NaNoWriMo, Here I Come

I was talking with my friend Rebecca a while ago, who was telling me about a challenge she had undertaken at her barre exercise class. “The goal is to complete 45 barre classes in 30 days,” she told me.

I was no mathematician, but those numbers gave me pause. “Wait. That means you’re gonna have to do at least two classes per day sometimes.”

“Yep,” she said. I could tell by her determined, terror-stricken grin that she had come to this revelation long before that moment. As someone who worked full-time (and oftentimes double-shifts), as well as–you know–having a social life in other endeavors, adding that type of commitment would definitely force her to make some adjustments to her daily routine.

“Yep,” she said again when I voiced this, but this time her expression softened into a serious resolution. “I don’t know how I’m going to manage it–but Ima manage it!”

To my glee and admiration (and her own initial shock), she did more than that. She completed her challenge well before the deadline, even giving up some of her favorite pastimes temporarily to make the challenge a legit priority.

I’ve repetively told her how proud I was of her. I hadn’t doubted that she could do it; she is someone who is quite resolute when she plans out activities. In fact, her dedication inspired me.

Despite writing more in general (primarily personal journals), I have not focused any time on actually writing a novel itself (there are other reasons for that, but anyway…). Perhaps I’ll have a day of delight and bust out a page or two, but by the next day, the inspiration is MIA.

Seeing what Becca did with her challenge reminded me that sometimes, the key to success is just deciding to do it–and then, just commiting to it. So, that’s what I’m going to do.

And I’m going to do it by adding a resource that I never have before. I’m using the aid of National Novel Writing Month–also affectionately known as NaNoWriMo.

What is NaNoWriMo?

Well, aside from being really fun to say (and debate its pronunciation among others: “Am I saying it right? Am I–am I saying it correctly?”), and residing in the best month evah (*ahem*Scorpios of the world unite*cough*). NaNoWriMo is a non-profit global organization that promotes the creative drive of novelists everywhere. What started as 21 writers in 1999 has since exploded into a resource with sponsors, education programs, word-tracking capabilities, and more. Beginning November 1, novelists will blaze into a flurry of writing with the goal of getting out at least 50,000 words–a solid start to any novel–by the end of November 30.

Despite my love of writing, I’ll confess that signing-up the word-tracking “required” for NaNoWriMo intimidated me. As a child, my writing was my private safe haven. The most publicly I ever shared my works were in college, both in my creative writing classes and my slew of WWE wrestler slash fanfiction that I posted on an online, members-only private forum.

(The Rock and Triple H. Mmmm, those were good times.)

Timidly, I clicked the link to the NaNoWriMo site. The image of a typewriter and a bagel (half-eaten) lured me into its embrace, while the “sign-up” button beckoned me closer.

Scrolling down further granted me an excerpt of NaNo’s vision statement:

NaNoWriMo believes in the transformational power of creativity. We provide the structure, community, and encouragement to help people find their voices, achieve creative goals, and build new worlds—on and off the page.

From NanNoWriMo.org. LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION

…They said my favorite word.  “Creativity.”

…How have I denied my urges for so long??

But NaNoWriMo doesn’t just promote writing and creativity–it thoroughly enforces it. Apparently, over 900 volunteers will organize “communal writing sessions” throughout the world during November, giving its attendees both a place and a sense of support that has never been seen before 1999.

Weighing the Odds…as They Crush Me

I continued to peruse the site, building hope and promise that maybe–maybe this could help me get on track towards finally getting over my fears of writing.

Why do I think it will work? Apparently, several novels were penned with the help of the challenge.

  • Wool by Hugh Howey was a fun, freaky scifi series book that I utterly enjoyed when I found it on Amazon.
  • Water for Elephants is another. Heck, that one was turned into a movie starting Robert Pattison, Reese Witherspoon and Christopher Waltz.

Though my goal to write was not to become a famous, popular author, it was nice to know that NaNoWriMo had served as a solid foundation for serious writers who, perhaps, just needed that extra boost of accountability and community support to keep going.

I scrolled down further on the front page, my heart lightening with each line–and then clenched as two sets of numbers suddenly rolled into view.

  • 798,162 active novelists
  • 367,913 novels completed

Welllll, son of a mother. That’s…a lot of writers.

The Game Plan

If I do Nothing, Nothing will happen.  If I do Something, Something has no choice but to occur.

–Anonymous

Just looking at those stats alone was enough to make me sway and bring back some of my original fears to start writing again. Out of such a high number of novels completed, there is bound to be a notable percentage of those novels that are actually brilliant, witty, emotionally life-changing, literary masterpieces.

That being said, I appreciated about NaNoWriMo (aside from the heavy promotion of nurturing creativity) is that it is not a contest. In fact, they make a point to say that this is a community, a place to support each other as everyone works towards our same, singular goal: to complete our 50,000+ word works.

