The Pursuit

Happinessmoon

I get the impression that my students think happiness is a divine right. That if they are not happy, it’s someone else’s fault . It sure seems like happiness is a right, seeing how it’s listed in the Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; ..

Although happiness in the form of the American Dream isn’t attainable for all, it’s important to believe that true happiness extends past our possession, our reputation, our talents and our looks. For me, happiness extends past anything I can actually do.

My earliest memory of feeling ‘happy’ involves a parachute. During playtime in daycare, we’d have this activity. It was a simple game of throwing the parachute in the air and running underneath while it fell to the earth. All the silky, bright colors floating towards me, wind getting caught in my sun-dress and friends racing around, left me elated. The level of fun almost too overwhelming for a four-year-old, I’d laugh until my stomach hurt.

Nowadays, people ask me all the time why I smile, especially since I’ve seen a lot of death and hardship. Sometimes I’m just nervous and smiling calms me. However, we know real happiness is much deeper than smiling. There’s much more to it, indeed!

deandanceDo a happy-dance I’m about to reveal the secrets to being….HAPPY!

Be happy for others: Celebrating with others is a sure way to feel better about life. A new baby, engagements, dreams coming true—sharing these events with others will recharge you.

Embrace vulnerability: We feel a lot—not just women—men too. Honesty about those feelings with the right people releases bad stuff that we store in our hearts. A few days ago I had to tell a friend that something they did hurt me. Sure, I could have vented to my husband about my issues, but it was much better discussing the matter with the person.

Focus on “I can”: The talent and competition these days is high. Feeling inadequate becomes a state of being if we allow it to control our thoughts. Everything around us is a constant reminder of what we don’t have, what we need, what we can’t do—it is discouraging.

A friend of mine said, “There will always be someone more talented, prettier, and smarter than me. And I will always be more talented, prettier, and smarter than someone else. That’s ok, because we’re both just as valuable.” When I started believing this it was extremely freeing. Now I focus on what I can do and don’t allow myself to feel insecure or threatened by others more talented.

Find a Reason to laugh: Even in the saddest situations, laughing strengthens the heart. I’ve attended funerals in which laughter seeps into a conversation. My husband had a brain tumor and on the way to appointments and such, we found reasons to laugh. Laughter is healing. We all should do more. Oh and by the way my husband is fine. Don’t want to freak anyone out with a cliffhanger.

Meet a need: I volunteer at an elementary school. My reward always feels greater than the service I offer. Helping people helps our spirit. It gets us to leave our world for a while to engage in someone else’s. Sometimes we spend too much time trying to solve our own problems when the answer is found as we help others.

Make sure to be awkward you: I took one of the silly quizzes to see which character I’d be in the movie Frozen. I got Olaf and couldn’t be prouder. I’m a complete goof at heart and make sure to have those Napoleon Dynamite moments often. If I’m shopping in the store and a groovy song comes on, I have no problem dancing in public. Or when I auditioned for drum major in high school, I practiced my conducting moves as I walked home. Sure, my neighbors probably thought I crazy, but I felt happy being awkward me.

Surround yourself with good energy: Everything has energy. You know that feeling when that co-worker comes around, and the energy drains out of you the closer they get or the more they talk. That’s real–it’s not a delusion. There are people who are true, seasoned energy-zappers. Take them in small doses but surround yourself around others that fill your tank. I have a friend that anytime I’m around her, I feel like I can win an Olympic event.

Let it go: Forgiveness is more for you than the other person. Carrying around hurt and resentment or hate, will kill any inkling of happiness.

Love without expectation: Ok, this is hard, but give to others without expecting anything in return. I’m not saying we should be doormats or sounding boards for those who want to hurt us, but I’m saying extending  kindness to those  around us, even those who don’t deserve it. Because the truth is, I receive wonderful things and opportunities all the time but I can’t say I deserved them. I use to get really upset with a family member of mine, thinking they should do X, Y, Z for me, you know, I wanted them to act like someone else. Once I let go of my ridiculous expectations I was able to just love and accept them.

Live for something greater than your happiness: Purpose. As you start living out your purpose, happiness will come. This is the greatest pursuit and the search takes patience.

