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Tag Archives: Kimberly Erskine

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Image Credits: Dodskypict.com

Hey guys! I know I’ve been talking about my MA project/untitled memoir a lot lately, but today I want to talk about something completely different. For those of you who may not know, I took a genre writing course this semester. I’ll be honest and admit that I initially only took it for the credits. I was going to take an American Sign Language course as an independent study originally, but because the course was an undergraduate level course and I’m a graduate student I’d have to conduct some kind of research study around it which calls for IRB approval and a whole complicated string of events. Between teaching two classes, working full time, and taking two graduate courses, it was just way too much so I backed out. There were not any non-fiction writing courses being offered this semester, so that’s where writing genre fiction came into play.

It’s been quite an interesting experience. Not only do I have little to no experience in genre writing, but I also never read any kind of genre fiction. I love classic literature, young adult/literary fiction, and non-fiction. Throughout the semester I have had to read and write mystery, horror, and most recently, fantasy/sci-fi. Although I did not like writing a mystery and reading House of Leaves or Mama Day, I found my overall experience in genre writing to be pretty enjoyable. Professor Atwood is a sweetheart and one of the most fun and kind-hearted professors I have ever had. I really wish I could take her publishing course next semester! If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend taking any of her courses. It is guaranteed to be a good time with many cat videos and references. 😉

The last project I completed for this course was an extension/revision of my fantasy short story, now titled “Moore Magical Garden”. This story was inspired by the very few fantasy novels I don’t hate like Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells and Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Tiger Lily. 

I also drew some inspiration from my own personal life. Lenny the Leprechaun and all of his sarcasm was largely inspired by my dad who is the most sarcastic person I’ve ever met. He also gave me the idea to have Lenny show up to the well with a beer bottle and to make him drunk.

As a Christian, I don’t believe in magic. The bible warns in multiple places against following magic, witchcraft, and any kind of sorcery, which also had some influence on this story.

This story is not by any means perfect, but coming from someone who’s main writing focus is non-fiction, I was pretty proud of how this revision came out and I wanted to share it. Feel free to read below and leave a comment on what you think!

 

Moore Magical Garden

Magnolia was born in her family’s famous magical garden, known as the Moore Magical Garden. She was tall and tender with strong, light pink wings and a full head of silky blonde hair. According to her parents, she was born right under a bed of freshly blossomed magnolia buds. “She’ll be beautiful and strong, just like the flowers are,” he father said. Her parents both agreed that there was no better name for her than that of the flower, so they decided to call her Magnolia, or Maggie for short.

As a child, Maggie loved growing up in the Moore Magical Garden. Her family was extremely wealthy as they made a living off of their magical flowers. No one knew for sure how the magic worked, but Maggie’s mother, Gloria, would use unique blends of all different kinds of flowers and plants within the garden to cure all of the villagers of their ailments or to bring them whatever their hearts desired whether it be love, wisdom, strength, confidence, healing, happiness, or even just some good old sex. The Moore Magical Garden operated under one motto, “Flower power in one hour.” Meaning they could choose the right flower for any condition and after baking it in just 1 hour or less, have the perfect recipe for whatever you needed.

The Moore Magical Garden was located in the far end of the village away from the ocean where the mermaids resided and the woods where Sasquatch was rumored to roam. Sometimes they received visits from other tribes who liked to roam the forest like the dwarfs, elves, and goblins. Maggie loved it when the unicorns visited. She’d often spend time brushing their long, rainbow manes and riding them through the rows of flowers, being careful as to not crush any of the budding plants. She was often frightened by the goblins, and horrified by how hideously ugly the elves were with their long, pointy ears, big noses, and short statues. However, her parents told her that all of those tribes were harmless and worthy of her honor, respect, and attention. It was the foreigners she had to fear, they warned.

The gnomes, her parents said, were the most trustworthy of all of the tribes, other than the fairies of course. They weren’t always the prettiest creatures in the world, or even the strongest, but her parents said they were the most loyal. “Find yourself a good gnome and you’ve got a friend for life,” her father would say. They were generally always agreeable and extremely hard workers, especially when placed in their natural habitat – the garden.

Maggie’s parents decided to hire a gnome to help them to tend the garden. His name was Gunter and he was 34 years old, meaning he was only a few years away from ripening to the age of 40, which everyone knows means “time to settle down” in gnome world. He worked hard and vowed to always protect the Moore Magical Garden and to ensure that the secrets of the magic always remained secrets. For these reasons Mr. and Mrs. Moore promised Gunter that on his 40th birthday they would reward him with their prized possession – their daughter Maggie’s hand in marriage. This would ensure that the garden always remained within the family, that their daughter was well taken care of, and that the garden remained in pristine condition with the magic not only intact, but a mystery throughout all of the village for many years to come. Mr. and Mrs. Moore and Gunter the garden gnome kept this their secret for many years to come.

As a child, Maggie came to grow to appreciate the freedom she had to roam around the magical garden and smell the sweet aroma of all of the budding flowers and plants. Her mother, Gloria, named after the famous morning glories, would often take her through each of the aisles of the garden to teach her about the different magical powers each flower or plant brought.

“Roses.” Gloria said, “Just a sprinkle of petals and you’ll be well on your way to a beautiful new beginning.”

“What kind of new beginning?” Maggie asked.

“It depends on the color,” Gloria explained as she pointed to each of the varieties. “Red will bring you love. Pink will help you to feel more appreciated. White is for marriage – not to be confused with love. Orange will bring you passion, which you’ll need after marriage. Yellow will give you new friends, for those not quite ready for marriage. In your case, stick to the yellow ones for now, please,” she smiled.

Maggie looked up a Gloria and smiled. “Yellow it is then,” she said.

“Give me your hand, Maggie. I want to show you something else.”

