Tag Archives: family

Lessons Learned From Van Living

The long awaited “Vanlife” post is here! This Personal Post weekend highlights what I learned from living in a van for three weeks, and what my plans are for future travels.

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My husband first introduced me to van life through youtube videos. We watched a few but both settled on really enjoying Kombi Life. Episode after episode, blog post after blog post, and when we filled up on all we could there, we spent hours looking through the van life subreddit.

We decided this was the life for us. It screamed ADVENTURE and, damn, did we get one. Here’s what we learned about life by traveling from Tacoma, Washington, to Austin, Texas.

Sometimes, the GPS isn’t the best to follow.

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On the last leg of our trip, we accidentally took a wrong turn and wound up in New Mexico. We had a great time, and found beautiful campsites, all because we forgot to follow the GPS. It actually saved us time, and we had a blast.

Everyone was given a roadmap to adulthood when they were kids, either by parents or society. Mine read “Graduate high school, go to college, get married, have kids, work until you can’t anymore”. Most adults in my life followed that formula, or tried to, and they taught me that was the way to grow up. But sometimes that map doesn’t work out, and you wind up in a better place, one that you wouldn’t have found if you didn’t go off the path the GPS laid out for you.

Your belongings aren’t everything.

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With my husband being military, we don’t have a lot of stuff to begin with. Moving every one to four years makes it hard to want to pack everything up over and over again, so we’re not a very materialistic couple. Even with as little as we take with us each move, we still learned objects are just that, objects. While sentimental value is nice, it’s empty if that’s the only thing in your life. All we needed were each other, our dogs, a camper stove and a mini fridge and we got by just fine.

When you get a feeling you shouldn’t be somewhere, trust your gut.

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In a cavern in the middle of Colorado my husband got a bad feeling. When he said, hey, I think we should go, I agreed. We already decided it was important to always trust each others’ gut, so we packed up the van and got out a dodge (ha, the make of our van).  Shortly after we got out of the cavern, the sky opened up and parts of the campground flooded. I’m not sure if where we were at was safe or not, but I’m glad we got out of there.

It should go without saying, but this is how life should be in general. If you have a gut feeling, trust yourself. Chances are there’s a reason you feel that way.

Decide what’s more important the journey or the destination.

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Being in a small, enclosed box with someone, there’s sure to be some tiffs. The only one we got in was that we both didn’t know what we wanted out of the trip. Did we want to stop and sight see? Did we want to rush and spend more time with friends and family? Neither of us asked these questions and we wound up spending one night having to discuss this at length.

It’s important to know where you’re at in your life, and you have to ask yourself, what’s more important? Is it spending time in the now, or should you hurry to reach the goals in your life. You can always take your time when trying to reach those goals, but figuring out which one is more important before you jump into a big life changing event is always good.

If things get really hard, have someone with you who can make you laugh.

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Just like life, road trips get hard. Problems always are going to come up, and when things get extremely rough, it’s important to have someone you can laugh with. Even if you do butt heads from time to time, because arguing will always come up no matter how close you are with someone, the good times should outweigh the bad. Every time something went wrong on our trip, my husband and I were there to make the other one laugh. We listened to comedy tapes, my husband did funny voices, and I’d read him stuff online that cracked me up (which isn’t hard to do). It taught us that laughing’s important, and every trip needed to have some humor to get us by.

So what’s next?

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We sold our big van to someone else who wanted to give the van life a try, and they’re traveling around Washington state now. Next for us, though, is going to be a bus. We want to go on longer trips, which requires a little bit more room, so a small tour bus is right up our alley. Here’s hoping we find one soon!

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Me

I try to keep my private life just that. Private.

I’m pretty introverted and generally don’t like sharing about myself, but as I get more involved in social media, other authors, and a small yet fun fan base, I decided it’s time to open up. Here are ten things many people don’t know about me in hopes to get to know everyone better.

10. Most of my writing ideas are inspired from sadder parts of my life.

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Dramatic. I know. 

Whether it be the death of a family member, in the case of Flightless, or my rocky relationship with certain family members, most of my writing comes from experiences I don’t talk about very often. I like to work through these events through my writing, and hope that it’ll help people through their problems as well.

9. When I can’t come up with ideas, I draw
For a while, I tried my hand at being an artist. I considered doing a graphic novel for Flightless, and even had some of my work put up at a galleries in Detroit, Michigan, and small towns throughout Texas. When I started writing more often, I didn’t stop making art, and it’s still one of the main ways I get inspiration today.

8. I’ve never been to a concert
Even after living only thirty minutes away from Austin, and forty minutes away from Seattle and Washington D.C., I never made my way to a concert. I went to see authors speak, traveled miles to go to book signings, but when it came to seeing live music, I never had the time or money. Or interest, for that matter. As much as I love music, I never really wanted to go see my favorite bands live.