Choose ‘Happy’: I may not always have the power to change my circumstances or control my life, but I can choose how I will respond. Many days, despite my momentary troubles, I choose happiness.

Good food: Eating quality foods will change your mental state. There are certain foods that can put you in a better mood too–one being blueberries. Who knew? Anyway, eating foods that are healthy for the body helps the mind.

So, there we have it! And don’t get me wrong, I’m not running around on a mountain top each day singing how happy I am. Like any thing that’s worth our time, pursing happiness takes work. But true happiness is there for us all!

Enchanted happyclap

And yes, my friend, this is the best news EVER!

 

Gif credit: puppetlabs.comgiphy.com

Unusual Jobs

Interview picture

A note a staff member gave me before my interview

For this weeks snippet I’m sharing an RA interview. Another writer interviewed one of their characters last week and I really liked it! The process for the RA position is pretty intense. There’s a long, detailed application, 2-3 personal interviews, then group interviews where candidates do a series of tasks with other candidates. Organizing RA interviews and hiring can take an entire semester. It’s a big deal.

I’ve invited Carly (my character from The Hall Speaks #fallsemester) to sit with us and answer a few questions. These are real questions asked on interviews and I got them here. Hopefully it gives you a little insight into the RA job and my character. Carly wasn’t a girl I liked right away. She’s not mean but she isn’t concerned with trying to be nice. Eventually she grew on me.

The math: It’s May 7 so she will answer that many questions.  🙂

********

Carly Arnold (sophomore at VBU, RA candidate)

Carly Arnold (sophomore at VBU, RA candidate)

So, Carly, thanks for meeting with me. I know you just finished interviewing with Landon for the actual RA position.  I’m going to ask you some of the same question he did but feel free to be candid. Nothing you share will get in the way of you getting the job.

1) Well, how are you?

“I’m fine…can’t wait to get out of these clothes, though. A little tight in all the wrong places if you know what I mean.” She’s wearing a lavender button down shirt and a navy skirt.

2) Ok, I won’t keep you long then. So, why do you want to be a RA?

Hm..I didn’t come to school thinking about the RA job—not at all.  My parents believe in working hard and all that, and want me to work through college. I can’t do retail or fast food stuff. No way. Being an RA seems pretty harmless. I get my own room, tell freshmen what to do, and get campus-credit. It’s really cool, when you think about it.”

She looks down at her lap for a moment, then back at me.

“Beside, it’ll be the first thing I do without my boyfriend. We’ve been together for, like– ever. So I want everyone to see that I’m more than Patrick’s girlfriend.  And the money I save my parents on room and board, they promised to give it to me after graduation. Not a bad deal.”

Pride gleams in her smile as she crosses her legs, leaning back in the chair.

3) Not a bad deal at all. And what are some of your strengths?

“I don’t really have a problem confronting people, especially if I’m right. I can keep residents in line. I’m a planner, good with numbers too. I’m an accountant major so I could maximize our RA programming funds.”

4) And what about weaknesses? What would you say those are?

“Weaknesses, Ha! I have plenty of those…like chocolate, margaritas, bakeries. In general when it comes to food I don’t discriminate. But I’ve been dating slim fast for the last 6 years so no one has to worry about me eating all the food at RA programs. But I guess my social weakness is forgetting that people have feelings. I can tend to just focus on my own,” she explains smiling with her eyes.

5) Why should we hire you?

“Because I have moves you’ve never seen.” She laughs and so do I. “I saw the original red-head, Julia Roberts,  say that in a movie once. Sorry—just wanted to see how that sounded. Why should you hire me? Well…I’m pretty awesome. But other than that, I’m reliable and really organized…I don’t stress out. School is fairly easy for me so I can handle those RA responsibilities just fine.  And I’m pretty normal. Alana’s cute if you’re into that Disney princess kind of look, but I caught her cleaning in the bathroom. I mean, who cleans public bathrooms unless it’s their job?  I’m nineteen with no major meltdowns on my record, so that should put me in the top ten on the candidate list.”

