2020: Beauty in Imperfection

December 31: the one day where humankind as a whole reflect on the memories made and lessons learned during the year. I’m sure we can all say that 2020 was a doozy, thanks to COVID. But I do hope some good things happened to you along the way–whether those moments be small or big. For me, this year was a surprise blessing

Are there things that aggravate me at times about the restrictions we have? Sure. I miss seeing friends in person, and would love to stop panicking every time I forget a mask when I open the door. Most of all, I yearn for the day where we can wander freely in public again. Especially when the husband and I want to partake in our favorite tradition of dinner and a a trip to the movie theater. Or when Mom and I want to spontaneously go out to lunch, or take part in our annual trip to the Hallmark store. (And don’t even get me started on how much I miss Barnes and Noble!)

Yet, despite all the things I could complain about, I’ve found myself in almost a miracle situation. Because of COVID, my workplace closed in March, I was furloughed in May, and by autumn I was unable to return. It caused the husband, Mom, and I to talk. It caused us to conclude that, blessedly, I could stay home. I could write full-time. I could catch up on projects that have long endured the cobwebs of time. And… we could even start a family.

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So here I am, reflecting on 2020 and I can honestly say my heart is lighter. I have hope; I am exactly where I want to be. Sure, I miss my colleagues and the children I interacted with at the library. But I know I’ll see them again, as a patron who has her own little one running around the department. And I know all the restrictions we have are temporary. So, I’m going to make the most of my time, finish this manuscript, and get it into the hands of an agent, then a publisher. (And pray when it’s all out of my control!)

A lesson I’m going to take with me into 2021 is to try and let things develop as they will–to go with the flow. To not hold on tightly, trying to every little detail in my life and those around me. Especially with a little one on the way, I can’t be a perfectionist anymore. Things will not go as planned. I will be interrupted. The day will get away from me. And there will be days where writing just isn’t possible, for whatever reason that may be.

Along those lines, I want to share with you a quote–a mantra–that came out of my mind. It helps me remember that imperfection is okay:

“The beauty is in the imperfection.”

– Katie L. Mortimer.

So go out there with a lighter heart. Notice the imperfections of life; let them give you a smile, make you feel at peace. Take advantage of this time where the world stops. Make 2021 your own. And when COVID is over, breathe the free air and don’t take a second of your life for granted.

Blessings to you all. Happy New Year!

Remember to Look at the Stars

Do you ever have bouts of anxiety that never seem to stop? You resolve one worry–oh I’m so glad I remembered I get paid tomorrow!–only for another to body-slam itself into the forefront–but what about that basement toilet that needs fixing? 

I seem to be the queen of these kind of thoughts. Especially nowadays with the COVID-19 pandemic, the general unrest of social media, and the doom-and-gloom of the news. If left unchecked, it’s the perfect storm for uncertainty and stress; a nightmare where everything appears to be falling apart at the seams.  

Last night, that familiar territory began again: Will COVID ever end? Is the US in decline? Will social media ever calm down? What if my novel never gets published? What will our future look like for our kids? If we start trying for a family now, will it be safe?  

Then I looked up at the stars.

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Everything stopped. I could hear frogs groaning, birds chirping, feel the coolness of the night on my skin. And I stared at the stars. They blinked down upon me. I knew that none of my worries mattered in that moment; they were insignificant. 

The anxiety stopped. It went to sit in that corner and think about what it had done. 

Sometimes we get so bogged down by our fears that we forget to listen. We forget that other humans are our partners, brothers and sisters, in this walk of life. We ignore the wise words of whatever Being we believe guides us. Unintentional, but it happens. I’ve experienced it many times, firsthand. 

So here’s my advice to you, dear reader: remember to stop and look at the stars. Take a breath, wave to a friend. (When COVID dissipates–because it will–make it a hug.) Step away from social media when the world seems too heavy. Read a book, watch a favorite show, play a game. Pet your furry companion, if you have one. 

We are all climbing this mountain together.  None of us are alone. 

“I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever… A vision of the universe that tells us, undeniably, how tiny, and insignificant and how… rare, and precious we all are! A vision that tells us that we belong to something that is greater then ourselves, that we are not… that none of us are alone!”
– Jodie Foster, Contact. 

This Too Shall Pass

Here I sit, in my bed, typing away, on Quarantine Day 7.