Maggie held out her hand and Gloria pricked it with the thorn of a rose.

“Ouch! What did you do that for?” Maggie said as she clenched her finger in an attempt to stop the bleeding.

“You’ll see. Follow me.”

Maggie followed Gloria back to a row of aloe plants. Even though she’s walked by them dozens of times she never quite understood what they were for. They looked strange and kind of ugly after seeing the beauty in the roses.

“Put your hand out again,” Gloria said as she broke off a piece of the aloe plant.

Maggie put her hand with her bloody finger out in front of her. Gloria took it and squeezed the aloe plant over top of it until a gel-like substance poured over it. She rubbed it into the wound until it stopped bleeding.

“Aloe. For when you get a little too close to the roses. Roses while beautiful, still have their thorns and dangers about them. Much like the love and relationships many of them promise,” she explained. Maggie nodded. She understood now that aloe brought healing, but she wasn’t sure if she understood anything about the love part. At only 11 years old, love was still a mystery to her.

As Maggie grew older, she became more and more beautiful over time. By the time she was 16  and only 1 year away from her secret marriage to Gunter, her platinum blonde locks began to darken and change to a reddish tone and her wings grew larger and an even deeper shade of pink. Sometimes, Mr. and Mrs. Moore could swear they saw a twinkle in her eye, too. She was becoming even more beautiful than all of the roses within the garden, and when the other tribes from the village came to pick up their magical baked goods, they took noticed.

“My, oh my, that Maggie girl of yours sure is a beauty,” a lonely dwarf commented one day. “I only ordered a special helping of your slumber loaf bread to help me to fall asleep at night, but now I’m wishing I would’ve ordered a slice of lustful loving pie. Maybe I’d get lucky and end up falling asleep with her tonight,” he said. Dwarves were never very good with social skills, it’s why they had so much trouble making friends.

“Take a bottle of water lily juice on your way out.” Gloria said, “It’s on the house.”

“Sweet! Thanks, ma’am!” the lonely dwarf replied.

“Water lily juice?” Mr. Moore asked.

“Yes, to cool his passions and purify his heart to ensure he keeps it in his pants and away from our daughter,” she said.

“I can fix this problem tonight,” Mr. Moore said. He knew that as Maggie grew older and more beautiful, she’d have more than just lonely dwarves to worry about, especially if Mr. and Mrs. Moore were to keep their promise of marriage of their daughter to Gunter.

That night Mr. Moore went deep into his garden making sure to pick up as many garden stones as he could along the way. He carried them all into the garden shed located at the end of the garden and pulled out some supplies from the shed like his trusty hammer, a bucket of concrete, a trowel for smoothing over the concrete, and some wood. From there he set to work.

Mr. Moore spent hours in the garden shed. When his wife, Gloria tried to call him for dinner he responded in a muffled voice, “Can’t. Sorry. Busy,” and continued working straight through supper. An empty stomach was no big deal to him, he knew how important his work was. Finally after hours of tedious labor, his work was finally complete: it was a well made out of garden stones and concrete with a little wooden roof over top and a bucket hanging over it. The well was ten feet deep and only three feet wide. Mr. Moore stood back and admired his work. “Ah, she’s a beauty. A beautiful well to protect my beautiful daughter,” he said before calling Maggie out to further admire his work.

“What do you think?” he asked her.

“It’s beautiful, but I don’t understand what we need a well for. The pond is only a few minutes away,” she said. She had grown accustomed to fetching water from the pond outside of the garden. She loved visiting the pond because her beloved unicorns were known to frolic there at all hours of the day.

Mr. Moore let out a sigh. “This well isn’t for water…” he began.

“Really? Then what is it for?” she asked.

Mr. Moore hesitated before explaining, “Maggie, this is your new home. You must live deep inside this well and you must not come out for any reason within the next year.”

“What? A WHOLE YEAR? INSIDE THIS DEEP WELL? WHY? WON’T I DROWN?” She asked. The idea of being trapped in such a tiny space unable to view the beauty of the garden or mingle with the other tribes horrified her.

“No. There well will be completely hallowed with no water inside. You’re getting older now, Mags, and you are too beautiful. The dwarves tried to pick you up the other day,” he said.

“Well…was he a nice dwarf?” she asked, hopefully.

“Mags, you know what the dwarves are like…” he said.

Maggie sighed. “Okay, but what happens after a year?” she asked, afraid of what the answer must be.

“After one year you will be married to Gunter the garden gnome. Then you will be free to roam the garden again, unless he tells you not to. You will belong to him and you must obey everything he tells you to do.”

“But I don’t love him!” Maggie contested.

“Tough luck, sweet heart. He will be good for you and better yet for our garden. Now, climb in this well. For the next year, you can think about all of the ways in which you may grow to love Gunter. We’ll send you your food and water through the bucket twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.

Maggie sighed. She knew it was no use arguing it, her parents had the final word. Always. After all, they were the owners of the Moore Magic Garden. Without the garden, Maggie might as well be a fly, rather than the radiant, beautiful fairy she’s blossomed into over the years.

Mr. and Mrs. Moore’s plans to protect Maggie from other tribes and potential suitors through the village sounded great in theory. The well was far too deep for most of the village tribes to even consider climbing down, and no one would ever guess that Maggie would be hiding down below the bottom of the well. Since the fairies were the only tribes with wings, they didn’t have to worry much about anyone flying down in the well, either. Even the fairies weren’t a threat; everyone knew that all fairies, except for Maggie who was known for her unconventional ways and overall fearlessness, were afraid of the dark and what could possibly be darker than the inside of a deep and narrow well? However, there was one tribe they failed to consider; a foreign tribe residing outside of their village but beginning to make their pilgrimage throughout Germany in hopes of finding buried treasure, or gold, more specifically: the leprechauns.

