Ya’ll, I’m a writer.

I got some really epic news today: I’m getting a book published.

It’s not the traditional way, but I have 100% agency over it, and I’m 100% okay with that.

It’s a book I’ve been through the gauntlet with: I sent query letters out to 75 agents in the span of 9 months and got nothing back (besides a few well meaning rejections). It was my very first NaNoWriMo novel, and I’ve been rather attached to it. I put it aside for a time and have been editing it, working through all the things I messed up.

And when you take a leap of faith, sometimes you’re rewarded in some amazing ways.

So I’ll be on Channillo, a place where writers write and readers read. I have a more political thought essay collection there too, called Coffee and Criticisms, which you’re more than welcome to also check out!

So about this book!

The Queen of Souls

It’s called The Queen of Souls (which makes me giddy every time I look at the document). It’s YA lit, with some upper YA themes. And well, here’s the snapshot I have for it:

Katerina Alkaev has only ever known how to be one thing: an outcast. With no real memories of her past, no family and no prospects of a future, she’s stuck in a spiral of bad luck, non-committing foster homes and an extreme lack of self-worth which bring her to the little town of New Hollow. She struggles to find her place in the world, not sure she’d recognize her destiny if it slapped her across the face, which was nothing new to her. When a fight with her abusive boyfriend Michael leaves her broken and bruised, Katerina discovers a world that she might just belong to, provided she can stay alive long enough to find out. With the help of her best friend Isobel, Katerina begins to unravel the past, creating allies and enemies that all seem to stem from an ancestral act of love and sacrifice. As Katerina begins to accept her fate, she discovers an ages old prophesy that demands she side with the darkness or die. With love and life at stake, one thing is absolutely clear: if she wants to survive, she’ll have to transform.

This book is based loosely on the mythology of Psyche, the goddess of souls with a touch of modernity. Set in the fictional world of New Hollow, it features coffee shops (obviously), a small town on hard times, mystery, rebellion and love. Apart from that, well, I guess you’ll just have to read it and find out!

It will be published in parts, so it’s perfect for a little bit of light reading every now and again. I’m working on more books (both the traditional and self-pub way, so if a subscription service isn’t your style, stay tuned-there’s more good things to come!) and I’d say that’s a pretty swell ending to a pretty swell day.

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A little TL(S)C

When law school began, I will admit, I thought I had everything figured out. I had a coping mechanism toolkit for when things were rough, I drank loads more water than my entry into undergrad (a lesson I will never forget) and I was overall in a very good place. I came to a new state to start over. A complete redo, free from the baggage of the past. And that was a wildly freeing concept.

All of that was also incredibly naive and somewhat short-sighted.

Turns out, law school is where the gaps in my self-care capabilities became glaringly obvious. And for that, I am ever thankful. Because it’s given me an opportunity to fix them. So as I’m sitting here, nursing a stress-migraine, I wanted to reflect on all the really cool things that have changed.

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First, I became a vegan. It’s been something like 6 years since I decided I wanted to be a vegetarian. It’s been a bit of a struggle to wrap my head around it all the time (especially when iron levels are low) but I went about it all wrong. I didn’t focus on complete nutrition, I just focused on not eating meat. And there were days when I *did* eat meat (typically chicken or fish) and yet I still kept going. Because instead of listening to the reasons I couldn’t be a vegetarian, I was the best vegetarian I knew how to be. And that wasn’t good enough. I can’t ignore the crappy way I feel when I eat meat-or to my very wild surprise-the stinky-like-feet smell of dairy. So I’m leaving it behind. It’s a process I started in March, and I’m very nearly at the fully integrated stage. My grocery list contains only plant and plant-based foods, but it’s been fully researched and there are plenty of nutritional changes going on in it as well. I’m looking at plant-based things like mozzarella (because I adore pizza) and vegan sour cream (because baked potatoes).

And in more dietary news, I’m leaving behind heavy carbs. I’ve spent a long part of my life associating heavy carbs with happiness. So soda is going (and soon to be gone) and so are things like pasta, bleached breads and the like. That’s not to say I will be abstaining from all grains-in fact, I will be eating oats, rice, and ethically sourced quinoa, as well as whole grain breads on occasion. But I’m removing them from my grocery list in a big way-so that I can find happiness outside of carbs. And that’s a change I’ve needed to make for ages. I got myself a blender with a to-go attachment, and I will be using it to make all manner of smoothies to stop the unnecessary sugar cravings from that soda.