During a time when physical ability has been a heavy strain, writing is one tool that makes me feel sharp and alive. That–and I can’t say this enough–I love to write. At this stage in my life, I want to do more than leave my random scrawlings in a handwritten notebook.

I have good ideas for novels. I know I do. And I want to share them with others to evoke the joy and delight that my favorite novelists and writers have done for me since I was a child.

If the initial goal is to write at least 50,000 words in 30 days, that averages to 1,667 words per day.

Is it possible? Well, sure. Many things are possible.

But there will be days when the desire to sit and type will wane. There will be days when the last thing I will want to do is stare at my dumb computer screen and paw through the slush that will be the first draft of this novel. There will be times when I’ll feel like I’ve written myself into a hole, and the hole seems a bottomless pit with no hope for landing.

And then, there will be those days when I just think: “This sucks, and I hate everything and what’s the point.” And then, I’m gonna run from my desk like Ron Swanson.

…But.

The very reason I’m joining this challenge is because…I have unofficially written for nearly 30 years, and I have yet to try and publish anything. My self-esteem and fear of producing boring, laughable crap has left me prone, stuck.

I have family and friends who have long since been writing and have successfully published. They were able to push past the inner fears and life struggles, bear down, and do what they needed to get their work to the masses.

I envy them. I admire them.

I want to grab them by the lapels and screech, “How did you do it?!”

But, more than anything…I want to join them. Maybe not in just publishing books, but also in the power of their desire.

I want to know their strength and their ability to commit to a project. I want to know what worked for them. I want to know what didn’t.

But…you know? I actually already kinda do.

I’ve talked with the family members, and I followed the blog of and occasionally chatted with an old friend as her books ranked higher and higher on Amazon.

I truly think I have all the tools I need. There is nothing left but the doing.

Final Thoughts

I don’t want live in excuses or fear anymore. I don’t want to procrastinate.

Committing to this challenge will allow me to hold myself publicly accountable for writing a novel for the first time. Honestly, I’m not even sure what the layout of the site is much beyond the sign-up button. Once I finish writing this post, though, I will find out.

If musicians can lock themselves in studios for 72 hours to get an album done, and my friend Rebecca can dole out multiple barre classes in a single day and still rush into work that same day, then I can sit, plug my ears, shove my insecurities aside, and freakin’ write.

…Wish me luck.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Calvin Coolidge

Any other first-time NaNoWriMo novelists out there? I’d love to hear what’s driving you this year!

End of a Beginning: My Rookie Year as a Voice Actor

“And, that’s a wrap on Kesha Charles!” It was writer/director/producer Zachary Vaudo who delivered the final hatchet chop on my last act as lead and cyberpunk demon slayer of the third season of horror audio drama, The Blood Crow Stories.

From the viewport from within the soundbooth, I watched his wife and fellow writer/director/producer, Ellie Collins, slump in her chair and let out a soft whimper. “Aw, I’m gonna miss her.”

As I stood there, my Kindle hovering in my hand with the last season 3 script loaded on its black and white screen, I realized that for me, “Kesha Charles”–the quirky, determined heroine–was still too close to say goodbye. Maybe that was why I had yet to feel the sorrow at its heaviest levels.

Would I miss reading for her? Obviously.

I knew the loss would sink in by the time the last episode of the season aired on October 15 (*ahem*check your local listing podcasts on iTunes, SoundCloud, GooglePlay Music, and more to listen*cough*).

In fact, I think the ever-ballooning sense of that loss is what prompted me to write this post on the eve of the last episode launching.

It would be a bittersweet ending–not just for my first full-time audio character (though I did have a character in their Season 2–which I adored playing). It would also officially mark the end of my first “rookie” year as a professional voice actor.

(Talk about a blog post that is LONG overdue.)

The Beginning of the Beginning

It was February of 2018 when I had my chance to audition for The Blood Crow Stories. I spent an entire morning in my walk-in closet, trying different voices and praying the quality was good enough for the audition I would be sending to Ellie by the end of the day. Do I go southern? Should I try something more guttural? Deeper? With gravel?

Or…do I simply read in my normal voice?

In the end, I sent her a couple of examples and, as I hit send on the email message, prayed harder than I ever had that I would get the role. I was realizing more and more how I wanted to truly live my life–not just for fun, but as a career.

The creative arts were calling to me–screaming at me, actually. If I got this role, it would be a sign that maybe I actually could live the life the way I wanted to.

All of the singing drills my mother put me through as a child.

All of the choral performances in Oklahoma, Illinois, California.

All of the drama classes and competitions in Florida.

They would all actually mean something.

Over a decade had passed since I’d even thought of touching that side of myself again (Hehe…sorry). A weekend of a voiceover class and an unexpected stint onstage in 2017 had reignited that desire like a will-o-wisp flitting across a swamp. I wanted to walk, I wanted to run, I wanted to play all day in the suuuun—

Aaaand, I moved into the wrong desire (and story). Double sorry.