Maggie was sitting deep against the side of the well braiding her hair to past the time as she waited for her mother and father to send down her daily food rations in the well’s bucket when she heard a loud noise.

THUMP!

Maggie moved towards the front of the well and looked up at the opening. Could this be her daily food rations? Maybe her mother was sending down her famous rose petal jam spread across a French baguette or Maggie’s favorite lilac blossom almond scones. She imagined they must’ve fallen out of the bucket causing the loud noise.

However, when Maggie looked up she didn’t see any of her mother’s magical food creations. Instead, she saw an ugly leprechaun. He stood approximately 3 feet tall; very short compared to Maggie’s height of 5’7”. His skin was dry and wrinkly and had a pale green tint to it. Maggie couldn’t get a good glimpse of what his hair looked like since it was hidden underneath of an over-sized top hat with a four leaf clover in the middle, but she did notice he had strands of bright red hair poking from the sides that matched his red neatly trimmed beard. He was wearing a tiny green tuxedo with pants that were a little too short and that revealed knee-high green and white socks. He carried a bottle of Guinness in his hand.

“Greetings from Ireland! My name is Lennnnnn……” he began to say before Maggie started screaming.

“WHAT ON THE EARTH ARE YOU??????” She screamed.

“That’s no way to greet a foreigner,” he said.

“Sorry.” Maggie said, “But really, who ARE you?”

“It is I, Lenny the Leprechaun,” the leprechaun replied.

“What are you doing here?” Maggie asked.

“What do you think kid? I’m a leprechaun…” he said.

“I don’t know…don’t you have a rainbow with a pot of gold to look for?” Maggie replied.

“Have you seen any rain lately?” he asked.

“Come to think of it, no I can’t remember the last time it rained,” she said.

“Bingo. But that don’t mean that a leprechaun can’t still search for gold,” he said.

“Oh okay. Sorry but there isn’t any in the well.” Maggie replied, “There isn’t much of anything down here,” she said sadly.

“Maybe not, but I bet I could make a few bucks off this here garden of yours,” he said. “I heard it was worth a fortune,” he said.

“You want to sell my family’s garden?” Maggie asked.

“No. No. Not at all. I mean profit off of it. Aren’t the flowers magical or something?” Lenny asked.

“I can’t tell you that,” Maggie replied.

“Hmmm. Okay. How about this…you tell me which flowers are magical and I’ll grant you three wishes,” he said.

“You got yourself a deal…if I can get the wishes first,” she said.

“No, then I’ll give you the wishes and still won’t know a damn thing about these magical flowers.” Lenny said, “How about a compromise? For every wish I give you you’ll show me a magical flower,” he suggested.

“You got yourself a deal!” Maggie exclaimed.

“Okay pretty lady, what’s your first wish?” Lenny asked.

“I wish I could get out of this well!” Maggie said without hesitation.

“Works for me. I imagine you’ll need to be out of this well to show me the magical flowers.” Lenny said, “Now close your eyes.”

Maggie closed her eyes while Lenny threw a handful of green glitter over her face and chanted, “Glitter green, nice and mean, come heaven or hell, allow Maggie to escape from this well.”

When Maggie opened her eyes, she was outside of the well and free to roam around the garden.

“Okay, now you owe me a magical flower,” Lenny said.

Maggie took her time walking around the garden. She knew that Lenny and the other outsiders didn’t know this, but the truth was EVERY flower and growing thing in the garden was magical. The question for her now was, which forms of magic did she want Lenny to know about?

Maggie stopped in front of a long row of tall, fully blossomed sunflowers. Perfect, she thought.

“We’re here,” Maggie said.

“The sunflowers are magical?” Lenny asked.

“Yes,” Maggie said.

“How so?” he asked.

Maggie bent down one of the tall stems and ripped off a fully blossomed sunflower. She pulled off each of the golden yellow petals and crumbled them in her hands. After all of petals were crumbled together she rubbed them on Lenny’s cheek.

“Hey! What in the hell are you doing?” Lenny screamed as he backed away and swatted Maggie’s hand away.

“Showing you your first magical flower,” Maggie replied.

“How is rubbing crushed sunflowers on my face magic?” Lenny asked.

“Sunflowers contain a special oil that when applied to the skin can act as a moisturizer, reduce wrinkles, and also serve as an anti-aging formula,” Maggie stated matter-of-factly. Her skin was perfectly flawless and had a natural glow to it that made it look like the sun was constantly shinning down on her and kissing her face. It was obvious that she had used the magical sunflowers on her own skin.

“Are you trying to say that I’m ugly?” Lenny asked.

“No, no, no. Not at all!” Maggie lied, “I’m just uhhh suggesting it because it will help to highlight your uhhh wonderful cheekbones.”

“I always did have some pretty bitchin’ cheek bones,” Lenny said as he took another swig of his Guinness. Maggie thought about correcting his language; she never liked cursing, but she decided it would be best to just let it go. After all, Lenny had been drinking ever since he arrived. She wondered if he might be drunk and if so, what type of drunk he would turn out to be. So far, he didn’t seem like an angry drunk. Sarcastic? Yes, but she could handle sarcasm. Violence is what scared her.

“Time for my next wish?” Maggie asked.

“Sure,” Lenny said.

“I wish for you to get rid of Gunter,” Maggie said.

“Who the heck is Gunter?” Lenny asked.

“A garden gnome who works for us. My family hired him many years ago,” Maggie explained.

“What did he ever do to you?” Lenny asked.

“See, that’s just it: nothing. My family arranged for us to be married though.” She said.

“You don’t sound too happy about that,” he said.

“I don’t want to marry someone I don’t love,” she said.

