Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Now that I'm getting closer to having my book finished, I'm getting closer to submitting to agents--which means I'm getting closer to rejections. Lots of rejections.

I know it's inevitable. But how is that supposed to make me feel better about sending my little baby out into the world to be judged? Maybe there is no feeling better about it. Maybe it's just one of those things that I'll have to endure. For now, I'm trying to assuage my fears by reading and rereading this:

Who's ready to try something new?

Write on!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How Many Words is Enough?

I'm reviewing revising rewriting my novel and I know I'm getting close. I'm almost done; I can feel it. Right now I have 15,570 words. I know I need at least two more scenes which could add anywhere from 50 to 500 more words. But is that enough? 

Someone at a conference said not to worry about word count. Just make sure your story is told with all the words it needs--no more and no less, whether it's 6 words or 60,000. 

There may not be a formula for how many words it takes to tell a story, but I think a lot of times a stories end up with too many words. And sometimes they actually have too few. 

Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown: 12,192 words--I know I read this book, but I don't remember anything about it. So, do I take the word count of this verse novel into my stats if it wasn't memorable? Maybe it was too short to make a lasting impression on me?

The Way A Door Closes by Hope Anita Smith: 4,094 words--I remember this one, but I also remember that it was very short. Unsatisfyingly short. But it was still good. 

Because I am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas: 18,547 words--This one was sad. Very sad. 

All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg: 15,158 words--Again, sad. And good. And not enough. The story was too cryptic and ended too soon. There were some really great characters and I felt like I didn't get enough of them. 

Keesha's House by Helen Frost: 15,469 words--I'm not sure this book had a plot...But it was emotional, and did a pretty good job at showing multiple characters. This book won a Printz Honor with only 15,158 words (fewer than I have already) and--AND it tells not just one person's story, but six. 

This is What I Did by Ann Dee Ellis: 28,326 words--Good, strong. This book delivers. It has strong characters, relationships, plot--everything. And it's got a lot more words than I think I'm ready for. But who knows...maybe I'll surprise myself?

Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams: 29,347 words--Geez, this book is heartbreaking. And it delivers everything--characters, emotion, plot, resolution. I read this book in almost one sitting (interrupted only by school or something stupid). It was fast, but it was captivating. 

There are a lot of novels in verse. Some that I've started and never even finished--not because they were too long, but because they weren't engaging. I want my book to be perfect. I want it to be just right. Enough words to engage the readers, build emotions, create relationships... I want it to satisfy with punches and heart-tugs and maybe even a kiss so that when readers close my book, they'll feel full. 

Maybe there is no formula. No set number of words to make a story. I'm glad there isn't, even though the mathematician in me wants that formula so badly. 

I guess I won't know how many words my story needs until I finish. Right now, all I know is I'm not done yet. 

Write on!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Mississippi Fear

Moving day is coming up fast. We've got stacks of boxes, truck rental reservations, and sleeping arrangements. I'm nervous. This will be the first time I've lived outside of Utah. The first time I've been to Mississippi. The first time I've been a minority in pretty much EVERY possible way.

People keep saying, "Could you have picked a worse place to move?" Mississippi is THE SOUTH. And people in the THE SOUTH are apparently "slow-minded," "conservative," and "judgmental." I've been told not to show any public affection to my lovergirl. To be careful about who I tell I'm gay.

It makes me nervous. And scared. I've never met a whole lot of opposition with my orientation or my relationship. We've been whistled at a few times while holding hands on a walk. We've had to be patient with our families' processes. But I've never been harassed or physically harmed. I'm not even sure I've ever been called a dyke.

This fear is driving me crazy.

But when I think about it, if I were in any other state and moving to Utah, I'd hear the same thing. This is the Mormon Capital. They hate the gays so much that they funded all the campaigning for Prop 8. It's a completely Conservative state.

Then again, Utah has one of the largest gay communities in the country. Utah has equal housing opportunities. And even the Mormons have begun to change their harsh views on gays and lesbians.

In a simple google search for "Jackson, Mississippi and gay" I found an article called, Illegal To Be Gay In Mississippi, Police Shut Down An LGBT March.
"Mississippi is notorious for basic human rights violations," said Bob Gilchrist, the event organizer. "It's a shame that, in 2012, the state is still maintaining that reputation."

