Camping Woes

I hate to discriminate against particular days of the week, but Mondays truly do suck (just for full disclosure, it took a lot for me to stop at “suck” instead of the longer, more inappropriate phrase I had in my mind).  My only solace is that Zach has the rest of the week off, which means we’re going camping again (which also means no blog for the rest of the week).

Camping.  I love the great outdoors, but there’s something about camping that makes me both love and hate it.  We spend all this money to basically live like we’re homeless, which seems odd to me.  Not only do I still have to cook and clean, but I have to cook and clean in the woods with no running water and worry about bears.  Not to mention, the part I love most about camping, which is getting away from humans, is harder to do than one might think.  Campgrounds are loud and full and you have neighbors.  I don’t want neighbors.  If I have to have neighbors, I’d rather be at home, where there are walls and fences blocking my view of their existence.  We went camping a couple weekends ago, and we did dispersal camping, which means, no amenities, and you’re not on top of each other.  In fact, we couldn’t see anyone else.

But we could hear them.

Until midnight, drunken arshole college kids played house music (HOUSE music!) and yelled and screamed like they were trying to call their pigs back to the farm.  Farther from us on that same side, another drunk group played loud music and screamed, in what I imagine was a competition with the closer group.  On the other side of us, we could hear a family celebrating a birthday, and then someone playing a guitar and singing for a couple of hours (which, by the way, I wasn’t annoyed at, the dude had a nice voice and played well, and not even their child was screaming – so they win).  I tried to imagine I was just at a music festival that I went to on purpose, just to try and make myself a little less annoyed.

The stars were pretty though.  I don’t get to look at stars often.  I wonder if the drunk people noticed the stars.

So, if you’re going to be camping for this 4th of July here are my tips:

DO:
Partake in alcohol, if you like, by all means, let loose!  I take my flask.  And if you’re doing drugs, be careful and don’t wander off.
DON’T:
Get so wasted you’re screaming at the top of your lungs or doing the redneck “pig call.”  It’s annoying.
DO:
Bring your instruments!  Have an awesome jam session.  I love hearing campfire music.  What better stage than nature?  Also, helps to keep your mind off the bears that are probably watching you.
DON’T:
Bring a DJ.  Seriously.  Why?  If you want to throw a house party, find a house.  Someone will have parents away, I’m sure.  It’s also more fun in a house, because there are beds, and readily available paramedics.

This shouldn’t have to be said, but also, obey fire rules.  We really don’t need anymore fires than we already get.  I would like to have trees in the forest, please.

Until next time!

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Book Update

Lately, I’ve been feeling very melancholy and so I’ve been listening to a lot of Snow Patrol.  I seriously haven’t listened to them much in years, and they used to be my favorite band.  I won’t go into why they are not.  It doesn’t matter.  Music is music.  I don’t know why, but for some reason, sadness makes the best fuel for writing.

I thought today would be a nice day for a book update, since I haven’t really talked about it for a long time.  You will soon see why.

I scrapped my original story.  For the past week, I’ve been writing a totally new one.  It’s going so much better.  Sure, there are always bumpy parts, and I still tread very carefully, because I’m afraid I’m going to lose this one too.  I’m already almost caught up to where I had been working on with the previous book, and that took months of writing.  This one only a week!  Already, it’s going so much better.  I look forward to working on it every day.  The best part: I’m still going to finish at my deadline.

This is good, because I’ve already booked a shoot and even hair and makeup to be done for it.  I wanted something that looked nice, in case I had to self-publish, and I had to do all my own promotion.  In an ideal situation, I’ll get a publishing deal.

I’m not too picky though.  I’m so happy I am finally writing this book.  It’s always been a dream of mine, but I’ve always been in my own way.  To be honest, right now I’m a little distracted thinking about it, and it’s making it hard to write this blog.  And Fridays are my busiest days with housework, which is making me more anxious.  I would really love to get away, be alone, and write until this is done.  No distractions.  Oh, Life, sometimes you are so needy!

Anyway, that’s my update.  The first draft will be done by the end of next month, in which case, I’ll start all the “business-y” stuff with it.  I’ll also have more time to dedicate to some other projects.  More on that later!

