reverb 10 catch up, part two

I may not get done with all the prompts by the end of the year, but I’m going to get another batch done today! I’m setting a 5-minute timer for each prompt; minimal editing after the fact. The below is what came out!

December 19 – Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?

Taking the prompt literally, my asthma inhaler healed me this year. I was diagnosed in 2009, after I spent most of the spring and summer with bronchitis that turned into pneumonia. But I hate the inhaler. Hate it. Having to breathe in and hold my breath and gargle, swish, and spit twice a day annoys the hell out of me. So I have a tendency to forget about it. But, when I forget about it for too long, I end up with bronchitis again, or at least the beginnings of a cough that’s likely to turn into bronchitis if I’m not careful. So, I’ve been working really hard on using my inhaler on a regular basis. I still hate it, but 2-3 minutes a day will keep me from feeling like death warmed over. I’ll deal with it.

For 2011, we’ll go a little more esoteric. I want to rid myself of the fear that keeps me from trying new things. It’s a flaw, a shortcoming I’ve lived with my whole life. I’ve done a lot of things that other people consider new and scary; a lot of things I personally considered new and scary when I did them! But I keep going back into my shell, back to the feeling that I’m going to fail miserably, that everyone’s going to laugh at me and think I’m a moron. It’s a sensitivity that I don’t like. It feels like a wound that needs healing.

December 20 – Beyond Avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)

Well, this seems like a natural continuation of the last prompt, doesn’t it? Let’s first continue the medical theme – it’s been far, far too long since I’ve had a full physical. I avoid making doctor’s appointments like the plague. (And dentist’s appointments. Those are worse. Far, far worse, because my teeth are a mess. But I’m deathly afraid of ending up with a partial mouth full of teeth like my father, so I need to get over that fear!) I managed to finally make appointments with an allergy and asthma specialist, but that’s really the only doctor-related thing I accomplished this year. I need to make a list and make those appointments this year.

One of the reasons – a stupid reason – I avoid doctor’s appointments is that I don’t like getting on scales right now. I’ve gained weight back since I lost 50 pounds a few years ago. I hate it. But, thanks to inertia or laziness or whatever you want to call it, I haven’t been able to get myself moving to lose the weight again. I’m determined, though. I’ve been looking at pictures of myself recently and cringing. I was once 25 pounds lighter than I am right now, not so long ago! And I’m 35-ish pounds away from my ultimate goal weight. I’ve done it before, I can lose weight again. I just need to stop eating horribly and start working out again. The asthma deterred me from working out for a good portion of the last two years; now that my breathing is under control, I don’t have that excuse. I need to lose weight. Period.

December 21 – Future Self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?)

Advice to Jaime, age 34, from Jaime, age 39:

When you’re staring down the barrel of 40, you know you don’t want to be thinking the same thing you thought at age 29. “Thank god this decade is over. Maybe I’ll be happier in the next one.” You don’t want to regret all those missed opportunities. So what are you waiting for? Finish a novel, submit it to agents. Get rejected, get better, try again. Maybe you’ll be published at 39, maybe you won’t. But you want to be able to say you’re a better writer by now, and you want to be able to say you’ve tried.

Join a dating site. Chat up someone at a con or a concert. Go on some dates with some guys. Maybe they’ll work, maybe they won’t. The experience is what matters. And if you don’t try, nothing will ever happen, right?

You know yourself. You think you don’t, but you do. You know you want experiences, adventures. You need to find a good balance of adventure and nesting. Stability is good, stability gives you the base to have adventures. You’re a little too stable right now, though. Knock yourself off the ledge a little bit. Fall. Fly. Do something that will give you a good story to tell five years from now.

(As for the bonus … well, I’d give my younger self much the same advice, with an assurance that things do get better, that friends and fun are out there waiting. And a nudge to have better conversations with Susan while I can. And a loud, capital-letter-shouting plea to “GET HELP. GO SEE A THERAPIST. GET MEDICATED. TRUST ME.”)

