Weekends are for Road Trips

Three-day weekends are made for road trips. This past holiday weekend was just a practice run for my boyfriend and I’s international trip coming up. Our first stop was to North Market for lunch. I ordered the Pho with chicken (or Phở gà) at Lan Viet. Pho is their specialty. Some people pronounce the “o” as long, however the origin of Pho’s true pronunciation is “fuh.” This fun fact always makes me laugh because there’s a local restaurant called “Pho Kimmy,” which sounds like an explicit phrase when pronounced correctly.

Normally, I’m not a fan of putting together pieces of my food into a completed dish, however I rather enjoy adding the bean sprouts and mixing in Sriracha to a comfortable spice level! I specifically avoid ordering fajitas because I don’t like having to work for my food. That’s the whole reason why I go to a restaurant.. for someone else to prepare my food for me! Haha..

My boyfriend and I tentatively plan to dress up as Beaker and Bunsen for Halloween! I scored us a couple lab coats from when I volunteered at a Greenlight for Girls event at the University of Cincinnati this past spring. I’ve written a list of pop culture duos we could dress up as where one character has a mohawk and one is bald. Bunsen and Beaker are next on the list! Well.. Beaker doesn’t really have a mohawk. More like a little fluff. I could mess up my mohawk to match. Oh! By the way, I scored that jean overalls + floral dress at Wally World.. in the kids section.. for a whole seven dollars!

These two are adorable! Epic comical duo. Bunsen is the intellectual brain and Beaker is the fluent Gibberish speaking, accident prone assistant. Seems to be fitting for my boyfriend and I! Jaimie is well spoken and bright. I tend to fall walking upstairs, trip over my own feet, and have numerous mysterious bruises all over my body.

This piece reminded me of my last week’s post of inanimate objects with faces. Initially, I thought this may have inspired the creation and/or design of Gonzo! He’s a silly Muppet character, whose sidekick is Rizzo the Rat. These two are a complimentary, hilarious pair in Muppet Treasure Island and Muppet Christmas Carol, which I own on.. VHS!

There was a plaque below it that read:
Pitchman Pump puppets, 1963: These unusual puppets were built for a Marathon Gasoline commercial in 1963 and were voiced by professional jingle singers rather than puppeteers.
I was kind of disappointed the plaque didn’t state what I was hoping about the hoses leading to a Muppet character.

When Jaimie and I exited the Cosi Museum and descended the steps, I noticed burn marks on the concrete. They reminded me of shooting stars or meteors, which seemed to be fitting considering astronomy played a part of the educational exhibits inside.. a few light-years away!

While strolling through town, we were waiting at a red light and saw a man and his hound going through a crosswalk in front of us. I wasn’t sure what type of breed this dog was. I did manage to snap a photo. I simply Googled: “large gray dog breed” and immediately discovered it was an Irish wolfhound! The American Kennel Club (AKC) specifies the minimum height as 32 inches (81 cm) for mature males, 30 inches (76 cm) for females; the minimum weight: 120 pounds (54 kg) for males, 105 pounds (48 kg) for females. It was surprising to find out that this dog could have easily weighed as much as.. me! Which isn’t saying much.. haha!

Jaimie always finds a comic bookstore wherever we travel to. We found a hole in the wall comic bookstore called Heroes and Games at Columbus’ convention center. It did have a lot of good finds, on sale at that! Jaimie and his buddy, Iann, do a podcast about comics called Comics Rule Everything Around Me (C.R.E.A.M.). I highly recommend y’all check it out.. click here! When we were exiting the convention center, I noticed this whimsical, colorful mural that was abstractly detailed. What do you see? What kind of world is this? What story is it telling?

As we turned a corner, this tall building caught my eye! I had never seen an exterior elevator before! I’m sure the view was amazing. I’m claustrophobic therefore not a fan of elevators, but with this one being mostly glass with a view to boot.. I’m sure I’d enjoy the ride! Have you ridden on an exterior elevator before? If you have, where? I’d love to hear about it!

We ended our trip as we began it and went back to North Market for dinner! Yep, you guessed it.. I’m a fan of this place! I decided to try an Italian joint this time. They have a pasta sauce testing station. I highly recommend the spicy ones! They have a variety of pasta styles such as: penne, striped ravioli, multi-colored tortellini; including whole wheat and/or gluten free options! Choice of protein or vegetables. They have a smorgasbord of sides. I’ve tried their stuffed banana peppers and cucumber/tomato/mozzarella salad. Both are delish!


I hope the next time you’re out and about, especially when exploring new territory, that you’ll be inspired to take more weekend road trips! Who knows? Maybe you’ll start your own weekend road trips photo collection. If you do, please follow me on Instagram or send me a Facebook friend request and share them on my page! I’d love to see them! I’m sure the other readers would too! And as always, I’m more than happy to give you my travel spot recommendations.

Let’s Play “I Spy”

  • Look to your left
  • Look to the right
  • Look in front of you
  • Look up
  • Look down
  • Look behind you
    • BOO!
    • Gotcha!
    • Haha..

Find anything interesting? What would you choose as your “I Spy” object? Think about why you chose that. Really examine it. Get as close as you can to see it in detail. I prefer to choose an unusual yet specific object when I play “I Spy” because I’m competitive. I like to set the bar in hopes that my opponent will step it up when it’s their turn, so the game will become more challenging as we go. I’m sure it’s been awhile since you’ve last played “I Spy,” I know it has for me! Playing games aren’t just for kids.. I mean, think about it..

Whilst playing any of the above games, I would usually find faces in inanimate objects! Do you see faces too? One of the first memories I have of seeing an inanimate object face was when I would jump up and down on my parents bed and watch myself on their huge vanity mirror. They have this glass ceiling light fixture with blue accent shapes.. and the blue accent shapes look like an angry face! It was kinda symbolic of the “strict” no jumping on the bed rule that my folks rarely enforced. I did enjoy singing “No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” while.. jumping on the bed; I was such a rebel! The bottom center three flowers are the eyes and nose. The curved line is a sly smile. The top flowers are its wild, frizzy hair.

“I see you.. misbehaving!”

Another one of my early memories I had seeing an inanimate object face was in my childhood home bathroom. Below the sink, the bottom right cabinet door’s wood grain looks like a cloaked pig chief holding a staff while addressing his tribe. Do you see a pig? The snout is distinctly pronounced. Its tongue is perfectly shaped inside its open mouth. Pointed ear, enlarged eye, and I think this swine was reincarnated as a tree!

“Oink oink my fellow hogs!”

Another cardinal rule in my house growing up was: no playing with your food! I never did well abiding by rules.. I was a little stinker! I dare you to ask my parents about the spaghetti slinging incident! Oh, it was infamous. Anywho.. I do like how my food makes silly faces at me! The photo below has a Tupperware lid making impressions: two eyes and an open mouth. Maybe it’s shouting at me. What do you think my mashed potatoes would say if it could?

“Have a spud-tacular day!”

Even when I eat out at a restaurant.. My food speaks to me! My garden salad remnants decided to make a silly face at me in its shallow lemon dressing. I highly recommend Kinneret Grill! The sampler is to die for! If you’re not stingy, it’s enough for two people, haha.. Their vegan shawarma is the best faux meat I’ve ever had! Oh, their maple glazed sweet potato fries.. are delish! Everything is made fresh, large portions for a decent price, and I thoroughly enjoy the hospitable atmosphere!

“Lettuce pray.. Olive you!”

While visiting a friend of mine at her house, I noticed her little space heater was winking and smiling at me! See how the knobs are different and the red light is the tongue? Oh, and the indentation of the plastic makes a smile. Whoever designs these machines must be having a good ol’ time!

On a road trip years ago, I photographed a bathroom dispenser because it reminded me of The Brave Little Toaster movie and its secondary character, Air Conditioner, (voiced by Phil Hartman). I combined the two photos into one per Android’s collage feature so I could see the resemblance side by side! This movie seemed to inspire Disney to create.. Toy Story! Similar concept, but kids relate more to their toys than household appliances, so I understand why one’s more popular than the other. Do you find yourself telling inanimate objects to: “Stay!” when they’re about to fall? I need to know I’m not alone.. Please tell me you do the same thing!

One day when I was a kid, my girlfriend and I were stuck hanging out at her uncle’s job at Rent-a-Center. We setup camp on an extra large sectional couch with our Burger King Cini-Minis and milk. Every TV played The Mask, on a loop, for his entire eight hour shift! One particular scene (1:38-2:48) was where I first learned about the Rorschach test. This later inspired my abstract painting style.. with a twist. I specifically painted my nude body and then imprinted myself onto the canvas. I tried to make it as symmetrical as possible, except for the random splatters to fill the negative space. This is a good conversation piece when guests visit. They tend to blush more than I do!