Ellie sent back her response to my audition in four days, but those four days might as well have been four weeks. Within seconds of scanning the email that I had been selected for the part, I called my mother and blubbed on the phone like a baby.

“Adrian!” I wailed, virtually extending my proverbial boxing gloves across the distance. “Adrian, I did it!”

“I don’t know who you’re calling Adrian,” my mother said, “but I am so, so happy for you, B.”

Personal Pride

…making the conscious decision to train as a voice actor was the first time I had allowed myself to be 100% selfish and decisive in what I wanted to do with my life, anyone else’s opinions be damned.

It’s not that I’ve purposefully avoided the topic of writing about my feelings of being a voice actor. I think I just never felt comfortable believing that I was legitimately part of such an amazing industry. It was like how I felt/feel about writing: despite the positive feedback I’ve received, I was/am still navigating my fears and inhibitions, along with a heavy dose of Imposter’s Syndrome.

Nevertheless, all of the feedback has helped me realize that some of the most valuable lessons I’ve received, both from The Blood Crow Stories and my voiceover courses at the Atlanta Voiceover Studio, were very much true.

  1. The microphone is a sponge. If you think you’re putting enough emotion into your voice–triple to ensure it shines through.
  2. Slower…is better (ahuehue–jeepers, I’m in the dirtiest of moods today!☺️). Don’t be afraid to pause and read more slowly than you think is normal. It’s surprisingly easy to unconsciously “speed up” the reading more than you mean to.
  3. Follow your directors. Feel free to go improv if they’re all about it. If not–their directions are LAW.
  4. Trust your clients. If they tell you your performance was good–or if they say nothing at all and are good to move on–believe them and move on.
  5. You’ll never be your level of “perfect”…
  6. …BUT, when you can’t hear “yourself” in your own performance, you’re not doing half bad.
  7. Confidence (or lack thereof) is audible. If you don’t believe your performance, neither will anyone else.
  8. Your voice is your tool. Any lifelong self-esteem issues you have over it being “too high” or “too nasally” will only be an obstacle to you listening to it objectively. Besides, what makes your voice unique is what will get you the parts NO ONE ELSE will get.
  9. But also, treat your voice like a precious gem. Treat it to water, warm lemon/ginger/honey drinks, xylitol mints, regular vocal exercises, regular training classes, and–of course–rest.
  10. And seriously–work on your feelings of self-value, self-worth, self-esteem…self-everything. Discrediting your own voice to the people who hired you and are paying you and are excited for your voice to be in their production–helps no one. Especially not you.

Embracing the “End”

Aside from beginning classes in taekwondo in 2009, making the conscious decision to train as a voice actor was the first time I had allowed myself to be 100% selfish and decisive in what I wanted to do with my life, anyone else’s opinions be damned. I know that may not sound like much of an achievement, but you’re reading about someone who switched her college major to accounting just because someone mentioned that she liked numbers…and accounting…has…numbers.

I know. I know.

I don’t know what year two holds for me–or year three, or year four. Heck, I don’t even know what life will hold for me this week or this evening.

But I know that voice acting will be a part of it. All of it.

And I will remember my rookie VO year and everyone/everything involved in it with eternal fondness.

Here is a convenient window to The Blood Crow Stories, all 3 seasons. 😁 Get caught up just in time for Season 4 to drop on Halloween, Oct. 31.

Learning to Be a Good Friend (from my Friends)

Over these last few months, I’ve had the blessing to reflect on a lot of things both internally and externally. One thing that has stood out for me that I never expected to notice, was the impact that my friends have on my quality of life.

Growing up as not just an introvert, but a shy, reclusive introvert, I didn’t think it was possible for me to gain true friendships. Not only that, but due to some of the “friendships” that I did cultivate, I thought that as a part of my chronic issues with my depression and anxiety, that I could only gain a certain type of friend. You know–the ones who make you feel worse than before you first spoke to them.

It’s not until you start crawling out of yourself, do you finally notice the number of hands that have been reaching out to you all along.

I can’t make up for how poor of a friend I might have been in the past, but I want to be a better friend to those who are with me in the present. To do this, I’m making a conscious effort to remember the following lessons that all of my dearest friends (and a few former ones) have shown me.

Friendship is a Two-Way Street

The first lesson should be fairly obvious, but–yeah, well, what can you do?

I have one friend who is always on the ball at finding things to do around Atlanta, and she is always happy to invite me to go with her. Seriously, I don’t know how she does it. Sometimes I lovingly refer to her as my connection to the outside world.

That being said, her on-the-point invitations made me realize how much I sucked at asking my friends to hang out.

Like, I have no excuses. I suck at it. I would always wait for my friends, however close they were to text, invite, even just say hi. It literally never crossed my mind to say hi first.

And that…is a problem on my part.

If I want to see my friends, shouldn’t I–oh, I don’t know–make plans to see my friends?

Yeah, Captain Obvious and First Mate Common Sense to the bridge, amiright?