“Then why don’t you just tell your parents ‘no’?” Lenny asked.

“It’s not that simple. They want me to marry Gunter to ensure that the garden stays safe and that all of our secrets with the magic stay secret,” she explained.

Lenny let out a laugh. “Don’t you realize you’re already broken all of those golden rules?” he asked.

“What do you mean?” Maggie asked.

“Hellllooooo. Beauty sunflowers? You already let me in on one secret and you owe me two more,” Lenny said.

“Oh. Yeah. Right…” Maggie said unapologetically.

“Yeah so, I mean if you’re trying to respect your parents wishes, there’s no use you already messed that one up,” Lenny said.

“But can you make Gunter go away, anyway?” Maggie asked.

“Sure. I’ll see what I can do, close your eyes.”

Maggie closed her eyes and this time Lenny grabbed for the black glitter and threw it over her face while reciting, “Gunter works day and night, but now it’s time for him to take flight. I wish I may, I wish I might, give Maggie the strength she needs to fight.”

“Now what?” Maggie asked as she opened her eyes, “Is he gone?”

“Not yet, but he will be,” Lenny admitted. “I need a favor from you first.”

“Hey no fair! You still owe me a wish!” Maggie said.

“I need your help for this one. Are there any flowers in your garden that aren’t used for good? Anything that you give people that maybe you don’t particularly like or aren’t particularly happy with?”

“I think mama gave a dwarf some lilies the other day to purify his heart. She thought he was trying to pick me up or something,” Maggie said.

“Okay, I need you to do better than that,” Lenny said. Are any of the flowers dare I say…toxic?” he asked.

Maggie thought long and hard. It was as if she was manually searching each and every flower encyclopedia stored away in her mind, looking for the perfect flower. Finally, she said “follow me” before taking Lenny to the far left of the garden where there was a field of pale purple bell-shaped flowers surrounded by green leaves and black, perfectly rounded berries. The flowers were locked away behind a gated fence, away from all other plants.

“Black berries? This is your poison?” Lenny criticized.

“No. Belladonnas.” Maggie explained, “One of the deadliest plants in the entire world. That’s why we keep them locked away from everything else.”

“Okay. I can work with this. Let me think,” Lenny said. “How about we pick some of these berries and tell Gunter here we’ve got him some nice blackberries for lunch?”

Maggie shook her head. “Nope, won’t work. He’ll know as soon as he sees it it’s not a blackberry.”

“Okay. How about we crush it and make some tea then? Don’t you have some chamomile around here we can mix it with?” Lenny asked.

“Excellent idea!” Maggie said, “I’ll pull the chamomile plants and I can make up the tea mixture. Dad keeps hot water in the shed for when he’s working late at night and wants coffee or tea, so I can just borrow some. He won’t even notice it’s gone.”

“Sounds good, but how about you hand me the supplies to make the tea and then you can go off and find Gunter. I don’t want to scare the guy.”

“Sounds good” Maggie said as she picked off the flowers and berries and handed them to Lenny.

Lenny entered into the garden shed and found the water right away and began the process of making the tea mixture. He rubbed the chamomile plant in his hand until the petals began to crumble. Next, he crushed up the berries as much as he could until they were nearly liquified. He mixed it all together and poured the hot water over it into a teacup he found sitting on a table in the corner of the shed.

“That shall do,” Lenny said as he admired his work. He left the shed and found Maggie standing with Gunter just a few rows back. He walked over towards them.

“Lenny! Meet Gunter. Gunter is our family’s garden gnome that was hired to help out with our garden. Gunter, meet Lenny.”

“Hi, nice to meet you. Which tribe are you from?” Gunter asked.

“Uhm. I’m a uhhh…Elf,” Lenny lied. He knew if he said he was a leprechaun he would risk being thrown out of the garden. Gnomes and leprechauns have always been mortal enemies, especially when it came between the Irish leprechauns like Lenny and German gnomes like Gunter.

“Oh cool. Where are you from?” Gunter asked.

“Where all of the elves are from, the North Pole, silly!” Lenny said.

“Actually we have some elves that are local to our forest here in Germany, but they sure look a lot different from you,” Gunter said. The North Pole sounds pretty far from Germany. What brings you here?” Gunter asked.

“I uh invited him over for tea,” Maggie said.

“Young lady you shouldn’t be inviting anyone over without your parents’ permission. And hey, what are you doing outside of your well?” Gunter asked.

Maggie rolled her eyes and began to answer before Lenny interrupted her. “Enough of the chit-chat. Do you want some of my famous Christmas tea fresh from the North Pole or not?” Lenny asked.

“Imported Christmas tea? Count me in!” Gunter said as he took a big gulp.

Within seconds, Gunter dropped dead to the ground.

“GUNTER? ARE YOU OKAY?” Maggie screamed.

“What do you think? He just drank belladonna tea,” Lenny said.

“You killed him!” she said.

“Well, yeah. You said you wanted him gone,” Lenny said.

“Yeah GONE. Not dead!”

“Sweetheart, we all have to die someday. Pick your poison. Would you rather die alone in a tower, with Gunter, a man you don’t love, or another method of your own choosing?

“Another method of my own choosing,” Maggie answered with hesitation.

“Okay, glad we got that taken care of. Now honey, can I grant you another wish?” Lenny asked.

“Can we get rid of this body first? It stinks and I don’t think my parents would be happy to find it like this,” Maggie said.

“Is that your wish?” he asked.

“Yes,” Maggie replied.

“Sure thing.” Lenny said. “You know the drill.”

Maggie closed her eyes as Lenny poured black glitter over her before chanting, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Get rid of Gunter’s smelly dead body is a MUST!”

Maggie began to open her eyes before Lenny screamed out, “Keep them closed! Wish in progress!”