6) Carly, tell me what you would do in this situation: You notice that one of your residents doesn’t seem to want to return home for Christmas. When you approach her, she tells you she’s nervous about going home because her step-father molested her in the past. What would you do?

She sighs.“These questions… this makes me sad. I hate that people go through stuff like this—period. What I’d want to tell her is that while her step-dad is riding his broomstick to hell, that she can stay with me for break. My family is crazy-generous to everyone except me. Of course, I gave Landon the more censored, good-RA  answer, but honestly I couldn’t let her go home.”

7) Do you think Landon will hire you?

“Gosh, I sure hope so. He said I needed this job. Which I’m not exactly sure what he meant by that because my parents have money.  But he sounded pretty darn sure that I needed to be an RA on his staff. Yep–totally got that vibe from him.”

Well, maybe he thinks being an RA can help you as a person.

Her brows shift, moving closer together. She looks kind of offended.

I learned so much in the role and grew as a person because of it. Possibly he wants the same thing for you. Best of luck to you, Carly! I’m sure you’ll get the job. Thanks for letting me interview you. It’s nice getting the uncensored, unscripted version.

“Yeah, no problem. See ya around!”  She walks off towards a guy in a suit.

********

Always, thanks for reading! If you’d like to take part in WIPpet just go here.  Be sure to check out other WIPpets, I’ll be doing my rounds later today.  And thank you K. L. Schwengel for hosting! Happy reading all! Stay beautiful. 🙂

NeVer ForgeT

Seven years ago today….

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I sat in my office on a Monday, sorting through an inbox full of emails. I had gotten to work early to get a jump on administrative stuff (my least favorite activity).

The morning was going along nicely. Nothing significant happening inside, but outside the unseasonably cold day was gorgeous. You know that kind of day when the air feels clean and the sun is blazing by 7 am. The bluest sky was visiting, and campus life hadn’t quite awakened from the weekend.

Simply the perfect way for an introvert to start her week.

I was in the lobby chatting it up with a student, when my supervisor approached. He face said nothing in particular. But he stopped by to let me know that two students had been shot at my school.

I remember frowning because I thought that was strange. Probably some accident, I assumed. Working and living on a college campus, few situations shocked me. I continued on with my day as normal. An hour or so passed and students crowded the lobby. They whispered to each other, looking concerned. And that’s when I felt the energy around me change.

After that, honestly, I can’t recall the exact order of events. I knew it was a shooting, but when reports started coming in about fatalities, I couldn’t process that information.

How could that be? Virginia Tech was the safest university ever. My Alma Mater was the safest school, tucked away in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

I had just graduated the previous year and the Hokie  community was family. Literally my family was there, my brother-in-law, cousins, RAs, colleagues, and dear friends. Watching CNN that day, I knew all of them were affected, but I wasn’t sure if they were all still alive.

And here I was at work, on a college campus nearby. I wanted to leave and be with my Tech family. But I needed to stay. The crisis was starting to unfold among the students around me.

VT is the largest university in Virginia and most of my students had friends there. Students in front of me, behind me cried, but I couldn’t. Not yet.

The world changed that day. The sun seemed different. Food didn’t taste the same. My job felt different. Truth is I was different. That day my worldview changed.

A week later I was able to talk with a colleague at VT, and something she said never left me.

I couldn’t fathom what that day was like for her and other Residence life staff there. The first shooting occurred in a dorm I lived in the previous year. Wrapping my mind around such a tragedy was hard enough, being there when as it happened, I couldn’t imagine.

But I wondered how did they handle it? What did the RAs do knowing they had lost a fellow RA and residents?

She paused and said, “We were working. We worked.”

Now, that to me was shocking. But once I let the words sink in, I was inspired. That, in the middle of the biggest tragedy to ever happen on any college campus, RAs and professional staff worked. It was powerful. And I couldn’t have been more proud of the way they pulled together.

Hokie Community at the Memorial VT

Hokie Community at the Memorial VT

Residence Life staff members across the country face several types of issues living the halls. The work they do is irreplaceable and invaluable. Universities need them more than I can explain. I just wanted to write a story to capture the RA experience—the Residence Life experience. And I did.  Because they work when no one is watching, they are always working.

