Allie’s Awful Guide: Public Speaking

I used to be far more terrified of public speaking than I am now, to the point where I agonized over having to give speeches or presentations in class. I even opted out of presenting speeches a couple of times because losing a few points was preferable to standing up in front of an audience. However, over the years, I developed a few coping mechanisms that have helped me adapt. Unfortunately, most of my methods are, shall we say…. unorthodox. So unorthodox, I probably wouldn’t even recommend them, unless you have exhausted all other options.

1.) Wear something distracting, but not inappropriate!: I don’t mean show up to class in a Freddy Krueger costume or a swimsuit or whatever. When I was in college, I gave a few speeches and typically selected a “focal point” for my wardrobe. This gives the audience something else to focus on. I’m not sure what measure of success this tactic had, but I applied it in hopes that people would be too distracted by my hideous wardrobe to care about what I was saying, and it gave me a level of comfort. For example, I wore a hideous sweater and pigtails (PIGTAILS!) for several of my speeches during freshman year classes. I’m talking a grandma-level sweater, complete with snowflake embroidery. It was actually super comfy and I sort of wish I still had it…

2.) If you’re nearsighted, don’t wear your glasses!: This tip applies if you struggle with the idea of standing up in front of an audience and facing dozens of expectant eyes. My nervousness about public speaking gets insanely worse when I consider having an audience. I removed my glasses all through college if I had to give a speech – faces were blurry, but I could still read any notes or gesture accurately to my visual aid. It genuinely helped me relax while delivering presentations. Farsighted folks are up the creek with this one, though.

3.) Improve your PowerPoint game!: I know, most teachers or professors will tell you that the visual aid should not be the basis of your presentation – your words should be the focus, not whatever you’re displaying onscreen. I understand that point, but wholeheartedly disagree. I am a PowerPoint wizard and owe much of my minor public speaking success to my visual aids. There are ways to make a stellar PowerPoint that defines your presentation without going heinously overboard. As long as you don’t add too much superfluity – obnoxious sounds, clashing colors, too many annoyingly long transitions – you’ll be fine. You want your audience to be engaged with it. If I see an audience enjoying my PowerPoint, I am instantly more relaxed while speaking in front of them.

4.) Don’t over-prepare!:  I have given vastly better speeches when I haven’t been poring over my note-cards for hours. In my later college years, I stopped using note-cards altogether. I would get too focused on following what I had written down word-for-word and it stressed me out beyond belief, so when I fumbled over a sentence or two, it would derail me completely. Winging it completely is ill-advised, but I have found it loads better for my fragile nerves to just ensure I know my stuff, but don’t try and cram an entire speech verbatim into my head. I also put the keywords into my PowerPoint, just in case I get a bit lost!

5.) Nab an early slot!: If you are presenting in a classroom setting, don’t put it off as long as possible. Try and get in early so you get it over worth, especially if you’re like me and will be stressing out about your speech until the moment it’s over. You’ll be far more relieved watching others squirm over giving their presentations, knowing that you are already finished, than prolonging it until the final day.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

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The Sky is Blue

After being discouraged from taking an art class while in high school, I decided to use one of my electives in college to take a Drawing course. I had always enjoyed art, so it seemed like a good choice to expand my skills and learn new techniques.

Long story short, I hated it. But I did learn one vital lesson, on the very first day of class, that I shall carry with me always.

This drawing course was taught by an eccentric artist. I imagine most of them are. She was almost like a caricature of an art teacher. Crazy hair, random statements, hyper-criticism of any art style that didn’t suit her preferences, and she occasionally wore her sweaters backwards. I’m sure she was a lovely woman outside of a classroom setting, but, to be totally honest, I don’t even remember her name because I must have blocked it from my memory out of sheer hatred for that class.

This professor also often accused me and my fellow students of not accurately “seeing” things, which made our artistic reproductions of fruit bowls or trees lackluster. She would lob us lofty musings, such as “It might look like a tree, but what do you really see?” and “You must look beyond the apples and oranges, and see the truth.” We began to suspect that we were the unwitting subjects of an elaborate sociology experiment. Alas, we were not.

I mean, I’m all for art. I’ve been to the Tate Modern twice. But this class made me never want to pick up an oil pastel or colored pencil ever again. She did have a point, though. Seeing is not always seeing.

On the first day of class, we sat outside on the grass in one of the campus courtyards. We had our pristine white sketchpads and unpeeled pastels at our sides. And our professor told us to look up at the sky, and describe what we saw. We did, unsure of what the point of the exercise was meant to be. We saw blue. On that day, it was cloudless blue. Of course, the answer was more nuanced than that.