“Okay I will!” Maggie said, “But is something burning?”

Lenny was rubbing two sticks together that he pulled off from the nearby apple tree. It was beginning to spark and form a fire. Just as the flames began to rise and inch closer to his hands he threw the burning sticks over to where Gunter’s dead body laid.

“Okay you can open them now. And yes, it’s burning baby. Burn, baby, burn.”

“You lite Gunter on fire???” Maggie exclaimed.

“Sweetheart, he’s already dead. You wanted me to get rid of the body. I figured cremation was the easiest method.”

“You are cruel and unbelievable!” Maggie said.

“You say that, and yet here I am making all of your wishes come true,” Lenny smirked.

“Why do you have to be so evil? Can’t you just use some of your leprechaun magic instead? Kind of like how my family and I use our fairy magic?” Maggie asked.

“Sweetheart, I hate to break it to you like this, but someone’s got to tell you someday. Magic ain’t real,” Lenny explained.

“What do you mean magic isn’t real?” Maggie asked. “My parents having been using it in their recipes and making a fortune off of it for ages. And what about you? You got me out of this well and you got rid of Gunter and you still owe me one more wish,” she said.

“Honey, your parents are better con artists than even I am, and I never thought that could even be possible,” Lenny admitted. “They use ingredients in their recipes that have healing benefits or are good for you in some way, shape, or form. But that ain’t magic. It’s all in everyone’s head. For example, if I want to fall in love I’m going to buy one of those love pies or whatever it is your mother makes and then I’m going go out and claim to be in love because it’s what I think will happen, what I want to happen. But I don’t need no damn pie to make me fall in love. I just need to have that idea planted in my head. And I didn’t get you out of the well, you flew out. You were just so focused on the magic you didn’t even realize it was you all along. And I poisoned and killed Gunter. What’s so magical about poison, Maggie? Poison is poison as murder is murder. I’m not too proud to admit now that I’m a murderer.”

“So, if none of this magic is real, then my entire life, this entire Moore Magical garden -it’s all a lie?” she asked.

“Yes,” Lenny said.

“What happens now?” Maggie asked.

“You’re free. When’s the last time you were free?” Lenny asked.

Maggie thought long and hard. “I have never been free,” she replied.

“The gate is open. Write your own story,” he said.

“What about you?” Maggie asked.

“I can take care of myself,” Lenny said.

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Image Credits: YouTube

I shouldn’t be writing this post right now.

I have lessons to plan, papers to write, and pages to read.

It’s 10 of midnight and I’ve been running like a machine since about 6 in the morning.

I should be asleep.

Yet, despite not sleeping well throughout the week, I’m pretty awake right now.

But it’s not as good as it may sound, there’s a reason for my sudden state of alertness. There’s a reason why I seem to have gotten good at running on no sleep.

It’s not good. I’m not handling things well. I’m not well at all.

I’m still recovering from a legitimate caffeine over dose.

I think this is something no one takes too seriously.We all joke so openly about being addicted to caffeine and having too much or not enough of it. We need it to keep us going so we can continue to do the things we do in life, even if it means working like a machine, which is precisely what i was doing. I had assignment upon assignment, task after task, work after work, and only 24 hours a day. Failure has never been an option for me.

When faced with many tasks and difficult obstacles along your path, I have learned the best strategy is to prioritize. No one would disagree with that.

However, some of us are better at prioritizing than others. This has definitely never been my strength, and this is something I learned the hard way on Wednesday morning.

I saw all of my work in front of me as being my priorities in life. I couldn’t miss an appointment. I couldn’t miss an appointment. There was no way I was about to turn anything in late. Lateness was unexcusable. There was no way I was going anywhere without being fully prepared. By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail and failure is never an option.

Everything seemed important on my ever-growing To-Do list. Were some things optional? What about sleep? No one ever made a serious advancement in life by sleeping (or as far as I know, anyway. If they did, please send them my way – I must know their secrets…). So I decided it wasn’t important…it was optional.

1 day with little  to no sleep is bad enough. 3 in a row – that’s unhealthy, unsafe, and just stupid.

What makes it all worst? A combination of no sleep and multiple energy drinks..which is precisely what I was doing the day of Wednesday, September 14th.

The night before, I had bought 3 cans of a new energy drink called Wired X344. I wasn’t sure about it at first, but a lot of them were sold out and they were on sale for 88 cents so I figured it was worth the try.

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Image Credits: The Daily Eight

I always bragged about being immune to caffeine. When I was younger, I used to get terrible migraines that later led to me getting a spinal tap. However, I still got them on occasion. Caffeine and ibuprofen was always the cure. But on Wednesday, the caffeine was too much for even me to handle.

The label on the can said it had 172 miligrams if caffeine. It was high, but didn’t seem too ridiculous compared to Red Bull, Monster, or Amp, so I didn’t pay much mind to that.

On Wednesday morning I was SO TIRED.I really haven’t slept at all. My day started at 5:30 AM and between teaching, work, and school it wouldn’t be over until 10 at the earliest.

I was behind on all of my work.It wasnt because I procrastinated or anything like that. I’ve been working around the clock for weeks. But there’s not enough hours in a day. There would be no time for naps on this day. No time for breaks.

I needed caffeine more than ever. I started my day off with my usual 16 oz black coffee. Google tells me that’s probably about 182 milligrams of caffeine.

It had no effect on me. I immediately followed up with the Wired X344 drink.

I knew as soon as I opened it it would be different from any energy drink I ever had before. It had the same color as Red Bull…a weird orangey yellow. But the similarities ended there.

When I tried to pour it in my cup it bubbled up and exploded on the counter. I actually only wasted about 2 milligrams though. The rest I somehow managed to drink. It was probably the most disgusting drink I’ve ever had.