Until next time.

Stop Breathing

Earlier this week, I learned a new word.  It’s called misophonia, and it literally translates to “hatred of sound.”  You should click on the link to the wiki page, but I’ll give you a quick recap: it basically means that you feel intense anger when hearing certain sounds because of a neurological disorder in your brain.

Apparently, I have this problem.

I don’t like to self-diagnose myself on the internet, but when I brought this up to my husband, he strongly agreed with me.  I had previously just thought I had pet peeves.  I hate hearing people chew, clear their throats, breathe, or sit still somewhere really loudly.  I’ve yelled at Zach for eating cereal on countless occasions.  It’s gotten to the point where I try to eat at a different time than other people, or sometimes just playing music in the background can help.

When I was in film classes, I would sit by myself if I was able to, because the sounds of people breathing next to me made me want to scream.

And the biggest noise problem – when people (or even when I do this) scrape their plate with a utensil.  The sound actually hurts and I clench my jaw.  So if I look like I’m concentrating really hard on my food, it’s probably because I’m trying to figure out how to touch my plate in a minimal way.

I can’t help it.  But, learning this has kind of made me happy.  Now I know that Zach probably isn’t just really annoying (I’m kidding, kind of).  Luckily, there are certain sounds that are soothing to me.  The sound of someone typing, for one, makes my brain super happy and relaxed.

The other part that was mentioned in this article was synesthesia.  I had always thought it had to do with seeing colors when you heard certain words, but apparently it’s much broader than that.  I tend to see flashes of bright light with certain sounds.  For whatever reason, I’ve always thought this was normal.  Apparently, it can be related to synesthesia.

What will I do with this new found information?  Probably nothing.  I don’t even like talking to people about how I am allergic to gluten, because of the sneers or my favorite, “what do you EAT?” questions.  I’ve already got a lot I’m working against (but my extensive knowledge on hobbits isn’t one of them).

Anyway… I also wanted to mention that I think I’m going to keep going with creative writing posts on Tuesdays.  I actually had a lot of fun writing that alien love story.  My book is considerably more down-to-Earth (ie, there are no aliens) so it’s nice to be able to change up the pace with something rooted in fantasy, scifi, or maybe even do poetry every once in a while.  I got a request for some fanfic, but I’m not sure how I feel about that.  I wrote an Elijah Wood fanfic once for my best friend in high school to cheer her up, but that’s about the extent of my history with it (now, reading it is a whole ‘nother story…).

“Remember the Time”

I still remember what I was doing 5 years ago when Michael Jackson died.  I was in my room, playing on the computer and watching Netflix (boy, how times have changed, right?).  My friend Alex called and asked me if I knew that MJ had died.  I laughed, thinking he was just making a morbid joke.  When he finally convinced me that he was telling me the truth, I panicked, started to choke up and told him I needed to go.  I checked Twitter.  Yup.  It was trending.

I cried.  I called my mom at work, and I cried.

There have only been 2 celebrities I’ve cried over their deaths.  Princess Diana and Michael.

I’m not a huge celebrity watcher.  At least, not by choice.  But MJ was different.  He inspired me when I was little, and not in ways you might think.  Sure, I learned all his dance moves.  I loved his music.  I thought his writing was fantastic.  But he introduced me to a lot of things that I still carry with me now.

I actually became interested in filmmaking through MJ.  His videos were unlike others (he called them films, not music videos) – he worked with some of the best directors.  Thriller made me fall in love with costume makeup, to the point I would check out books on how to create body parts and change your face from the library.  And boy did I love thrift shopping after that – stores filled with things from which to create!  He helped me take my imagination out of my head and bring it into reality.  He was special that way.  Probably because he lived so much in an imagined world that he created, because the rest of the world was hard to deal with.

But the most important thing I got from Michael was the idea that one should always fight for others.  I wanted to be a champion for those that couldn’t fight for themselves.  Not a lot of people remember him as an activist, but oh he was.  The Earth Song stabbed my heart like a dagger and made me care.  I remember I got a C on a class assignment because we were supposed to do a project on something America did that was a great impact on its people, and I did mine on how America policing the world (my example was Croatia) created a ripple effect back to the States.  I was 13, my teachers were pissed and I ended up have to do extra credit.