December 22 – Travel. How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

I didn’t travel as much this year as I have in years past – or, I guess, I didn’t travel to as many different places! I usually go on more concert road trips; this year, we went to Chicago and Detroit for a-ha and Butch Walker this spring, but I think that’s it … I don’t even remember going to Iowa this year, like we usually do at some point or another! I miss road trips. They’re always an adventure worth remembering, no matter what happens. We already have one concert road trip planned – to Des Moines to see My Chemical Romance in April – but I’d like to plan more. Wisconsin, Chicago, maybe somewhere farther afield? Concerts make me happy. Road trips make me happy. Money is occasionally an issue, but that can be planned for. More road trips in 2011!

I love flying. But, in 2010, I mostly just flew to St. Louis, a trip that really doesn’t excite me – I do love seeing my dad and my friends there, but I’ve made that trip 2-3 times a year for the last thirteen years. Other than Missouri, I only flew to Tampa (for The Rock Boat) and to San Francisco this year. San Francisco was an awesome adventure; a last-minute trip to a city I’d never been to before. I want more trips like that in the coming year! I have one great travel adventure planned for 2011 … Kate and I plan to go to London in August, to celebrate our upcoming 35th birthdays. I haven’t been to London in 18 years; I went on a 21 day whirlwind tour of Europe when I was 16, but only got to spend 3 days in London. At least a day and a half of that was spent jet-lagged, as it was our first stop, and my very first plane trip to boot! I’ve wanted to go back and spend more time in London ever since; I’m so glad we finally sat down and said “yes, we’re doing it!”

Otherwise, I want to visit at least one city in the US that I’ve either never been to or haven’t yet had a chance to explore properly. It’s a goal!

… more later. Now, it’s time to get ready for our New Year’s Eve party! Friends, laughter, drinks, video games, bad movies … we’ve rung in the New Year this way for three years running, and it always feels like a happy, positive way to kick off another cycle. If I don’t get back to this yet today, I hope everyone reading has a marvelous New Year!

reverb 10 catch-up, part one

The last couple of weeks have seen me a) deathly ill with the stomach plague and b) out of town without internet, so I am marvelously behind on Reverb 10! I intend to finish, though! I am determined!

I hand-wrote some responses while I was in Missouri for the holiday. Mostly short, but sweet!

December 14 – Appreciate. What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?

I appreciate my friends. I appreciate my ability to say “hey, anyone want to …” and get a “yes” response almost every time.

Ten years ago, in May of 2000, I lost my ex-roommate to cancer. Jen was one of only two people I knew when I moved to Minnesota in 1998. Later that year, the other person moved to California. I knew a couple of other people, but the relationships were in fairly early stages, and I didn’t know how they’d turn out. I’m an introvert by nature. I wondered what kind of social life I’d have – would I settle in with new friends, or would I be lonely, like I was in Missouri?

A decade later, I have a found family in Minnesota, a group of people I love beyond measure. I never have to be lonely, not unless I choose to be. I don’t know how good I am at expressing gratitude, but I hope they all know I love them very much.

December 15 – 5 Minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.

(Note: this came from notes hand-written in 5 minutes in the middle of a Texas Roadhouse. I make no guarantee it’ll be comprehensible to anyone but me!)

The Rock Boat. Green River Ordinance on the Promenade, leaning against a speaker and laughing when Tyrone Wells didn’t know the words to “The Joker.” Running The Amazing Cozumel Race in the pouring rain. Freezing cold weather in Florida, naturally.

Disaster party. Horrible SyFy movies with Tiffany and Debbie Gibson.

Butch Walker at the Fine Line. a-ha in Chicago, for the first and only time before they retire. Butch in Detroit.

Making steampunk circus costumes.

Losing Luna.

CONvergence. My tiny purple top hat. Boozy fruit, made of burning. Voltaire. Leigh dancing on stage.

Craft nights. Zach reading inappropriate books aloud. Paul trying to sell Leigh a mythical laptop desk.

New My Chemical Romance album. Inception. Visits from far-away friends. Making brand new friends. Visiting San Francisco for the first time. Misti’s wedding. Our Big September Babies Rock Band Birthday Party. Horrible, no good, very bad movies like The Wolfman and Clash of the Titans. We see more bad movies than good movies, that probably says something about us.