The drink was fast acting, but still didn’t make up for the fact that I haven’t slept. I had a class to teach. My students needed me to be on their A Game. So I brought another can with me and drank it at the start of class.

At this point I thought I was up to about 500 milligrams of caffeine. Sure, not a healthy or safe amount, but for me it’s not that bad. I have been in the habit of drinking 3 energy drinks at once which was about 480 milligrams of caffeine, so it was just a little higher.

The energy drinks helped me to hold the best class ever. It couldn’t have been better.

However, after class I didn’t feel right. I blamed it on my tiredness at first. But by the time I got home I felt sick to my stomach. My stomach burned. It felt like my insides were being ripped apart or scraped with a razor and than life on fire. It was a sickness like I never felt before.

At times it felt like the drinks were bubbling up inside of me the way they did when I tried to pour them. It felt like they were exploding in my stomach. I came close to throwing them up several times.

I thought it was just a bad reaction. The thought it was just how tired I was. I didn’t necessarily think it was the caffeine.

Working was hard, because I literally felt like death. I was glad to be working from home. I could get up and move or work while laying down. But those 8 hours were still a challenge.

Eating made it better.Thank god. I was beginning to fear I wouldn’t make it to my grad class. Oddly, by the time class rolled around I was feeling strangely awake and alert. I felt more awake than I ever have in all my life.

I expected it to wear off since class was an hour and 45 minutes long, so I brought an energy drink with me just in case.

I never needed it. I easily made it through class. I hardly even felt tired anymore.

Something was wrong.

When I got home I checked the label on the can of Wired X344 and compares it to Amp. 172 for Wired, 142 for Amp. But it still didn’t seem right.

I kept reading the label on Wired X344. Finally it made sense. There was 2 servings. It really wasn’t 172 milligrams of caffeine; it was 344 and I had two…plus 4-6 cups of coffee.

At this point there was at least 1,056 milligrams of caffeine in my body.

A safe amount of caffeine is considered to be no more than 300 milligrams. This was 3 or 4 times that limit.

I told my parents whom I live with about what happened. I told them about my mistake. Fortunately, I showed no signs of having a heart attack or anything like that.

I tried to just sleep it off, but sleep was hard. I tossed and turned throughout the night. My parents checked on me to make sure I was breathing. It was scary.

I was better in the morning, but still under the effects of caffeine. I couldn’t completely give it up or my body would go through withdrawal and I’d get sick, but I did cut back a lot and stopped with the energy drinks.

For the past 3 days the caffeine has slowly been diffusing. My sleep schedule is still a mess and I’ve been overly paranoid and anxious, but I’m slowly getting back to my old self.

I share this story because caffeine overdoses are something people joke about, but it really can happen to you very easily. Labels are often misleading and can cause you to drink much more caffeine than you think you’re drinking.

Next time you grab an energy drink, read the label and read it twice. Also remember, it’s better to miss a deadline than to lose your life.


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Image Credits: Pretty-Random-Things.com

Hey guys! Since I finished the 30-Day Writing Challenge yesterday I thought it would be a good idea to write this follow up post detailing 5 key things I learned from doing the challenge. This was my first writing challenge (unless you count NaNoWriMo) and I learned A LOT. Overall, it was a positive experience, with a few drawbacks mixed in. Here are 5 things I learned.

1. Writing takes time. This seems like a give in, but I really learned just how much time writing takes after doing the 30 day writing challenge. If I got done a post in a half hour or less it was extremely rare. Most posts took me over an hour to write…some took more than a couple hours to write. When I got to day 2 which was to “Write about your first love or your first kiss, if separate, do both” I ended up writing 2 separate posts on 2 different days. Each of those posts took me a couple of hours to write, especially the one about my first love where I detailed my dysfunctional, unhealthy long-distance relationship.

2. It’s OK to break the rules. The 30 day writing challenge was supposed to end in May, but I didn’t finish it until July. I think it was more than okay to break the rules because I was still really committed to writing as much as I could. Some times I took off of the challenge so I could write about other topics like the Social Media Philadelphia Day or book reviews. Other topics got spread upon multiple days as mentioned above. One day, day 23, I completely refused to write about the topic because I didn’t like it. As long as you write and are consistent, does it matter if you follow the rules?

3. Writing is therapeutic. Some of these topics were very difficult and uncomfortable for me to write about, especially day 26 when I had to write what I’d say to my ex. I ended my longest relationship ever less than a year ago and the wounds still are a bit fresh. When we broke up, I hung up on him and that was it.We haven’t talked since then, so there was definitely many words left unsaid and not much, if any, closure. While I really dreaded writing on day 26, I was so glad I did it at the end of it. This post took me days to write and I really poured my heart out in the post. I probably said a bit more than I should have in that post, but I really needed it. It was my way to get all of those emotions and feelings out that have been bundled up inside of me for many months. Writing that all out was so therapeutic to me. I’m glad I did it.

4. 30-day writing challenges are great for generating content…I blogged so much over the last 2 months. Once I had the topics, the content just flowed through me. I began to think of how my own personal stories and experiences could work into characters for stories.The 30 day writing challenge was awesome for coming up with ideas and for churning out content for my blog.

5. But they are terrible when you already have a novel in the editing stage. The biggest drawback of doing the 30 day writing challenge was that it involved so much of my time that it took away from the project I was already working on – my novel – which was much more important. I was almost finished editing my 2nd draft before taking on this challenge. Now it’s been nearly 2 months and I haven’t touched it and I’m not entirely sure where I was when I left off. Next time I’ll have to make sure to do a writing challenge when I don’t already have a lot going on in my life.

Have any of you guys ever participated in a 30-day writing challenge? What was your experience like?