She told us that yes, the sky is blue. But it is not one single shade of blue. I stared up at one patch of sky, and realized that it was comprised of several shades. One vast mural painted in a thousand, maybe a million shades. I had never noticed it before; how many different blue fragments make up even one little section of sky. I saw the sky every single day and never once realized the truth in it’s beauty. And in that moment, I was amazed.

I never managed to channel that kind of brilliance in my artwork – I mean, I only had 2 shades of blue in my palette – but it’s a lesson I never forgot. Look closer to see the truth. And I try to apply that lesson to my writing, now. Dive below the surface, and make readers examine the depths for new meaning.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Worth 1000 Words #13: Ol’ Reliable

On the first day of college, I was nervously approaching my first ever class – Health and Wellness – wondering who I would sit with, if I’d make any friends, and why on earth said class needed to be so freakin’ far away from the parking lot, when my backpack strap broke.

Now, superstitious folk might have perceived this occurrence as a bad sign. Unfortunately, I am one of those people.

I immediately assumed that one single stroke of bad luck was going to define my future academic career, and that my pending failures were all due to an unfortunate incident of faulty stitching. I wished I had bought one of those snazzy, colorful L.L. Bean backpacks embroidered with my initials instead of a dowdy brown messenger bag designed to carry my laptop, which I literally brought to class maybe twice in my entire three years of degree-hunting.

So I hobbled to Health class, retained no information while there, then hobbled back to my car with my broken bag and similarly broken spirits. And that night, I went to Staples and shelled out $72 for a backpack that came to be known as Ol’ Reliable.

Ol’ Reliable is a High Sierra brand bag, black with silver/white accents, and contains five pockets of increasing size and a laptop sleeve, so it was quite a lot of bang for my buck. Now, I have owned many a backpack in my time, including one of those wheelie bags that were popular when I was in elementary school, a Big Dogs bag bought at an outlet store in the Poconos, and a really pretty white and purple plaid bag that also broke beneath the burden of weighty books. But I don’t think any backpack past or future can ever eclipse the enduring legacy of Ol’ Reliable, who has been my stalwart traveling companion for the last eight years. Who knew one backpack could carry so many books (I was an English Lit major, remember?), as well as all of my hopes and dreams?

20180926_110729.jpgHe’s suffered through some wear and tear over the years – one shoulder strap is ripped slightly, but it remains resilient and shows no sign of tearing completely. A pen exploded in one of the pockets during an intense rainstorm, so the interior is stained a splotchy black. And, as mentioned earlier, Ol’ Reliable has been through it. My last semester of college alone I had 25 textbooks, including two massive, dreaded literature anthologies. It’s a miracle that both Ol’ Reliable and my spine survived.

Ol’ Reliable not only assisted me on the road to an English degree, he has accompanied me on the literal road on many actual travels. He was with me when I studied abroad in England, which was my first time ever out of the country. When I hiked the steep stairs at St. Paul’s cathedral and then took in the gorgeous view at the top, he was there. As I strolled through Westminster Abbey, looking upon the memorials of poets and writers and kings and queens of yore, he was there. When my crew and I took a whirlwind one day trip to Paris, visiting the Louvre, viewing the Eiffel Tower, and walking through the beautiful and haunting Notre Dame, he was there. Whilst I toured the legendary halls of castles and prestigious universities, he was there. He was strapped firmly to my back when I stood upon the tomb of King Henry VIII in Windsor, and sat quietly at my feet during every exam and quiz. And when I returned to England three years later, he was with me yet again, as solid and hardy as ever. I took him with me to see Stonehenge. He came along when we glimpsed the white cliffs at Dover, rising from the ocean like pale stone beacons. He has visited the Shakespeare House, the royal crescent in Bath, and has graced the floor in many a pub and tavern while I sipped a pint of Strongbow and nibbled on a burger.

Ol’ Reliable was there on my recent trip to Vegas, able to carry everything from my laptop, to my Nintendo DS, to my Nook, and two spare outfits in his sturdy pockets, yet was still able to fit beneath the seat of the person in front of me on the airplane, so I didn’t have to cram him in the overhead bin. He was with me every time I traveled between New England and PA on school breaks and the like, able to fit enough of my belongings in his pockets that I rarely needed to check a bag. He’s been on planes, cars, trains, and ferries. Whenever I have a trip coming up, I feel somewhat less nervous just knowing that Ol’ Reliable will be accompanying me. Because he is exactly that – reliable. With him on my back, I don’t need to worry.