"Police reportedly [told] LGBT mississippians that it's 'illegal to be openly gay in the state.'"

What else can I do? If it's illegal to be gay in MIssissippi?

Sometimes I feel helpless. I feel like I have to give in to the system. I have to let myself be brow-beaten into conformity, and I have to climb back into the closet to protect myself from physical harm--or from jail as the case may be. 

And other times I feel empowered. I feel like everything will be okay. That people will come around. I even feel sometimes as though I need this or maybe Mississippi needs me. Here's the thing, though, whenever I look at this photo: 

I can't help but say "amen" and wish so hard that I have the courage to stop being afraid and to speak out. To act like an American with freedom of speech and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

I don't want to live in fear. All I want is to love and be with my best friend for the remainder of our lives. I want to live happy and carefree, not worrying about what someone may think or what someone might do. 

Mississippi, I don't know why you're calling my name, but ready or not, I'm coming. 

Write on!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Just Say No to Bugs

Happy Friday everyone!!!

I meant to have this video out a couple weeks ago, but the editing took way longer than I expected. But, I finally finished and here it is! Jo and I have been going crazy with all the fruit flies that have made their homes in our plants. No matter what we do, we can't seem to get rid of them. Here's a little something we came up with to make our frustrations seem a little more fun. Hope you enjoy! Feel free to leave comments.

Write on!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

How Soon Should You Publish?

I ran into a writer friend at the conference last week.
As I always do, I asked her about the book she wrote--the one that I love and can't wait to read from front to back.
She finished it, and tried to edit and re-write. Now it is tucked away. She refuses to look at it.
I know it's good--because I got to read some of it, and she's a good writer.
She hasn't sent it to any editors or agents and she refuses to do so anytime soon.

I know she could get an agent. She could get her book published.
But, when I ask why she didn't submit to the agent that asked for her full manuscript, she said that she didn't want to publish something that was okay or good. She wants to know that her book is the best work she can do; this book doesn't feel like her best work.

But, does your first book ever really have to be the absolute best thing in the world? Do you really have to work on it until you're 80 years old and you finally know it's PERFECT before you can get it published?

Or is it okay to write the best you can do for now and publish and continue to learn and grow and improve as a writer with every new book you write?

I know some authors who published and as they've continued writing and publishing they have truly honed their craft--they've made incredible improvements in their writing.

After reading the Boyfriends With Girlfriends book I understood the idea of wanting to wait until you know you have the very best piece of writing you could ever produce. Because I read that book, I have no desire to read more of that author's writing. Maybe that's not fair to him as a learning, progressing writer--but that's my immediate response as a reader.

I don't want someone to read my first book and think, "Wow that sucked. I'm never reading a book by TA Demings again." I want someone to pick it up and read the first page and get sucked in until they get to the last page and then think, "Wow, that was awesome. Where can I get more books by TA Demings?"

So where is the line? Is it okay to publish now and improve later? How far do you drag out the wait-until-this-story-is-perfect-before-I-subimit process? How much room do you allow yourself as a writer to publish and then improve? Could it hurt your writing career to publish something that has great characters and no plot if someone is going to read it and not want to read any more of your books? Does any of this matter?

Maybe there is no definitive answer, but I'd love to know your opinions on this.
Leave me a comment below.

Write on!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Boyfriends With Girlfriends

Why are so many gay/lesbian books stupid and disappointing?
I finally gave in and read Boyfriends With Girlfriends. It's one of those books that never really sounded good, but always showed up in my searches for LGBT young adult fiction at the library.

If you're looking for a book that will challenge views on bisexuality, then this is it. If, however, you're looking for a good story--something that will engage you and be interesting and gripping and have a plot...this is not it.

Craig Nybo said that if you have strong characters and zero plot, you can still be successful. And that is likely the reason this book was published in the first place. It has very strong characters. Unfortunately, it had no plot, and I think the strong characters were completely wasted.