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Image Credits: Edutopia

Hey guys! Happy Wednesday! It’s a happy Wednesday because I’m finally on the last day of the 30 day writing challenge! It took me long enough!

The final challenge is to write about something I’m looking forward to. There are many exciting things I’m looking forward to in my life, but one of the biggest ones is becoming a college adjunct professor and teaching my first class this fall.

I know a lot of people were surprised when I announced that I’d be teaching this fall. Some were a bit surprised and a lot of people have expressed their concerns and almost doubt me and my ability to teach. I know some people, whether they actually come out and say it or not, are thinking that this is kind of “random”. Surprising? Yes. Crazy? A bit.But random? No…not at all.

Teaching is actually something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time. I’ve always valued education. I’ve always loved to learn and have been a bit of a nerd my whole life. Many people thought I would become a teacher. My parents always encouraged it, that’s for sure. When I was in high school I was an AVID tutor that worked with at-risk students to help to prepare them for college. My teachers all loved the work I did as a tutor and they thought I’d make a great teacher, too.

I’ve always enjoyed working with kids as well. I first realized how much I enjoyed working with children when I was about 12 years old and worked my first job as a summer camp counselor. I made less than $70 for the entire summer, but I didn’t care at all because I loved what I was doing so much. I didn’t just play with kids, but I learned from them and they learned to me. I built relationships with these kids and I got to see them grow so much in the 2 months that we spent together. I talked about them all all the time as if they were my own kids. I felt good about the work I did as a camp counselor and it made me realize that if I enjoyed this work so much, I’d certainly love to be a teacher where I could make an even bigger impact on children.

I dreamed of becoming a pre-school or kindergarten teacher. Then I realized I had a passion for English and becoming an English teacher started to gain appeal.

There was just one major problem:

I was born with profound hearing loss. I never learned sign language. I couldn’t hear the kids I was a camp counselor for (fortunately it never mattered much. I had the support of the other counselors to fall back on and the kids just wanted to play anyway). How would I ever hear my students?

Not being able to hear the kids I supervised at camp was one thing. Not being able to hear students was quite another thing. I wouldn’t be able to ask them questions, because I’d never hear the answers. I wouldn’t be able to answer their questions, either because I wouldn’t be able to hear them.

Suddenly, I found myself completely giving up on dream and chalking it up on the list of things that just weren’t meant to be for my life. I still decided to study English and writing in college, but this time it was for my own personal use to become a writer instead. Becoming a teacher just didn’t seem like a possibility for me.

At least, not at that moment…

I didn’t realize back then that I’d later go on to receive cochlear implants that would allow me to gain above average hearing. I never could’ve imagined that I’d be given this incredible gift that would allow me to hear almost perfectly…a gift that would make it so I’d never have to worry about hearing my students.

But even after receiving my cochlear implants I didn’t think it would ever open the door to teaching for me. I thought that was a missed opportunity I would never get back again. How could I be a teacher now? I was working full time for an agency receiving below-average pay. While my checks weren’t for much, I depended very heavily on them. I also worked a typical day schedule…which would be the exact schedule I’d need to follow in order to do student teaching which is a requirement in order to be certified to teach at a grade school level. Teaching at a college level also wasn’t an option since I didn’t have my MA yet and wasn’t sure if I ever would. I have wanted to enroll in Rowan’s MA in Writing Program for years, but always backed out fearing the cost. I was already thousands of dollars in debt and unable to afford my student loan repayments from my undergrad. I heard financial aid didn’t exist as a grad student. Grad school sounded like a great idea, but completely impractical. There was no way I’d ever be able to afford it.

That was, until I received an e-mail from Professor Rob Block in March explaining that Rowan has developed a new Teaching Experience Program (TEP). The program sounded like the answer to all of my problems. It would allow me to follow my dream of becoming a teacher without having to give up my full time job and it would also help me to pay the cost of my tuition and allow me to work towards earning my MA degree.

To make things even better, a few months after receiving that initial email I left my job at the agency I was working for and started working for Penn Medicine instead. After my first semester, Penn will pay up to $8,000 a year towards my tuition which should cover the full cost each semester I’d imagine. They are also more than willing to help to work around my school and teaching schedule.

This is the beginning of the next chapter in my life. It may have taken me awhile, but I am finally going to have the opportunity to fulfill my dream of becoming a teacher, and not just a teacher – but a college professor! I am so beyond excited to take on this new role in September. It’s about so much more than just teaching first year writing to students. It’s about creating strong relationships with these students and working to motivate, encourage, and inspire them and to help them to grow not just as writers, but as students. I hope to improve their writing skills, but more than that, I hope to make a difference in their  lives and their college experience. If I manage to do those things, then I’ll consider my job as a professor to have been a success.

 


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Image Credits: Keyword-Suggestions.com

DISCLAIMER: I do drink and enjoy it on occasion now, but I am writing about my past and on the night of my 21st birthday on May 8, 2011, I was still very much straight edged and adamantly opposed to drinking.

Happy 4th of July to all of my American readers!

 I’m up to day 29 of the 30 day writing challenge and considering the holiday, today’s challenge is an interesting one: Describe the night of your 21st birthday.

I don’t remember too much of it, not because I got to drunk to remember, but because that was 5 years ago and not all that big of a deal for me compared to how it is for most people.

My 21st birthday was actually on Mother’s Day, so getting wasted was never a real option — that would seem really disrespectful to my mom. During that time I was also still straight edged…I was very much against the idea of drinking. I was allowed to drink of course and my parents didn’t discourage me from it, but I didn’t want to drink.

Instead I went to Atlantic City to gamble. I’ve never been much of a big gambler though. I think I won about $20 on a slot machine that I paid like $1 for and called it a day. My mom was the same way, except if my memory is correct she won about $40 and ended up paying for our dinner.