Since I currently work in a retail establishment, I have occasionally had to recommend items to shoppers. Recently, I was assisting a couple with the purchase of a backpack for their grandson from our online store. And wouldn’t you know, a slightly updated version of Ol’ Reliable was available. I sang his praises to them, recounting my eight years of reliable backpack ownership to help them make their decision. And – I like to think due to my persuasion – they made the right choice, and I hope their grandson has an Ol’ Reliable of his own.

Ol’ Reliable isn’t winning any beauty pageants – he’s worn, almost a decade old, and not as glitzy or as glamorous as some of the other backpacks out there. But he gets the job done, and he gets it done well, and without complaint. Any trip I go on, he is automatically the first thing I think of to come along. He has never failed me, and I intend to keep him as my frequent travel-companion until he or I cannot travel any longer, or until that tear in his shoulder strap finally gives.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

“Eff” The Police

When I told my mother that my friends and I were going to go sit in a graveyard and read classic literature, she said “Over my dead body.”

I laughed. She didn’t.

But after assuring her that it was a harmless activity (and that Dante was best read by candlelight next to a tombstone), she gave me her blessing. The questionable legality of the activity seemed unimportant, at the time.

There just so happened to be the perfect graveyard setting just about a mile or so away from one of my high school friend’s house, out in the backwoods of our tiny town. It was his idea, as he and some college friends from down south had done the same thing during the semester. We sat together, each taking a turn with a dusty volume – Shakespeare, Milton, Keats, others – filling the summer air with the almost unintelligible sounds of Middle English and the flowery prose of literature’s legendary greats. We defied logic and managed to turn the Canterbury Tales into a rap as our laughter bounced off the gravestones.

For the second round, about a week after the first, I drove to my friend’s house straight from work. I hungrily shoved my hand into the jumbo bag of Martin’s popcorn someone had brought for the occasion. There were about twelve of us. One friend carried the heavy books in a drawstring bag, someone else took a bag of candles (for ambiance). I brought the popcorn along with me – after eight hours of folding men’s khakis, I needed that popcorn. We prepared a handful of excuses if we happened to run into any figures of authority – for instance, “We’re a prayer circle” or “It’s a séance.”

If there had been the option for it when we elected senior superlatives, I would have been the hands-down winner of “most easily frightened.” The first time we ventured to the graveyard, arms laden with Shakespeare and Milton, a friend of mine decided it would be funny to hide behind a gravestone and jump out during the prologue of Paradise Lost. So I made sure I walked between two other friends as we trekked down the cornfield-lined road toward the sleepy graveyard. The rural outskirts of my hometown at night are unsettling to walk through, especially when the fog starts to come in. Even the chirping crickets seem to signal doom. It’s the perfect setting for a B+ horror film. And I’d never do anything like this now, because I watch far too many episodes of Forensic Files and other true crime shows.

The church was soon within view. We were almost there. And then someone spotted it. The unmistakable blue, white, and yellow cruiser with ‘YAPD’ stamped on the side. Sitting like a predator right in the church parking lot, just waiting for the whiff of something suspicious.

“Cop!”

My heart was thundering against my ribs as we abruptly turned around and started heading back up the road. I looked back over my shoulder and saw the cruiser crawl away into the night. We were safe.

…Until another cruiser came ambling up the road.

One friend summed it up nicely. “Well, shit.”

The female cop pulled the car up beside us, rolled down her window, and smirked at us. “Where are you kids going?”

“…Up the street.” We pointed.

“And where are you coming from?”

“…Down the street.” We pointed again.

Somehow, that mediocre explanation satisfied the cop and she just told us to be careful, before she drove away down the gravel road. I relaxed, and we hurried up the street, desperately seeking salvation. We were three houses away on my friend’s street when two cruisers rolled up to us. The man in the lead car had a different air about him. The iron-grey mustache on his face indicated importance.

As the burly cop roused himself from the squad car, I sincerely thought we were going to get charged with something. I was going to have a big blemish on my permanent record. But what were the charges going to be? Literary sacrilege? Crimes against fictional characters? Conspiracy to entertain the deceased? I didn’t know – all I could do was clutch the bag of popcorn like a salty, buttered teddy bear. As though, if I were carted off to jail that exact moment, the popcorn would valiantly save me. I mentally prepared an escape plan – settling on ‘throw popcorn at cop and run for the cornfield,’ though I highly doubted my trembling limbs would have listened to that mental command. I inwardly begged, “Please don’t ask about my popcorn. Please don’t ask about my popcorn.”