What do you see?

An illustrator I admire is Hanoch Piven; he works with mixed media to create colorful, witty portraits. He is best known for his celebrity caricatures. He uses everyday objects and arranges them to hint at their identity. I created my own little portrait with a water bottle, some googly eyes, a Lisa Frank lip sticker, & Silly Putty. All of these items are in my office desk drawer! You can tell that I don’t like meetings because I get lost in my own world.

I must ox you a question.

I hope the next time you’re playing a game or daydreaming, that you’ll be inspired to take a moment to examine the details.. such as inanimate objects that look like faces! Who knows? Maybe you’ll start your own faces photo collection. If you do, please follow me on Instagram or send me a Facebook friend request and share them on my page! I’d love to see them! I’m sure the other readers would too!

Living the Dream

Perhaps it was a dream, she thought. Perhaps if she pinched herself, she would wake up. But she didn’t want to wake up. She wanted to stay in this dream world where pain didn’t exist. Where she could soar and fly with the rest of the flock. Where her wings never tired. She could do whatever her heart desired. Sure, she overlooked her random encounter with an overly chatty walrus named Wallace over a bowl of sea salted peanuts at a Tiki Bar. She knows this is a dream, but she’d rather stay here forever if she could. She felt an urgent pressure all of a sudden, which woke her up from her pleasant yet odd slumber. The pressure was a.. full bladder. Nature calls. Her body decided it was time to get up. Mhmm.. there’s the pain she didn’t miss. Living with chronic widespread pain is something she wouldn’t wish on her worst enemy.. if she had any.

Mildred was well liked and respected in her small retirement community, however she felt disconnected since she recently became a widow. She’s always been a homebody. She frequently seeks refuge in her colorful, wild garden and quaint in-ground pool. The warm weather does wonders for her mood and productivity. She smiled with her eyes still closed as the Florida sun crept through the fuchsia curtains upon her tan face. As she stretched and rolled over, her smile widened because her emotional support Goldendoodle, Rover, greeted her with a slobbery kiss and zoomed around the bedroom.

“Guess it’s officially time to get up outta bed and start the day, huh?” Mildred finally opened her eyes and giggled as Rover whined at her. She opened the floor length curtains to a picturesque view of her backyard that was littered with nature: squirrels, birds, insects, daisies, carnations, rhododendrons, Big Beef tomato plants, and orange citrus trees. She sighed with pride and opened the sliding door. She walked outside with Rover, who chased the critters about and hiked against a stone bird bath under a Weeping Willow. She took a deep breath in and out, closed her eyes, and quietly counted: “One. Two. Three. F- – -.”

“Good morning Milly! How ya doing?” Rosalee cheerfully announced with a wave from the other side of the white picket fence. Her enthusiastic motion almost knocked her large sun hat off her petite head.

“Morning Rose! Oh, ya know.. I’m.. living the dream,” Mildred fibbed. “How about you? Your petunias sure do look beautiful!”

“Ain’t we all,” Rosalee gleefully gestured with both arms wide holding pruning shears in one hand and a batch of plucked weeds in the other. “I woke up this morning so I’m doing grand,” she chuckled lightly. “Thank you! Just trying to keep up with your green thumb!”

“Aw, Rose! You’re doing great! Keep it up. How are your lemons coming along this year?”

“Thanks Milly! I learned from the best,” Rosalee brushed aside some gray strands of hair from her freckled face and winked. “Ya know if Spike would leave the dang tree alone, there’d be a couple shoots by now and we could share a glass of lemonade!” They both cackled. Her three-year-old gray Great Dane galloped along with Rover and they gave each other an Eskimo kiss between the fence panels. Ya know how they say dogs and their owners look alike? That’s Rosalee and Spike. Gray haired, gentle, and practically the same height!

Mildred’s wavy golden gray hair did happen to resemble Rover’s. They recently celebrated his ninth birthday with all the cul-de-sac doggies, which makes him sixty-three in dog years so they’re more alike than she originally thought! She descended the wooden deck stairs to join Rover, Spike, and Rosalee. A ladybug landed on her fluffy floral fleece robe sleeve.

“Wow, look here, Rose! A ladybug!” Mildred lifted her arm to get a better look at the spotted insect.

“Milly, did you know that when a ladybug lands on you.. it’ll bring you luck?!”

“I have heard that before.. Jeepers.. I’m overdue for some luck!”

“Me and you both,” Rosalee teased. “Mind sharing that lucky ladybug? I hope some of its good juju will rub off on me too.” Rosalee reached out her wrinkly hand over the white picket fence to retrieve the insect. Mildred carefully stepped into her garden’s mulched area, in between a couple plants, and noticed another little garden critter, a snail; it seemed perfectly content in the middle of the chaotic garden as it took it’s morning stroll. As quickly as the ladybug crawled off Mildred’s arm onto Rosalee’s delicate hand; it fluttered away just as swiftly. They both watched the ladybug fly off until it disappeared into the distance.

“Goodness gracious, look at that,” Mildred pointed up. “Not a cloud in the sky, but you can bet your bottom dollar we’re going to get a Floridian rain shower sometime this afternoon!”

“But of course! Sure saves me having to water my garden every day. Saves me money on the water bill too. I’m glad and grateful that Mother Nature steps in and picks up the slack for me!”

“You said it, Rose,” Mildred sighed and then flinched because a nearby bird splashed her on the ankle from the stone bird bath. “Well, there’s Mother Nature again.. Guess I don’t need a shower! Now, I’m saving money on my water bill!”

“Aw, that little Brown Thrasher is having a good ol’ time over there,” Rosalee excitedly stated.

“What d’ya call it?”

“A Brown Thrasher.”

“What an odd name! It sure is.. thrashing about,” Mildred snorted at her own joke.

“Haha, it sure is! Felix and I used to go Birdwatching. It was something we really enjoyed doing together,” Rosalee solemnly admitted.

“I’m sure,” Mildred paused. “Hey! Ya know, I’d love to learn more about wildlife. Maybe we can go birdwatching together sometime. I’ve been- -” she paused again. “I’ve been itching to get out more. I’m sure you are too, eh?”

“Why Milly, that’s a swell idea! I’ve been wanting to see the Herons before they migrate North for the winter!”

“Sounds like a plan, Rose. I’m looking forward to it,” Mildred promised and pivoted. “Rover! Come. Rover,” she called. “Where are you?” She noticed some dirt scattering up into the air near an overgrown aloe plant, she peered past the stone bird bath, and there she found her curly rascal digging a hole. “Whatcha doin’ pup? Whatcha got there? You little troublemaker..” Mildred strategically snatched a hard object out of Rover’s dirty, slobbery mouth. It was a gold pendant with black, white, and yellow gems. She dusted off the dirt and unveiled a brooch. A bumblebee brooch.

“What’d Rover dig up now, Milly?”

“Did you happen to lose a bumblebee brooch, Rose?”

“No, I sold all my jewelry when.. Felix died.. so, I wouldn’t lose the house,” Rosalee dropped her head and frowned.

“Think the previous owner misplaced it years ago?” Mildred asked while closely inspecting the brooch and counting each gem.

“No, I don’t think so. The previous owner was the original owner. He was a lifelong bachelor. Yeah, Bachelor Bennett. He was a strange bird. Lived here for twenty-five years. How long have you lived here now, Milly? Ten years?”

“It’ll be eleven in October.”

“Think one of your visitors misplaced it?” Rosalee asked as she tilted her head.

“No, I don’t think so. We always visited inside.. where the air conditioning is,” Mildred smiled at the thought of enjoying a cup o’ joe in her cool kitchenette. Her stomach growled, Spike heard it, and growled back through the white picket fence.

“Maybe Magnus next door can help ya out.. See how much that baby is worth. He used to be a.. ya know.. a whatchamacallit.. ya know.. someone who looks at jewelry and quotes a price of what it’s worth..” Rosalee trailed off with frustration.

“A jeweler? An appraiser?”

“That’s it! He’s been retired for a decade or so, but he was the best in town. I’m sure he can help ya out.”

“Good to know, thanks. I’ll pop over to his place after breakfast and see if he’s in.”

“Let me know what ya find out! Now, I’m curious!”

“Will do.”

“I’ll make lunch for us and we can chat about it.”

“Sounds lovely. See ya then, Rose!”

Rosalee whipped up some bologna ‘n butter sandwiches with cottage cheese, sliced tomatoes from the garden, and poured some prune juice for lunch. Mildred rang the door bell with her canine companion in tow. Spike squeezed past Rosalee to greet Rover when she opened the door. They went gallivanting down the hallway side by side.

