Jeans Can Do That To You (or How I Changed My Own Mind)

IMG_9397It all started with a pair of jeans.

I am a firm believer in the power of a good pair of jeans.  The whole reason we have a jeans day at my office is because I campaigned for it – wearing jeans (and my cowboy boots of course) makes me feel comfortable and empowered.  I am more productive and do a better job when I feel this way, when I don’t have to wear dress slacks and high heels.  A great pair of jeans is transformative, transcendent.   And this pair of jeans . . . sucked.

I bought them out of necessity – my old pair of jeans had sprung a leak (another that sucked but in a completely different way) – because I was not going to miss another day at work without the cowboy luxury.  But the store where I bought jeans for big girls had decided that their extraordinary way of sizing jeans for the way women are actually built was too blasé.  So they went back to pretending that girls that have junk in the trunk are built just like twiggy models but with evenly spaced padding.  I walked out in a panic – literally none of the jeans there fit.

I ended up at another store and found success – but only the kind of success that exists in dressing rooms after you’ve been shopping for hours (and HATE shopping) and it falls into the “good enough to leave and go get some water, Damn it’s hot today” category.  Standing still in front of a mirror – they’ll do.  Wearing them out of the house – recipe for a disaster of reality that all fantasy clothes generally fail.  I felt like a girl without a country (seriously, THIS is how much I love a good pair of jeans – crazy, right?).

In the midst of my denim inspired crisis my friend sent me a link to a blog – The Militant Baker.  I was sitting in a drive-thru, feeling sorry for myself, thinking “yeah, just what I need – a Baking Blog” but figured I’d check it out anyway.  At least the pictures would be pretty even if I couldn’t eat anything on there.  Never have I been so wrong in my life.  Because the Militant Baker is not about macaroons (though they have that too) but is instead about loving yourself – ALL of yourself – no matter what others (clothing companies, misinformed internet trolls, the voices inside your heard) tell you.

So after spending hours reading the posts (and deciding that I wanted to be the published author version of Jes, which may just be both the truest and most unrealistic thing I’ve ever wanted), reading the comments, and following tangents to tons of blogs/sites that she links to – I sat down and thought about everything that I had read.  Really thought about it.  And what I came up with kind of shocked me.

I don’t have any memories of being “small” – in fact, the last time someone actually called me that might have been the day I came out premature eleven minutes ahead of my brother.  I was the Peanut, he was the Pumpkin.  I joke with my mother that she never should have fed my brother twice and missed me when we were babies – it’s all her fault really.  My whole family – literally almost my Whole family – have been big people.  And the whole entire time it’s also been a huge source of shame.

But I never understood that.  When I think about my childhood I don’t remember bullies or people picking on me because of it (maybe they did and I just blocked it out) – I remember a girl who was more or less fearless.  I stood up for my friend who was being ostracized for no reason.  I didn’t let a crazy classmate intimidate me into failing a project.  I never backed down when I was being treated unfairly.  And all this I did with a little extra girth.

And now, all grown-up, with my family of big people discovering weight-loss “cures” and slimming secrets, they seem to think that I want that too.  They look at me with judgment – even if they don’t notice it – like they understand what it’s like to live my life and can compel me to a smaller size with a stare.  I’ve always wanted to respond with an eye roll, with a swear word, with a shrug of the shoulders but never could – and now I know why.

20120915_140955Because I hid it too well. 

The fact that I could care less how much I weigh – that the only reason I care is because the other people look at me like I should.  I’ve never been ecstatic about the way I look but I’ve always been comfortable with it.  I don’t shy aware from my reflection in a mirror except on the very blackest of days.  Sure I might want to be thin.  I also want to be a millionaire, be able to eat pancakes again, and have a private jet that would take me wherever I want to go without having to actually “fly” there (so basically a teleporter, yes).  Everyone wants things they know are unreachable – it’s part of what makes us human.  The important part that most people overlook is that you shouldn’t organize your life so you need them to be happy.

I am never going to be a small girl – and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

I need to stop treating my body like it’s horrible – it’s not, it’s strong and capable and wondrous – and not buying anything nice or cute because I’m not supposed to like the way I look – I do, every day I find something I like about me and wonder why everyone else can’t see the amazingness that is me.  I need to appreciate it and treat it well and let it LOOK nice.  I need to stop dressing myself in “anything I find that fits” and start dressing like I feel on the inside.  Inside Me has become a kick-ass secret that Outside Me has been trying to hide for decades.