“Who’s the oldest?” The cop asked. That is the only time in my life I have ever been grateful that I am the youngest out of my immediate group of friends.

Our oldest friend stepped up to bat. The cop asked some routine questions, took down his contact info, and explained to us that so many cops were prowling the normally-dormant streets because there had recently been a string of car and house burglaries in the area, so we should head back home for the night and avoid getting into any trouble. They didn’t search our bags or ask any other questions. He just advised us to go home. And with that sage warning, he got back in his car and headed off down the road, the second car following suit, off to hunt for ne’er-do-wells.

We were at the mailbox of my friend’s house – so, so close to sanctuary – when the last cop car came into view. “Hey, did someone talk to you kids already?” The cop hollered from his car.

“YES!” My friends chimed in perfect unison. I just squeaked. I lose my voice around figures of authority.

The last cop drove away, but one friend couldn’t resist jumping into the middle of the street, his middle fingers pointed toward the stars, shouting “FUCK THE POLICE!!!” as the red brake lights faded in the distance. Some of my friends laughed, clapping him on the back as though he’d done something ground-breaking. I rolled my eyes and wondered where that bravado was when the frighteningly muscular cop was within earshot. It’s easy to have courage when the beast is facing away from you.

We gave up on our quest, moods spoiled, and just sat on the hoods of our cars in and discussed the unexpected events of the evening. The consensus seemed to be that the cops should have minded their own business instead of ruining our fun, and that we weren’t doing anything wrong. I bit my tongue. Because the way I saw it, we were a troupe of college kids carrying a bag full of books, a bag of candles, three flashlights, a bag of popcorn, and giggling like five year olds as we strolled down a dark back road on the outskirts of town at midnight. We might as well have been carrying a big neon sign that said, “LOOK, WE’RE SUSPICIOUS.” But who am I to be a wet blanket?

I couldn’t tell my friends that they were being ridiculous – nor could I just go along with the ‘fuck the police’ sentiment. All I could do was sit cross-legged on the hood of my Subaru, lean against the windshield, and keep my mouth shut, the bag of popcorn sitting forlornly by my front tire.

We should have told them ‘It’s a séance.’

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Yawp!

Back in college, in order to complete my English major I had to take what is known as a Major Authors course – a class focused on the works of one or two major authors. Admittedly, I first had my eye on a Poe and Hawthorne course, but the timing for that class didn’t work for my schedule, so I found myself in a Walt Whitman course with a professor who had a profoundly positive influence on my academic career. In short, that class was the highlight of my college experience.

If you’re not familiar with Walt Whitman’s poetry, well… you should be. I now have a well-loved copy of Leaves of Grass in my possession and it’s one of my favorites. Anyway, after that class I also took a creative writing course with the same professor, and my time learning about ol’ Uncle Walt directly inspired one of my final poems for that class, which is below:

 

Yawp!

Walt Whitman could stand on rooftops
and he could sound his barbaric ‘Yawp!’ to the world.

I have stood on rooftops, but the most I have ever managed,
is a decidedly anticlimactic ‘squeak.’

Walt Whitman marveled at the splendor of a noiseless, patient spider
while I crushed their silken threads with a boot.

Walt Whitman made a promise to California,
but I have never seen those distant, golden shores.

Walt Whitman could hear America singing,
but it’s a tune I’ve never been able to carry.

Walt Whitman sang the song of the open road, a call to all the world,
I have stared down empty highways, fearful of where they lead.

I am no Walt Whitman.
But someday, I should like to lay in leaves of grass
beneath a splendid, silent sun
and the song of myself will take shape
and I will come out from behind this mask
set sail upon that sea of time
and while I am roaming in thought,
I will find that all is truth.

The world should take good notice
of men like Walt Whitman.
And the world should hope to see
many poets to come
who heard his song of the universal,
and learned well his lessons
and they shall sound a carol of words
to the kosmos.

 

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Writing Techniques: Out of Order

It’s almost safe to say that no writer writes exactly the same way – it’s a unique process for most. Some folks must have absolute silence, some prefer total isolation, others can be productive in a busy coffee shop whilst other patrons are slurping lattes and chatting with friends. It’s all up to the writer.

And how a person writes vastly differs as well.