“Hey there! Uhhh,” Rosalee stammered. “W-what’s with the metal d-detector, M-Milly?” She gestured for Mildred to enter and they sat down at her wicker dining room table and chairs under the skylight.

“Oh! I ran into our other neighbor, Leon, when I left Magnus’ place,” Mildred said while putting her sunglasses back on. “I told him about finding a piece jewelry in the backyard and he insisted that I borrow his metal detector. We could check your yard after lunch!”

“Oh, yes, lets,” Rosalee blurted, she hurriedly chewed her food and continued with her mouth full. “So, tell me.. what did Magnus have to say?”

“Rose, I felt like I was on Antique Roadshow! Get ready for this,” Mildred paused for dramatic effect, cracked a sly smile, lowered her sunglasses to look directly into Rosalee’s eager eyes. “Quarter of a million dollars!”

Rosalee’s eyes widened as big an owl’s. “I do declare! My, my, my.. Oh, Milly! What ever will you do with that kinda money?!” she squealed and fanned herself.

“I think I wanna open a senior citizen center.. for widows.. to help women like us.. who feel.. alone.. and lonely. Where we can have a support group to talk to and get the financial assistance we need. What d’ya think?” Mildred inquired.

“Milly, I think that is a superb idea! Can I be your Vice President?”

“Rose, I wouldn’t have it any other way! You’ve been such a Godsend to me ever since.. Mortimer passed,” Mildred’s voice trembled. “Us.. widows.. gotta stick together,” Mildred sniffled. She reached for and held Rosalee’s petite hand. They gazed into one another’s teary eyes.

“Aw, Milly, you’ve done the same for me since.. Felix died,” Rosalee whispered. “I’d be honored to help you with this.”

They wept in each other’s arms for what seemed like a long time. The cuckoo clock chirped above their heads and it startled them back to reality. Mildred helped Rosalee clear the table, they freshened up their faces, and relocated outside to the picnic table for dessert: tapioca pudding. Mildred noticed a little black spider on the edge of the wooden picnic table and gave it have some room. “Table for three,” she thought in an Italian accent and stifled a laugh. Rover slowly approached to sniff the arachnid and tried to lick it, but was simultaneously distracted by Spike’s booming bark at a grasshopper that sprung onto the brick house. The doggos were running all over the place exploring the yard, chasing each other, and getting to know all the little garden creatures. One creature in particular remained undetected by the curious canines: the Praying Mantis. It became one with the foliage and slowly traveled from leaf to leaf, branch to branch, and then vanished.

“Boy, I’m stuffed!” Rosalee announced while patting her stomach.

“Rose, you eat like a bird,” Mildred teased while sipping the last bit of prune juice. “What d’ya say we give that metal detector a try?”

Rosalee sarcastically snickered while standing up, “I say, what are we waiting for?! There could be another fortune back here! After all, ’tis our lucky day!” She gave Mildred a wink.

“Alright, so, Leon said to press this button and wait for the green light to turn on. There it goes. Well, that was easy peasy lemon squeezy.”

“Hear that Spike?! I may be able to afford bottled lemonade after all so you can use my lemon tree as your own personal peeing post!” Rosalee and Mildred giggled. They walked to and fro with the metal detector over Rosalee’s backyard. Spike and Rover followed closely behind. They barked, whined, and tilted their heads when the machine began to beep. The beeping began to rapidly increase.

“Milly, I think we got something!” They carefully placed the metal detector against the white picket fence and started digging with trowels. Spike and Rover joined in on the fun and dug alongside their owners. “Whatcha got boy?! Gimme that,” Rosalee pleaded with Spike as he started to swallow it. “Spike. Out. Now!” He froze, gave her the biggest puppy dog eyes and dropped it onto the grass. “Cripes! It’s a little lizard,” Rosalee shrieked in disgust and tossed it to Mildred. “Ugh, is its guts hanging out, Milly? I can’t look.”

Mildred wiped the debris off the large dark chocolate gems and the shiny gold sparkled across the green lawn. Rover tried to catch the reflecting light like a cat would with a laser pointer. “Rose, it’s not alive.”

“Aw, I was ‘fraid of that.. Should we bury it? We already dug a hole,” Rosalee suggested quietly with a light laugh. She uncovered her eyes and finally examined the item.

“It’s a lizard pendant,” Mildred stated. Their eyes met, Rosalee excitedly tackled her with a strong hug, which knocked them both over into the infamous puny lemon tree. Rover and Spike jumped on top of them and licked their faces in celebration. The foursome became an official dogpile.


Eighteen months later

Mildred and Rosalee were on their way to the ribbon cutting ceremony at the grand opening of their senior citizen center for widows they decided to call: Treasure Gardens. They were also due to receive the key to the city from none other than.. the Mayor! They were tickled pink! They decided to take a detour first.

“I still can’t believe Felix and Mortimer are only a couple plots away from one another,” Mildred told Rosalee while putting the car in park. “These bouquets you put together are gorgeous, Rose. Flowers are something we should incorporate around the office. It’ll help liven up the place. It’ll feel more inviting and homey. What d’ya think?”

“Absolutely. I think that’s a grand idea, Milly! I did pick ’em from your garden, so you did half the work.. Partner,” Rosalee winked at Mildred. They awkwardly hugged over the car’s center gear shift. Spike and Rover both barked out the car window at a squirrel climbing up a nearby tree. The ladies laughed in unison at their playful pups. “Can’t take ’em anywhere without causing mischief,” Rosalee teased and rolled her eyes. Rosalee and Mildred parted ways with their dogs as they exited the vehicle.

Mildred placed the bright botanical bouquet onto a knee high headstone. “Hi honey,” she whispered. “I miss you. Today.. is a good day. It will be a good day, I’ve decided. Today will be.. The. Best. Day. Next to our wedding day, of course,” she pursed her lips together and made a smooching sound. “Oh, honey.. I’m.. living the dream!” She pinched herself and smiled.


Normally, I have an idea and/or photo(s) first and let that inspire the piece I write. This week, I decided to reverse my creative process: write first and let it inspire the photo(s) because I recently purchased a journal called Complete the Story. I admit, it was initially difficult to do, but I’m proud of myself for sticking with it and creating.. differently!

I’m glad I took an alternate path because I think variety is important for a creative person. Keeps you on your toes and keeps your work fresh. I admire those who think outside the box and stray from their comfort zones. I hope the next time you find yourself in a creative funk and can’t seem to feel inspired; that you’ll take the time to explore alternative methods to help you create and achieve your goal(s). Don’t give up! Please share your dreams, fantasies, inspirations, muses, and/or creative processes in the comments. I’m eager to hear about them!

Don’t Have a Cat Attack!

My pet calls me Hex, but I don’t answer to it. I was rescued many moons ago when my pet found me soaking wet under a pallet. I’m a tuxedo goth teen. I’m an only feline now. My brothers from another mother met their tenth lives; Phil was half Maine Coon, half tabby, and he taught me everything I know about being wild because he survived outside without any front claws! Fur real! I ain’t kitten.. My other brother couldn’t have been more opposite! He was an obese ginger and he was rightfully named Fat Boy. He was such a softie! Oh, how my pet misses those boys. It’s been just me and my pet until.. he fell in love with one of his own kind and they decided to move in together. So, I’ve reluctantly taken in my pet’s stray as my own.. she’s growing on me.. I have to say.

When my pet first transported me to our new dwelling, I instantly felt uneasy, the place gave me the creeps.. all three realms of it! My pet and stray have been easily confused because they’re only used to being within one realm, so I just meow to guide them back to me. Oh, how happy they are when they find me! They’ve settled in nicely and everything’s seemingly purrfect.. but if they only knew.. that this place is infested with.. ghosts! Of course, I’m the only one who can see them, so it’s up to me to keep the phantoms at bay.

I earn my keep around here that’s fur sure.. I’m pulling quadruple duty! Not only am I an Exterminator, Therapist, and Security Guard.. but now, I’ve been assigned a new job: Ghost Hunter! I haven’t received any extra food or treats for the overtime I’ve put in. I repeatedly remind my pet every morning and evening that I deserve more food. Hell, I take full advantage of every opportune moment I can get: whenever he goes in the kitchen or near my bowl.. I scream that I deserve a bonus! He’s a tightwad and never delivers. I’ve even beseeched the stray, she just whispers sweet nothings in my ear, pats my head, and scurries away; I’m wearing her down though.. she’ll crack soon.. I can feel it in my bones.