Image result for self care clip art freeRegular exercise! This one is something I did a lot in high school, but then got to undergrad and lost my sense of self. This summer, in addition to the wild amounts of sun I will be getting (because Topeka apparently never gets rain), I will be devoting each morning to yoga, and most afternoons to swimming. I’ve been at the gym more this semester than I’ve ever been, and I’m rather excited to add some variety.

I’ll also be meditating every day. As a way to spiritually and mentally ground myself, I have been working towards finding a balance in how I feel and how I am (I know, that sounds a little weird). However, I’m really excited to add this in to my yoga time and really begin to heal from the inside out. To that end, I will also be investing in hobbies this summer. Painting, writing and reading are going to take up a lot of my afternoons, because I’ve neglected those parts of who I am.

In regards to my spiritual self-care, I will be really exploring the different avenues of beliefs, and digging in to the ones I already have. I’ve been pagan for nearly as long as I’ve been a vegetarian, but I want to see if there are things that align better than others. I’ll be sharpening my tarot skills, praying to the ancestors and doing a lot more in the way of sharpening my spiritual skill set.

I’ve re-designed my Etsy shop, and hope to have it up and running soon. I really want to invest in sharing my love of essential oils. While I’m perusing the internet waiting for orders, I’ll be soliciting agents for my NaNo book! This is something I am not new to, but I have been hard at work trying to make the best draft I can.

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All this to say, this summer is about fixing my mental-physical-spiritual health before I begin my social work classes in the fall. I’m considering revamping my YouTube channel to kind of showcase the changes and do some reviews of things I’ll be doing. We’ll see!

Anything you think I’m missing? Anything you’d like to see changed in your own life? Have you made changes and they’ve made your life the better? Let me know below!

Alrighty. One Hour Left.

So I was in a timed exam, and I got done a little early, with no option but to wait out the clock. So I decided I’d set free the little creative bug in me and just have some fun. This is the result of that little window of time, and I must say, it’s rather delightful.

Some background: I had a song stuck in my head at the time, and I was watching the clock. That much is probably evident, but if you’re looking for which song-it’s Goodnight Moon by Go Radio. I chose specifically to not use gender. I also just went a little whimsy with the spoken words-I made up the language as I went. It’s not copied from anything that I am consciously aware.

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“So goodnight moon, and goodnight you.”

There they sat, waiting for the final tick of the clock. The batteries had been wearing out slowly and the time had come. Each second took slightly longer than the one before and it was time to say goodbye.

But that was the problem with letting go, wasn’t it? Even something as juvenile and unemotional as a watch battery could find, that in its last moments, care was expressed on its behalf. And what then, could be said for the rest of…stop.

The tarnished plating on the watched seemed to fade. The watch face, once illustriously lilac (or so they had been told), now sat dusty and apparently unimportant, its hands frozen at 3:17. What a time to die.

It was all that remained of their family-this little piece of costume jewelry. Much like those it had belonged to, its importance was solely in the eye of the beholder. The engraving in the band suggested a fascination with darkness, and knowing of the original owner, it wasn’t an unreasonable assumption. However, they were just words to a song, long since forgotten. A relic, not unlike the time piece. What times must have been like then, with music and the importance of knowing your position in the light spectrum. They’d approached each experience as fleeting, but holding on to the sentimental value for far longer than reasonable. Thus the watch.

A brief stretch and up they rose, catching the smell of the pending storm. It was inevitable, as all things were. Drifting to the bank of the river, they looked once more at the cheap metal, hand carved engravings and faded colors. It was an accurate representation of the world they knew-lifeless, soulless and oppressed. But that was coming to an end.

They had no training in music, an art long since banned and forgotten, but a small rectangular object, lodged safely in a pocket was the key to the change oncoming. Remembering-just barely-how to operate it, they keyed up the appropriate symbols of a dying language and hesitated slightly. A dull rhythm behind them.

“Osha na heimawei?” Are you sure this is a good idea? An old friend emerged from the path. No threat, just curiosity-although both responses were illegal.