The structure of this book was annoying. It follows four characters often giving the reader the same scene twice--because the scene happens presently with boy1 and boy2, then boy1 calls best friend to re-cap. THEN boy2 calls his best friend to re-cap again. This doesn't just happen once or twice to reveal important information, the book is redundant and repetitive--over and over again!

I finished the book...after skipping and skimming over sections. But, I have no desire to read another book by this author--which is a topic I'd like to explore tomorrow. So, come back ready to leave comments about whether or not it's worth it to publish your book if you're not absolutely sure it's your very BEST work.

Have you read any books lately?
What are some good ones?
Which ones should I avoid?

Write on!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Writing Conferences: A Review

This past weekend I attended the "writing" conference LTUE (Life the Universe and Everything) in Provo. I want to give this conference a good review...but I can't. Not this year.

 Aside from the opportunity to spend a little quality time with my mom, the conference was a disappointment.

It has become a tradition the past couple years to take my mom to a writing conference for her birthday. The past two years (2011 & 2012) it was LDStoryMakers since it happened to be in May near my mom's birthday. We really liked it the first year and so went again. We had planned to go to that one again this year, but because of my job in Mississippi, I won't be able to make it. Instead we went to LTUE, a writing conference geared more toward fantasy and sci/fi fiction that we've been to before. 

Maybe it's my growth as a writer, or my exposure to other, better organized conferences, but this one was disappointing this year. Overall, I'd say the problem is that it was poorly organized.

First of all, it was scheduled the weekend of Valentine's Day (from February 14-16). I had to celebrate with my Valentine a little early (which wasn't a huge deal, but STILL).

Second, very few of the class titles or descriptions accurately described what the classes were about. We attended a class called The Economics of Super villainy, which could have been AWESOME, but turned out to be very dull. The class, rather than focusing on tips for how to create a super villain that affects your setting's economy, it seemed to be more of a nerd session where we talked about a myriad of super villains from comics with no real tie to how to write. I could do a better job--and I'm not much of a super villain or super hero kind of writer (or reader).

The majority of the classes or presentations were panels of the same authors over and over, most of which got off the listed topic. Hardly any of them were useful in writing technique, or publishing how-to.

A lot of the presentations involved "shameless plugs" for every author's book or short story or website. I have no problem with self-promotion, however, if an author shows up to be on a panel or to give a presentation to a class and all they do is talk about their work, I will not read or buy anything from them. If, however, they show up with a prepared presentation and know what they will say before they say it, and they give good, useful advice on writing or publishing--then I will be more likely to look them up, read their work, and buy their stuff.

Overall, I came away with a very good idea of how NOT to run a conference.
DON'T put a panel together of random authors and let them just talk about random things.
DON'T make up any old name that sounds interesting (such as xenobiology) and have someone talk about how it's really not scientifically possible for an entire hour when the audience wanted to have good advice on how to include aliens in their fiction. FICTION.
DON'T invite an author to give a presentation if they're not willing to prepare first--these days I expect a power-point or some kind of visual aid (maybe it's drawing on a whiteboard), prepared notes, and a point to the presentation. For instance The 5 plot structures of Picture Books was a GREAT presentation, because I knew exactly what I would get out of it--5 different plot structures of a picture book.
DON'T leave a presenter without the appropriate materials. I attended a couple classes where the presenters came fully prepared with power-point/visual aids, but were stuck in rooms without the technology to accommodate them. Not the presenter's fault--bad organization.

I recognize that it is HARD to run a conference. Very hard. And it takes a lot of work. Also, this conference is very affordable. For students you can attend for free. For non-students it only costs $30 for the whole thing. I'm definitely not ready to run my own conference...but, in the future when I am, I'll have some good ideas on what to do and what not to do.

Some ideas on how to run a writing conference:
DO invite authors who are good a presenting and are willing to prepare their words/presentation in advance.
DO have sponsors/donators and get a good fund going.
DO take a lot of time preparing and planning in advance.
DO heavily consider the title of classes and the actual subject being addressed.
DO include short, informative descriptions of classes with the name(s) of those presenting.

Like with everything, it's a process. I'm sure the organizers of the conference will get better as they go and learn. There were a couple presentations that I LOVED. One of which was given by Craig Nybo. So, check him out, and if you want someone to present at your writing conference who has good advice and enthusiasm--he's your guy.