Don’t worry. I don’t have COVID-19. At least I’m pretty sure I don’t.

For the past 24 hours, I’ve been having strange symptoms: a general unease mixed with a tightness square in the center of my chest that comes and goes. I saw a homeopathic doctor who told me I have bacterial bronchitis; not anything viral and probably brought on by the damp weather, mixed with allergies. Still, I’m doing to responsible thing and isolating myself from the husband and my mother, only allowing Boo a few head-scratches and Pippy to lay next to me. You know, just in case.

I’ve really been thinking about how much our mindframes have changed since that first case in Wuhan, China. How rapidly our world has become something akin to a disaster movie. Last week, in fact, I was being told that it would be my last day at the library “until further notice.” Looking around at my colleagues, I had become so emotional, realizing I didn’t know when I would see them next.

That’s what we’re all faced with: an uncertainty of how long this all will go on.

Today, I found hope. I rediscovered my strength. All thanks to a little book called Rediscovering The Saints by Matthew Kelly.

“We are capable of so much more than we think. You have no idea what you are capable of. None of us do. God is constantly trying to open our eyes to the amazing possibilities that he has enfolded in our being.” 

Whether you’re Catholic, nondenominational, pagan, or other, these are words to  remember in this stressful time.

Remember: you are strong. Believe that we’ll get through this. That, someday soon, all this craziness will be something in history books, a story we can tell future generations with an air of thankfulness that it’s finally over.

Trust in God, in the current of impermanence that flows in our universe.

This too shall pass.

Post-Midwest Writers

Honest to God, I loved this conference. Man, it’s been SO LONG since I was in a writer’s workshop. Literally, I haven’t gone to one since college. Three years ago. And I discovered that I was really out of practice with some writing techniques. So I re-learned some new and old pointers (for example: passive vs active sentences and avoiding “to be” words) and I got to socialize + network with some very talented people. Writers, agents, and otherwise.

Aaaand…. I pitched to an agent. Haaaahhhh… I was so nervous. But she was SO ATTENTIVE AND KIND. Annnd… yeah. I’m working really hard to finish my book. Because. Things happened.

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I also decided that I’m going to build an official website and send out a… bi-monthly newsletter. I believe. Still planning.

All of this will come to fruition after Nashville next weekend. *pinches nose*

If there are any writers out there looking for a warm, welcoming, helpful, affordable, and FUN conference… CHECK OUT MIDWEST WRITERS. I really suggest it. It’s… just amazing.
Click here for more information: Midwest Writers
Tomorrow I begin my loooooong four hour trek home.
I will catch you all back in Wooster!
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Ghost Hunting at OSR

Okay, gang. This has been a long time coming!! And I’m finally posting about it: my trip to the Ohio State Reformatory!

A week ago my friend and I made the 40 minute journey to The Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio (commonly referred to as “Mansfield Reformatory”). And… man… was it creepy. And awesome. And… jarring… and beautiful.

The night began when this picture was taken, at 5 PM, at the steps of Mansfield Reformatory. It was my third public ghost hunt with TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society a.k.a. “Ghost Hunters”), and I was ABSOLUTELY EXCITED for it!! For investigating with them and for the location!

I had been wanting to visit this place again for maaaaany years. I kid you not, it was more than a decade since I had been here. I went with my parents on the Shawshank tour during the day. Which it was a very nice tour to go on and I loved seeing the movie set pieces.

**Fair warning: here beginneth my ranting about TAPS and how I got interested in the paranormal (Thusly entitled “Background”)**

This was before I had gotten into the paranormal. It was around the time that I had first been immersed in “Scariest Places on Earth” (which, nowadays, is a show I’m very skeptical of). It was when I had started to realize that ghosts were not just fiction… but a reality. Back when I was afraid to sleep in the dark, and wouldn’t dare sleep with the covers any lower than my chin. When the sounds of a house settling stirred the deepest horrors of my imagination… when the sounds of mice making homes in my bedroom wall made me fear monsters were coming to get me… (I never had a real definition of what “get me” was, by the way, I just knew I didn’t want it.)

So fast forward to October 31, 2010. I was in my college apartment, at Otterbein University, just aimlessly browsing the internet, and listening to the TV in the background. I don’t exactly remember how, but I came across a TV show called Ghost Hunters Live. Now I was still interested in the paranormal, especially considering the experiences I have had since my Grandpa Nolletti died, and it was Halloween. So I thought “Why not? I’m not doing anything special tonight…”

And down the rabbit hole I went.