(On a side note…I think I might copyright that last line. 😌)

It’s not as if I don’t know how it feels to be on the other side. I’ve had people in my past where I’ve been told to give them a call or text them; they’re always free!

And then…they’re not.

Or, worse: no matter how the conversations went–even if they initiated it–they’d still wait for me to reach out again…and again…and again.

Which begs the question: why do I feel like I’m chasing them down?

A true friendship is balanced–both parties enjoy each other too much to worry about keeping tabs on who is “ahead.” When it becomes blatantly obvious that one friend seems to be chasing the other (or, the other friend seems to enjoy leading the other friend on), it may not be the type of friendship worth cultivating.

And I certainly don’t want my friends to feel like I feel that way about them.

Being Selfish Can Be Selfless

I mentioned once my thoughts on my own giving love languages (see shameless plug below), and why my order of them differed so dramatically from my receiving love languages.

See “Why Don’t My Giving Love Languages Match my Receiving Love Language?, Theory 1: Self-confidence” 😑

Due to my wobbly self-esteem, I often assumed that I as a person was a very expendable friend, and that anyone else was a better choice to hang out with:

  • Oh, he’s brighter.
  • Oh, they have more in common.
  • Oh, they’re sitting closer together.
  • Oh, she tells better jokes/wears more skirts/looks more mature/wanted to be a neurosurgeon. Why would anyone want to talk with me when they’ve got her around???

And so on, and so forth.

I assumed I was doing my friends favors when I bowed out of some activities. Imagine my shock when one friend just outright told me, “But B, I really want you to be there.”

I stared at her, temporarily dumbfounded. “You…do?” Understanding suddenly struck me. “Oh, you need me to help set up, or be a designated driver, or something.”

But she waved that off. “I don’t really care what you do. I just want you to be there.”

Really? “Really?” I asked her.

“Yes,” she blurted. “This means a lot to me, and you’re one of my closest friends!”

I…am? “I…am?”

She looked ready to swat me. “Yes!”

To which I responded in eloquent, pure B fashion. “…Oh.”

That interaction showed me how my lack of self-esteem had made me handle the friendship poorly yet again. While I thought I was being selfless by keeping my “boring self” away from my friends, my friend–through her “selfish” wish to have me at her event–showed me that my self, “boring” or no, was very much wanted. I appreciated that. And I thank goodness for friends who aren’t afraid to tell me exactly what they want from me–because I can be that dense.

It’s Okay to Be Vulnerable

While I’ve dabbled in the realm of roommates and part-time lovers over the last decade or so, I’ve remained independent most of my adult life. I don’t use the term “super introvert” lightly; I enjoy my alone time and relish in my ability to make decisions about my life without having to consult with anyone else.

Because I’m so used to relying on myself, I often don’t like to spend a lot of time worrying about my emotions or physical ailments. Just take a deep breath and keep going until what needs to get done gets done.

And yet.

There I was, on the phone for the first time in my life, terrified and panicked–and admitting openly to someone else that I needed help.

On the other end of the line was someone whom I hadn’t been good friends with for that long. However, he was kind and considerate and had reached out barely a month before to get to know me better. I had been amazed at our ability to chat openly, to laugh and connect creatively about almost everything.

At the time of my panic attack (which I’d never had before), I hadn’t known who to call. This was just another annoying obstacle, something I needed to just “walk off,” like I’d always done.

But he had called for other reasons…and I’d picked up. He’d just happened to get me at a really bad time.

“B?” He’d immediately picked up on the agony in my voice. “Are you okay?”

I couldn’t talk. I could barely think. Not since my college years had I asked for someone to help me with anything. The last time I had, I’d been told to “figure it out myself.” So, I’d taken that philosophy to heart and learned to care for myself–or at least cope.

But there, in the midst of my pain, with my new friend waiting on the other end of the line, I couldn’t hold in my self-preservation. I opened my mouth…and I croaked out the truth. “I’m…sorry. I’m not doing too well right now. Can you just, maybe…stay on the phone for a while?”

I waited for his sigh of disgust. I waited for impatience to fill my ear. I waited for the sounds of awkwardness, of confusion, of not understanding what my freakin problem was, and why was I wasting his time.

Instead, I heard without hesitation, “Of course, B. I’m so sorry you’re in pain. What’s wrong? What do you need? Do you need me to come over? I can come over right now. I can sit with you.”

My next words caught in my throat. Or maybe it was a gasp. That someone would take the time to come to me–especially in the horrors that was Thursday night traffic–just to sit with me during what was one of the darkest down days I’d ever experienced, shattered me into speechlessness.

But he didn’t rush to hang up. He didn’t make excuses or make me feel low or pathetic. He made me feel like it was okay to show my most shameful side, the side I’d tried to hide from everyone, family included. He did the one thing that I’d never expected someone to do when my “true” self was revealed.

He stayed.

At last, I managed to respond. “Just…please. Stay on the phone with me for a little while longer?”