I’ve lost weight traveling through these three realms day and night. I put my nine lives on the line to protect my pet and stray against these meddling spooks who haunt their dreams.. Or shall I say nightmares?! I tuck the stray into bed every night with my freshly sharpened claws in hopes to keep her and my pet safe. She winces in pain because blood needs to be sacrificed so I can cast a Protection Spell so the apparitions won’t savagely suck out her soul! I don’t want to have to devour her face if she perishes. Of course, I’d be ever grateful for something extra to eat, however.. I don’t know where this stray came from, if she’s been vaccinated, or if she’s even had a recent flea dip! I just can’t take that risk. Ahhh, so tempting though.. I need to remember my mission: Protect my pet and his stray. I cannot let my pet lose his new stray. He’s lost so much already. I must secure her well-being at all costs.

Once my pet and stray are surely asleep, I clock in to work the night shift:

  • Cast the Protection Spell
    • smear the crimson life liquid along the wooden snooze frame
    • check under frame for any Boogey Monsters
    • meow the sacred song of my ancestors
    • frolic around the slumber chamber
    • hiss at the Flying Particle Ghouls to retreat back in the ducts
    • tickle the stray’s face with my whiskers
    • seal it with a sandpaper kiss on the stray’s elbow
  • Conduct a Perimeter Check
    • rub against every entryway
    • scratch loose threads on every carpeted floor
    • shake my loose hair follicles onto the hardwood floors
    • sprinkle every rug with my regurgitated fur
    • slink under every piece of furr-niture
    • pounce up and down every staircase between realms
    • scour behind the wet transparent curtain and utilize this time for re-hydration at the leaky faucet
  • Secure the Exterior
    • setup guard post on the windowsill for optimal position
    • if view is obstructed, squeeze through the thin horizontal window panels
    • be on the lookout for Squirrel and/or Bird Zombies per the nearby jungle graveyard
    • overturn every potted botanical specimen and spread the soil around because this traps all Supernatural Manifestations in their tracks
    • chase and swat any Flying Bug Specters and squish their entrails about
    • knock every dish off the kitchen counter into sharp shards of glass and cut down the Sanctimonious Spirits
    • inspect discard bins for any food scraps because..

IT’S ALMOST TIME FOR BREAKFAST!!!

When the bright ball in the sky appears and my pet arises, my day shift consequentially begins:

  • Break the Protection Spell
    • lick the dry sacrificed blood
    • check for Boogey Monsters
    • meow the sacred song of my ancestors
    • circle around my pet until he steps on my tail
      • wail in agony

[PAWS for dramatic effect]

My pet finally spills food into my bowl and loudly exclaims about the remnants of my back-breaking work I left during the night. I’m glad to hear my pet appreciates the amount of time I invest to keep him and the stray safe. I am extremely flexible, and I always land on my feet. Luckily, all I need is an eight-hour catnap to recover so I can work another night shift!

I hope the next time you notice your pet’s behavior, especially when their life drastically changes, that you’ll be inquisitive enough to research possible explanations. You may learn something new to help them adjust. If you do, please share any fun facts and/or funny stories you may have in the comments below! I’d love to hear about them! I’m sure my other readers would too!

Transformation

I walk through life three steps forward and two steps back. I’ve always struggled with my mental health. My earliest memory is at the age of five and not being able to sleep because I’d be worrying about what happened earlier that day, what would happen the next day, and/or what the future held. I found myself organizing and setting up my toy figurines instead of playing with them. I played well with other kids but preferred to play by myself because other kids made messes and I just couldn’t have that. I deeply empathized with other people’s struggles just as if I would be going through them myself. No one put a name to these feelings, behaviors, or habits until I decided to go to therapy in my mid-twenties. I was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive personality disorder, anxiety, and depression (I discovered I’m an empath as well). It was all beginning to make sense. I was comforted by the fact that I.. wasn’t alone.

My therapist put it simply: “Having anxiety and depression is like straddling a doorway with one foot inside and one foot out. The foot inside represents depression, worrying about your past. The foot outside represents anxiety, worrying about your future. The threshold represents the present and you’re just pissing on it.” My therapist utilized a specific type of therapy during our sessions called DBT. She gave me homework from scanned DBT chapter packets; I would read it, highlight sections I connected with, write within each activity and answer the corresponding questions. My therapist and I would discuss each chapter during our sessions. This type of hands-on approach really helped me feel more in control of my mental health. Within these DBT chapter packets, I learned about mindfulness, grounding, self-care, healthy outlets, it’s okay to say “No,” and about medication (pill shaming). I’ve equipped myself with an arsenal of tools to help me throughout the day, especially at work: I listen to music (free with no commercials), snacks/mints/water within reach, meaningful decorations, soft ribbon, and squishy toys. I prefer to utilize grounding because it stimulates my other senses, distracts my mind, and forces me to focus on these individual items/sensations instead of dwelling on the issue(s).

Some of my favorite self-care and healthy outlets that I enjoy are:

  • Not answering my cell phone
    • for business calls outside working hours
    • while visiting with company
  • Dance2Fit classes
    • highly recommend Sylvia’s studio in Hamilton
    • it’s worth the commute!
  • Comedy clubs
    • Laughter is the best medicine!
  • Clean up after company leaves
    • thereby being fully present
    • considerate of their time
  • Massage therapy
    • physical health matters too!
  • Strolling through the Village of Mariemont
  • Waterfront views
  • Coloring, writing, or reading in nooks while listening to my radio program
    • highly recommend Mystery Playhouse Whistler/Suspense (M-F @ 7pm)
  • Creating this blog!

I also learned in therapy that I’m a constant complainer, which I’m sure I inherited (nature vs nurture). While Facebooking, I came across a video of an internet personality, Kristina Kuzmic, who instantly drew me in with her New Year’s Resolution. I don’t usually participate in New Year’s resolutions, however this one seemed like something I needed to do. I kept this activity to myself and gradually noticed my life to change.. for the better! My perspective on situations and my life in general drastically lightened. I stuck with it, every day, three hundred sixty-five days later.. I felt like a different person! I highly recommend this exercise to anyone who struggles with seeing the silver lining each day.

I discovered more of Kristina Kuzmic’s inspirational videos (I highly recommend following her)! She talks about being a mom and wife mostly, however there are other topics she touches on that I can relate to. A favorite video of mine hit home because my mental health issues stem from childhood (as I’m sure most people’s do too). This other video resonated with me because when I lost my classmate, coworker, and friend.. ’twas a traumatic experience that I couldn’t seem to shake on my own, which prompted me to seek help in the form of therapy and medication.

“..You’ve been through a lot and here you are, wiser, stronger and still you!..” -My college professor stated when he suggested that I write.

This one line means the world to me because it feels good to know that my efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. I’ve transformed over the years. Through blood, sweat, and tears, I’ve learned a lot about myself, tested boundaries, and yet my character has remained intact. As much as I’ve lost, I’ve gained so much in return: a full understanding of my mental health issues thus not feeling.. alone. I’ve become aware of triggers and have created plans for various scenarios. I’ve acknowledged my faults and am dedicated to improving myself. I’ve become selective with the company that I keep therefore I spend my time more wisely. I’ve learned to enjoy my own company, which used to terrify me! I’m gradually pushing limits to “messes” around the house, which has helped my new cohabitation situation a lot. I’ve been trying new things that scare me in hopes to overcome them.. I’m still working on that one! Haha..

The above photo was my inspiration for this week’s blog post about how we all go through a transformation that changes who we are. This tree was severely damaged and had to be cut down. The city of Hamilton was able to preserve and transform this historical landmark into a functional sculpture piece for future generations to enjoy!

I was apprehensive to publicly share my internal struggles this week, however am glad I took the risk because I think vulnerability can be a powerful thing. I admire those who possess and share this quality. I hope the next time you feel stuck in your head and you just can’t seem to shake it; that you’ll take the time to seek the help you deserve. Trust that you are not alone. Please share your transformational stories in the comments. I’m interested to hear about them!

Life’s a B..lur

We loaded up into ol’ Ruby headed to a neighboring town to interview for a college internship at a photography studio. We decided to make a road trip out of it and to get a jump start on next semester. It was our summer vacation, after all.. What’s work with no play? No fun, that’s what! The key to happiness is balance. My gal pal and I were attached at the hip: we worked together, had all the same classes, and even carpooled to save some dough! We fit the stereotypical college student roles perfectly: always broke, starving.. I mean, striving artists! We had to be creative to survive in this cruel world.

“Daphne, when ya gonna get your A.C. fixed?! I’m melting,” I complained again while staring out the passenger window.

“♪♫ Shyanne.. I’m working on it.. Ol’ Ruby needs some TLC-eeeee.. she’s an expensive Drama Queeeeeen! Just put your window all the way dowwwwwn ♬,” Daphne sang along with the blaring radio.