I’ll never forget that day, the heart always remembers. To my dear friends I lost that day, we live for you!

We are Virginia Tech.

We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry,

and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again.

We are Virginia Tech.

~Nikki Giovanni

www.thriftywebsites.us photo credit

Hot Pink Stain–WIPpet

Have you ever met someone who has a bad attitude for no reason? Like, you ask a simple question and they snap back with a rude comment. It’s hard not to take it personally. And showing compassion for the person displaying this behavior–forget about it–not happening!  Because I know for me in those situations, I don’t exactly get this feeling:

1301088653-andy_parks_and_rec.gifhappy

Well, I’ve learned that there is always a reason–not that it’s justifiable–why people are mean. I’m convinced that 90% of road-rage has nothing to do with driving. Sometimes people go through horrible things and live with residual anger.  If any of you have ever seen Anger Management you know exactly what I’m talking about. Or one of my favorites, that moment in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where Clark just goes mad-cow disease on his boss.

The way many people feel when life just gets crazy

The way many people feel when life just gets crazy

Unfortunately for my character, Kessa Daniels, her situation has no laughter involved. She’s carrying a dark burden. A burden that was forced, one that she never imagined carrying.  But she holds it with an attitude because it’s the only way to deal with the pain. Some folks smile the pain away, while others push everyone away.

In my first novel, The Hall Speaks #fallsemester, Kessa is introduced during RA training. She is playing the role of a cutter during the scenario and is so believable the other RAs get emotional watching. This happens during that scene:

But for Kessa, conjuring up tears was as easy as brushing her teeth.

She had more to cry about then any of them could ever know. 

My WIP scene is connected to this one, and it’s from RA Marcus Johnson’s POV. They are ‘just friends’ and he’s finally getting Kessa to trust him. Marcus asked Kessa to attend a divine nine fraternity banquet with him.

The math: April 2, 2014 so I’m giving you 22 lines (14+2+2+4) from blog post 8 (4th month multiplied by 2).

#Marcus

“Never mind, Marcus, I’ll get it myself,” she demanded, snatching the cup from his hand.

“Look–I’m sorry.”

Her expression softened. No one could be mad at Marcus for long. His dimples appeared when he talked. He accepted people and they accepted him right back.

Kessa gave him a quick smile. “It’s ok, I’m sorry too.”

“Hey, let me introduce you to one of the pillars in KSG…” Marcus shifted to the side, revealing the dark-skinned guy behind him. “This is Drake,” he introduced, patting his high set shoulders.

The most peculiar smile shaped Drake’s slender face as he studied Kessa’s form. Marcus frowned slightly because Drake stared at Kessa like he knew her in that way. He glanced at Kessa and felt even more lost.

She stood there, still as a tree in the eye of a storm. Her dark brown eyes focused on Drake, watering from a new emotion. Her fingers twitched. Before Marcus could mutter another word, she flung her drink in Drakes’ face. The red liquid dripped down his neck, staining his white collared shirt hot pink.

********

Always, thanks for reading! If you’d like to take part in WIPpet just go here.  Be sure to check out other WIPpets, I’ll be doing my rounds tomorrow. And thank you K. L. Schwengel for hosting! Happy reading and let’s all keep writing!

Photo/Gif Credit: www.tucsonweekly.comgiphy.com245 × 235

 

Guilty–WIPpet

This month I’ve started editing the sequel to my debut novel, The Hall Speaks #fallsemester. It hasn’t been horrible, but I wish I could say that I’ve been working on it everyday and making great progress. Last week was full of student chaos–all fun, but nonetheless exhausting.  So, spending time with my characters got put hold a few days. I have one more major event that I’m planning and after that, I’m hoping the semester will slow down to a manageable pace.  🙂

Onto my WIPpet for today, March 19, 2014. My brain is loaded so I’m doing easy math, just adding it all together.

3+19+2=24 sentences or so, and 2+1+4= blog post 7

I thought it would be helpful to share exactly I write about since my premise is fairly unusual.  In short, my books are about Residence Life culture, specifically resident assistants (RAs).  They have this unique experience of living at their job with co-workers (other RAs), customers (residents), and the boss (Hall Director). As you can image, this set-up makes everything interesting. Especially on the relationship front. Boundaries are crossed, lines are blurred to a nonexistent level.  But who can blame them? It’s hard living with anyone without things getting personal at some point.