What writing conferences have you been to? Good? Bad? Meh?
Tell me about them!

Write on!

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Very Merry President's Day To You

Just thought I'd wish everyone a merry President's Day. I know with every president there is controversy over what he (someday I"ll have to say he or she) has done or has not done, but the fact of the matter is we've had some great presidents.

 Here are some of my favorite past presidents:

While Most people only remember his infidelity, Clinton presided over the longest period of economic expansion during peacetime in American history.  He declared no wars, and managed to have surpluses of 60 - 230 billion dollars as reported by the congressional budget office. 
According to Wikipedia (a very reliable source--I know), "Clinton signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 in August of that year, which passed Congress without a Republican vote. It cut taxes for fifteen million low-income families, made tax cuts available to 90 percent of small businesses,[58] and raised taxes on the wealthiest 1.2 percent of taxpayers. Additionally, through the implementation of spending restraints, it mandated the budget be balanced over a number of years."

There are certainly things that Clinton did wrong as a president. Defense Of Marriage Act, for example, which defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. But, I'm still proud of the three new national monuments that Clinton declared during his presidency. 1500-square-mile Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, the 71,000 acre Agua Fria National Monument, the California Coastal National Monument, and an expansion of Pinnacles National Monument by 8,000 acres.

Then there was this guy: 

What I love most about Teddy Roosevelt is that he loved the outdoors. He hiked (and you can even read a story about how he was about to summit Mt. Marcy when he received a telegram about the poor health of President McKinley). He is sometimes known as the "conservation president" because he did so much to protect landscapes throughout the US. He also established the Antiquities Act which enabled him and his successors to declare national monuments. He himself created somewhere around 18 national monuments of cultural or natural importance. 

And, though she was no president: 

Eleanor Roosevelt is one of my favorite first ladies. I can't think of another woman who is quoted quite as often as she is. She had a lot of great things to say. And she was even nicknamed the "First Lady of the World" because she did so much for human rights. She was "controversial" as a First Lady because she spoke out and had opinions. Unlike any First Lady before her, she held press conferences, wrote a newspaper column, and spoke at a national convention. Sometimes, she even publicly disagreed with her husband's policies. She advocated for women in the workplace, and for the civil rights of African Americans and Japanese Americans. 

I can't say enough about her. Here's a video: 

And here are a few quotes from Eleanor:

"We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot."

"Do what you feel in your heart to be right- for you'll be criticized anyway. You'll be damned if you do, and damned if you don't."

"In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility."

I think today is a day to celebrate our great presidents. And our current president. If you don't like something a president is doing, well, then send him a letter.

I look forward to the day that we get a woman president, but until then, the First Ladies seem to be doing a lot of fantastic work! Thanks to Eleanor Roosevelt for changing the role of the First Lady.

Who is your favorite president? Leave me a comment below.

Write on!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I'm Moving to Mississippi

It's time to get this show on the road.
I got a job in Jackson, Mississippi as a wildland firefighter. I'll be a member of the Jackson Hotshot crew.

Hotshots are serious wildland firefighters. Not that other crews aren't, but there are certain standards that Hotshots are held to that other crews generally are not. "Their core values of duty, integrity, and respect have earned Hotshot crews an excellent reputation throughout the United States and Canada as elite teams of professional wildland firefighters."

Every wildland firefighter must pass the arduous level Work Capacity Test which consists of carrying 45lbs for three miles in less than 45 minutes. But Hotshots must also meet these physical requirements:
  • 1.5 mile run in a time of 10:35 or less
  • 40 sit-ups in 60 seconds or less
  • 25 pushups in 60 seconds or less
  • Chin-ups, based on body weight
    • More than 170 lbs. = 4 chin-ups
    • 135-169 lbs. = 5 chin-ups
    • 110- 134 lbs. = 6 chin-ups
    • Less than 110 lbs. = 7 chin-ups 
While these are the minimum qualifications, most Hotshot crews hold their own arduous standards for physical fitness and workout regimes. I've been informed that for our regular work-outs as a crew we'll be expected to work-out a couple times a day--running totals of 8-10 miles and doing upwards to 400 push-ups and sit-ups. 