I didn’t wanna mess up my hair, but decided since I was already a hot mess, I might as well just let the fresh country air blow away the beads of sweat off my freckled face. I fiddled with the squeaky, manual window crank and with each rotation, felt my arm muscles spasm.

“Add a can of WD-40 to the laundry list for ol’ Ruby,” I stated as both of our butts lifted up out of the maroon front bench seat. “Hey! Take it easy on these hills.. You know I get car sick.. We ain’t hill hoppin’..”

“I can’t help it, I’m going the speed limit,” Daphne stated matter-of-factly.

“Do ya have a litter bag? Just in case?” I pleaded as my stomach gurgled.

“Yeah, in the glove box. Just make sure to slam it.. when you close it.. Ol’ Ruby is temperamental,” Daphne chuckled while patting the dusty dashboard. “Are we heading in the right direction, Miss Navigator?”

“Yeah, just keep West,” I replied with a cough and sneeze. I took a couple deep breaths in and out and closed my eyes. I surprised myself with a quick recovery. All those long road trips with my family semi-prepared me on how to deal with my car sickness. My dad would purposely give it the gas over hills just to churn my stomach. Anything for a laugh.. but I never laughed.

Daphne interrupted my thought, “Did you bring your camera?”

“You know it,” I squealed while unveiling my new digital camera like a Bob Barker Beauty.

“Yay! Let’s document our adventure,” Daphne suggested and wiggled in her seat. “Everything is so green!”

“It sure is,” I exclaimed as I wrapped the camera strap around my wrist and fastened it against my pale skin. I grasped the camera tightly, peered through the viewfinder, and snapped dozens of photos outside the passenger window. I adjusted the angle and zoom to capture a good variety. I tried not to get my reflection in the side mirror in every shot. That would be a totally amateur move!

I put the camera in my lap as I closed my eyes, stretched out my neck to breathe in the crisp country air, and to feel the warm sun upon my rosy cheeks. The radio changed to a commercial and it reverted me back to reality. As I was scrolling through the camera preview screen to see what I had captured, I announced with a frown, “I can’t seem to get a shot in focus or with the correct amount of exposure.” I let out a sigh.

“Well, that’s okay! Even out of focus and overexposed photos can be interesting,” Daphne reassured me. “Post them anyway, tag me of course, and maybe they’ll grow on you. Different always stands out from the crowd,” Daphne gave me a playful wink and smiled at her own advice.

I stuck my tongue out at her and we both giggled like little school girls. Oh, how I admired Daphne’s style; she really did march to the beat of her own drum. Her creativity was contagious and I was itching to be inspired. I had learned a lot from Daphne’s carefree attitude in and outside of the classroom. My OCD forced my artwork to color inside the lines. I relished the fact she could create an unorganized yet interesting piece of art and it still be professional! Such talent at such a young age. Daphne was a couple-ish years my junior, but seemed to be wise beyond her years. We were similar in that way. We both had our shit together: responsible, independent, mature women who loved expressing ourselves in a colorful way, which could be perceived as.. immature.

“Shyanne, I think I took a wrong turn.. I don’t see signs for Broomfield anymore,” Daphne muttered as she frantically read each passing road sign.

“Oh, man.. Okay.. Pull over,” I instructed while examining our Colorado state map. “Alright, we were going West and turned to pass through Westminster, haha.. get it?! West, Westminster.. What a co-inky-dink!”

“Very punny,” Daphne teased.

“Okay, we’re in Thorton; the city, not the gas station! Haha,” I looked up from the map at Daphne and she stifled a laugh. I continued, “Take 25 North, then get off at 128 West, and we should be there in no time!”

“Whew! I’m glad you’re the navigator,” Daphne admitted as she checked to rejoin traffic.

“You just gotta know how to read a map! My mom taught me,” I gloated while folding the map carefully.

“And.. you know how to correctly fold a map! I mean.. you’re a freak of nature,” Daphne joked. “You sure you’re not an alien from outer space?!”

“Ya caught me!” I confessed as I put up both hands. “We’re headed to a spaceship where me and my alien comrades are gonna beam you up to our lab and probe you!”

“Okay, but don’t give me too much laughing gas because I’ll cry laugh and I’m an ugly crier,” Daphne pleaded with her big hazel puppy dog eyes.

We finally looked at each other and just lost it. We had a non-stop giggle fit for a solid minute. “Fun fact,” I giggled in between words, “Area 51.. is in.. Lincoln County.. Nevada.. which is like.. 10 hours away.. hope you.. got enough gas.. to get.. ol’ Ruby there!” I pulled out a US map to examine for comedic effect.

Daphne poked the map into my nose. “Girl, you are something else! I’m getting kinda hungry, you wanna stop off somewhere?”

“Do you really have to ask?! Oh! There’s a Mickey D’s!”

“Why isn’t there an Unhappy Meal for adults?” Daphne asked with a straight face.

“If there was, what would the toy be?”

“A mini bottle of alcohol! Duh!”

“Oh. My. God. Yeesss! Let’s pitch them this idea and we’ll be bazillionaires!”

“After we pay off all of our student loans, we’ll have just enough money leftover to buy.. an Unhappy Meal!”

We lost it again. Our giggle fest continued. We heard one of our favorite songs on the radio from a band we just bought concert tickets to see in the fall, so we just had to stay in ol’ Ruby to rock out until the very end of the song. I played air guitar while Daphne drummed on the steering wheel. We dramatically serenaded one another while holding hands during the last verse.

“We should cut a record!” Daphne exclaimed as we were walking across the parking lot. She glanced to me for approval, but I shook my head. “We could sing back up!” We both shook our heads and continued walking. “I got it!” She stopped, so I stopped.. and we glared at one another. She paused for dramatic effect.. “We could be hype girls!”

“Yeeeeeesssss!” We danced all the way into the restaurant and stood in a long line to order.

“Shyanne, check it! There’s a vending machine over there! Wanna get a temporary tattoo?!”

“Oohh! Well, I mean.. we gotta look our best for the interview!”

We scrounged up just enough change. “On the count of three, let’s open ’em together,” Daphne whispered.

We counted together, “1.. 2.. 3..”

“I gotta flaming guitar! What’d you get?!” Daphne asked.

“I gotta spider in its web! Where should we put them?” I asked.

“Hmm.. I don’t know.. Oh! I know!.. On our necks! We gotta show ’em off! We’re hype girls! We gotta look the part..”

“Risky. Wild. Daring. I like it. Let’s do it! After we eat..”

“Duh!”

We found a booth near a window facing a quaint little court yard. Daphne went over to save our seats while I went to fill up our cups at the soda machine.

“What do you want to drink?” I asked over my shoulder.

“Hi-C with a little ice!” Daphne excitedly replied.

“You got it!” I skipped across the dining area and sang what I was doing, “♪♫ Fill this cup with a little ice. Yeaahhh.. Pour some Hi-C. Oohh.. Overflooooooooow ♬”

“You gotta nice voice,” a police officer commented as he grabbed a handful of napkins.

“Uhhh.. thank you,” I muttered as my cheeks turned beet red. Oh, how I blushed! I quickly cleaned up my mess from the spilt soda on the counter and hurried over to join Daphne, “That copper just complimented my singing,” I whispered. “I was just being silly.. Guess I sound better than I thought..”

“Girl, I’ll sing backup for ya,” Daphne blurted out.. a little louder than she intended. She instantly noticed the other diners glaring at us.

I giggled quietly, “You gotta audition first.” We both dipped our french fries into the same ranch dressing container. “Hey, I like your nails, where do you get them done at?!”

“Oh, I do ’em myself!” Daphne shoved her perfectly manicured hand in my face. “I just slap on the polish and let the paint fall off my fingers when I get a shower the next day..”

“Sounds like a foolproof process right there,” I declared in awe. “I’ll have to try that sometime. What color is that by the way?” I stuffed half a dozen fries in my mouth at once.

“Burgundy Sunset Bliss,” she dramatically quoted with a wave.

“Really?”

“Hell if I know. Sounds like a color to me.”

“You should submit that to Pantone!”

“I just might,” Daphne mumbled through a mouthful of her double cheeseburger.

We made a couple pit-stops along the way as we walked down the street to the photography studio for Daphne’s interview. We captured some Kodak moments: Daphne posed in front of a white picket fence with her Mickey D’s cup o’ Hi-C. I posed leaning against a brick wall in an alley because my alter ego grew up in The Outsiders.