And this topic brings us to RAs Carly and Ethan that share a past, but still  must work together. And I’d like to add my choice of actors to play these rolls this week.  I usually don’t imagine the face of actors when I write, but what the heck! I wanted to add something fun to this weeks WIP excerpt. 🙂

karen-gillan-10
320_33569890389_571855389_1622798_4884_n_large.jpgEthan

In this scene they are in winter RA training. Carly is looking to finally get some answers from Ethan.

********

#Carly

Carly watched as Janine walked towards them, wearing a colorful mess of clothes, smiling.

Janine held her arms out to the group as if waiting for a hug. “And to most of your residents that’s exactly what your transfer students will be like–strangers. Not starting the year with ya’ll is a real set-back socially, so it’s your job to Do It Like Grandma Does!”

The corner of Carly’s lip lifted, irritated. Ok I can totally zone out now… She peeked at Ethan next to her. Better idea.

She reached in her bag and grabbed a notebook; she figured it would look less suspicious, like they were taking notes on the presentation. She scribbled on the paper. Her handwriting hadn‘t been great since the accident but it was legible. She pushed the note under his elbow.

Ethan looked down, reading it.

Why didn’t you visit me? I know we didn’t end on the best terms – we had our ups and downs but I thought we were still friends. We’re cool, right? 

He sat there for a minute shifting uncomfortably in his seat, then picked up the pen and wrote:

I was working, sorry. And yeah, we’re cool.

Carly looked at Ethan as his eyes stayed on Janine. He was hiding something. She could smell guilt better than police dogs sniffing for street drugs. Having cheated on her boyfriend with Ethan last semester, she suffered from the guilt-disease for weeks. Whatever was going on with Ethan overflowed from his eyes, apparently affecting his vision. Since they’d gotten back from break, he hadn’t look at her–not really. None of it made sense.

Then her chest tightened as she gripped the sides of her new transportation. She groaned inwardly, hoping Ethan wasn’t getting all weird because she was in a wheelchair now. But that couldn’t be it, Carly decided. Ethan was lame sometimes, but not petty.

********

Always, thanks for reading! If you’d like to take part in WIPpet just go here.  Be sure to check out other WIPpets, I’ll be doing my rounds tomorrow. And thank you K. L. Schwengel for hosting! Happy reading and let’s all keep writing!

Photo credit: http://data.whicdn.com/images, http://doctorwho.fm/wp-content/blogs

Intruder-WIPpet

March came with another snow storm. I’d like to think being stuck inside would lend itself to me getting more writing done, but I have children. So, I typically spend those snowy days trying to keep my little boys from breaking things. They’re use to being in daycare–I’m use to them being in daycare. However, I do love the special, unexpected time with my high-energy boys. Just yesterday we watched Pinocchio–Disney never gets old, and they loved it!

I’ve designated this month to editing the sequel to The Hall Speaks. I’m so looking forward to spending time with my characters (my number one fans). There’s a runner’s high but there’s also a writer’s high. I get into a zone, the endorphins are flowing, and nothing can distract me from their story. After writing, I actually feel more energized, confident and genuinely happy.  My posts may get sporadic as I rewrite and edit, just saying. 🙂

On a side note, I’m loving social media. I’ve been able to meet some of the nicest, most interesting people ever. Recently I ran across a post on Tumblr for Res-Life: The Musical. It’s nice finding others interested in promoting Residence Life.  They’ve raised close to 4,000 for this short film which they’ll be working on for the next few months. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on their progress.

Now onto my WIPpet! As some of you know, RA Sage gets caught in a horrible situation. Things get personal as he deals with the repercussions of  doing his job. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, so it’s just a small section. Sage isn’t the kind of guy to shrink back, so he takes protecting himself to a whole different level.

March 5, 2014, so I came up with 14 multiplied by 3=page 42 and 5+3=8 sentences or so.  Enjoy!