Concerts. Popsickle Fest. Warped Tour. Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers. Carbon Leaf. So many, so hard to keep track!

Depression. Recovery. Friends. It was a year.

December 16 – Friendship. How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?

This year, I think, one of my problems has been that I haven’t let other people change me enough – or that I haven’t changed with some of my friends. I’ve felt stagnant. I’ve been jealous of people who are moving forward, or who have found happiness with who and where they are. I’ve slid backwards, been too easily hurt by friends who mean no harm at all.

I don’t know what this says about my perspective on the world. Perhaps that I look inward too much, that I need to focus more on the outer world in order to change myself?

December 17 – Lesson Learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?

I learned that I need to do. I need to move. I need to create on a daily basis. This isn’t a new lesson, but it’s one I’ve failed to grasp many times. I am happier when I’m creating.

Related, I have learned that I need to be content creating for myself, without an audience. Audiences are good! Everyone who creates something wants someone else to appreciate it! However, I’ve occasionally come to rely on feedback so much that when it disappears, I shrivel. I need to remember that I need to create for myself first, everyone else second.

How to apply that? Good question. It’s the constant struggle, to keep my brain on task!

December 18 – Try. What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it?

I tried learning how to sew this year. It was a disaster, in a way – not the sewing itself, but convincing my brain to let me be bad at something is nearly impossible. I definitely chose the wrong time to start, when the hoped-for result was a costume that would be worn in front of a couple thousand people! So, perhaps in 2011, I might try sewing again, on a much, much smaller scale!

I also want to try writing short stories. It’s a format I don’t play in for my original fiction, but I think it might help tighten my plotting skills!

… and, that’s enough catch-up for one post. Can I finish catching up by the end of the year? It’s a goal!

reverb 10, day 13 – action

From December 13th: When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?

My biggest aspiration is the same as it’s always been – finish a goddamned novel, and polish it up enough that I can start submitting it to agents.

I currently have at least half a dozen partially finished novels sitting on my hard drive. I start something, I get 10K, 20K, 30K – even 50K, for the one story I wrote for NaNoWriMo – into the draft before I go “shit, this SUCKS, I hate it, it’s never going to amount to anything” and back away. No matter how hard I try or how many times I remind myself that it’s necessary, I remain terrified of the shitty first draft. I was always a one-draft writer in school; I’m a good enough writer that my one-draft papers, knocked out the night before the assignment was due, were usually good enough to net me an A. I was never forced to develop the discipline to write, analyze, revise, and rework. It’s become a problem nowadays.

So, the next step? I have a list of concrete things I know I need to do. I have my eye on one of my incomplete novels – I reread my scene outline the other night, and it’s needlessly complex, with too many characters and not enough explanation of my two main characters’ motivations. I need to tear the outline apart and put it back together with more focus. I need to do a little research to make the magic system I’m creating for the story seem a little more believable. And then, I need to write. And write. And write. Until it’s done.

In a larger sense, though, my next step really needs to be figuring out a way to defeat this fear of failure, to conquer my lack of discipline. I need to figure out how to stop comparing my writing to other people’s. I need to figure out how to not let others’ opinions on the kind of story I love to write affect how I feel about my own work. What kind of actions can I take to accomplish this? Damned if I know. I’m open to suggestions! How do you deal with this sort of fear?

reverb 10, day 12 – body and mind

More catchup! This one is from December 12th: This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?

There are two times per year when I feel like I’m surrounded by “my people.” The Rock Boat in January, and CONvergence in July. TRB is for my musical passions, while CONvergence is dedicated to my geek pride. I haven’t always loved CONvergence this much, though. Back when I first started attending, I felt like a tiny wallflower-shaped fish out of water. I was shy and awkward, and I couldn’t even find it in me to interact with the people I was supposedly there with, friends of my then brand-new roommate. I vividly remember spending the entirety of that first Saturday night wandering around the party rooms, watching people have fun wistfully, not knowing how to join in myself.