I. am. excited. I know to some of you this sounds ridiculous--who would ever want to do that? But, I love wildland fire. It's one of those jobs where I get PAID to hike in the wilderness. It's a dirty job--that's for sure. I'll spend weeks at a time working on the fire line, sleeping in a tent, eating lousy food, and hardly ever getting a chance to shower. 

It's a dangerous job, too. Firefighting used to be #5 on the Top Most Dangerous Jobs list. It now sits at about #13 with 7 deaths out of every 100,000 workers. It's not much compared to how many truck and taxi driver fatalities there are (which is probably why those two jobs have moved up into the top 10 list). But, we all know that fire is dangerous--especially when it's in the wild where fire behavior often become unpredictable. 

Despite how horrible the job may sound, for one thing: It's pretty BAD ASS. And, I've never seen such beautiful sunsets and sunrises anywhere as I have working as a firefighter climbing into my tent at night and crawling out in the morning. I've never felt so satisfied in the workplace as I have after a day on the fireline. It's intense physical labor, but it takes a calm head, focused mind, and positive attitude. There's so much I could say about firefighting. About how great it feels to be part of a team, every member working their asses off side by side. Or how I've learned more in on-the-job training than I ever could have in college. 

One of the best things about wildland firefighting is that it's a seasonal job. I can work work work all summer and then have the rest of the year to write (in theory...assuming I eventually start making money off my writing). And hopefully, as I get more experience and travel around to different fires around the country I'll have enough material to write a book or some essays about wildland firefighting. 

Until then, you can expect some posts about Mississippi--I'm in the research process now. 

Write on!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Why Writing is Like Running

I've struggled and struggled so much with getting my writing done (and you probably can relate). Today I stumbled across an awesome article about rest called Relax! You'll Be More Productive

The article talks about how "working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be a prescription for maximizing productivity." In a study of musicians, athletes, actors and--best of all--chess players, it seemed that maximal productivity was achieved while working in intervals of 90 minutes or less and taking breaks between each work session. Another key is to "rarely work more than four and a half hours in any given day." 

This idea sounds so phenomenal to me. And yet, it's so simple that I think, "Duh! Of course this makes sense!" Society today seems to be trapped in a mind-set of GO GO GO! DO DO DO!! NOW NOW NOW! To be successful means to dedicate all our time and talent to a career. It means sacrificing personal time and family time and date nights. 

When I had a desk job (and a 1hour commute each way) I worked anywhere between 8 and 10 hours, using my 30 minute lunch break to squeeze in a work-out. I ate lunch at my desk as I read through cases or created official documents. Often it turned into a 12 hour day of not having any real breaks or down time. It definitely took a toll on my emotional, mental, spiritual, and, of course, my physical well being. 

Right now I have all the time in the world. But, sometimes I feel like if I'm going to treat my writing as a "job" then I have to make it a typical 40 hour week sort of thing. When I really think about it this way of looking at my writing is pretty stupid--but I think it's easy to get lost in that trap of GO GO GO! until there's no energy or motivation left. 

The brilliant thing about writing is that it doesn't have to be full time. Going back to that Relax! You'll Be More Productive article, Tony Schwartz says, "Writing just four and half hours a day, I completed [two] books in less than six months and spent my afternoons on less demanding work."

A great thing about this concept is that the "less demanding work" Schwartz mentions could be anything for me. It could mean practicing on the bass, going to the gym, writing a blog post ;), making a movie, or doing house chores. 

One of the things I've been thinking about lately is physical exercise. For any exercise program--whether you want to build muscle, lose weight, look glossy, feel more rejuvenated, or run a marathon--the key is rest and recuperation. Someone training for a marathon will never run every day. At least one full rest day is absolutely necessary.  To get optimal performance, a runner will throw in a day or two of cross training--swimming, biking, elliptical-ing, zumba, yoga. The regime will be varied with "hard" days of tempos, hills, or long runs, and "easy" days of slow pace, flats, or short runs. Mixing it up in exercise regimes is about giving your different muscles a chance to rest and recuperate so they can grow stronger. Rest and the right kinds (and amounts) of food are what will help optimize a well-planned fitness program. 