I’ve always had an “I don’t really care” attitude that’s mostly been born of fear.  So many words and images and ideas no one even thought I was paying attention to have shaped me into thinking that the way that I am is somehow flawed.  Not bad exactly just not where we should be.  What’s the point of spending time in the morning putting on make-up and doing my hair – it’s just going to look Eh anyway.  So I didn’t try – literally didn’t expend any effort.  And since I got the reaction I was expecting, I didn’t think anything of it and coasted on by, doing just enough to be a hair above nothing at all.

“People shouldn’t like me based on what I look like on the outside anyway,” I’d say to myself.  But I didn’t like the outside either – all my clothes look the same and boring and say “here’s a girl that doesn’t care.”  But that’s not who I am.  That’s not the statement I want me or my clothes to make at all.  I want them to say “here’s a girl that cares about everything.”

Because I want to be beautiful and happy and, most of all, simply enough. 

But the problem was I was taking all the cues on whether I was these things from the wrong places – from others, from the outside, from strangers I saw in crowds.  Maybe it was a byproduct of my lifelong dream – published author.  It’s a life lived in perpetual conversation – reviews and rejection are par for the course and art is something that is always asking to be judged, for people to have an opinion on.  To move forward I had to harden, buck up, learn not to take things so personally.  Part of me needed to be safe from criticism while the other part needed to learn to accept comments on things I felt were my very identity, look at them objectively, and listen.  The goal can be achieved singularly (I am a published author) but the meaning of it, the reason why I want to be one (to entertain and maybe touch people’s lives, let my words and story find a kindred soul in which to rest) – that requires the others and the outside and maybe even strangers in a 377677_4362391341550_849051725_ncrowd.

Yes, everyone might have an opinion, but right now, today, no one else is allowed an opinion that matters.  The only opinion that matters is mine.

I think I need to go shopping . . .

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Sara Bareilles has a new single out – Brave.  I really like it.   I like the music, I like the message, I even like the lyrics video.  And even though I’m no longer a child and the message may not be meant for me, it did touch me.  So here’s a poem (something I’m not good at At All) that it inspired.


You haven’t shown any interest
Probably because I’m no good at this
Snatching attention for my wobbly projection
Of a girl that knows what’s written on her heart.Sigh

But the unrest has taken hold
Spurning me to do things untold
And writing this letter, though I should know much better
Seemed like the only coward’s way to start.

Starched collar and bright tie,
Impressive figure you cut as you walk by.
You’re much too professional, I too conversational
And words, spoken or typed, just keep spilling into the divide.

There may be a spark, an unnoticed portent
But eyes stay blind and demeanors diffident.
I see all the potential, a sad referential,
And the chasm, though not insurmountable, just seems too wide.

A question asked and summarily answered,
Information garnered and the meaning unheard.
But always circling, spinning and reeling,
Two feet never able to find solid ground.

Because it all seems a game,
Too teasing and jovial for this level of shame.
You don’t hear me, can never reach me.
I am but a possibility, no assurance of being found.

So I sit and I write,
Share my secret unwillingly on an offhand flight
Of fancy and melancholy and blue, uncalculated folly
Yearning for something to break free and light within.

All of it is but ruminations in my head,
Thoughts and feelings that shout but are left unsaid.
Only me full of dreams, preposterously harebrained schemes,
Wondering at what might have been.

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The Fear

Why is it so hard to admit to what I want – to myself and others?

I’m trying to be more honest – answer the phone when it rings and don’t pretend that you can’t hear it, don’t tell yourself you’re going to the gym if you know there’s no chance in hell you’re waking up in the morning – but it’s hard.  Because the more honest I am with myself, the more I realize how crazy I just might be.  And crazy?  Crazy doesn’t really get the happy endings.  They get insane stories and weird looks and entertaining conversations.  But happy endings?  Nowhere in sight.

I could list a lot of random, crazy things that people don’t know about me (and was considering it) but that wouldn’t get me any closer to the point I was trying to make, would it?  So instead, a list of scarily honest things that you don’t know about me.