In the last few years, however, I’ve gained more confidence – and with that, a family of fellow geeks that help make the con one of the highlights of my year. In 2009, we started coming up with a group costume theme; that year, 12 of us dressed up as zombie pirates, and it was a huge hit. (We spent all of Saturday night shambling around the party rooms, yelling “Aaaaarrrrr! Brrraaaaiiins!” and gathering as many weird drinks as possible. It was awesome. ) This year, we decided to be a steampunk circus. My circus costume, as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, didn’t quite come off as well as I wanted it, and I had something of a breakdown over it.

… however, we dressed up the other two nights of the convention as well, to much more success (for me, anyway!). Thursday night, we deemed it Goth Night, thanks to a concert by Voltaire. I pulled out a corset, skirt, striped tights and my Doc Marten Mary Janes, and my roommate knitted me the most adorable tiny purple top hat to wear. I ditched my glasses, curled my hair, and applied enough eyeliner for three separate people. When I looked in the mirror, I felt better about my appearance than I had in a very long time.

I don’t often feel attractive these days. I look in a mirror and mostly, I see the flaws. My nose is crooked, my face breaks out, my teeth are yellowing, my waist is thick and lumpy. But, that night, I looked in a mirror and I felt beautiful. I had good hair and good makeup and fantastic cleavage. I felt good enough to smile at people who looked at me as I passed them in the hall. I went to the ballroom and danced and sang along to Voltaire. For that one night, at least, I felt like my body matched the person I wanted to be in my mind.

I think the setting and the company had – and have – a whole lot to do with my own integration of my body and mind. I don’t have the kind of self-confidence that allows me to feel that kind of wholeness in just any company. Does anyone? Some people seem to, but I wonder sometimes. I think, perhaps, that you need to feel comfortable to feel whole; you need a setting that calls to you, people who accept you just the way you are – or, in some cases, people who will accept you as the person you want to be, so that you have the courage to strive to be that person.

Maybe my sense of self is a little less solid than others’, though.

Or maybe I just need more corsets in my life.

… nah.

reverb 10, day 11 – 11 things

I got off track for a few days. Why? Quite frankly, I looked at Friday’s prompt and ended up in a deep funk. The reasons are complex, and I don’t really want to go into the long explanation right now. I spent the weekend avoiding my depression and the blizzard by sitting on the couch and watching a whole lot of The Vampire Diaries. Sometimes, you just need a couple of days like that.

Time to get back on track, though. Skipping the prompt that triggered me – so let’s go on to day 11!

December 11th: What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?

I could answer this prompt with a whole lot of high-concept self-help jargon, but I’ve found that being realistic and concrete helps me a lot more. So, a list, off the top of my head:

1) At the top of my hall closet, I keep a garbage bag full of stuffed animals. They’re all 20 years old or more; the toys of my childhood. Most of them have little sentimental value – really, there are only two toys I feel any emotional connection to. The first is the pink teddy bear that my favorite teacher gave me on the day my mother died – my 12th birthday. She came by our house while the adults congregated in the living room, crying and eating and planning, and was one of the few people to actually remember that it was, in fact, my birthday. I slept with that bear until I was old enough to be embarrassed by the fact. The other belonged to my sister; her old floppy Grover doll, the constant companion of her childhood. I claimed it from her apartment’s bedroom after her funeral, as we boxed up the remains of her life. Those two toys stay. Everything else must go.

I don’t need a garbage bag full of toys that have no value. I don’t collect them, don’t display them. I don’t have kids, and even if I did, would they want to play with battered old dolls? The bag is simply a reminder of a childhood I am ambivalent about at best. To purge those dolls would be to allow myself to believe that the scared, lonely girl of 20 years ago is long gone.

2) Do you have any idea how much time I’d gain out of my evenings if I eliminated Facebook’s Bejeweled Blitz from my bookmarks and memory?

3) I have a set of Delicious bookmarks designed to track my own popularity in certain corners of the internet as compared to other people. They do little more than make me crazy – why is so-and-so more popular than me? What did I do wrong that so few people have this bookmarked? What should I do to be more popular? If I was a smarter person, I would delete them. I need to write and post and be myself on the internet because it’s good for me, not because someone else would like me better for it.