I think the same thing applies to writing, although the "rest" and "food" might be somewhat different. Maybe variety means working on different projects--poetry one day, novel another day, story-in-the-back-of-your-head the next day... Or it might mean switching up the venue--the kitchen table in the afternoon, in bed with the lamp on at night, coffee shop in the morning...
We may not need extra protein after a full 90 minute writing session the way a body builder needs it, but a snack every once in a while is a really good idea. Little breaks between writing sessions could mean reading a chapter or two in a book, watching an episode of Gilmore Girls or Glee (or your choice of tv show), doing a little yoga or meditation, taking a nap, walking the dog (or rat as my crazy dreams may have it), pursuing another passion like painting, singing, furniture building, or welding. 

Clyde and I know how to rest! (after hiking into Grand Canyon)
I don't intend for all this to sound overwhelming. I'm not saying that to take a rest from writing really means to DO DO DO all these other things. I just mean that maybe for some it's relaxing to play the piano for a little while, or do something more with their hands (like knitting!) rather than overworking their minds. Use the rest as actual rest--naps, meditation, staring out the window watching the snow fall. The key is to let yourself relax so during the times you are focused and working, you'll get the most out of it. 

Now, let's see how it works for me this week. 

Write on!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Writing is Hard

Sometimes writing is hard.
Maybe it's just that reading, watching youtube videos, listening to music, making movies, going through piles of pennies...are all easy things to do. Mindless, relaxing things.

Last night I tried to get my mind focused on the writing I would do today.
I thought of scenes I need and even let the new story at the back of my mind keep me awake a little longer.

But, even though I woke up an hour earlier today and vacuumed the floors, washed the dishes, and got some good footage for tomorrow's awesome movie, I haven't written a word. I've almost finished reading a novel about climbing Mt. Everest (because it's due back at the library tomorrow), but no writing.

I think what I have a hard time with sometimes is writing when "the muse" is around. It's hard to climb out of bed and go into the other room to write my ideas down when I've got them in my head. But, maybe that's what I've got to do. Generally, there are certain times of the day when my mind is in the right place for writing. Probably those times have just become some weird form of habit created by homework deadlines over the sum 17 years I spent in school... I work best late at night or early in the mornings. In order to meet class deadlines I'd stay up into the wee hours working on essays. Sometimes if I was too tired to do that, I'd go to bed and wake up ridiculously early so I could finish up the last 5 pages of the 10 page research paper I had to turn in. My theory is that I've trained my brain to only operate at certain times in the day.

Unfortunately, those times don't really mesh with the schedule I'm on. Maybe I have to re-do my schedule? Or maybe I need to figure out how to re-program my brain? Something. Because I need to finish this novel!

What do you do to get over the hardness of writing? Please tell me your secrets!!!

Write on!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

If You Like It Then You Shoud've Put a Ring on It

Before I get into anything I just want to say that writing is the most powerful tool I possess. My pen is not a weapon, but I hope hope HOPE it will aid me in showing the world that no one is alone. I hope that my writing can reach into the hearts of those who love someone and that together we can work toward that ultimate beauty where we understand that we are all connected and we can all live and work together. Writing is my power, and that's why I share pieces of my life and my beliefs and my opinions here. 

I am lesbian.
Maybe you should know this about me.
That way you'll understand why some things are important to me.
I'm sure you've heard that song "Single Ladies", but just in case you haven't, here it is:

The picture at the top, while clever and cute, is something that I completely disagree with. Don't get me wrong. I am for equal marriage. I think that once we have equality in some areas then it opens the gates to equality in other areas. Marriage is something that a lot of people want the opportunity to take part in.  And I think as we get closer to marriage equality we will get closer to a general equality.

Maybe I take issue with certain word choices, but there is no one saying you can't put a ring on someone's finger if that someone wants it there.