(PS – I miss the Live shows. PLEEEEASE BRING THEM BACK SYFY!!)

Now, in present day, my interest in the paranormal has grown… and my fear has diminished. In my four years of being a fan, TAPS has taught me how to “debunk”. That the creaking of my house was really the wood settling… that a strange noise in the forest outside was probably a fox… that the scratching in my wall was actually mice trying to make a home… and now, when I’m sweating in the summer night, I can fully kick off my covers and not worry about monsters coming to get me.

But, on the flip side, I wanted to experience the paranormal and learn more about it. Because, as I said, I have had experiences I cannot explain. And I want to know more about the afterlife. And I want to talk to other people about their experiences. It really is a fascinating conversation if you only just let yourself have an open mind!! Whether you believe or not.

Which is why I like Josh Gates so much, too, because he has self-proclaimed that he doesn’t believe in ghosts, because he hasn’t found concrete evidence of them. But what he’s really after is talking to people, and the story.

(“The only thing that matters–” AH!! Down, Mort Rainey, down.)

Okay, so thus endeth the “Background” section of this post. NOW we return to this place:

At 5 PM I take this shot as Allison and I are walking up to Mansfield Reformatory. It is a beautiful shot, and a beautiful place. Though I can understand the stories of how inmates felt dread when they were sentenced to serve time here… “Dracula’s Castle” indeed!

We walk in the building, present our tickets, and stand in line in a hallway leading up to the Bull Pen… and where the Meet & Greet and lectures/Q&As are going to take place. Me? I’m standing there trying not to focus on the fact that in less than 30 minutes I will have met Josh Gates and I’m actually kind of terrified of how well that will go over.

God bless Allison and a woman (I never got the name of) from distracting me. We talked about the paranormal, paranormal investigations, haunted locations (Zoar, Ohio and Hill View Manor specifically), Ghost Hunters, and Ghost Adventures while we stood in line. (Note: whenever you’re at a public ghost hunt, no matter your personal beliefs, you always talk about the paranormal in some way. It’s just another way to learn a person’s story. And I love it.)

Then… the moment hit me… the moment that I would meet Josh Gates, get to see him face to face, have him finally autograph my copy of his book, and I would get to say… something. But what? I didn’t know what to say. How do I convey to a man how much I appreciate his existence? And that it’s not meant to be creepy, but a compliment? How do I tell him that he’s just plain… awesome?
I said it in a Facebook post perfectly to a friend who didn’t know who he was:
“This is Josh Gates. He used to host Destination Truth on SyFy. Now he’s creating a new show called ‘Expedition Unknown’ on the Travel channel. He has self-described himself as a ‘professional vagabond, international monster hunter, and paranormal Hardy Boy.’ (Memoirs of a Monster Hunter, Foreword). I describe him as a kind of Indiana Jones figure too. He travels the world to investigate legends and myths, talking to natives about their experiences. He’s been to all 7 continents, 92 countries, and 49 states.
But what I really like about him (and yesterday at Mansfield proved it to me) is that he’s an awesome, kind, funny guy who has experienced a lot of the world and loves to share the passions of travel and adventure with others. He actively encourages people to explore outside their comfort zone. Oh. And he’s a movie geek too.”

Then, suddenly, I was at his table, next in line, and I pushed my fears out of me. He’s human, after all. Even if I didn’t magically become best friends with him in the next minute, I was going to do what I do best: be myself. Josh looked up, smiled, and we said hello to each other. Then I handed him my book to be signed.

The conversation proceeded to go as follows:

Me: “I love the book and show. Sad it’s not on but excited for the new one!”
Josh: “*as he’s signing* Aw, thanks!”
Me: *pause* It’s an honor to meet you.”
Josh: “Aw, that’s really sweet!”

Lesson learned: be yourself. What others think of you is their problem, not yours. But most of the time people will love you and accept you for who you are. I accomplished two milestones in that moment: I finally met Josh Gates, and I FINALLY have one of my most favorite books in my library autographed. Both make me EXTREMELY happy. Yes, as a fan, I kind of wish to be one of those special people that end up becoming friends with the celebrity they admire most in this world, but right now I’m just happy to have met the guy.

Some more photos that I (and Allison for the ones I’m standing in) took at the event:

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