCTION 

Ugh, so this next incident took place at least six years ago, but it pisses me off til this day.  I traveled with my husband (boyfriend at the time) to NYC. While there, we attended a church event with his family and I was reminded of how disgustingly patriarchal certain religions are, although it took me a while to recognize it for what it was. A male member of the church came around to greet the out-of-town family  but when he reached me, instead of shaking my extended hand, he shot me cursory glance, then leaned over me and shook my boyfriend’s hand. I guess I was supposed to just sit there like an obedient little woman, but it made me feel like a cheap accessory. And to make sure I got the point, he looked back at me as if to say, yeah, I saw you…and?! All I could do was shake my head and send up a silent prayer for this ceremony to be over ASAP before I got to cussin’ up in these strange folks’ church event.

THE HUMILIATING INTRODUCTION

When I was in high school, I had a class with my crush, but other than small talk, we really didn’t socialize because I was super awkward around guys. My “best” friend, however, secretly took it upon herself to introduce me to him, not knowing or caring that I already knew him. She lured me out of the cafeteria by pretending someone had found one of my textbooks. Before I knew it, I was being shoved in his direction by her and her cousin. Interrupting the conversation he had going with another girl, they awkwardly introduced us to one another. He was gracious enough to go along with it, but I was completely mortified. Worst introduction EVER.

Bottom line is introductions should never be this damn complicated.

What are some of the strangest, best/worst, funniest introductions you’ve ever experienced?

Images: Giphy

Understanding My Views on Death

My grandfather’s passing caused me to examine my views on death

My grandfather’s passing caused me to examine my views on death

Well, damn. Something told me to give a quick glance to the topics on this February Tumblr Blogging Prompt a few days ago, but I didn’t and now I’m completely unprepared start the month off with a post about my views on death and how I cope. Ah well, I’m still alive and kicking so I might as well get this thing started.

On the one hand, death absolutely sucks. There is no bright side and not enough compassionate quotes, comforting words from friends or scriptures to make me feel otherwise. It’s an uncaring life-stealer with all the awareness and selflessness of a psychopath. Point blank and the period.

But sadly, I cannot lie—at extremely low points in my life, I viewed death as a form of escape from the mental, physical and emotional torture that is living with depression, but I’m still working through those feelings and they’re far too complex for a single blog post.

Anyway…

Whenever I’ve experienced the pain and grief that follows someone dying, I always wish I could view death objectively like my cousin and sister-in-law, who are both funeral directors. I’m sure they’re nowhere near immune to feeling the loss of a loved one just as deeply as anyone else, but their profession allows them to see it in a manner in which few can, not to mention the fact that they’ve both embalmed close relatives. That takes a special dose of an admirable quality I can’t quite identify, but I can declare with no uncertainty that I don’t possess it.

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How I Advanced My Writing Career This Week

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In December, I wrote about how I planned to be a better writer in 2015. Since it’s been a little more than a month since that post, I decided to check in with myself to see what type of progress I’ve made. I didn’t expect to hit every area on my list in two weeks, but I’d say I’ve gotten off to a pretty good start.

Here are 4  steps I took to advance my writing career:

Pitched two outlets. Last year, I was a total slacker on pitching. After I landed a couple of steady gigs, I got comfortable, which was a huge mistake. Then on top of that, I missed out on a major opportunity that I might write about once I’ve rectified that situation, but for now, I’ll keep it cute and put it on mute.

With pitching though, the entire process is a pain in the ass, but the bottom line is if I don’t pitch and land bylines,  I don’t earn money. Since one of my goals is to double my freelance income this year, I must abandon my cozy my comfort zone . Hopefully, I’ll land another byline soon.
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10 Questions Tag

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My blogger friend Drea from The Drea Daily was kind enough to nominate me to participate in the 10 Questions Tag, which gives me the chance to answer 10 random questions she posed. I’m super excited that she tagged me because it’s a fun and quick way to discover a little more about bloggers outside of normal posts and to give other bloggers a little shine.