This story doesn’t have a traditional beginning, middle, and end. It just abruptly stops.. because unfortunately.. my friend’s life abruptly stopped. I decided to highlight the good times we had together while she was a part of my life. Life’s a B..lur. The world is moving at such a high speed.. that every once and awhile.. I just gotta stop.. and enjoy it.. and appreciate it for what it is.. before it’s too late.

I enjoyed traveling down memory lane, thumbing through my ol’ photo albums, and sharing an inspired by my true experience with y’all this week (an excerpt, if you will). I hope the next time you feel your head spinning and your life becomes a b..lur; that you’ll take a second to slow down to savor each and every precious moment, and cherish them while you can. I guarantee you’ll feel better about whatever life throws at ya. Please share any merry-go-round moments you’ve had in the comments. I can’t wait to hear about them.

Six by Eight

The inspiration behind this week’s blog post came about when I least expected it.. Per usual! I tend to mentally backtrack, analyze the chain of events and ask myself: “Why did I do that? Had I seen something similar before and subconsciously wanted to see more like it?” It’s a general question, but in this particular case, I asked myself this when I was reminiscing about a tour my S.O. and I took in San Francisco to.. Alcatraz! I was instantly enthralled by its size, history and architecture; so much in fact that it prompted our most recent tour to the Ohio State Reformatory. I highly recommend both tours by the way!

So, there I was.. racking my brain as to why I scheduled these tours.. then.. finally, it came to me! ‘Twas most likely when I first toured a jail! Ten-ish years ago, I volunteered my graphic design services to a small marketing agency located in one of the business suites in Butler County’s old Municipal Building. During one lunch break, my boss decided to take me on a private tour of the abandoned jail on the top floor, which I didn’t even know was there! I remember taking a school field trip of my hometown; which included the old Municipal Building! I only recall seeing the 911 Dispatch Center in the basement and the Fire Station on the northside of the building, which is now a brewery (also, highly recommend). Luckily, I was able to go back up to the jail and take photos! This week, I decided to change it up and write a story from an inmate’s perspective. Something you might read in their journal or hear from their interview in a documentary.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the blogger’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

I’ve been sentenced and fined; it’ll be a three months stay, I’ll pay a fortune to Uncle Sam, plus probation. Two plump Police Officers escorted me from the municipal courtroom into a freshly polished gray marble hallway where we waited for the elevator operator to accompany us inside a cramped lift. The operator hovered above a little stool in the corner. He latched a squeaky metal gate, pulled a stiff lever, and an outer door folded to a close like an accordion. We shimmied our way up a couple flights. I could barely make out the weathered plaque above the operator’s head. I managed to finally read it without my glasses: “Maximum weight limit: 400 pounds.” Oh, yeah, we’re not gonna make it, there’s four of us and we each weigh at least a hundred pounds! I just hope it’ll be a swift and painless death as we plummet to the bottom of the elevator shaft into a large steaming meat pie to feed the other pigs.

As the operator unveiled my new dwelling, the air felt different; stale and humid. I winced with disgust and shook my head as I could already smell the sweaty inmates. It was just my luck to get stuck in the clink on the hottest day of 1959. The judge reassured me that this was a temporary stay until they made room in the overcrowded Butler County jail. My double shackles rattled as I shuffled out onto a dirty concrete floor. I could feel the flames lick me as I walked into a beam of sunlight past a chain linked door, which I noticed had two sets of stairs behind it; one up and one down. I’m sure I’d find out where they each lead to later. I noticed another ray of sunlight coming from a window at the end of the hallway. That surprised me because I envisioned jail to be a windowless dungeon where they locked you up and threw away the key.

The salt and pepper haired Police Officer rhythmically rapped upon a massive vault-like steel door. This sort of door belonged in a bank protecting money; not a jail, protecting society from criminals. He slowly opened a latch to look through a miniature window to visually verify our arrival to the inside guard. I squinted to make out a faint etching on the plate glass that read:
“Let me out.”
I finally admitted to myself that I was petrified. What will I have to endure here for.. who-knows-how-long?! I distinctly heard tin cups clanging across jail cell bars. I thought that only happened in the movies.. The massive door opened in slow motion.

There were eight cells; each were equipped with two bunks, a toilet and a sink. That’s it. Parcopresis quickly set in. How am I gonna drop a deuce without feeling like I’m on display for these perverts to gawk at?! I counted fifteen inmates; some greeted me with their hoarse catcalls, pocket mirrors, and/or tin cups. The other inmates were laying motionless in their bunks. I was lucky number sixteen. We officially became a full house. I stepped over a carved-in-concrete checkerboard in front of my cell. This gave me hope that we had some freedom outside our six by eight cells. I’m a whiz at games. That is what ultimately landed me in here. I ran an illegal gambling ring out of my loft downtown and.. it got raided. I managed to weasel my way out of doing hard time upstate thanks to my hotshot brother-in-law lawyer, Peter. I really owe him. Big. Might as well start by conning these poor schmucks’ out of their commissary items to purchase something fancy for him. Least I could do. He’d prefer I not reoffend though. My mother has openly admitted she’d rather have Peter as her son than the washed up criminal she biologically spawned.

The rookie guard had difficulty releasing me from my restraints because he couldn’t get a firm grip on the key with his sweaty hands. The other guard slammed the cell door closed and lingered nearby. I ignored my cellmate as I quietly settled in to the bottom bunk. A metal spring from my paper thin mattress poked me in the shoulder blade as I laid down to catch my breath. The metal spring propped me toward a window; I discovered the cell bars perfectly framed the Butler County Courthouse across the street. This view reminded me that I could’ve been tried there and received a harsher punishment of three to five years instead of three months. Just gotta hang on for three months. This thought was interrupted by the sound of my cellmate taking a piss.. in the sink. Ugh, I can tell we’re not gonna get along. First impressions are everything. Wonder what his first impression of me was? The strong silent type? Retarded? I quickly dismissed this thought as he aggressively shook his dick.. and moaned loudly. Oh, my God.. He’s jerking off! Disgusting. I rolled over to face the wall and pulled my pillow around my ears to muffle the noise. I finally opened my eyes to see a row of tally marks scratched into the paint. I counted seven. Wonder how long this guy’s sentence was? I bet he died of heat stroke in this oven before he was transferred to county. I forced this thought out of my head. I will make it. I had to. My cellmate might not make it though. I may just smother him in his sleep.

I must’ve nodded off because I was startled awake by a guard barking orders to line up for Recreation. Whatever that meant. I instinctively sat up and busted my head on the bottom of the top bunk with a loud thunk. I spit out, “Fuck,” and rubbed my forehead. I cautiously inspected my wet hand. It wasn’t blood. I looked down to see a body outline of sweat left on my mattress. I felt like crying. I was so uncomfortably hot. I’m sure my tears would’ve been masked by the sweat pouring down my face. I dizzily stood up, stretched with a yawn and accidentally punched my cellmate in the shoulder. I forgot I wasn’t alone. Our eyes finally met.

“Oh, ‘cuse me,” I muttered.
I extended my hand, “Patrick O’Reilly.”
My cellmate chuckled, “Eugene Schwartz.”

We exchanged glances and shook hands. I immediately regretted shaking Eugene’s hand. Bet he didn’t even wash his hands after he pissed and.. came. Yuck. I wiped my right hand on my black and white striped jumpsuit and shoved both hands into my pockets. Each pocket had a pinky size hole in it.

The guard barked again to line up. We faced forward and waited for our cell door to open. I caught a glimpse of something above our heads. I reared my head back to get a better look. The sun shone through a line of cutouts. My eyes adjusted to make out the shapes. They were shamrocks. I bowed my head, crossed myself, and quietly said a prayer to Saint Christopher to protect me during my journey ahead.

We exited our cells, the guard counted us, and the other guard confirmed the head count on his clipboard. We marched single file out of the cell block and into the hallway; one guard was playing follow-the-leader while the other guard rode caboose. We went through the chain linked door and proceeded upstairs. With each step we climbed, I could feel the temperature rise ten degrees. Sweat just poured down from my brow onto my jumpsuit. I wiped my forehead with my already wet sleeve. While we pivoted on a platform, I used this time to check how much further til we reached our “Recreational” destination: another set of stairs to go. I noticed the ceiling and walls were deteriorating. Pieces of plaster sprinkled my face so I instinctively averted my gaze, shook my head and marched ahead.