When I was writing I’m With You, I wrote the first draft entirely in order until around chapters 13-15 range (can’t remember the specific chapter), then I got stuck. I tried to slog through it, but couldn’t figure out exactly how to puzzle out that segment, so I just moved on to what became chapters 17-19. I had a better idea of where I wanted that portion of the store to go and what I hoped to achieve with it, since it’s a fairly contained section of the narrative. Thus, it was easier for me to draft.

I used to think I had to write in a strictly linear pattern – point A to point B to point C and so on – so when I hit a roadblock, I’d just… stop. Several bouts of frustration and stress later, I’d manage to get momentum going again, but it didn’t occur to me until around my college years that I could write out of order. I could go from point A to point J if I wanted. It doesn’t matter, so long as you can seamlessly link the parts together after they’re all done.

That realization – though simple for some, it was a groundbreaking revelation for me – actually first came to me while writing essays for college. English majors have to write a lot of essays. A crap ton, one might say. And the bane of many college writers is the intro paragraph, which contains the dreaded thesis statement. I used to sit and stare at my computer for ages, trying to think of a compelling intro with a powerful hook, as the cursor blinked mockingly at me from an empty document. To be fair, I’ve encountered many other students and writers who also thought that you had to do the intro first. How else would you know what to write, if you haven’t yet set it up?

I learned, by my senior year, that, as long as I had at least some idea of what I was going to write about, I could just skip the intro, write out the rest of my essay, and then hope motivation and momentum carry me enough to pump out an intro by the time the rest of it is done. Or, if sudden inspiration happened to strike, I could go back and write it out at any point. There are no rules dictating the order in which you write an essay, or a narrative, or any piece of creative work.

By my last couple of semesters, my drafts starting looking like this:

487009_4395092474564_234789100_n

For the record, I do still believe that intro paragraphs can die in a hole. As you can see, the start of this draft is ugly, my thesis ends with “something something something,” and I haven’t even got a title.

But here is the final version, which came together as I was writing the rest of the essay:

final scor.PNG

A bit wordy, but it gets the job done. Your thesis and intro can take shape during the development of the body paragraphs. A lot of the time, I would have no idea how to word my thesis, but I knew what I was trying to prove… and working through the meat of the essay helped me find the right words.

For my current MS, I got stuck on a particular chapter for months – but I didn’t dwell on it very long. I didn’t forget about it entirely, of course, but when I felt hopelessly stuck and had no idea what to write next, I just moved on and kept chugging away at the other sections of the story, the ones I did have a clear path for. Ultimately, I worked past the roadblock and got the chapter done. So, if your writing patterns and habits seem a little unorthodox, don’t let others tell you that your style is out of order. Sometimes, being out of order is exactly what a writer needs.

~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Paperback is also $9.99 on BN.com.

Sick of It

Now that Oscar season is over, and I’ve returned to my regular style of posting, I had big plans for this Friday blog post. I was going to do something eloquent, compelling, perhaps a story about life or loss, or a pearl of wisdom from my (admittedly shallow) pool of life experience…

But no, that will not happen today. And do you want to know why?

Because I am sick.

And not sick as in the slang term for “cool,” like people used to toss out in the 90’s. Sick as in ill, complete with head-pounding, sneezing, coughing, and a runny nose. Woke up with a sore throat on Tuesday, and hoped – no, prayed to all the deities I don’t believe in – that it was just an allergy-related side-effect due to the crazy weather that’s beleaguered my neck of the woods for the past couple of weeks. Seriously, not too long ago it was 70 degrees, and then two days later, we got four inches of snow, which promptly all melted the following day and caused minor flooding. So my allergies have been a bit of a tizzy.

Alas, it was not meant to be. Tuesday was mostly fine, to the point where I hoped I could just brush it off as a tickle, but Wednesday, in spite of my best efforts to fend it off, I was sniffling and sneezing and suffering from a massive headache by the end of my work shift. It was undeniable, at that point.

I’ve got a cold.

I suppose when some people come down with a cold, as oft happens at the junction between seasons or due to other outside factors, they use it as an excuse to curl up in bed and wallow in their warm blankets surrounded by piles of crinkled tissues, sipping soup and stewing in misery, binging a new or favorite series on Netflix.

Not I – I do not feel miserable when I get sick. No, I get pissed.

I think, in general, that I have a pretty strong immune system. I mean, I eat fruit every day – that’s supposed to help, right? And that’s no easy feat, since I’m allergic to pineapple and recently discovered a mild sensitivity to citrus. I work out at least 5 days a week, sometimes more, though my arms still have the muscle-strength of a pool noodle. I endeavor to get enough sleep, in spite of my cat’s best efforts to foil those efforts. I wash my hands at a near obsessive rate and avoid germs whenever possible, and keep away from folks I know have a contagious illness until they are cleared by a trained physician. So when my health fails, and I am struck down by the snot demons, my rage-meter hits a solid ten.