His compassion flooded me as he spoke again, his tenderness palpable and warm. Under his words and the weight of my cell phone, I began to cry without restraint. “Of course, B. I’ll stay on for as long as you need.”

When to Hold Tight, and When to Let Go

It is always a painful moment to realize that your perception of a friendship may not be the same as how they see it. It’s especially hard when the friendship is with someone you admire greatly.

But then, if you do feel a sort of distance growing between you, you have to ask yourself two questions:

Are you holding onto the friendship because you really like hanging out with this person…

Or…are you simply holding on because that’s “the way things always were”?

Are you using more of your energy to save something that, for the benefit of both of you, may be healthier to release?

The nice thing about friendship is the same thing about life: there is no definite path on how things are “supposed” to go. We cannot–nor should we–control their strength or longevity. Just as we can’t stand in the middle of a river and push the current in the opposite direction, we can’t force a friendship to always remain as it was. It must grow, expand, evolve, redirect, or…perhaps, for a while…taper off.

Good friendships are organic and rich. Before you know it, you’re chatting for eight hours straight in the middle of nowhere and wondering why the sun is rising. You can sneak up on them from behind and literally see their eyes light up when they realize it’s you. Twenty years can pass–and when you meet again, it’s as if you’re still children, tripping over each other in the excitement and pure joy of being together once more.

I’ve got a long way before I feel like I am a “good” friend to my friends. But with all that I’ve seen and experienced from them, I hope that I can show them how much I appreciate their selflessness, their kindness, and their love.

Not for my own conscience, but because, dagnabbit–they deserve it.

3 types of friends:  for a reason, a season, and a lifetime.

A Park’s Perspective (Photography)

Though this is an old set of photos, it’s a set that I’ve been sitting on for months. And sometimes, words can’t provide the perspective that we’re really looking for.

So, for this week’s post, there are words–but most of them aren’t mine. And there is perspective–just, not all in words.

(Click on any image to see it in full size!)

The Playground

It sounds corny, but I’ve promised my inner child that never again will I ever abandon myself for anything or anyone else again.

Wynonna Judd

The Grounds

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

Khalil Gibran

5 Literary Classics Under 200 Pages

[Reposting an old favorite. Read and enjoy!]
Original post date: October 2013

Months and months and months ago, I was having a conversation with my friend Jen about how short Mitch Albom’s novels are.  “I don’t know how he manages to put so much emotion into so little space,” she said, and I agreed, awed—and maybe just a smidgen jealous.

The day after that conversation, I had an interesting discussion about Ray Bradbury with a coworker, what with it being the anniversary of his death at the time.  I noted how my favorite book of his (okay, the only one I’d read so far) was Fahrenheit 451.  When I looked up the book later, I was shocked to discover that it, too, was well under the 200-page mark.

So, I got to thinking—just how many other classics/bestsellers have also managed to keep their masterpieces so short, yet imbued each page, each line, each word with so much life?

The list I developed—albeit far from complete—was kind of surprising when I took a step back to review.

Note:  the page numbers listed below are based on copies of books that I have in normal print.

(All books are available on Amazon.com. Go check them out!)


Fahrenheit 451 (by Ray Bradbury)

Book Length:  179 pages

Imagine a future where firemen create fires instead of dousing them; where literature is outlawed and shunned for full-scale entertainment systems; and where the superficial is celebrated and the knowledgable is literally chased out of society.  That, pretty much, is Fahrenheit 451.  It’s  a truly cerebral literary piece that, when I reread it as an adult, had me wonder just how Mr. Bradbury managed to get me so worked up over the stupidity that could possibly occur in the world, and the hope he left in its ruined entrails.  Good stuff.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold (by Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

Book Length:  128 pages

First of all, the title itself is brilliant.  (Okay, brief fangirling over.)  Seriously, what title better sums up just what its story is about?  (Okay, now it’s really over.)  We enter the book knowing full well that a man has been murdered.  For the rest of the book, we listen to accounts throughout town as nearly everyone claims they could have stopped the murder—but they didn’t.  Was it through malice?  Not really—and that’s where the brilliancy of the story lies.  No one could have done it better. 

Five People You Meet In Heaven (By Mitch Albom)

Book Length:  192 pages

This man has literally made a career of writing novels approximately 200 pages and still maintaining the integrity and reality of the human spirit.  In this story, a despondent, aging man gives his life to save a little girl and, in doing so, embarks upon a journey where several personal “landmarks” lead him through the choices he made and how he indeed made a difference.  It’s not many books that make me tear up and treat each page turn like a commercial break. 

Night (by Elie Wiesel)

Book Length:  109 pages

I’ve only read this book once, and that was over 15 years ago in high school.  That was all I needed.  In this true account of Mr. Wiesel’s horrid confinement in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II, every event stayed with me and to this day makes me cringe.  From the image of a prisoner so hungry, he risks crawling towards an unguarded pot of stew while bombs fall around him; to the hanging of a man so small, he is forced into a squirming, desperate, prolonged death; it all remains fresh in my mind.  It’s a haunting, amazing work that I highly encourage everyone to read at least once. 