  • Sometimes I worry that I may actually be the evil twin.
  • It worries me – and shakes my confidence – that no one knows anyone they could set me up with.  Sure, I don’t know anyone, but the collective of my friends, really?  How bad is that.
  • What if my writing really isn’t good enough?  Or worse, it’s good enough to be exactly what it is – a book good enough to be downloaded for free but never purchased by anyone I didn’t have to cajole.  What if this is exactly where my writing is supposed to be?
  • What if I have too much faith, so much that I completely miss the lifeboat come to “save” me?
  • I love to read but don’t do it often because I worry that I’ll get lost, swallowed whole by the words of others and never find my way out again.
  • I could have never written my first book without pancakes.  And now that I can’t have pancakes, will any book I write ever be that good again?  What if gluten IS the secret ingredient to greatness.  I mean, come on, that’s what beer is made of.
  • Some people don’t get the happy ending.  Maybe I’m the sidekick in my own life and I don’t get one either.  Not everyone does.
  • What if the life I have now is exactly the one I’m meant to have and I’ll just be mildly unfulfilled, restless, and unhappy . . . forever?

Life is full of worry and fear and hard truths.  We try to ignore them most of the time – package them away in the attic so we can’t see them, thinking that out of sight can truly mean out of mind.  But that’s not the way life works.  Sometimes bad things happen, sometimes horrible things are true, sometimes life is nothing like you wish for it to be.

What do we do then?  Keep on wishing or find something else to search for?

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February 14th

Valentine’s Day is here! Yeah!!  . . . .

Such sentiments are why we need a sarcasm font (which I have decided inventing and getting adopted needs to be my new goal in life).   I could list a lot of reasons why a sarcasm font is needed here.

  • Valentine’s Day is a totally made up holiday.  It’s named after a Saint that went to jail – how romantic.
  • I heard a commercial that said “tired of the traditional dinner and a movie date.”  Does everything have to be extravagant nowadays?
  • Should we really reserve one day a year for telling people how much we care about them?  That flies against the all the “seize the day” logic the Internet is famous for.
  • Chocolate is NOT to be regulated to one day a year.  Period.

And by now you might be thinking “You just hate Valentine’s Day because you’re single.”  Both of those things are true, yes, but I’m not sure they’re exclusive.

I remember being in college and wearing a bright red shirt and walking about telling everyone to have a happy “VAL-entine’s Day” (get it?  cause my name is Val?  Get it?  Oh, I crack myself up!) and smiling all the time.  Then I was putting on a brave front;  I wanted to be in a relationship.  Valentine’s Day made me sad.

Don’t get me wrong, I still want that – though growing up means less drama to go along with it.  I don’t feel like my world is ending because there’s no one to buy me dinner.  I can buy my own damn dinner – and often do (I’m kick-ass company if you must know).

No, this year I just wish it wasn’t so hard.  I have great family and friends, don’t get me wrong, I just wish sometimes I wasn’t the one that had the burden of the effort.  I wish I wasn’t the one who always had to remember – scheduling, emailing, texting, facebooking, etc, etc, etc.  For one day I’d like to be the person who hears “Just wanted to tell you I was thinking about you – hope you’re doing awesome!”  I want to be the person that gets emails instead of sends them.  I want to know that I crossed someone’s mind.

That’s why Valentine’s Day – no matter how overpriced, cloyingly sweet, and stunted – still has hold of people.  Because the dinners and flowers and jewelry – what they’re really saying is “I Care.”  And that’s something everyone needs to hear every once and awhile.  Everyone.

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The Blog is Back In Town

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions.  I mean, I do them – every year I write myself a long letter (at varying degrees of soberness), seal it, and lock it away until I read it a year later (at varying degrees of drunkenness) to have a laugh.

But rarely do I follow them because they set you up for failure.  I have to keep them for 12 Whole Months – that just seems doomed.  So instead this year I gave myself a month off – January – to see what I wanted to do, what I could do.  It’s much less pressure to think that I could stick to something for 92% of the year instead of 100%.  That’s all still an A, right?