My lovergirl and I exchanged rings last year (July 9, 2012) on our 1 year anniversary of being together.
We are not married in any legal sense, and I doubt we will ever get married. But, since the society in which we live expresses commitment in relationships with a ring on the left ring finger, we thought it would be nice to be a part of that little tradition. We wanted to tell the world in a little way that we do love each other. (To read more about our story and see some pics of our cool rings, here are a few blog posts: Being Here Is So Much, Second First Kiss, Rings)

Marriage--as far as legalities go--doesn't mean a whole lot to me (I don't mean this to discount anyone's marriage in any way). Maybe it has something to do with all those "Vegas weddings" or all the divorce or all the marriages that seem to be based on money or religion or status. But I understand when someone wants to show their commitment to another person whom they love deeply. Marriage can be a way of showing that commitment to the world. However, simply getting married and slipping a ring onto your partner's finger isn't enough. Commitment and love  are things that you show every day with kisses and hugs, washing the dishes and folding the laundry. They are things that you can't ever do in one go because commitment is holding your lover when she cries (even if you're the reason she's crying), and it's admitting you made a mistake. Commitment is taking care of yourself, your body, your mind, your soul so your partner doesn't feel like she has to do it for you. Commitment is being there no matter what--even on the bad days and the sick days. Commitment is being willing to communicate--about your needs, about finances and goals and careers, about chores and ex-girlfriends and insecurities. Love is a process that does not begin or end with marriage or rings.

I'm not the expert on any of this. But, I'm learning everyday I'm with Jo. We're learning how to communicate, how to love, and how to live our lives together. I don't need anyone to tell me that it's okay. It would be nice, definitely. I would love to have the same opportunities as other couples. I would love for that smidgen of fear to be taken from my life. But I will live regardless. And I will love no matter what.  I will continue to wear my ring.

Write on!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Paper or Plastic?

Hello. Welcome to Smiths/Maceys/KMart/FreshMarket/Harmons/Wegmans/Reams/AnyOtherStoreYouCanThinkOf...

I've been thinking a lot lately about that little phrase that I was taught during the third grade: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. 

It was a phrase that teachers drilled into my head along with that other one (Evaporation, Condensation, Precipitation). But, unlike the water cycle phrase, the three R's never really felt informative. It was just another phrase to memorize for a quiz. While it may have had pictures they probably looked something like this (if you can count this as a picture): 

I've remembered it very plainly ever since the third grade (which says a lot since I don't remember most things I learned in college), but as a kid in elementary school I never learned what this actually meant. Nobody ever taught me (until I moved to college and had a roommate who did annoying things like unplug the toaster all the time) how to reduce, reuse, or recycle. 

At the grocery stores, people go and fill up shopping carts full of packaged goods. They take those packages to the check-out where someone used to ask if you wanted paper or plastic (It's been a long time since I've had anyone ask that). They fill thin plastic bags with your already packaged products and send you on your way home where you take everything out of the bags and (if you're like my grandma) you stuff the empty sacks into an old pair of pants that have the bottoms sewn shut. 

Those plastic bags stay stuffed in those pants that seem to be able to contain an unlimited supply of crumpled plastic bags.  

I could go on and on about how we, as Americans, contribute to pollution, overflow the landfills, and waste far more than is necessary. But, you already know all that. What we need now are ideas on how we, and individuals, can change all that. 

Here are 7 things that Jo and I do: 

1. Take a reusable bag(s) to the grocery store (this way I'm not using the plastic bags AND I get extra rewards points at Smiths which reduces my fuel costs). 

2. Recycle the things that are recyclable: metal cans (usually from beans or tomatoes), paper (all that junk mail that I can't stop from coming into my mailbox, old grocery lists, etc), plastic (sometimes I eat some yogurt that comes in a plastic container), cardboard (I like to eat pizza once in a while--what can I say?), glass (from the occasional wine/beer bottle, or, more likely, a salad dressing bottle). We have to save up the glass and take it to Salt Lake whenever we go there for something to put it in the glass recycle thing by the Shopko on 13th south...but, it's worth it, because then I'm not throwing that into a landfill).

3. Eco-Friendly Light Bulbs: This is probably the simplest thing we can do to cut down on the amount of electricity we use. Jo bought a pack of Conserv Energy lightbulbs that replace the kind that normally use 100W and instead use only 23W while still illuminating out apartment with 1600 lumens (i'm not sure how others compare in terms of lumens, but these bulbs are a lot better!). 