“Amsu.” Yes, they thought. “Ji esto na heikawa. Esko pa ti antewa.” The world killed itself long ago. I must revive it. “Ni ma toankeishelo.” My destiny must revive the life long lost. The friend extended a hand, which they grasped.

“Shei nakem.” Together then. They pressed the three-tipped button and dialed up a side meter.

“Shestako meinahopaneita. Weitcha hakeifato.” This is how apathy ends. This is how the humanity is exhumed.

“And when our hearts are heavy burdens, we shouldn’t have to bear alone.” They tossed the watch into the river and increased the volume until it reached a deafening level. Light began to emit from the depths of the water, where the metal left ripples.

It was as though the sun rose over the world for the first time in ages. Colors burst forth from each thing the light touched, and it was then that they finally understood the beauty of having open eyes. Instead of the grey and black scale, there existed sights that there were no longer words for.

Their family passed down stories of time before the darkness-when freedom and individuality weren’t oppressed for uniformity. A time when this light reached everywhere and everyone, when sounds were crisp and emotional. Although the language’s nuances were slightly lost on them, the meaning of the song that still filled the air swelled within, like some higher purpose.

Within a couple breaths, enforcement surrounded them and it was then that they understood: neither they nor their friend would see the finale to this new chapter.

“Katek. Meitanopatchema. Katenchezna.” Stand down. Await containment for final processing of crimes committed. Surrender or pass beyond. 

A fleeting look at their actions. It was enough to overwhelm them. Their friend squeezed their hand one last time.

“Techakana hielo.” I will follow you to the end. 

“You cannot take freedom from those who would see it shared to all. Our lives may be brief, but our meaning will never be lost. Welcome to morning. May the darkness be fleeting and oppression end.”

“3:21. What a time to die.” Their friend spoke.

“Fa. Meistopashei.” No. What a time to live.

And humanity was exhumed, bringing with it an understanding and a hunger for all things diverse and beautiful.

“Like a passage from goodnight moon.”

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Tale of the Cursed Hot Pants

So this story is purely for fun, but it’s true and it happens to me a pretty substantial amount, so I’m convinced what I’m saying is fact.

My parents live on a farm in the middle of nowhere, and everywhere around them is a bunch of farms. Population: some people, many livestock. So it’s not uncommon for farm clothes-including clothes which you would not wear out in a large public venue. Enter hot pants. They’re grassy green athletic shorts, so not quite hot pants. But let’s break this down. I’m a large person, wearing what can only be deemed to be booty shorts. They’re not super revealing, but I definitely wouldn’t wear them in public. And they are cursed.

Anyway, my dad always treated everyone with respect, and still does. I definitely am glad I had that as a foundation in my life. And that extended to solicitors at our house.

This is where the story gets interesting. So I had been working out at my parent’s house and was sweaty and gross. I was walking around the front of the house to go in and get some water when who should appear but the two Jehovah’s Witnesses that frequented our house.

Now, of course, I can’t just outrun them and pretend I didn’t see them. So I go inside, grab a towel and by that time, they’re at the door. So I open it and step outside. And they proceed to stand SUPER close and have an extended chat. Great. I try not to be rude, but a teenager in short shorts next to a married couple in Sunday clothes isn’t really what I had in mind. Plus, I stunk. So they show me videos and I wish them well, and then I lock the door and take a shower.

Speed up to this past week. The note on my door said the pest control guy was supposed to show that day, but it was going on 4 and I assumed he’d already come and gone. I’m unwinding from classes when all of a sudden, there’s a knock at my door. I think “Oh, the pest guy was running late.” And holler out “Just a minute!”. I take the dog and put him in the room, and throw on a hoodie. I swing the door open, and who should it be, but the Kansas Jehovah’s Witnesses. And take a guess about what the state of my legs was. That’s right. The same cursed shorts that I’d kept. Great.

And of course, I stepped outside and we all chatted like it wasn’t anything. Except for these two women in floor length skirts and me, in my green athletic shorts. Thankfully, they were much quicker about their message than the ones my dad befriended, but boy was I glad when they left.

So long story short, I need to salt and burn my shorts. Because I’m gonna develop a reputation.

I became an egg.

Ben and I got into a discussion earlier in the semester about how we’ve both changed. And a great chunk of it is for the better. But because we’re both in school, and surrounded by people that aren’t us, we’re picking up the mannerisms and behaviors of those other people. Me more than him. (I’m a people sponge.) And as we were talking, the story of the boiling water popped into mind.