It’s worse when I can attribute the illness to a specific cause, because then, I have somewhere to direct my rage. One time, in college, one of my coworkers – who was sick – was using our communal computer to do homework. I used it shortly after, assuming that most sick people have the common decency to disinfect the surfaces/items they use when they know someone else will also be using it, but APPARENTLY, SOME PEOPLE ARE IRREDEEMABLE HEATHENS WITH HORRENDOUS MANNERS WHO ENJOY SPREADING THE PLAGUE WITHOUT ANY THOUGHT OF THE REPERCUSSIONS.

But I digress… this time, there is no certain target for the brunt of my fury. I’m pretty sure it was either the wonky weather or the fact that at least half of my coworkers have been sick over the last month, not to mention the fact that I work with the public and so many people don’t cover their mouths when they cough/sneeze, so, though I valiantly staved colds off for the majority of winter, my formidable immune system has at last failed me.

So I’ve been enraged for about two days now. I’ve tried not to let it hinder me – I went to the gym today, did some grocery shopping, and managed some chores – but I have indulged a bit, and have spent the past few hours watching reruns of 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown in bed. But I also have a method for combating illness, which has worked quite well for me in the past. And in order to fight the germs, certain supplies are needed…

1.) Water. Hydration is important at all times, but especially when you can only breathe out of your mouth.

2.) Orange Juice. Or other fruit juice, probably. But the good stuff, not stuff like Sunny D. If you have issues with citric acid, there are low acid brands, and make sure to use a straw. The straw is vital.

3.) Comfy clothes. I’m uncomfortably warm at the moment, but sweating it out helps. Fleece-lined leggings and bulky sweatshirts are my go-to.

4.) Tissues. And splurge on the ones with aloe. Your nose will thank you.

5.) Meds. Depends on what works for you/symptoms and MAKE SURE TO READ THE DIRECTIONS. I’m a quil person, myself. Both Day and Ny.

6.) Heating pad. For aches and pains.

7.) Soup. I get won-ton soup for the Chinese food joint at my local grocery store, and I swear it has medicinal properties. It’s become a go-to for other members of my family, now, that’s how well it works.

8.) Sleep. As much as possible.

9.) Hand sanitizer/disinfectant wipes. I try and wipe down/clean surfaces and items that I use when I am ill and know someone else will be touching it. Because that is what DECENT PEOPLE DO. THEY DON’T TOUCH THINGS WITH THEIR SICK HANDS AND ALLOW THEIR GERMS TO SPREAD WITHOUT ATTEMPTED PREVENTION.

10.) Ice Cream. This one is optional, but after spending an entire day taking care of myself and being steamed over the state of my health, some Tonight Dough is necessary. It does help soothe a sore throat, as well.

Following this method, I have at times been able to conquer a cold before it truly has time to manifest in full glory. A few years back, I realized a cold was brewing, so I stocked up on meds, OJ, and soup, partook in all three in acceptable doses throughout the day, and then swaddled myself in several blankets and warm clothes and slept for 12 hours. Pretty sure I sweated the cold out over the course of the night, because I felt fine the next day. I’ve never been able to replicate such speedy results, but following these guidelines, I am usually able to defeat illnesses within a couple of days, so my life can then resume as normal.

Thankfully today (It’s Thursday March 8th as I write this) I didn’t have to work, so I have consumed 2 quarts of magical won-ton soup, two large glasses of OJ, some meds, a whole ton of water, and I’m wrapped up in my GoT hoodie and comfy leggings and relaxing. So let’s hope this cold is quashed by tomorrow, or when I venture out into the world, some folks are bound to face my wrath…

Worth 1000 Words #9: Snowtober 2011

Some of you, particularly those of you who reside in the northeastern United States, might remember the freak snowstorm of October 2011, which resulted in near state-wide power outages and general icy desolation in some areas.

383486_2063359704083_2085259487_nIt was Halloween weekend. My parents were visiting for a few days, and would be taking my grandmother (with whom I lived for a year and a half during college) back to PA with them for the winter. Saturday, afternoon, my father dropped me off at my second job, and all proceeded as normal… until the first fateful flakes began to fall. Within an hour or so, it was a full-on snow assault. I made it almost all the way through my shift, worriedly peeking out of the windows as white began to conquer the parking lot, until my dad appeared to pick me up and I bolted out the door.