4. Unplug the Toaster: When I was in college my roommate unplugged the toaster ALL THE TIME. It drove me crazy right up until about the time she moved out and new roommates moved in. Then I was the evil toaster unplugger. But, unplugging little things is simple. If you leave things plugged in then it will continue to use electricity. When you're not using things like your toaster or cell phone charger or crock pot or blender or coffee maker--un-plug it. It'll save you that much more energy (and maybe a bit of money, too!)

5. Take Public Transportation when possible: I don't really do this much anymore (mostly because I stay home at the moment), but I had a UTA pass for several months and I rode the Frontrunner and the bus to work and back everyday. It was nice because I didn't have to drive all that way in the snow, and I could read during my commute (or take a nap) rather than have to keep focused on the drive. 

6. Walk/Bike to places: This seems really hard for me in the winter for a couple reasons. 1. the inversion is so bad in the winter I do NOT want to breathe the air outside (which is ironic if I drive because then I'm just polluting even more. ugh.) 2. It is COLD. Not only is it cold, there is so much snow on the ground this winter that the plows can't keep it off the road and none of the sidewalks are clear). BUT, I still try to walk when I can. The coffee shop I like to write at is only a couple blocks away so I try to walk when I go there. The carwash place is only about a block away and I like to get quarters there--so I walk to get quarters when I need to do laundry (this is a slight exaggeration...mostly because Jo does the laundry and gets the quarters a lot more often than I do...Thanks Jo!). Sometimes it's the little things that add up. 
Wouldn't it be cool if we saw more of these?

7. Buy in "bulk": I put quotes around "bulk" because we don't really buy super large quantities of things, but grocery stores (at least the Smiths near us) have sections of "bulk food" in bins where you can scoop out a few cups of dry beans, granola, nuts, flour, wheat, flax seed, noodles, dates, and on and on. Of course plastic bags are available for putting these products into, but we take our own bags, scoop our stuff into them, take the bags home and dump our beans and flax seeds into glass jars. Oh yeah, and they even have spices that you can get the same way. Jo has an awesome spice rack of glass spice jars with the spice written on the tops and we get new spices from the "bulk" section and re-fill the jars as needed. 

The thing I don't understand at all is how much we package everything here. For example I went to Subway the other day with Jo. We ordered our sandwiches together. They wrapped each of them individually in their sandwich paper stuff and put them each in plastic sacks. That was two plastic bags wasted (which we returned to the counter in case they want to use them again). But it's just an example of how we over package everything. Crackers come in a bag inside of a box, which we wind up putting inside another bag to take home. It's time to cut down on the packaging--it's so unnecessary and we wind up wasting our resources in the process. 

Now here are 3 things I wish we did: 

1. Grow our own garden: This would be awesome! We could grow our own organic food (more to come on this) and reduce pollution in a number of ways. Do you know where your food comes from? Or how many miles it was shipped in a semi truck pumping out pollution and eating up gallons of fuel along the way? We could cut down on the amounts of pollution generated by the trucks that ship the food, the refrigeration at the store to keep the food "fresh" and by our own driving to and from the store.  I wish we had the means right now to be self-sufficient in that way. 

2. Use Solar Power: I don't know enough about this, but one day I want to have a house (a small one) with solar panels. I want to have a car run off of solar energy. It's ridiculous that we've got the technology to use solar energy and we're still tearing up the earth, digging for coal and oil and putting so much pollution into the air. We have CLEAN energy options! Solar power is something I'm definitely willing to invest in. 

3. Take my own tupperware for left-over dinner: I know this sounds crazy, but I just thought of it. How much plastic and styrofoam is generated by restaurants for take out or left-overs? I might have to become the purse-carrying type so I can take my own little re-usable tupperware to restaurants on those special occasions. Can you imagine the look on your server's face if you pulled out one of those when they ask if you want to take home the rest of the food on your plate? It would be awesome! I'll let you know when I try it. 

There are so many other things we can do to take better care of our mother earth. What do you do? What do you wish you did and what is holding you back? Share this post if you think it was helpful--the best way to change the world is through writing. 

Write on!