The Time Machine (by H.G. Wells)

Book Length:  125 pages

Consider the franchise behind this book.  Consider the movies, the action figures, the spinoffs, the TV shows, the third-party sequels, the scientific concepts, the everything that resulted from this book—and look at that book length again.  Remove this book from the equation of the world, and you remove an entire universe of imagination.  Though a simple enough plot—a man recounts at a present-day dinner party about how he traveled through time to spy into the evolution of the human race—it continues to spark conversations as the decades pass.  Score two for scifi. 

The End of Eternity (by Isaac Asimov)

Book Length:  191 pages

What the hey—score three for scifi.

Isaac Asimov may not be as universally well-known as H.G. Wells in terms of a household name, but he is no less influential.  If you watched Data on Star Trek:  The Next Generation, Bicentennial Man, or I, Robot, you are viewing the art of Dr. Asimov, one of Mr. Well’s direct successors as the next-generation Father of Science Fiction.  (Okay, the fangirl is back all the way.)

In The End of Eternity, a “Time Keeper” from the future discovers that his existence and the existence of the world in which he lives may just be what has destroyed the potential of what could have truly occurred in the past.  He even has time to fall in love during this plight.  A wallop of work in under 200 pages, and a wonderful way to end this list.

For now!


Honorable Mentions

For One More Day (By Mitch Albom)

Book Length:  208 pages

A man gets one more chance to see his departed mother while reevaluating the importance of their relationship.  Very poignant, very heart-ripping.  I might have cried again.

The Great Gatsby (By F. Scott Fitzgerald)

Book Length:  208 pages

A “modern-day” tragedy detailing that, just because you have everything you wanted in life, it doesn’t mean you’re happy.  Also a tragedy detailing that, just because you get money, it doesn’t mean you can get everything you want.  “Great” Gatsby, indeed.

Heart of Darkness (By Joseph Conrad)

Book Length:  96 pages

Warning:  Ending Spoiler!

I know, I know.  Why didn’t I include this book up in the “under 200 pages” list?  Well, it’s quite simple:  I hate this book.  I’ve read it two and a half times, and it still doesn’t make any more sense than it did in high school.  It’s a book about going out into a jungle to find an important man who moans “The horror.  The horror!” as he dies, only pages after you find him.  I got that—but unfortunately, that’s all I got.

To those who love this book, I applaud you and encourage you to place it at the top of your list.  Unfortunately, while this didn’t even peak at 100 sheets, it may as well have surpassed 400, for all the work it took me to make it through.

I’m sorry…I’m a bad classics lover.

Are there any books under 200 that you have loved and didn’t see on the list?  If so, please feel free to share below! 

Back to My Roots: (Re-)Growing My Natural Hair

Sooooo….

Remember when I said that I was done trying to grow my hair to epically long proportions?

Well…I’m still doing that.

HOWEVER…a few days ago, I came across a vlogger that I used to watch religiously circa 2010-2013. Her name is Whitney, but she goes by the user name Naptural85. Basically, for those who don’t know her, she did what was initially deemed near impossible, especially for an African American woman.

She grew non-chemically altered (aka natural) curly/coily hair from a few inches to all the way down her back.

With over 1 million subscribers on YouTube and appearances on multiple high-level media circuits, she is not someone to simply shake your hair at.

African American (and curly/tightly coiled hair in general) hair has several variables that count against its ability to keep and maintain length, strength, and moisture:

  • Its hair structure (as explained in this Helix Magazine blog post and shown in this adorable little gif).
  • The amount of sebum/natural oil coverage it gains, from root to tip (imagine natural scalp oils easily sliding down straight hair vs. navigating the curly hair pattern. Yeeeaahhh…).
  • Its tendency to curl around and through itself (aka knot) and break at each fragile bend.

I could go on and on about the history of growing tightly coiled hair and the struggles that African American women have worked through the decades to conform their hair to societal norms of beauty and acceptance…

Buuuuut, I will save that rant for another post. 😇

Naptural85: Type 4a Hair Guru

As I was saying before–a few days ago, I chanced upon one of Naptural85’s latest hair posts. I’d stopped watching her videos regularly years ago; however, since this post was so recent (posted in August), I was curious to see what she had to say about the latest 2019 hair-growing practices that she was sticking to and what continued to give her the best results as far as healthy, enviable hair growth.

Let’s take a listen below, shall we?

Video Tips Summary…

  1. Clarify your hair and scalp regularly (mainly, your scalp) to keep your follicles open and healthy.
  2. Keep your hair moisturized from roots to curly ends. Drink enough water, and spritz and seal your hair to keep moisture locked within each strand.
  3. Trim your hair on a regular basis. If it’s knotting a lot, it’s definitely time for a trim.
  4. Style gently, style lovingly. Don’t go tight!
  5. Use protective styles.
  6. Recognize the power (and pain points) of your shrinkage. Stretch to avoid breakage.
  7. Choose healthy hair products–no matter where you go.
  8. More water, less sugar.
  9. Get that blood pumpin’! Exercise, massage–the works!