We finally reached the top of the stairs to a door exiting out onto the roof. I peered through a metal handrail and thought I saw someone waving. They weren’t waving. It was a statue on top of the Hamilton memorial monument across the street. I can’t remember the official name of it. A burst of dank air expelled when the door to the roof opened. My thinning hair tickled my face as I blinked into the afternoon sun. I mentally added a pair of sunglasses to my list of needed commissary items. The guard barked, “Enjoy your two hours of playtime, kiddies!” The other guard snorted at his co-worker’s childish announcement. The inmates segregated themselves: whites on the left, colored to the right, and beaners down the middle. I didn’t join any group. I just paced alongside the ledge and admired the Great Miami River. I just wanted to jump in and cool off. I’ve always been a loner. Content with my own company. Sometimes, I did long for more. I don’t mind admitting that I have regularly paid for company with a lady of the night.

Recreation time had come and gone already. “Time’s up! Line up,” the guard’s booming voice sent a scared pigeon fluttering toward me. I covered my face with both arms and crouched down. I casually dusted myself off and joined the line. During head count, I noticed there was not a single guardrail, fence, or barbed wire to keep anybody from falling off the five story building to their death; whether accidental, suicidal, or homicidal. There wasn’t anything recreational about this “Recreational Roof” at all. No weights. No basketball hoop. Nothing. How I longed for a book to get lost into. Anything to distract me from this cruel reality. I mentally added some books to my list of needed commissary items. I’d read a telephone book, a dictionary, a Bible. Anything. Maybe I’d write a book. Hell, I got the time. Eighty-nine days to go. In a six by eight jail cell.

[end scene]

Did you enjoy the story? I hope you did! I really enjoyed writing it! I definitely pushed myself out of my comfort zone with this one. I’m open to hear any constructive critiques you may have to help improve my storytelling. Feel free to drop a comment below!

I hope the next time you find yourself mentally backtracking how/why you decided to do something, especially something uncharacteristic; that you’ll be inquisitive to take a moment to examine the chain of events that lead you there. I guarantee you’ll learn something new about yourself! Please share any groundbreaking revelations you’ve discovered about yourself in the comments! I’d love to hear about them! I’m sure the other readers would too!

Alleys by Allie

For years, I’ve been taking photos of alleys wherever I go; especially throughout my travels because I find them fascinating! Alleys tend to be overlooked because they’re purposely hidden and thus becoming “a needle in a haystack” of all the sights to see as a tourist. We are too focused on the architectural skyline, the landscape, and/or every tourist’s favorite.. people watching! We are visually overloaded therefore the details become distorted and mostly discarded.

According to Google: an alley or alleyway is a narrow lane, path, or passageway, often reserved for pedestrians, which usually runs between, behind, or within buildings in the older parts of towns and cities. It is also a rear access or service road (back lane), or a path, walk, or avenue (French allée) in a park or garden. The origin of the word alley is late Middle English. From aler “go,” from Latin: ambulare “to walk.” A covered alley or passageway, often with shops, may be called an arcade. Synonyms for alley include: passage, back alley, backstreet, pathway, walk; corridor, aisle; ginnel, snicket, twitten; twitchel; vennel; wynd; gully. In the 19th century, American cities used alleys to hide the more utilitarian, less attractive functions of urban life including service and servant access, barns for horses and carriages, and even small shops and areas for children to play. Nowadays, alleys are used for garages, to store/set out garbage cans, where transformers, electric meters, and telephone equipment are installed. The ownership of the land that is platted as a street or alley is actually statutorily presumed to be owned by the abutting property owners. The platted public street and alleys are available for public use for public purposes as long as they are platted.

FUN FACT:
According to Urban Dictionary, an alley cat has multiple definitions:
1. a stray cat, a homeless cat.
2. a sexually promiscuous person, usually a woman.*
3. a type of race that bike messengers partake in for fun that simulates the average messenger’s work day.

*Fun fact within a fun fact (it’s like dream within a dream = Inception): I’m going to feel awkward the next time my family calls me “Allie Cat” because now I know this definition and I’ll question which term they meant to call me. A stray cat or a promiscuous woman? I hope a stray cat! MEOW!

You’re in for a treat this week! Yep yep yep! Settle in and get comfy because not only do I have a photo of an alley to share, but I have three! HIGH-FIVE! Alright.. Toppin’ it all off with some more fun facts and miscellaneous stuff.

I took the photo (right) while driving through my hometown at the corner of C & Main as I waited for the traffic light to change. The overgrown weeds is what caught my eye first! Man, oh, man.. The condition of this alley screamed that it hadn’t been maintained well, recently or if at all. The blue spray painted curb is a little reminder that my hometown has become infamous for constantly being under construction. No one had been passing through this alley, safely, that’s for sure because I noticed the rusted lock and three faint lines of rusty barbed wire at the top of the chain link fenced gate. Ouch! We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog to bring you this important message: Are you up to date on your tetanus shot? Yes? Good for you! No? Well, you better skedaddle to your nearest pharmacist! I’ll wait.. Sike! Moving on (play @ 48 second mark)..

I captured the above picture during an evening stroll through Hollywood, California while on spring break. If you look closely, you can see this alley is in between two residential buildings that’s scattered with litter, a discarded shopping cart, a folding chair, unknown spilt liquid (some of which is pink), a city sign, and four tied pieces of tape that spells “CUIDADO” which I translated from Spanish to English; it means “taken care of” or “watch out.” The city of LA has an interesting definition of “taken care of” if that’s the term they intended for this unsightly scene! In this instance, I’m sure they meant the latter. The little green and pink floral patch neatly frames the composition, which just goes to show that even in a whirlwind of a mess; there’s a silver lining to be grateful for and admire.

A group of friends and I were exploring Pittsburgh’s Historic Strip District when I came across this quaint hole in the wall alleyway. I combined two photos into one per Android’s collage feature so I could capture every detail. The Strip District is what the kids nowadays call.. Hipster. It’s an eclectic urban street market sprinkled with multicultural influences. I immediately felt the flower power as I stepped into this peaceful realm. Each stop seemed to be some type of organic business: mom and pop shop restaurants, fresh from the farm produce stands, hand-stitched clothing stores (I saw a pair of slippers made from alpaca fleece), homemade soaps and candles, used bookstores, etc. This alley gate has “Enrico” advertised on it which is an entrance and/or exit of an Italian cafe named The Enrico Biscotti Company. Immediately, I could tell this was a functional passageway because of how clean it was with the aligned tables and chairs under the brightly colored canopy, the string of lights, the stacks of signs, the brick wall scribbles in either chalk or spray paint, and a vintage freestanding mixer.

I hope the next time you’re out and about, especially when exploring new territory, that you’ll be inspired to take a moment to examine the details.. such as alleys! Who knows? Maybe you’ll start your own alley photo collection. If you do, please follow me on Instagram or send me a Facebook friend request and share them on my page! I’d love to see them! I’m sure the other readers would too! And I’d be more than happy to give you my two ¢ents.

Here comes the miscellaneous stuff!
There were a few things I didn’t mention about my blog on my first post last week because I secretly hoped that everyone noticed them and/or explored this blog page on their own, if not.. that’s okay! You may be new to blogs.. I know I am! I’m here to help ya out and of course.. overthink things! haha.. Okay, so, if you’re interested in being notified via email every week of each new blog I post, please feel free to enter your email address and click the “Follow” button on the left navigation panel of this page (you’ll only be able to see the “Follow” hyperlink button if you’re reading this on a laptop or desktop computer). You may not see a left navigation panel if you’re reading this on a tablet or cell phone. For tablets and cell phones: there’s a three horizontal line icon (that looks like the image I’ve included above for your reference). If you scroll up to the upper right of this page and click the featured icon, it’ll expand to showcase more information of my blog. The more information includes my:

  • Blog Theme
  • Blog Stats
    • how many times my blog has been viewed
    • 63 hits this past week!
    • thank you all!
  • Clickable hyperlinks to follow me elsewhere
    • on Facebook, Instagram, my portfolio website
  • Search bar
  • About Blogger
    • a little biography on me
    • includes a music video that is my new self-proclaimed anthem
  • Fun Fact
    • this will change every week to spread knowledge!
    • Watch out now.. it’s addicting!

Oh! When you see an underlined word within my blog text, it’s a clickable hyperlink! Please click them as you read, it’ll be fun! I promise.. or your money back! I don’t make a profit on this blog.. not yet anyway.. Haha.. When you click a hyperlink, it’ll open a new tab to a video or page for some extra entertainment or reference. These clickable hyperlinks help move the story along. They also provide some context as to my intended tone so you can get a feel for my sense of humor. You may have already noticed.. I love pop culture! Fun fact: I always thought the “pop” in pop culture meant.. like soda pop or bubble gum popping. Nope, it’s short for “popular.” Who knew?! Show of hands! 1.. 2.. 3.. Okay, you can put your hand down, people are staring at you! Haha.. Hope you come back to visit next week!