The Campbell’s soup (condensed) edition of this story is that a child had an anger outburst and the parent, boiling water on a stove, asked them to retrieve an egg, a carrot and coffee. Pouring three cups of boiling water, each of the items was placed in a separate cup for a few minutes. When asked what the foods had to do with the anger, the parent replied that the egg, which had started off soft and fragile, when placed in hot water, became hard and rigid. The carrot, while firm and strong at first, became pliable and easily enough cut down. But the coffee, the coffee changed the water itself.

This is, of course, the metaphor for dealing with hard times. You either become tough and hardened, soft and depleted or you change the situation altogether.

Unfortunately, law school was my hot water and I became an egg.

Last semester was all about me surviving the frying pan without jumping into the fire. I threw up walls, didn’t let others in and became an all-around really oppressive force. I was so convinced that I needed to constantly prove my worth that I began to be, well, a bully. And I felt the change. I felt the words tumble out of my mouth the way bile does. I didn’t seem to be able to stop myself. I had wanted so badly to prove that I could handle everything that I was actually proving exactly the opposite.

Thus the talk.

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(Image from FreeImages.com)

Now, I don’t know if it’s possible to become coffee from an egg. But I’ve noticed the shift-just slightly-and I like it much more. I hold what I’ve deemed “Lunch Therapy” where other students come and we all sit and talk about what’s bothering us while we eat lunch. I ask people about their day, their life, I take an interest. Not because I’m trying to change the climate of the school, but because that’s who I am. Not the person who picks up on insecurities and jokes about them, but the person who cares too much. A couple people have really gotten into the idea, and I’m hoping that it will catch on, because it helps everyone focus on that self-care.

And I don’t know why I thought that was a bad thing. Empathy was my style since high school-when I used to stay up all night and talk people down from suicide. People would call and text me and I’d sneak around my house to find a private place and listen. I’ve always created a safe space for people to help themselves heal. Why was I so unwilling to carry that trend?

Because I had wounds that needed healing too.

And that, friends, is the thing about self-care. If you don’t keep up on it, if you put it to a back-burner for a while, you’ll be notified really plainly that you’re in trouble. And it’s so much more than drinking water and getting sleep and social activities. It’s the small, annoying things that make a huge difference. And for me, it was a void of validity. I needed something to make me feel worthy/respected/accepted/etc. And I thought that what I was doing was it, but I was wrong.

When I gave up facades for lent (for a religion I don’t practice, no less), this was the journey I agreed to. Restructuring my life so that instead of a rotten egg, I’d get back to being the earthy, grounded, free-spirit, passionate, hurricane of a me.

Things Change, and So Will You.

Speak your truths, even if your voice shakes. -Maggie Kuhn

If you ever find yourself a stranger to your own heart, I hope you find your way back and remember that things change, and you will also. -Zaim Ricochet

I’ve been bouncing between these quotes lately, and I think that there’s no better a time to do a mental purge than when your path is opening and closing doors simultaneously. It starts with a card.

I felt this great change coming, but I also felt kinda stuck, and knowing that I was going to psych myself out over what it was that I was missing, I pulled a card. And of course I pulled the Devil-which is actually way more helpful than I was expecting. I was standing in my own way. I was blocking my own opportunities. A classic Micha move. So I began opening up. Saying yes. Giving myself opportunities to explore. And I was allowed to see just how I was stopping myself from living.

I told myself that I was going to take this semester and live, not just get by. I would go out and see Topeka, make it my home. I would go use the gym, something that gave me great anxiety. I would do my best to be a human. And so in this first month, I went to a chocolate walk with friends, I worked out on machines I still don’t know the name of, I donated power red (instead of whole blood) and I am in the final stages of being vegetarian (next up-vegan!). I am giving myself room to grow. And that’s when doors started opening.

I heard back from my program: I’m now a JD/MSW candidate, and I start my MSW prep this weekend. I’m making exceptional strides at the gym (and even ran for the first time yesterday). I’m reinvesting in my spiritual health and even, finally, have moved beyond soda. At long last, I am treating my life the way it should have been treated all along.

Which brings us back to the quotes.