4) You know, I had pepperoni pizza rolls eliminated from my diet once. I lost 50 pounds that year. Why did I let them sneak back in?

5) Too often, I fall into the trap of thinking that complaining is the best way to relate to another person in a conversation. If we both bitch about the same thing, then we have something in common, right? But that sort of negativity only ends up weighing me down in the end. I need to get over my innate belief that talking about the good things in my life equates to bragging, and trust that people will be just as – if not more – happy to talk about good things than bad.

6) There are four shelves of books in my bedroom that I have never read. Most of them were borrowed from friends, and many of them are books I think I “should read”. They’re in genres I largely ignore, or are classics I’ve missed, or have been on Oprah or in every magazine I read. I own a Nook now, and do most of my reading on it, so looking at that book shelf only makes me feel guilty. It’s long past time to purge that shelf and get over the idea that I “should” read anything. I read the things that interest me, the things that make me happy. Believing I should do otherwise only reinforces the idea that I’m not good enough as is.

7) I’m trying to be somewhat realistic on this list, so saying “I will eliminate useless web surfing” is … well, useless. But I need to eliminate my first impulses when I get to the “BORED NOW” point of the evening, after all my email, RSS feeds, and Twitter have been read. I don’t need to go see what Oh No They Didn’t has posted today. I don’t need to I don’t need to check my Google Reader to see if any new blog posts have turned up. I don’t need to refresh Twitter five more times. I know what my time is better spent doing – writing, reading a book, firing up the Wii Fit, shredding the giant pile of old paperwork that sits in my bedroom, composing an email to a friend I haven’t talked to in forever, the list goes on and on. If I can curb the impulse to say “I’ll just fuck around on the internet for five more minutes,” I would feel like less of my life is wasted.

8) I really don’t need another round of bronchitis in 2011. So quit skimping on your asthma meds, Jaime. The inhaler is irritating, but coughing up your lungs is worse.

9) I’d love to kick my internal editor – the jackass – to the curb. Can I? Not entirely. But I need to find a way to listen to that voice that says “wow, that idea is so stupid, nine hundred people have written it before, they’re way better than you so why should you bother?” … and give it the finger before I continue exactly what I was writing. I think, perhaps, #3 ties in with this one. I need to eliminate comparisons, to stop myself from saying “so-and-so is obviously better than me, so that must mean I suck.” I don’t suck. I know I don’t suck. Comparing myself to other people is an exercise in futility. Just write.

10) I don’t need to add to my credit card debt any more than strictly necessary. I’m not at a financial point where I can say I won’t use my card at all whatsoever – especially not with a trip abroad to look forward to, and new tires to buy at some point in the near future – but I need to keep myself from saying “oh, I need new clothes for the spring, I’ll just put them on my card and figure it out later.” I want to eventually have the means to buy a house. Cutting down on my credit card spending is the first step to that goal.

11) Finally, I don’t need to reach this point next year and feel the same way I feel right now – like I was unhappy more often than not, like I wasted a whole lot of time. How do I eliminate that possibility? Good question. I’m still working on it. I know all the clichés and platitudes – one step at a time, learn how to forgive yourself, do one thing every day, et cetera – but breaking those down into actual action plans is a little more difficult. The first step, I think, is to keep up with these prompts. It feels like an accomplishment!

reverb 10, day 9 – party

December 9th: What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.

We were out at dinner for Leah’s birthday last January. Someone’s present included a set of Titanic ice cube trays, and someone else at the table made the joke “well, then you’re totally set if anyone ever has a disaster-themed party.”

We had a disaster party planned by the end of the night. That’s just how we roll.

We waited until April, when we usually have a “thank god we survived the winter” shindig. There were costumes involved, of course. Alex was the meteor that killed the dinosaurs. Bren, Andy, and Henry were the family that survived the zombie apocalypse. Leigh was bald Britney Spears with her paparazzi-killing umbrella. Michelle was Mrs. O’Leary, of cow and fire infamy. Our definition of “disaster” was all-encompassing!