The journey home was probably the most tense, stressful car ride of my life, but thankfully, my father is a skilled driver and we made it safely home. Had I been by myself, I never would have made it; the highway was a wasteland, the snow plummeted in droves, and cars were careening all over the place as folks tried to make it to their destination, dodging downed tree limbs and power lines.

Once back at home, the power had already gone out, so we dined on cold chicken by candlelight, dug out the spare blankets to stave off the bitter cold, lit a fire in the fireplace and played UNO to fight boredom, and mourned as our electronics slowly died. As the snow continued to fall, I fell asleep (beneath several layers) to the ominous snap-and-thud sound of breaking tree branches in the forest behind the house, praying that none would fall on the roof and crush me during the night.

The next day, New England was buried in snow/ice hell. Power was lost in a huge portion of the region (including almost all of Connecticut, if I remember correctly – I lived about ten minutes from the border) and because the weather was so wonky (it was warm right before the storm, then warm again immediately after) there was extensive damage that reached far beyond just NE. After I called out of work for the day, my parents and my grandmother left me to endure Snowtober alone, since I hadn’t heard anything about classes being cancelled for the following day or any time after. TO THIS DAY I STILL CANNOT FATHOM WHY THEY DID NOT IMMEDIATELY CANCEL CLASSES DUE TO THE DEVASTATION but regardless, I sat and waited it out. It was cold, boring, and I had no means of contact with the outside world. I did manage to get my homework done, though; we were covering Emerson and Thoreau in my American Literature class, and, in a true display of irony, our assignment was to read “Nature.” I didn’t laugh, nor did I develop a deep appreciation for transcendentalism as I paged through my literature textbook by candlelight, munching on a stale bagel.

I am proud of my alma mater, but I was NOT pleased to be going to class the following morning when over half of campus still had no power, despite the fact that the snow had already nearly melted. I am grateful, however, that the Writing Center where I worked still had power… I was able to charge all of my electronics in preparation for the long, dark night ahead. While I was there, doing homework and getting warm, the school released a statement announcing that classes were cancelled for the rest of the week, and students were advised to return home if possible.

This was AFTER they had us go to Monday classes, mind you; so classes were cancelled until the following Monday. I only went to one class on Monday, too, since night classes were cancelled and one of my professors wasn’t able to make it to campus regardless. It was very difficult to tamp the lid down on my rage, since I’d missed a free ride home with my parents the day before, and I couldn’t go for the less-expensive Amtrak option due to the massive power outage. Luckily, my dad loaned me money for a last minute plane ticket (which is quite a price-gouge for a day-before splurge) so I wouldn’t need to drive 6 hours solo through two snowpocalypse-plagued states in order to make my way home.

Driving home from campus that night (after the Writing Center closed) was a total nightmare, since power was still out and none of the traffic lights were operational. It was like driving through the zombie apocalypse sans zombies – though I was pleasantly surprised to see that my across-the-street neighbors, who were lovely people, had left some chopped wood for my fireplace on the front stoop. Things were looking up… until the next morning, I awoke to the shrill, shrieking tones of my burglar alarm blaring throughout the house. There were no intruders, I think it had something to do with the power outage. The alarm company also wouldn’t shut it off, because the house and account are not in my name, so I had to leap through several hoops to get them to have mercy on me (and my neighbors).

Less than five hours later, I’d been ferried to the airport by my godmother, and was nestled safely at home in PA with functional power. While at home, I did manage to snag 36 extra hours of work and by Thursday, I heard that power had been restored to my area of New England – which meant there had been 5 straight days of no power. I returned home on Sunday evening and life resumed as normal, as all traces of the Snowpocalypse began to fade away, and autumn picked up once more. It’s difficult to imagine how much difficulty and suffering a one-night snowfall can bring, but I hope to never experience another storm of the same magnitude ever again.

The Woodpecker

I have always had a complicated relationship with birds.

I actually think birds are pretty awesome; I mean, they come in so many shapes and sizes! Penguins are the bomb, owls are rad, falcons are fierce, and hummingbirds are adorable. I especially LOVE pigeons; whenever I travel to different cities, I make sure to take several pictures of the local pigeons. I think I have 100+ photos of pigeons from England/France alone. The bird population could maybe take it easy on my car, though; I get a bit tired of seeing white splotches and streaks all over the exterior of my beloved Nissan, especially after I have literally just gone through the car wash.