But to be serious – Michael was tortured.  We all know that.  He had so many demons.  I’m sad for him, but I’m mostly sad for his kids.  He was one of those people who created a lot and gave to the world, but have a hard time connecting to all of it.

So here’s to all those inspired by Michael Jackson: create, love the world, make it better and inspire others.

The Man with Cold Hands (Part Three)

Part One
Part Two

I shivered.  I couldn’t get away from The Man’s voice.  It resonated through my whole being.

Should I fight back?  Should I try and escape?  A million thoughts ran through my mind while I scanned the room looking for a door.  Or a weapon.

Then I saw it.  A scalpel.  The metal gently glittered in the tiny bit of light that was in the room.  I quietly moved over to the table, grabbed it and held it tight while I crouched down.  My legs were in severe pain.  I could barely feel my toes.  There was an aching in my belly that I couldn’t place either.  Perhaps hunger.

I saw The Man’s shadow move towards me.  I jumped up and swung the blade wildly in the direction of The Man.

Slash.

I stopped and faced him.  I had cut him across the chest, but he was not bleeding.  He smiled as he stepped closer to me and reached his hand to my face.  His hand was cold as he gently stroked my face.

“Poor thing,” his voice whispered a low grumble.  “You don’t even remember.  I wonder what they did?  I know you can hear me, but I wonder why I can’t hear you?”  He continued to touch my face as he spoke.

My fear subsided, but I was confused and angry.  I hit his hand away and stepped back.  He cocked his head to the side while his eyes looked me over.  He then suddenly straightened up, and clapped his hands together.

“My dear, our bodies weren’t meant for this.  It’s time to leave now,” his voice carried with authority.

He reached out to me once more, but this time, the skin on his arm seemed to stretch out.  It stretched and tore to pieces, falling like rubber to the floor.  I gasped, and stared in wonder at the arm that was left coming towards me.  It was like soft, slimy leather, and a dark forest green with flecks of shiny purple bumps.  It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, so I touched it, and the ridges and scales moved under my hand.  There were no fingers, but rather one long appendage that seemed to stretch for miles.  It wrapped itself around my waist and up to my face.  I wrapped my arms around the slimy arm of the creature and nestled my face into it.

The rest of The Man’s skin tore and fell to the floor.  He grew upwards and outwards and let out a giant moan.  His enormous blob-like body heaved with every breath he took.  I looked up to his mind (for he had no eyes) and I grabbed his arm even tighter.

“There you are,” the voice sighed.  “I told you I’d always find you.  Now it’s time for you to take off your suit.  Let’s go home, my love.”

 

Copyright 2014 Meg Swensen

The Sign of Auto Harp

So, this is my first post about music!  It certainly won’t be my last.

If you’ve read my “About” section, you know that I used to perform and record music, but turned away from it (for multiple different reasons).  After all these years, I’m finally (genuinely) ready to start it over again.  Like, start from a clean slate.

At first, I was completely terrified.  I had all those awful thoughts: I’m too old to start over, too old to learn new instruments, too old to do everything… blah blah blah!  Eventually, I came to my senses and realized I was being ridiculous.  You’re never too old to do what you want to do.  Sure, I’m still a little nervous.  I’m rusty.  My fingers don’t work the same.  Mainly, it’s because I don’t have the blind courage I had when I was younger, when I really thought I could do it anything in the world.

There are some benefits to being older and “wiser” though.

For instance, I’m much more meticulous.  I take time to really dive into everything, trying to learn as much as I can.  I don’t get tunnel vision anymore.  I am able to see a bigger picture, and really see how I can incorporate it into my life and all the other stuff in it.

I’m not afraid of failure.  I know it’s not a big deal if I fall flat on my face.  I’m a lot more likely to laugh it off and try again.  When I was younger, failure kept me paralyzed.  In fact, it completely contributed to my never succeeding.  In ANYTHING.  I also don’t have any pressure.  Now, I just want to play.  Even if my dogs are my only audience, I’m happy.