For entertainment, we watched SyFy original movies – always true disasters, really. That night, they were premiering Megapiranha, starring Tiffany. We LOVED it. Of course, most of us are old-school MST3K fans, so sitting around mocking horrible movies is a long favored pastime! And really, how can you top a movie in which a giant piranha jumps out of the water high enough to eat a helicopter? You can’t, that’s how.

I love my friends. I love the fact that all of them are enthusiastic enough to participate in stupid theme parties. (Hey, we got 20-someodd people to dress up in Star Trek costumes for the September babies birthday party in 2009! Including people who came in from out of town for the party!) I love that my friends enjoy sitting around and mocking bad movies just as much as I do. I love that we have the kind of energy that lets someone say “hey, why don’t we …?” and get a “yeah, that’s awesome, and we can …” sort of response in return. That’s the sort of creative energy I need in my life. I’m blessed to have friends who provide it!

(This coming January, we already have Leah’s birthday party planned – SyFy is premiering their original movie starring both Tiffany AND Debbie Gibson that weekend! There’s going to be a catfight! It will be amazing!)

reverb 10, day 8 – beautifully different?

December 8th: Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.

You know, I’ve come to really dislike the word “different.” It’s a very non-specific word; it’s rather like “interesting,” a word you use when you’re feeling too lazy or too vague to really delve into the topic. I’m different from everyone else – of course I am, every single human being is different from everyone else. A prompt that asks “what makes you different” is sort of useless without further direction. No one detail about your life makes you totally unique; there will always be someone else in the world who shares your experience in some way. “Different” needs an object for comparison.

Are you asking what makes me different from my family? I left the nest, ventured out from the physical circle that everyone else still inhabits and made a good life for myself hundreds of miles away. I have serious ambitions to pursue an artistic career. I am passionately involved in science fiction/fantasy/geek sorts of cultures.

Are you asking what makes me different from my close circle of friends? I’m more prone to public self-reflection – to loving and participating in activities like Reverb 10 – than most of them. I’ve suffered far more loss close family loss in my life than anyone of my circle. The fact that I was brought up in a totally different city than most of them shapes my history and experiences much differently than someone who was born and raised here in Minnesota.

Are you asking what makes me different from the general culture/society I live in? My passion for geek culture separates me from the majority. My desire to be a professional author. The fact that I attend 40+ concerts per year. My idiosyncratic eating habits. My tendency to talk to myself in public without realizing it. My lack of desire for children.

I could probably make a dozen of these lists, if I thought about it. What makes me different than the girl I was 10 years ago? Than the people in my online communities? Than the other participants in Reverb 10? So forgive me if my instinctive answer to “what makes you different” is “… different than what?”

“What you do that lights people up,” meanwhile, seems to me to be a totally opposite sort of prompt. Because the things you do that light people up – that make people identify and connect with you, that make people want to know you and be near you – are the things that you have in common. A person is lit up by something they instinctively recognize, even if it’s just “wow, I’ve always wanted to do something like that.” People want to make connections. Being different – truly being different from everyone around you – is lonely! A personal journey is no fun if there’s no one along to share it. A companion might just be there to cheer you on, but that person has to at least recognize what kind of inner urge drives you to do what you do.

I may be taking these prompts a little more literally than intended, but the fact is, I’m at a place in my own personal journey where answering these questions with any certainty is impossible. I’m currently trying to define my own identity, so I have no idea what specific things make me different. I have even less idea what about me lights other people up. I’m floating a little bit right now, so I’m going to need a little more direction than a word like “different” can provide in order to ground myself in an identity again.

reverb 10, days 6 & 7

December 6th: What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

I make mp3 mixes throughout the year. I’ve made six so far this year – two mixes of my current favorite songs, and four mixes to go along with different people’s stories in a fanfic challenge. There is a certain skill in making mixes; if your mix has a particular theme, choosing the right songs is something of an art. Making sure the songs are in an order that flows right is not necessarily my specialty, but I try! Mostly, I just love making mp3 mixes in order to introduce people to the music I love. I get such a thrill when someone tells me they’ve discovered a new artist/album/song because of me!