However, there is one bird that I consider to be my eternal nemesis. A bird that will never, ever earn my admiration. My feud with this particular avian menace began in the spring of my final year of college. It was a cool morning, just shy of 6AM, and I was sleeping soundly, likely dreaming of finals and finally earning my degree after 3 arduous years…

…and then I was awoken by the sound of a jackhammer on my roof.

At least, that’s what it sounded like. A relentless drilling, so loud it echoed throughout the entire second floor of my house, preventing me from slumber. The source of this noise was not immediately apparent, and after about twenty minutes or so, it stopped. Sadly, I was now too awake to fall back to sleep, so I just roused myself out of bed and watched Spongebob reruns for 2 hours until I had to go to class.

However, the sound returned the following morning, and the morning after that. Same general time frame. Same obnoxious, head-ache inducing frequency. After the third day, I managed to puzzle out what was causing the sound, and it was not, in fact, a tiny man with a jackhammer terrorizing my roof.

It was a woodpecker.

Now, I have absolutely no evidence of this, because I never actually saw the woodpecker, except for the flutter of wings as it retreated to the refuge of the forest behind my house. It was drilling in a part of my roof that I couldn’t see properly without a ladder or rocket boots, though it sounded like it was slamming its beak directly into my brain.

But I don’t know what else it could have been if not a woodpecker, so I’m assuming my Sherlockian deduction was correct. I also didn’t know how to make it stop. After doing a bit of googling and research on woodpeckers, I settled on a method for dealing with this problem: doing literally nothing while hoping it would just go away. Sadly, this method did not work, as the woodpecker continued its assault on my roof for many mornings to come.

This rage-inducing situation – of being awoken every morning by the presence of a woodpecker – began to take a toll on my mental state, shortening my temper and limiting my patience in other areas of my life. I vented about my woodpecker dilemma to friends and coworkers at my university’s writing center, which they found very humorous. Admittedly, if I hadn’t been the one suffering, I probably would have thought it was hilarious, too.

But I was not laughing. The sleep-deprived days and groggy mornings continued to accumulate, until, one morning, I finally snapped.

While this was going on, I tried not to structure my schedule around the inevitable woodpecker wake-up call every morning, as it wasn’t always feasible to go to bed early. On this particular morning, I’d been up late the previous night working on a draft for a project since I didn’t have an early class to wake up for. A certain avian demon did not get this memo and promptly began its morning routine of hammering its beak into my roof, this time at half past 6 in the morning.

This time, I retaliated. Or, rather… I tried to. I didn’t so much breathe fire as I blew a lot of a smoke.

Determined to make the feathery fiend stop, I stormed downstairs, stomped into the kitchen, threw open the back door, and flew down the steps into my backyard, trying to get a glimpse of the creature. With little restraint, I unleashed my fury.

“SHUT UP!!!!! JUST SHUT UP!!!! I AM TRYING TO SLEEP!!! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, STOP IT!!!”

Alas, this verbal assault happened to occur when two of my neighbors were outside with their dog. Dressed in my Batman PJ pants and a “Yankees Suck” T-shirt, I met their inquisitive/bewildered gaze across the fence, then offered them a sheepish smile. Even the dog looked a little spooked by my behavior. To explain, I pointed to the area of my roof where the woodpecker had decided to wreak its ungodly havoc, and informed them, “It’s a woodpecker.”

They just nodded, offered uncertain smiles, looked at me like I had sprouted an extra limb from my head, then went back into their house. I never interacted much with these neighbors; in fact, that might have been the only time I ever actually spoke to them in my 3 years of living there. If so, I can only imagine what their ultimate impression of me was. “Crazy Woodpecker Girl,” no doubt.

So, with my tirade completed, I slipped back into my house, brewed my morning coffee and poured my morning cereal, and calmed down. The woodpecker had ceased its torment, and I went about my day. I think yelling at the bird was cathartic, in a way; I felt much calmer after the confrontation. Perhaps all I needed was to scream a little and let out my frustration. Not always the healthiest method for approaching a problem, but in this case, it seemed to help.

And the next morning? I was effectively woodpecker free after two weeks of agony and I never heard from it again. I know the timing of my freedom was probably coincidental, and the woodpecker was not frightened off by me shrieking at it – but still, I like to think it was. And this experience (plus some hindsight) showed me a few things; sometimes, endurance and adaptation are the keys to weathering a tough situation. Or sometimes you just need to yell a bit. Either way, the storm will pass, even if the downpour seems too heavy and the lightning just won’t cease. Just have patience, and learn to evolve in order to properly deal with the cards you are dealt.

 

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