I let Kansas get to me. I allowed Kansas to claim my passion and my strength and I succumbed to the “blend in” mentality. And I digested it so much that I began to forget my truths. The very things that made me who I am. And I recognized that as my Devil. I should never have compromised.

I think that’s the real lesson of year one of law school. How much of you do you retain? How much of it are you willing to reclaim?

I’d finally gotten to the point where I was done with being pushed to the side because I wasn’t fitting in to the “standard” or “socially constructed as acceptable” point of view. I was done with being told that my ideas were stupid and impossible. I was done with being marginalized because I was the only representative of my truths at the table. And that is when I started closing doors.

Closing the door to being brushed aside. Closing the door on inequality. Closing the door on permitting close mindedness.

I didn’t come to law school to be a mouse. I came to save the world.

And I’ll be damned if that doesn’t start by saving myself.

Cranberry Juice

It’s been a while since my last post, in short because of my health. While usually that means the mental flavor, this time it was physical health. But because it ties in really nicely with a conversation I had recently, I thought I’d pop down some thoughts. This ties into a lot of what I’m about: education, mental health, self-care, and well, let’s just get to the point.

I tell this story more frequently these days, but perhaps it just feels that way because everyone who knew it is several states away. I was a freshman in high school. I was still in the process of being diagnosed (mental health) and the professional assisting me asked:

“What do you do when you think about suicide and self-harm?”

To which I replied,

“I go drink a Dr. Pepper.”

And the advice I received was:

“Then every time you feel depressed, why don’t you go get one and drink it? That will take your mind off of those thoughts long enough to change your mind.”

And that’s where my story begins. What I’m sure was supposed to be a distraction from the thoughts which pervade the angsty teenage years, quickly became a self-medicating venture. Each time I felt sad, down a can would go. That quickly became bottles, which soon became liters. If Dr. Pepper were alcoholic, I would have died of liver failure. But we’re not to that point yet.

Because I drank so much of that delicious goodness (and it’s still my very favorite drink today), I developed a tolerance for caffeine. I was growing more and more tired as the days wore on and soon discovered the mystifying effects of energy drinks. By the time I was a senior in high school, I’d become a connoisseur. I absolutely adored Venom Black Mamba’s, but even those didn’t have enough caffeine. I started undergrad in the fall of 2011 and that was about the time that I’d finally graduated to the Monster BFC’s.

Now, for those who never got into energy drinks, or just simply don’t know, the BFC (Big Fucking Can) contained 32oz or 4 full cans of Monster in one. And I would drink it in one go. This is about the time that organ failure came into play. I didn’t make it through my first semester of undergrad because my kidneys began to fail. I spent a great many days in the hospital because I couldn’t process water. Water. And I learned that I would need to do a great deal of care to rebuild what I had damaged.

My symptoms were fairly simple and were immediately confused with stress induced fainting spells mixed with a cold. But the fever, the fainting and the dehydration were incredibly strong indicators that I wasn’t just stressed. Even so, it took a long time before someone took me seriously. What had begun as a UTI became a bladder infection, became a kidney infection, became almost death. All from the things that were supposed to stop me from thinking about dying. Huh.

I’m not saying that I blame the healthcare professional who told me to drink a Dr. Pepper each time I was in a bad place mentally. What I’m saying is that for a teenager who wasn’t in a good place, vague instructions like that nearly killed me.

So zip to more recently. During my finals, I met the wrong end of a cross-contaminated batch of food and ended up taking a law school final with a fever so high, I was delirious. I drank water and gatorade until I felt like I was going to burst. But not once did I think about how what was going on would affect my kidneys.

This would end up being my mistake. And I’ve spent the past week and a half chugging water and cranberry juice, mixing essential oils and all kinds of medicines. And I remembered what it was like to be that teenager away at college and not understanding what was happening to them. This time, I knew the signs and knew how to fix it. I’m feeling better (finally) and I’m looking forward to the new semester.

You hear a lot about eating disorders being food. And obviously that makes sense. But I wonder how many other people out there are medicating not with chewables, but with soda and energy drinks and the things that simply don’t require a legal age-but are absolutely just as destructive as the things that do. Perhaps we need studies on this.

So folks, I’m not going to say not to drink these things. I’m going to say treat your energy drinks like alcohol: one can + one bottle of water. Your kidneys will thank you!