I’m not sure what is about this year, but I feel like I can actually do things.  It’s quite liberating.

Last September, I inherited an Auto harp from my husband’s grandfather.  It was this really weird moment, because a couple years before then, I had a professor tell me to learn to play.  We were talking about my screen writing, and how it reminds of him of old folk music.  It was actually an amazing compliment to me.  He said he thought I would like an Auto harp.  And I told him I’d get one and learn to play – and he said to let him know if I ever decided to perform.  I always kept this conversation in the back of my mind.  So when grandpa John offered it up to me, my mind kind of blew up.  John told me he expected me to be playing it for him next time he saw me.  He saw some sort of spark in me, even before I felt the spark.

Unfortunately, John passed away before he could see me play, but I’m still going to play it.  Because if there were ever anything such as signs, that old Auto harp is one.  Two people who didn’t know each other, that barely knew me, brought up the same instrument.

Life is weird sometimes.  I’ve always known I’d get back to music.  Nothing completes me more than music.  But I think that’s true of the best people.

Goodbye, Social Life (I Started Skyrim)

I think I’ve mentioned that I’ve been really busy lately, and it’s entirely true.  I have a lot going on, and I can barely keep my head on straight.  However, eventually, the stress gets to me.  Not just being busy, but sometimes external factors play into giving me anxiety.  Right now, I have this constant feeling of anxiety, making me unable to eat and sleep properly.  This, in turn, makes things worse.  It got so bad last night, I couldn’t even focus and had to ask for help on my Python classwork from my husband who doesn’t even know what Python is.  Now you know where I’m at.

I do not have time to play video games.  I really don’t.  But I’m so stressed.

I make time (at night).

I started Skyrim.

For those that haven’t played, yes, it’s all true.  I’ve already spent 7ish hours on the game, and I’ve literally done very little to advance it.  But, I want to make a couple comments:

1. It’s the most beautiful game I’ve ever played.  I literally stopped to look at the moon and stars.  I’ve just gone out to take a walk.  What is this?  My mind blew up.  The music is even wonderful.

2.  The gameplay is weird for me.  This could just be because I’m still kind of a novice player, but I’m making myself nauseated just watching myself play.  I’m used to playing Fable, so this could also be a reason.

3.  I keep accidentally killing people.  And I accidentally killed the second horse I stole.  I feel terrible.  I was trying to escape some sort of snow monster and we jumped off a cliff on accident.  My poor, stolen horse saved me.  Those other people I killed were because they jumped up behind me and I stabbed them out of over-reacting self-defense.  Ugh.  I still see their dead bodies…

4.  Spiders.  No one told me about the spiders.  I have a serious phobia of spiders and I almost ran out of the room.  I think I fought them with my eyes closed somehow.

5.  The dragon.  I squealed, and clapped my hands, I was so happy when I saw it.

Unfortunately, this game is stressing me out a little too.  Mainly because I don’t know what I’m doing.  Perhaps I should just take some walks out in nature in the game?  I know the second I get into my groove in the game, I’m going to be in love.  And since I know this game is going to take me forever, I’ll be starting Bioshock Infinite to play alongside.

Yes, this is how I deal with extreme stress.  I think it’s a perfectly wonderful coping strategy.

For those of you who may be wondering: I’m a Khajiit and I named myself Stormaggedon (nerd alert!).

Julian Assange: We Open Governments

I just want to start off this blog by stating that this is in no way a journalistic piece.  I will do my best to lay down facts as I know them best, but really, this is an opinion rant piece on Julian Assange.  A really abstract opinion piece.  Actually, more of a personal piece.  A personal story on what Assange means to me in my life.  I promise it’s not as creepy as I just made it sound right now.  It’s a little odd to write about someone you don’t personally know, especially when their name is so well known it becomes an entity in itself.  But let’s remember:  Julian Assange is still a person.

I have been planning to write this post for a while now, and originally planned on posting it tomorrow, which is the 2-year anniversary of when Assange took asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.  However, I woke up to seeing this on Twitter:

 

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So, I decided today was a good day to write about Assange.  So settle in, get a comfy chair because I have a lot to say and a pot of tea.