We walked around the boardwalk a little bit and I think it was more window shopping than anything else. I had a birthday crown and sash on so a lot of people stopped me and wished me a happy birthday. I remember it took me forever to pick out that stash. I  made a point to get one that didn’t in anyway promote drinking…much easier said than done.

I think we went out to dinner at the Hibachi Grill and Supreme Buffet in Turnersville which is a little different from usual (I usually go to the Colonial Diner), maybe because it was Mother’s Day? I know back then money was always tight. We still lived in Woodbury and I was still in school and at that time it was right before I started working a minimal wage job at Heritages. My parents still did give me a really nice day and gave me a nice gift though. That was the year that they gave me an engraved journal with Proverbs 3:5-6 engraved onto it. It was to help encourage me to write more and to grow in my faith. At the time, that was my favorite bible verse but I viewed it a bit more as being a quote than I did as a bible verse. I didn’t have the relationship with God that I have now.

My birthday was overall a pretty quiet day though especially considering it was my 21st. It wasn’t a big deal to me. Alcohol scared me back then. I was always afraid of turning into an alcoholic. I started drinking about 10 months later for the first time after my abusive boyfriend at the time (who now is my ex, thankfully) and I got in a really bad fight. It’s not my proudest decision, but I am proud of the fact that I never been completely drunk, never had a hang over, and I am strong enough to handle alcohol and not abuse it. A part of me wishes I would’ve known that for my 21st, but even if I did I don’t think it would’ve changed much. I still wouldn’t have had a “wild and crazy” birthday like most people had. I never wanted that.

How about you guys…what was the night of your 21st birthday like?


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Image Credits: Toronto Realty Blog

I’m getting there on the 30 day writing challenge. I only have 3 “days” left of it.

The challenge for day 28 is much more exciting than day 27’s (but don’t get too excited…it’s not THAT great. Today’s challenge is to write about a word or phrase that I overuse.

This came easy and without thought for me. The phrase I overuse the most is “I Know For A Fact”. 

I’m not sure how this started, but I’ve been saying it for a few years now. I say it when I’m arguing a point or disputing something with someone and I know I’m right. I have a really great memory for events and life occurrences. I rarely ever forget anything and the things I remember are often stupid, trivial things that most people would forget (like what I wore 20 years ago, a toy my sister’s best friend’s second cousin played with, etc.). It’s a shame I remember these stupid things but not more important things like how to do algebra or geometry lol. A lot of times people try to argue with me about a point or claim there’s no way I can remember that (my mom especially does this to me) and my response is always “I know for a fact!”. Now everyone makes fun of me for saying that. I guess this is kind of my weird way of saying “There’s absolutely no way I’m wrong. I’ve got my research (even though I don’t) and I know in black and white, verified, undeniably, this is an inarguable fact that I’m write.”

 

How about you? What phrase or words do you overuse the most? When do you find yourself saying them the most often?


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Image Credits: GT CR8Image Credits: GT CR8

Hey guys! Back on track with the 30 day writing challenge. I left off on Day 27 which instructs me to write about what I wore tonight. Since I’m in the middle of my extended fourth of July weekend with no real plans or places to go and no work, let’s just say I’m following the theme of “Summertime and The Living Is Easy”. AKA, don’t expect anything glamorous lol.

Outfit #1: White shirt with red and grey Nike logo and baby pink and grey fleece pajama pants. This is what I woke up wearing and I kept it on until I went to the pool. The shirt I’ve had for at least 6 years now. It’s about 2-3 sizes too big, so I wear it as a night shirt. It’s starting to get pretty worn out and has a few holes, but I only wear it to sleep and it’s probably the most comfortable shirt I own, so it’s not like I’ll ever part with it. The pajama pants are the ones I brought to wear after my first cochlear implant surgery. They are a little old so they aren’t as soft or heavy as they originally were, but they are still warm, soft, and the most comfortable pair of pants I own. Since the weather has been unseasonably cool this weekend, they were perfect.

Outfit #2: Red polka dot one piece bathing suit with a blue and black Avant shirt and white rhinestone sunglasses. I’ve learned to wear a t-shirt over to the pool when I’m not in the water to help prevent sunburn. The first week that the pool was open I got horrific sunburn on my chest that could’ve been prevented had I worn a t-shirt, so I’m not about to make that mistake again. I usually wear my green “I am magnetic” cochlear implant shirt, but I wanted something different today so I opted for my blue and black Avant shirt that has a desk and the Rowan Prof logo on it and says “Writers Do It On The Table”. I don’t know that everyone will appreciate the pun or this quote, but it’s fitting for the theme of Avant. Man, I miss the Avant literary club. My bathing suit is just a 1 piece bathing suit that’s red with white polka dots and some ruffles. It’s conservative, but still cute. The sunglasses are kind of my trademark thing. They are my 2nd pair this year (the first ones kind of fell apart). I always wear white sunglasses – they are the best.

Outfit #3: Black and White My Chemical Romance Shirt with Black Sweatpants. Normally I just put on a nightshirt and PJ pants when I come in from the pool, but since I’m going to be stepping outside to watch the 4th of July fireworks tonight, I wanted something a little more appropriate, but still comfortable. I chose my black and white My Chemical Romance shirt and plain black sweatpants. I don’t wear this shirt very much, but whenever I want something casual and a little more “punk rock” (like old school me), it’s one of my go-to shirts. It has a pretty cool look to it with a couple marching skeletons playing drums, and a clock. I think it’s supposed to be promoting Welcome to the Black Parade. This is likely my last outfit of the day. I might switch into actual PJ pants before bed but my shirt will stay the same.

I’m really bumming it today and my style definitely reflects it. How about you? What are you wearing today?



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