Here are my responses to Drea’s questions below:

1.  Favorite TV series?

A Different World. Pretty much any episode of that show can boost my mood. I’ve been known to walk around my house wailing at the top of my lungs, trying to emulate the operatic singing in this clip that begins at 2:43:

2.  Least favorite aspect of blogging?
I suppose what I enjoy least about it applies to writing in general and that is the process of creating. I’m SUPER slow at writing my posts. Sometimes I’ll start an idea and before I know it’s 2 am and I’m nowhere near finished.

3.  Favorite phone app?

It’s not necessarily my favorite, but Twitter is the one I use most. My smartphone is so underutilized.

4. Your worst/most embarrassing habit?

Allowing my anxiety to consume me.
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Did Your Vision Board Work? 2014 in Review

vision boardAnnual assessments have always been routine for me. The only issue is they typically leave me bemoaning the days I wasted and wishing for a time-machine to put the past 365 days to better use. However, there was a major shift this year in my attitude that propelled me to make a vision board in January.

I’d heard people discussing vision boards before, and while I’ve always been one of those people who make new year’s resolutions, it still sounded like some pseudo-spiritual propaganda. Like, really? All I gotta do is tack my goals to a board and they’ll magically manifest? Mkay.

After giving it a little more thought, I realized that a vision board simply reinforces the fact that people tend to be drawn to things they want.  If a late-night Wendy’s commercial can lure folks to the drive-thru, why can’t a board that advertises personal dreams and goals essentially do the same thing?

HAS IT WORKED FOR ME?

Well, the better question is whether I’ve allowed it to work for me. 2013 ended on sort of a high note professionally, but personally it was one of the darkest, lowest moments of my life.  Therefore, I decided that 2014 had to be better.

I had a ton of stuff on my board, but here a few successes I had this year that really stood out for me:
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6 Reasons To Read Your Published Articles

During a conversation with my pitch partner Andrea from Be-Quoted a few months ago, we were discussing an article she’d successfully pitched when she revealed that she rarely reads her published pieces. As a result, I told her that I could build a case for my opinion that writers (new writers, in particular) should make a regular practice of reading their published articles. Now, while I will admit that I haven’t read every single one of my live articles, I still think writers can benefit from regularly reading the final, edited versions of their work.

Scrolling Twitter one evening, I came across some tweets from Julia Beverly, formerly of Ozone Magazine. She’s currently writing a book about the life of the late UGK rapper Pimp-C and has been discussing the process online.

As enthusiastic as she seems about her upcoming project, in the same breath Beverly candidly admitted that she more than likely would not be reading this book upon its completion. Merely revising articles can sometimes feel like a mild form of mental torture, so I can’t say I necessarily blame her for already planning to pass on reading her own book before she’s even written the last word.

The reality is Beverly is a certified OG in the writing/publishing industry, so she can totally afford to give her published work the cold shoulder. But for less established writers, I feel there are good reasons to read those published articles:

It allows you to learn from your mistakes.

Based on the changes I’ve seen from my editors, I’ve been able to identify problem areas and even managed to make some improvement without having my weaknesses explicitly highlighted.

Once, I received a group email from editors who advised the writers on the correct way of citing images. I realized I hadn’t been doing it the right way, but that could’ve been avoided if I took the time to at least skim over some of my previously published pieces, or better yet, pay more attention to my style guide! In that situation, I got two lessons in one.

Learn your editors’ style.

Not all editors are created equal. That means that depending on who you write for, there may be little to no difference between the piece you submitted and the published article. Other times, the final article may not resemble anything in your original piece. It’s a delicate balance because you don’t want to lose your voice while trying to do the piece justice, but unless it’s your blog, an op-ed or a pub that  has extremely lax guidelines, the publication’s voice and style ultimately trump yours.