But first, background!

I first heard about WikiLeaks shortly after they started publishing documents online.  I was just starting college, and I think it was when I started getting interested in computers.  I would really like to say that when I learned about WikiLeaks, it drove me to be a passionate champion toward activism, but I would be telling the biggest lie ever.  I was, to put it mildly, terrified.  They shook the ground.  Growing up in my household, I was taught to not trust the government.  I heard stories of people disappearing in the 60s.  Men in black showing up in the middle of the night to take you somewhere and no one would ever hear from you again.  You vanished.

And all of sudden, the stories became current.  I was hearing of people getting harassed for merely looking at WikiLeaks.  I became paranoid of online spying, long before it became known to the world, thanks to Edward Snowden.  I manically guarded my online activity, for fear of becoming known.  I became obsessed with internet security (and spying).  Not to mention, around this same time, an ex-boyfriend of mine hacked all my accounts, killed my computer, and sent really awful emails to all my friends through my account, and some others that were made up.  Needless to say, I was having a sort of rocky start to adulthood.

OK, enough background.

Let’s cut to the chase.  Most people who hear Assange’s name already have their minds made up about him.  He’s either a hero, or a villain.  Personally, to me, he’s kind of both, yet neither at the same time.  I don’t really like hero worship, and I’m also not quick to label someone a villain.  I’ve found that the world is so much more complex than that.  So much more interesting.

Yes, Assange shook the world.  But the world needed to be shaken.  There were parts that needed to be broken.  He made a huge sacrifice to his own life to advance the progress of others.  His work may be controversial, but he started a conversation that needed to happen.  Oh god, did it need to happen.

I wasn’t afraid because WikiLeaks was created.  I was afraid for WikiLeaks, and the people running it.  That says a lot.  Generationally, fear has been passed down so subtly, that I barely realized I lived in a constant state of fear.  Assange was the first person to open my eyes to that.  In a world where ideology is so polarized, he showed me the awful details in between.

Keep quiet.

Keep secrets.

This is how governments win wars.

No, this is how corruption happens.  We need to change how we do things.  Secrets and silence don’t work anymore (I’m not sure they ever have).  We are running an endless loop because nothing is open.

Do I think Julian Assange is a criminal?

Absolutely not.  I think he represents a new version of journalism that we need.  I think his incarceration at the embassy is illegal and completely politically motivated.  Sweden is under the US’s thumb and holds no grounds for the personal investigations against him (because there are no charges – read my source HERE).  I think it’s quite strange (and offensive) that someone not even accused of rape is being trapped and threatened for it.  Seriously, only the police and certain politicians are accusing him of rape.  It’s gotten so out of hand in the media that no one even knows what’s true.

I do not think Assange has broken any laws, but I definitely know multiple governments have broken multiple international laws.  And people seem to be fine with that.  That upsets me.  If it doesn’t upset you, then you clearly have a much more comfortable, trusting relationship with your government and leaders than I could ever imagine.

For those of you that think him a villain: fine.  He’s a villain.  If someone is a hero they also have to be a villain.  But he’s not a criminal, and that’s where the big difference is.  You can’t shoot someone just for calling you out on your shit.  Own up to your shit.  You created it.

So, dear Assange – I hope this year was your last in the embassy.  Thank you for not backing down, and for shaking the world.  To think you’ve given up so much of yourself for a world that screams “traitor!” makes you, at the very least, someone special.

For those that want more info, click the picture below.

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The Man with Cold Hands (Part Two)

Part One

My eyes widened.  Was he speaking to me?  His lips didn’t so much as twitch.  How could I hear him?  I looked around the room, slowly pulling myself up from the floor.

The Man continued to stare at me.

“Is your mind empty?  Why do you not answer me?”  The voice growled in my head.  I was frightened, and I backed away slowly from The Man.  Of course my mind wasn’t empty.  Inside, I was screaming out for help, but no one, not even The Man could hear me.