Once Upon a Blog

I received a random message early in the morning from my college professor that prompted the creation of this blog:

Allison, I remember you as being a creative witty person with a wry sense of humor. Have you ever thought that you might be a good writer? Even part-time. With the right amount of perseverance and patience I believe you could be very successful. You have a unique view of things and you are able to express it well. Just saw a recent post from you and it “triggered” fond memories, especially your graduation speech which was brilliant! Do you keep a journal? Maybe you could write a blog? One of my sons has a friend who writes a sports blog and he is making considerable cash. Take a look back through your journals and you may find a theme that reflects your spirit, your wit, your attitude toward life. You’ve been through a lot and here you are, wiser, stronger and still you! Don’t know what got me on this this morning, but it’s good to touch base! Talk to you later!

I let this marinate for a couple weeks. I tried not to force any ideas because I wanted my blog theme to be organic and somewhat.. original.

There I was.. driving into my hometown and peacefully enjoying the view of a beautiful green field (I decided to take the rural scenic route). No sign of civilization for as far as the eye could see. Just nature thriving.

Where Millville Ave and Walnut Street meet

I thought to myself: “Wow! Now, that is a picture worth a thousand..ish words. I could put a frame around this and have quite a bit to say about it. Wonder if anybody would read it?

Out of nowhere.. BOOM!!! Inspiration struck! I had found my theme.. or rather my theme found me! I think this theme will reflect the attributes my college professor recommended that I highlight very well. This theme will incorporate my love of photography, graphic design, and creative writing!

I first fell in love with writing in elementary school. My English teacher wrote a journal entry prompt on the board every morning for us to start our day off right; by exercising our most important muscle.. Our brain! Such journal entry prompts were a simple or philsophical question, random scenario, or abrupt storyline that needed to be finished, etc. I enjoyed the freedom of being able to create with the written word, reading it back, watching my teacher and classmates hearing me read it aloud (whenever I felt confident enough, haha). I quickly learned that reading and writing go hand in hand, therefore this fueled my interest in reading and dedication to improve my vocabulary.

My English teacher took notice of my obsession with learning and the sudden anxiety that struck my core when the school year was about to come to an end. In the years previous, I would “play school” all summer! I was fully equipped with a retired student desk, outdated/donated textbooks from my mom’s teacher friend. I would role-play as the teacher, take attendance, assign seats, create syllabuses, hand out assignments, grade them, and give out homework. My English teacher kindly communicated her concern with my parents and the school decided to award me a free “scholarship” to summer school so I could keep my structured scholastic schedule all year round throughout my entire elementary career.

I saw Nickelodeon’s Harriet the Spy summer blockbuster movie with my dad, which electrified my interest in writing! I bought a Composition notebook, just like Harriet’s, to record all my “secrets.” I turned out to be a horrible spy though (haha..) so I just kept with the writing part. Oh! I even bought similar shoes as Harriet’s. Tried to find her orange pants to no avail. The setting of the movie is not exactly clear, however with a little research I discovered the book of the same title was originally published in 1964 by Louise Fitzhugh, therefore it explains the vintage fashion style, absence of technology, and classic vehicles throughout the film. In hindsight, Nickelodeon and Paramount were smart to stay true to the era in which Harriet grew up in in the book. I found it to be charming because they kept it simple with no outside distractions. Just good old-fashioned spy-work and back to basics writing.

In high school, I took a Creative Writing elective class with another one of my influential English teachers. His freestyle teaching motto was: let it flow and see what happens. We were assigned to write various styles such as: poetry, short stories, songs, etc. I leaned towards more of the shorter writings because I had to be honest with my-high-school-teenage-self: I didn’t have the time, attention span, or motivation to write an elaborate beginning, middle, and climatic end. I accepted it and stuck with what I felt comfortable with. With the urging of my English teacher, I entered a couple poetry contests. I placed and was published in a book called Impressions of Youth, along with all the other placed and winning entries (I have a copy but couldn’t find it anywhere online to share with y’all). The teacher realized there were a fair share of us that were shy about reading our pieces out loud with the class, so he allowed us to select a brave classmate to read our pieces on our behalf. In hindsight, that was very cool and kind of him. Oh! We could bring in snacks, some kids brought in coffee, and it felt very much like an open mic night at a local cafe. We even snapped our fingers instead of clapping after each piece was read.

I first fell in love with photography in high school when I took a couple Darkroom Photography elective classes. I found it fascinating that in order to capture an ideal shot, you need light; whether it be natural or artificial; however, the initial preparation process and development end process needs complete darkness! Yin and Yang process. Every step has to be precise, delicate, and balanced:

  • Cut the film and roll it into the canister in complete darkness
    • Take photos
  • Extract the full canister without exposing it to any light
  • Whilst in the darkroom: cut the film again to place it onto the mechanism to shine light through it onto the photo paper below
    • Duration could vary, depending upon the exposure type of photograph you’re trying to achieve
    • Double exposure photographs are fun and trippy!
    • Could add a stencil to frame images such as stars, hearts, etc
  • Soak the photo paper in chemicals
    • First bin was a specific time
    • Second bin was a different, specific time
    • Third bin was a different, specific time
  • Hang to dry

Before high school graduation, I distinctly remember a speaker (of some kind) came to explain the three avenues, one of which we were destined to take: College, Workforce, or Military. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t even know if my folks could afford college because all my siblings went straight into the workforce after high school; therefore, I presumed I’d do the same. A Brown Mackie College Admissions Recruiter came to speak to my English class. Their pitch went the same as all the rest of other college admission recruiters, however their class structure was different because instead of taking multiple classes at once over a period of multiple semesters during a school year; this school offered one class course at a time for an entire month. She explained it as: “Easing yourself into the college life.” My-high-school-teenage-self thought: “Hey! Now, that’s a good way to decide if college’s right for me. One class for one month at a time? Sure. Didn’t sound like too much of a commitment!” So, I decided to check the box on the comment card that I was interested in learning more about the college, but I couldn’t bring myself to check any of the listed majors because I wasn’t interested in Accounting, Economics, or Paralegal.

Soon after, I had a meeting with a different Admissions Recruiter, they gave my mom and I the grand tour of the campus, explained each and every major they offered, but I was hesitant because I still wasn’t interested in any major yet. My mom suggested I bring my darkroom photography and creative writings to show the Admissions Recruiter and see if that could help determine which major could incorporate both of my interests. They immediately spit out: “Oh! You’re an artist! Let me introduce you to our new neighbor, The Art Institute of Ohio – Cincinnati, and their Admissions. I think their Graphic Design major would be a great fit for you!” The more I learned about graphic design, the more I felt like this was something I could see myself doing every day. Being creative. I learned as a graphic designer, you have to wear many hats: writer, photographer, typographer, etc. I’m a variety type of person so this fits me perfectly because I don’t like doing the same thing every day.

The rest is history! I graduated top of my class, was on the Dean’s List with a 3.5 Grade Point Average, I was voted Graduation Class Student Speaker, was Awarded Best in Show at the Graduation Portfolio Show, and was a Regional Finalist for the Art Institutes’ National Portfolio. I felt on top of the world! The famous reporter question to any winning athlete is: “You have just won the [insert tournament name here], what are going to do next?!” Yep, you guessed it.. I went to Disney World! I went for a paid college internship, whilst there I took a Creativity and Innovation Class at their College of Knowledge. I even received my Ducktorate! Haha.. I proudly showcase my Ducktorate at every interview. It always gets a good laugh! Interviews can be awkward because they’re forced interactions so it helps ease the tension.

My first out-of-college-adult-job was at a small commercial photography studio as a Production Assistant, which was a creative, multi-tasking position where I directed the photographer, took photos in their absence, pre-edited the photos, edited the photos in post, took inventory of photography equipment in the studio and warehouse, etc. I worked there for a couple years until I was recruited for another job, which paid more. Hey! Money talks.

For the past five years, I’ve been desperately craving a creative outlet because my day job, while it has great benefits and flexibility, is at an IT company that I find monotonous; however provides me the luxury of ample spare time to express myself outside of the cookie cutter IT world.

I had privately protested photography for the past decade-ish because everyone became instantly equipped with a camera in their cell phone, which mass produced an unforeseen amount of self-proclaimed “photographers.” I quickly became uninterested and unmotivated in photography because it seemed to dull the originality and creativity for me. Took me awhile to realize that I shouldn’t worry about what other people are doing and that I should do what makes me happy; regardless of what is #trendy. With my mentor’s and my significant other’s encouragement, I have decided to reignite my love for photography, design, and writing! A thousand-ish words and countless scrolls later.. my blog is born.. TA-DA!

Thank you Duff and thank you Jaimie, for I dedicate this post to you both.