Got it? Spiffy.

One thing that I will say about Naptural85’s hair videos is that, while she has tested the occasional trend and gimmick just to see if the hype is real, her actual focus on growing her hair and keeping it healthy has never been hokie. She has never been afraid to pioneer her own methods, especially when the wave of natural hair-styling wagons originally rode through in the mid- to late 2000s.

Not only that, but she’s consistently posted her progress from her TWA (teeny weeny or tiny widdle afro) to what it is now. She is literally walking proof that a black woman with short 4a hair can, with patience, dedication, and determination, grow long, healthy hair.

Back to Reality

However, I have to be honest with myself. Her hair length was actually very close to mine when I big-chopped in 2009/2010ish. I was, perhaps, a few months behind her. I watched her videos, kept my hair clean, bought shea butter to seal, the works.

Her growth took off. Mine did not–at least, not to that extent.

Was part of the equation something else? Genetics, perhaps? Nutrition? Environment? Stress levels?

Abso-freakin-lutely. The list of impactful variables knows no ends!

But that is one reason why I “gave up” on a near-fanatical desire for long hair. I had to stop comparing my length with someone else’s. I also had to stop equating hair length to personal quality and beauty.

For example, my older sister’s hair is the 3b/3c hair type. Since her big chop to remove the chemical relaxer from her straight hair about four or five years ago, she can now simply put leave-in conditioner on her hair, then Eco Style gel, then let it air dry–and that’s it.

Her hair will behave from that single wash for up to three weeks. Not only that, but when stretched, it is well down her back.

Me?

My scalp is a sensitive mess and demands washing/clarifying twice a week. My curl pattern is so 4a, it’s astounding. My hair and/or scalp loathes nearly every popular natural ingredient out there:

  • Shea butter
  • Cocoa butter
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil/milk
  • Aloe vera
  • Glycerin

Seriously. I could not be kidding less about this list. If I use products with any of these ingredients, it has to be low on the list of ingredients or mixed with a heck of a lot of other stuff.

Am I complaining?

Actually…not so much anymore.

Instead of turning haircare into a chore, I turned it into an adventure–which is what most African American women have done. It’s also why you’ll often read about a black woman’s natural hair “journey.” If we want our hair to look good, we’ll never not be able to think about it.

What Prompted My Re-Growth Revival

I’ve been going through some various levels of…”events” over the last year. Things were changing at a speed and a debilitating level that I did not expect. I felt like I’d lost control over a lot of elements. My health, my life–and many relationships.

I needed to know I could control something. I needed to know I could change something, make something different so that, as the world around me warped, I wasn’t remaining static.

Due to time and energy and wellness (or rather, lack thereof), I grew lax on my hair care. Then, I became bored.

Then, I got everything else with it, to the point that I just didn’t want to–and couldn’t–deal with it.

This is circa April of this year, before the first cut:

B with longer hair
Freshly dyed and flat-ironed.

And this is after it:

b hair after cut

And yes…I did say “first cut.”

Now, don’t get wrong–I adored this cut. Like, a lot. I’d needed some kind of change at the time and really wanted to look in the mirror to see a different side of myself.

That…and it was a hot spring. I wanted the hair off my neck.

However, when I sent the above pic to my family–you know, for the fun shock value of it all–the response I got was lack-luster.

  • What’s the change?
  • I don’t see anything different.
  • It’s not really that dramatic, is it?

And…of course…we all know what happens when we (i.e. I) get egged on (or, in my case, ineffective responses from our families).

BACK into the bathroom I went–along with the grumblings:

“Oh, nothing’s changed, huh? I’ll show them. I’ll show them all!”

…I might have gone a smidgen extreme.

B lying on a walkway

Too much, too soon?

Or, not.

I’ve adored having my hair short again. Wash day is faster, styling is more convenient, and it’s kinda fun to have strangers marveling over the fact that my natural curl pattern is literally the size of a pen spring.

But…I do miss the fun of having more hair.

It wasn’t easy to take care of, but…it was a fun hobby. And when I was putting all the necessary work into it–I saw my own level of results.

Once I’m able to return to regular life, I’ll add a few of my favorite DIY hair recipes that have remained tried and true for the last 10 years. Items like the good ol’ fashioned mud wash, the mango-cupuacu butter sealant, and my morning apple cider vinegar-cayenne pepper-MSM-raw honey drink.

Mmmm, nummers.

And so, with a decade of knowledge behind me, a set of fairly well-proven tools and practices, and a refreshed Naptural85 video to “reinforce” that my techniques are/were on the right track 😛, it’s time to reembark on my Natural Hair Re-Growing Epic Journey….Extravaganza.