Intruder

#Sage

Sage grabbed his book bag off the floor, unzipped it frantically, searching for his gun. His finger tips grazed the cold, hard plastic; carefully he gripped it in both hands, marveling at the black semi-automatic. He stood up, feeling the air move quicker through his lungs. In a fury he swung around, holding the gun out like he was about to shoot a target at close range. He felt as if the gun was just an extension of his body, as he turned to face his mirror. He blinked the wetness from his eyes as reality sunk deep into his stomach. They’d been in his house, unnoticed.

*******

Always, thanks for reading! If you’d like to take part in WIPpet just go here.  Be sure to check out other WIPpets, I’ll be doing my rounds tomorrow. And thank you K. L. Schwengel for hosting! Happy reading and let’s all keep writing!

Here’s a photo from an incredibly successful passive RA program with a great message.

RA program Mirrorless Monday.

RA program Mirrorless Monday.

I’m off to campus for the night. 🙂

Photo Credit: http://whatwecallreslife.tumblr.com

A Dream in Me and the Must-See Project

“No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid” ~ Lupita Nyong’o

Early on as an RA I knew my job would never be in jeopardy (with this economy I wish I had that kind of job security now).  The dean of students pulled us together to go over university budget cuts. I know, budget cuts in education—such a shocker. At the time, I hardly cared, being a sophomore, and more concerned with classes I needed to study for than sitting through another department meeting.  But a fellow RA asked the dean if we would lose our job, if that was part of the budget cut.

I can still see the peculiar smile that spread across the dean’s face as he said, “Oh, no—you don’t have to worry about losing your job.  Your position is irreplaceable.”

Those words really caught my attention. Just a few weeks into being an RA, I wasn’t really sure what the dean meant. By the sixth time I was on RA duty, I knew exactly why my role was so important.

RAs:

 Train twelve’s hours a day for a week or more during the summer, Spend all day moving in their residents, Live with their co-workers and customers (residents),  Handle more paperwork than most secretaries, Serve on-call, confronting just about any student or building issue, Counsels the homesick, confused, abused, and I-just-need-someone-to-talk-to kind of students, Write up the drunk student and befriend them at the same time by inviting them to a program, Teach all sorts of life skills, Make the building pretty with bulletin boards and door tags, Have lots of meetings, some at odd hours of the night, All this while getting a degree and trying to balance that thing we call, “life.”

Q: I mean, who does this?

A: My Dean was right, this role is so important to the university.

For one day, I wish every college student could experience RA life. It’s a unique, unforgettable, unbelievable college adventure.  So much so, I had to write a book about it—had to! RAs are some of the greatest students I know.

My dream is to see Reslife go mainstream, past the halls, past college life, and into living rooms everywhere. Even if my novels aren’t the breakthrough project to do it—I still want Reslife to be celebrated.  I’ve always thought Reslife would make a stellar TV show, it’s like a Glee meets Grey’s Anatomy dipped in a little Friday Night Lights. I know, I sound like a Reslife fan and that’s… correct.  It may be a small dream, but it’s a dream in me. So, I couldn’t be more excited to share with you, Res-Life: The Musical. Chad King, RA and director, created a story that takes place in the upbeat world of Residence Life. A team of dedicated students are helping him put it all together. Here’s the synopsis:

concept art by Anabel Boyanova

concept art by Anabel Boyanova

Starry-eyed resident advisor Oliver seemingly manages to have it all while looking after the first-year students in his hall. But when he is stuck on duty during campus-wide Date Night, an unexpected breakup with his boyfriend catapults Oliver into an emotional crisis.

Now, he must decide if his busy job is worth the stress if it means losing the love he so desperately wants. Meanwhile, his resident Leah struggles to make college feel like home. Singing, dancing, and important realizations ensue as both Oliver and Leah attempt to find love over the course of an unforgettable night.

For more details, check out Res-Life: The Musical on Kickstarter.

As with any film, funding is a huge aspect: stage set, costumes, equipment, and practice locations. This can all get pretty expensive, so they’re asking for support. Helping others live out their dream is a wonderful gift. However big or small the help, it provides the artist with hope. As artists, writers, and dreamers hope is something we always need!