A few months back, I made a map for a fantasy story I was writing. I can’t really draw all that well, so it was a lot of crayon-colored blobs with dots to indicate cities and blue squiggles to indicate water. It wasn’t much, but it helped me picture a continent that doesn’t exist, and I had fun besides!

I helped make my costume for CONvergence this year. That was something of a disaster; I had never sewn before, so I had to rely on my friends, who were busy with their own costumes. The whole process stressed me out – and then, when I tried on the costume two days before the con, I HATED it. It didn’t work on my body at all the way we’d planned it in the beginning, and I felt like it looked so sloppy and amateurish next to all my friends’ awesome costumes. We rescued it enough with accessories that I didn’t feel totally awful when we dressed up, but in the end, I don’t think that sewing is necessarily my hobby calling. To quote Leigh, I really just need to get better at buying things. ;)

That’s sort of a problem with making physical things, for me. I have ridiculous perfectionist tendencies, and I often can’t forgive myself for mistakes. Put me in a group of people, and suddenly my competitive instinct makes everything worse. The lesson learned this year, I think, is that if I try to make something new, I should maybe start smaller, and not with something that will be on public display. Making mistakes is good! If only I could convince myself of that.

December 7th: Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

The thing is, I spent more time pulling back from existing communities than I did seeking out new ones. I freaked out a little bit this summer; I felt overwhelmed and unable to keep up with all the online activity that kept flashing through my web browser. So I cut out some communities, and I kept a somewhat even level of participation in my other communities. I don’t necessarily think that a person needs to constantly discover new and different communities – yes, you always need to seek out new experiences, but sometimes it’s worth it to make sure your roots are stable before you head out into the unknown again!

In the coming year, however, I would like to connect more deeply with my community of writing friends – and perhaps meet new writing friends! I have developed a pretty steady writing habit, but now I need more encouragement and support to keep myself moving forward creatively. Being around other writers is inspiring!

I am also thinking about connecting more with the CONvergence community, perhaps by volunteering for one of the committees before the con. The only think that has kept me from doing it thus far is my own social insecurity – I’ve volunteered by myself before, and I’ve always felt awkward about it. I don’t know if I can talk any of my friends into volunteering with me, though, so if I want to do it, I may just have to bite the bullet and go it alone again!

reverb 10, days 4 & 5

I’m currently sitting in an apartment in San Francisco, visiting my dear friend (and cousin!) Kate. I’ve been mostly away from the internet since Friday afternoon, so I have two separate prompts to answer!

December 3rd: How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

I’m not sure I’m in the headspace to really talk about my sense of wonder right now. Or, maybe this is the perfect headspace. Right now, I feel sort of lead-footed and awkward, like everything I’ve been doing recently has caused me to crash painfully back to earth. It’s been and up-and-down sort of year, mentally speaking, and I’m hard pressed to come up with anything that constitutes “wonder.” That doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced wonder, of course, just that I have a hard time owning up to my own sense of wonder sometimes.

I worry far too much about what other people think of me. Sometimes, when I’m experiencing something that makes me feel wondrous, I hide some of that enthusiasm away, for fear it will make me look naive or silly or uneducated to someone else. But isn’t that what wonder is? Allowing yourself to feel like you’re experiencing life for the very first time? I love the feeling of discovering something brand new to me. A new album, a new TV show, a new book, a new friend … something that makes me feel like discovering everything about it, something that adds a dimension to my life that wasn’t there before. That’s wonder, isn’t it? But I hide part of my enthusiasm most times I do discover that feeling, for fear of getting a cynical reaction from friends and others. “Oh, you didn’t know about that before? I heard about it a year ago.” “Ugh, I didn’t enjoy that at all. The author sucks.” “Huh. I don’t really know about that person, they seem weird.” I need to learn how to ignore those kinds of reaction, to experience my own wonder in the way that makes me happy, without worrying about what other people will think of me because of it. Also, I need to learn how to embrace my own sense of wonder without needing someone else to validate that I’m right to love something … but that’s perhaps a different topic.