[ahem…cue fanfare!]

Noice.

Hold Our Hands: Fighting Mental Illness

Disclaimer: This blog post addresses heavier mental health topics than usual, including discussions of depression and self-harm. I am not a psychiatrist or a mental health specialist. I’m writing purely from an emotional standpoint–and because I just want to send out love and hope to anyone who happens to read this.

I apologize if this falls into an incoherent rant–but I don’t know, at this moment, how else to share.

But I am one human being–and it shatters me to know how many people I love are hurting in one way or another.

In May and June of this year alone, I learned that two people whom I admired and cared about took their lives. As recently as this week, I learned that more people that I care about are suffering from heavy mental issues.

It seems as if in the last few years, a terrifying epidemic continues to grow and spread on a global scale. The more and more I turn around, the more I learn that nearly everyone I know has had someone that they lost to suicide. It shocks me to see how…regular self harm has become, and that we as a culture are not pushing mental health–and the education of mental health–to a higher precedence in improving the varying levels the human condition.

It’s not just the education of outsiders’ behavior towards those with mental illness. It’s also the education of those who are struggling with mental illness themselves.

The latter part is where my current frustrations lie–because despite the American Psychiatric Association declaring mental illness should be taken as seriously as any other medical illness–we still don’t.

Mental illness is probably one of the cruelest illnesses of the present day. It is not a new illness (goodness knows it manifests itself under different names for centuries), but in a time where information about it is more prevalent and available to the masses than ever, many of us still try to fool ourselves into thinking we don’t have any problems. It does not manifest itself in a way that can be immediately recognized, let alone treated.

If we can stand, walk, drive, smile in the public eye–we are fine, and we should keep going. We have families to raise, children to support, parents to care for, lives to live. If there is nothing wrong physiologically, then there is no need to worry any of our loved ones.

Or worse–even if we told someone how poorly we feel, we wouldn’t be taken seriously. Because, after all, we “look okay.” We “sound” okay.

The longer the illness lays untreated, the darker and more warped the thoughts within our minds become.

You’re not sick. You’re just faking it to get some sympathy, or pity, or attention.

What are you complaining about? Nothing’s really wrong with you.

You’re not the only one with problems. Stop being selfish and think about someone else for a change.

You’re whining about nothing. No one cares.

The cruelest part about mental illness is what it makes you think about yourself–absolutely nothing.

But you are absolutely everything.

I won’t say any more cruel points.

I wrote this post, because I wanted it to be a proverbial hand reaching out for those who are struggling with the depths of their own mental illness.

I can tell you right now—whatever your mental illness is trying to feed you, it’s not true.

If you feel lost or disenchanted or alone, left behind–you are not. Beyond the darkness that is the illness, you have people who are holding you tightly, begging you to stay, begging you to fight against the cruel isolation that the illness can cause.

It is one of the toughest battles you will ever engage in, and it is a battle that you will have to fight every second of your life.

Please don’t let the negativity win.

Fight. Please fight. Fight against every cruel thought that tells you you are worthless and/or alone.

The illness would have you keep your eyes shut so that you can’t see the people in your life who love you dearly, who are reaching out to you.

  • The ones who invite you to lunch every day, even when you say no over and over.
  • The ones who stay on the phone with you at night, not saying a word, just so you can fall asleep.
  • The ones who text you silly memes just so you have something you have to reply to, and they know you are still there.
  • The ones who wave you over to their table, even if you just sit silently with the group.

The moment when you can open your eyes, you will see them right there, standing in front of you, smiling.

And you will realize that they’ve been there all along. They were just lovingly, patiently, happily waiting for you to see them again.

It hurts to know that I can’t stretch myself rice-paper thin and spread myself across everyone I love, shielding them from the cruelties of the outside world–and the darkness in their inner worlds.

I can’t be everything to everyone. I wish I could be. The whole nature of being human is to find the balance of taking care of yourself and caring for others.

No one can be “everything” to anyone. Nor should anyone try.

But I never want the people I love so much to not know how much I love them, and how I wish I could hold them all, always.

Depression is a cruel, selfish illness. It creates words and images to seduce its victims into thinking that every negative thought passing through their minds is the truth.

Here is the truth.

You are a life.

You are a beautiful, breathing life.

You take a breath, and therein is the proof that you exist for a reason.

You have skills and talent, and there are people who are excited and looking forward to seeing you remember just how much you enjoy engaging in those talents.

Mental illness would make you believe that those people and those talents don’t exist. It is wrong.

I wish there was a quick fix. I wish there was a way to make tomorrow the cure to mental illness, where today would be the last time the feelings of loss and hopelessness ever wash over you.

Crawling out of the darkness may be the hardest thing you ever do.

But you can. I believe in you. So many people believe in you.

Please, fight. Keep fighting. Don’t let mental illness win.

If you are struggling with thoughts of self harm and other symptoms of mental illness, please reach out to a mental health professional in your area or call The Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.