7. I originally went to school for acting

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When I was a kid, I used to watch my sister rehearse for plays and since I wanted to be just like her, I adopted her goals as my own. I liked telling a story, even if it wasn’t my own, and for a little while, it made me happy. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college did I realize I wasn’t as passionate as other actors out there. I hung up my costumes and switched my major to art. I never was able to finish college. Money got tight, and I’m only a few credits short of graduating.

6. I collect tarot cards
This isn’t something I advertise. When people think of tarot cards, they usually get negative connotations, especially if you grew up in a traditional Southern Christian family like me. I was given my first deck as a gift back in 2008, when someone found out I liked a particular artist, and my collection has grown to about 21 decks by today. Most of them were purchased as a way to support indie artists, and I get a lot of enjoyment out of seeing how much work get put into them.

5. I prefer to write male protagonists
I have no idea why I prefer to write male characters over female. I just do. My husband says I do a decent job, so I figure there’s no harm in it.

4. The only genre I haven’t tried to write is horror
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It’s not that I don’t like horror. It’s just never been a genre I’ve gotten attached to. While I like psychological thrillers such as the works of Tom Harris, or suspenseful sci fi horror, such as Alien or the short film Zygote, I’m not one for writing it. My love of horror has taught me the importance of narrowing your focus to build tension, however.

3. My husband contributes more than people might realize
Whenever I’m looking for inspiration, I just ask my husband what he would do. Most of the time, he provides insight on my plots that I would never have thought of. He’s a more grounded person when it comes to looking at problems, while I can get a little lost in the crowd. He helps remind me that sometimes less is more.

2. I learned how to create characters through role playing forums.
I don’t bring up my role playing past very often, but during my senior year of high school I was introduced to role playing and it improved my writing like crazy. While I admit it gave me a few bad habits I had to break, it also taught me the importance of well rounded characters, avoiding cliches, and how to create backstories to play into the main plot. It also taught me what not to do, which I think is all the more important when it comes to the learning process.

1. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the encouraging of one special person.

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Oh Alaska, you’re not crazy, but our love of Stranger Things makes me happy. 

While there’ve been many people in my life who’ve encouraged me, if it weren’t for my friend, “Alaska” as I’ve been calling her on my blog, I probably would’ve given up writing. After 2012/2013 knocked me down, I was half tempted to throw in the towel and not do anything creative again. She picked me up and dusted me off and reminded me that no matter what happens in my life, I can overcome anything. I owe her a huge debt of gratitude, and I hope to one day be able to repay her for being there for me when I needed her.

Getting Over the Fear of Judgement From Loved Ones

I love my family. I’m sure some of them will read this one day, so let me repeat myself. I love my family. That being said, growing up where most if not every person in said family is either Catholic, Church of Christ, or Baptist, I’ve always been afraid of them judging my writing.

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My fears weren’t entirely uncalled for. As a child/young teen, I drew a lot, and there were more than a few eyebrows thrown up by what I enjoyed sketching. Fairies, dragons and magic were off limits, practicing the nude human form was scolded, and if I drew in a style that wasn’t approved of, anime for example, I was told to not practice it. While family members saw it as them protecting me, it created a harbor of insecurity for what I was creating.

Needless to say, I never shared my writing with the adults of my family when I started writing. There were a few cousins I trusted with my work, and a best friend I consider a sister, but those were the only people I opened up to. When I told my cousins and “sister” I was going to start submitting to agents, they weren’t surprised at all. For the rest of the family, however, it came as a shock that I was writing in the first place.

When I told them, I’ll admit, I was worried. I write about people with wings that are mistaken as angels, magicians with power over life and death, and ghosts who fall in love with girls and refuse to pass on. I have plans for a novel that revolves around a demon who hunts spirits that escape Hell and another set in a dystopian future that revolves around human cloning.

You can see why I was worried they might judge my subject matter.

How did I get over my fear of judgement and just get to writing?

In part, I found a support group. My husband, “sister”, cousins, and a strict, yet fun, tough love writing group in Texas all gave me a shoulder to lean on but they weren’t the only things that helped.

When I sat back and began to think about what I wanted in life, I realized that writing is what makes me truly happy. I love entertaining people, I love the look on people’s faces when they enjoy my work, and I love creating worlds to let characters run wild in. I love all of it. If my family can’t understand that, and judge me, that’s fine. It’s worth it.

When you’re creating anything, from a sketch, to a play, to a novel, you have to ask yourself, is it worth it? Is it something you can’t live without, or are you going to let fear of people who should love you regardless of your interests and what you’re writing stop you from reaching your goals?

What are your insecurities, and how did you overcome them? What advice would you give to artists struggling with judgement from loved ones?

One last note, if you haven’t heard Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” speech and you’re struggling with fears of rejection, have a listen. I can’t stress how important it was for me to hear this on my road to overcoming fear of insecurities.

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