So, back to the original prompt. I let myself get excited and amazed by a few different things this year. I just wish I’d let those feelings continue longer, that I hadn’t let outside input dim my enthusiasm.

December 4th: What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

There are a million things I can think of that I needed to let go of, but didn’t. There are a few things that I let go of for a while, but that snuck back into my life in the last few months, for better or worse. There are things I want desperately to let go of, if only my own sense of obligation or guilt would let me. But, what did I actually let go of this year?

I let go of my need to wear full makeup every day. I’m still not sure if that was a positive change or not. Some days, it feels like I’m still super self-conscious about the change my glasses made in my appearance. You can’t see my eyes as well behind the lenses, so why bother wearing eyeliner any more? Another part of me couches it in better terms. I let go of needing to wear eyeliner and eyeshadow and blush and dark lip gloss every day because I finally realized that I can look relatively attractive in a semi-natural state. I only believe that on good days, though.

I let go of a lot of my fussy tics about my appearance this year. I let go of my need to have crazy colored hair that requires intensive upkeep. I let go of any attempts to wear anything to work but black slacks and t-shirts. I let go of my desire to wear boots and Converse sneakers everywhere I went – but that was mostly because a 6-week stint with a physical therapist for hip and ankle pain left me with a dictum to start wearing shoes with good arch support, or else.

The point is, I guess, is that I’d like to say I let go of my obsession with appearing a certain way. But that’s not always true. I still obsess about my looks all the time. I just get a ‘why bother’ feeling more often than not. That’s not really a feeling that lets me claim that I’ve given it up for noble sorts of reasons. How does one let go of their physical insecurities? I haven’t figured that out yet.

So, I don’t think I’ve let go of much of anything this year. That has to be a goal for 2011.

reverb 10, day 3: moment

Prompt: Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

I’m the kind of person who will wait in line in the freezing rain before a concert. Or, in this case, the last freezing rain/snow storm of the season, at the beginning of May. Butch Walker was playing in Minneapolis, you see, and he was worth the deathly cold I would eventually catch.

We spent three hours – I think – standing out side of the Fine Line Music Cafe, my two friends and I and one couple who was as hardcore as we were. We took turns running over to Pizza Luce for a slice of pizza and spent a lot of time mocking the people who couldn’t follow the bizarre new parallel parking rules on First Avenue. When we finally made it inside the venue, it was totally worth it – partly because the Fine Line kind of sucks as a venue. You have to be up close to really enjoy the show, if you are in fact there to enjoy the show and not just drink with some cool background music. There’s a pole that obstructs a good third of the back of the floor. There are tables in the middle of the floor that are usually reserved by people who may or may not be willing to get into the spirit of the show. And the upstairs is useless – you either need to pay a load of money to reserve a table on the railing or forget being able to see anything.

(We also just love making fools of ourselves up front at Butch Walker shows.)

I love concerts more than anything. I love being in the middle of a crowd of people who all love the same music I do. I love singing along at the top of my lungs, and laughing at a musician’s stupid between-song banter. I love bouncing and dancing so much that my feet are nearly paralyzed with pain by the time I leave. I love the feeling I get in my chest when the musician starts to play my favorite song. I love the little changes bands make to the live versions of their songs. I love having a singer look down at us and grin because we know every word by heart. It’s interactive music. It’s that step beyond just throwing an album on your iPod and listening to it alone.

That Butch Walker show was the best concert I saw all year. He’s the kind of performer who throws everything he’s got into every performance. I went from being cold and wet to hot and sweaty and disgusting. My hips hurt from being pressed into the stage by the crowd behind me. At the end of the night, my throat hurt from singing and screaming. It was awesome.

This seems like a prompt that requires an audio/visual addition. The video below was taken by my friend at that show – it’s one of the best quality concert vids I’ve seen, and it captures possibly my all-time favorite Butch song, played as well as I’ve ever seen him perform it. This is why I stand out in the rain, why I drive 10 hours and sleep on couches to see him. It’s this kind of moment, this kind of energy. This is what feeling alive means to me.