“Perhaps it’s that box,” The Man turned his eyes to the ceiling, “or perhaps you’re one of them.  I will find out.”  He turned his face back to me, his eyes fading with sadness, “I wonder if you know.”

The darkness in the room broke with light from the door opening.  I could hear the precise heels of the woman in white as she walked through the room.  I looked down to The Man, but his eyes were closed and his face returned to a death-like expression once again.  I sighed with relief.  I knew my mind was failing.  I didn’t know for how long though.  I couldn’t remember where I started.

I could hear the woman walk through the glass into my box, but I faced the other way.  I felt sicker every time she came.  I felt more pain.  I felt weaker.  I cried, silently, for what felt like the first time in my life.

Crack.

The sound ripped through my ears to my head.  It was louder than loud, and I couldn’t even hear the silence anymore.

I whipped around and found myself standing face to face with The Man.  Laying at his feet was the woman in white, her neck broken.  He stepped over her body and walked up to me. He bent over and sniffed me like an animal.  He smiled.  “I know who you are,” the voice echoed in a melodic tone.

I ran.  I ran out of the glass box.  I ran through the dark room, but I couldn’t find the door out.  In fact, I couldn’t find a door at all.  So I hid in the darkness.  Someone was coming.  Someone had to come.  I pressed my hands to my hears, trying to block out the sound of his voice.

“You can’t even run from me,” The Man’s voice whispered.  “I will always find you.”

Part Three

Copyright 2014 Meg Swensen

Brain Reboot

This morning, after I dropped Zach off at the bus stop, I went to a local farm supply store to get our dogs some food.  Knowing that we were already low on funds, I checked our account.  I laughed.  Oh, being young and starting out is awesome!  Our bank account is getting comical at this point.  I’m also wondering if there’s some sort of black hole that’s riding two dimensions that is sitting in our account.

This past weekend was great.  Even though we didn’t get to go camping, I feel completely refreshed and like I actually “got away.”  We spent a lot of time being active and also being lazy.  We’re going camping this coming weekend, so I have even more of a vacation to look forward to.

There’s this common misconception that people that work from home have it easier.  Granted, yes, I don’t have to brave traffic every morning and evening, I don’t have to deal with a crummy boss or impossible deadlines or any of the other crappy things people have to deal with on a day to day basis.  And trust me, I by no means ever want to go back to that life, if I can avoid it.

But working for yourself does have different challenges.  This biggest one:  I can rarely get away.  My office is at home, I live at home, etc.  It’s both a joy and a curse and something I both love and hate.  I love it because I can more easily split my time between work and domestic stuff and even my online classes.  I can play with my dogs whenever I want.  I can work outside.  So many bonuses!  But the reality is I actually don’t split my time evenly!  There are days where I’m stuck at the computer all day, inspired, working and if I’m lucky, maybe I’ll get to the laundry that week.  There are days where I’m bored to tears and I reorganize cabinets (full disclosure: I might do this to procrastinate an important project as well).

The other biggest challenge is risk, though this is more of a perception problem.  It’s risky, working for yourself.  It could pay off, but there’s also a chance it could not.  For the most part, it’s not even something you can control.  You could pour yourself into something and it’ll never pay off, or it could pay off in a big way.  Currently, I’ve decided to take a big risk and cut out my “smaller” projects that are a guarantee in favor of others that have no guarantee.  To me, the risk is worth it, because I actually love what I am doing.  I decided the time was right, I’ll give it a try, and see what happens.  I can always mine out “safe” options later.

Lately, I’m more busy than bored.  So it’s all the more important for me to get out of the house every once in a while.

But here’s the most important piece to why I choose this path, easy or not.  I love it.  And when you are doing something you love, no matter if it’s in an office or on a mountain, it makes waking up to “work” feel like you’re being fulfilled, like you’re working towards something meaningful.  It makes you happy, and it actually makes whatever you’re doing feel easier (even if it’s actually rocket science).

Today I feel really lucky.  The weather is great so I’m working outside, I’m working on great projects and I have tea.  So, dear black hole, you’re welcome to hang out in our bank account for a while longer.

Keep Calm and Drink Tea
Keep Calm and Drink Tea