This is why I think it’s best to try and pay attention to the editors’ changes to see what you can pick up on.  That may mean writing “stuff” when you really want to write “shit,” or leaving out something you think is hilarious and clever (more on that later).
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Becoming a Better Writer in 2015

Writing Tools

This year I’ve made leaps and bounds when it comes to writing, but I still have many miles to go before I arrive at what I’ll call my optimum writer status. Truth be told, I have no interest in being the perfect scribe (whatever that may be), but I definitely have some room for improvement.

Here’s how I plan to be a better writer in 2015:

SUPPORT OTHER WRITERS MORE

I get so caught up in the stresses of creating that a lot of times when I’m done filing articles, I haphazardly tweet the links and log the hell off my computer. In those moments, I don’t want to read another headline, blog post, or article because I’ve been fully immersed in them for hours at a time and my eyes and brain just can’t take anymore. But beginning now and throughout 2015, I plan to devote more time to reading, sharing and commenting on other writers’ work, especially those who are just starting out, or those whose work I truly admire.

ENGAGE MORE ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Someone one posed the question, “What does your social media presence say about you?” I’ll be the first to admit that mine isn’t very reflective of who I am.  In reality, I thrive in social settings and am at my best when I have some food, drink and good company. However, I’m old school and social media is just so…OPEN. I can’t properly convey what I’m feeling, but I haven’t gotten comfortable with putting my fleeting, uncensored thoughts and beliefs out there for the masses to consume and share. Whenever I do, it’s followed by so much self-scrutiny and anxiety that sometimes I’m tempted to delete my account altogether. Anyway, it sounds insane but it’s the truth.  But the fact is,  I need to be more engaging online. While it’s still awkward for me, it feels much better to actually interact with people instead of simply seeing their tweets float by on your timeline daily without having a clue what they’re about outside of some random tweets or blog links.  I joined to put myself out there (plus, there are work requirements), but I realize I’m doing myself and other writers who look for support a major disservice by being a hermit online.
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The 8 Most Common Excuses I Use Not to Blog

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Well, this is embarrassing—and that statement has absolutely nothing to do with Firefox failing to load all my tabs. I hate that it’s come to this, but if I have to put myself on front street just to get shit done, then so be it. Within the past hour, I’ve created two drafts (three if you count this post) in which I began a blog but didn’t see either of them through to completion.

This process of creating a bunch of possible blog posts and then leaving them to rot in draft hell isn’t a new pattern for me. It’s a bad habit I formed and haven’t quite been able to shake. The reasoning behind this pesky tendency can’t be narrowed down into one word, but I figure if I just write it down in a list, perhaps it can help me avoid my addiction to creating drafts and encourage me to write, edit and hit publish already!  Furthermore, I hope it’ll encourage any other bloggers who, like myself, can come up with 99 reasons why they shouldn’t post a blog.

So here it is, in all its unfiltered, shameless glory. The 8 most common excuses I use not to blog:

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4 Reasons My Thanksgiving Was Non-Traditional

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Usually I tend to develop some major anxiety and irritability (read: flip the f*ck out) if my husband and I don’t partake in at least one traditional Thanksgiving activity.  I don’t know why but I just have this thing about formally acknowledging a holiday, which used to pose a problem because my better half isn’t big on celebrating. When we first started dating,  he once called me on Thanksgiving from a Jack in the Box drive-thru. In my opinion, consuming fast food on a holiday is a complete travesty, but he saw nothing wrong with it.

Fortunately,  since then we’ve created a few of our own traditions, but what I most look forward to is him frying a turkey the evening before Thanksgiving. The entire house smells like Cajun spices and it helps to get me in the holiday spirit.

This year’s Thanksgiving was really non-traditional, at least compared to the stereotypical holiday gatherings of tons of rowdy friends and family, excessive amounts of food and cool, gloomy weather. Who knows what kept my meltdown at bay—perhaps it was the aroma of fried turkey or the near-70 degree sunny weather.

Either way, here’s what made my Thanksgiving surprisingly non-traditional:

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