So, without further ado, here are the things I want to get done in the next 92% of 2013:

  • Stop eating fast food – STAT
  • No more gluten – lots of different types of flour to cook with
  • Writing in this blog – once every two weeks is the plan
  • No Procrastinating! (the only reason this made the cut is because I’ve actually been able to do it for the last month – I never saw this one coming)
  • Learn social media marketing
  • Keep writing – self-publish two books this year (one is already written but one needs to be decided on, stat)
  • Clean my house – I really, REALLY, need to start putting things away.
  • Be Happy!  (This one is harder – but may be the most important.)

So world, this is my plan for the next 92% of 2013.  I know a lot of people who have had quite a rotten January so far (the dreadful 8%) but buck up – that’s not even enough to turn an A year into a B, maybe an A- but hey, no one pays attention to the signs anyway.  🙂

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Free is Fabulous!

750 copies of my book have been downloaded today!

Okay, so based on numbers that I’ve heard, these aren’t the best numbers around.  BUT with minimal advertising and only 3 reviews on Amazon, my little book that could has moved up to #33 in the Free section of Contemporary Fiction and #92 on Contemporary Romance – those aren’t easy categories people.  At one point today my 285 downloads DOUBLED in 90 minutes.  That’s pretty much one book every 18 seconds or so (I think, math is not my strong suit) – that’s ridiculously cool!

So yeah, I’m way excited.  And loving life, Amazon, the KDP program, baby giraffes, and (as always) cheese.  Free is our friend people – Our Friend!  You may not be able to get a free lunch but who needs lunch – read a book instead.

Oh wait, make that 771 books!  🙂


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Okay, so today my book – RomCon – is available on Amazon for FREE.  That’s right, zero, zilch, nada, bubkiss, Free.  So if anyone out there is thrifty and have been waiting for deals and rock bottom prices on some of the best literature in town, today is your lucky day.  Have your mouse scurry on over and click that button and soon you’ll have awesome electronic reading material parts of your whole family will love!!

Enough with trying to sound like a literary used car salesman (told ya, BAD at selling stuff).  But you really should go download it – it is pretty awesome.  And then tell all your friends about it too cause I know you.  You’re reading this blog so you’re a trendsetter baby – I can see it in your eyes. 😉

RomCon – it’s well worth the time. 🙂

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NaNo – the Challenge of Zombies

I am writing a novel in 30 days.  This is hard in and of itself.  But what makes it harder?  Zombies.

Nope, I am not predicting the zombie apocalypse early.  And no, I have not been dared to put zombies in my quaint tale of small towns and friendship.  I am the zombie.

I have a cold.  And I want to power through.  I should be using this afternoon when I got sent home from work to be writing up a storm but instead I’ve been staring at walls.  Literally, I really have.  My brain can’t seem to process things very quickly (you don’t even want to know how long it’s taking me to write this post).

So, see the moral of the story (wait, was I telling a story?) is that sometimes you have to cut yourself some slack.  Because yes, I want to write 50K in 30 days – but I also want it to not be a surrealist treatise on the color of the air.

Below is the beginning of my novel though – I really like it. 🙂

“No one gets it,” she said, staring out across the lake, her feet kicking back and forth idly.  “They say they do, everyone says they do, but no one really gets it at all.”

“What’s that?” he asked, pointing to the page her notebook had been open to for days.  The page itself was worn, like a hand had been drawn down it multiple times, trying not only to erase the words but their meaning as well.

She leaned her head against his shoulder with a sigh.  “Just something I wrote,” she murmured reluctantly, drawing her feet up onto the dock.  She’d been away for too long, been trapped in a house where no one paid each other any mind far too much, to forget that he’d notice.

“Read it to me.”

“You don’t want to hear it.”  But it was an empty protest, even to her ears.  Smiles darted across their faces.  She knew the expression on his without even needing to look, a side effect of a decade of friendship.

“We both know that’s a lie.  Come on, I showed you mine.  Show me yours.”

She took a deep breath, a slight catch in her throat – she’d never admitted any of this out loud before – and then started to read.

“I had a friend once.  She’s gone now.  I mourn. . . .”

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A Novel In a Month?!

It’s almost November and you know what that means – NaNoWriMo is here!!

For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month ( – visit them!).  No Plot, No Problem – just write 50,000 words in 30 days.  Easy, right?  Ha, I laugh!  This is one of the most creatively insane things that can be done.  1667 words a day?  Every Day?  For a whole month?!

I’ve done this before – twice in fact, always a winner! – and every time it has jump-started me.  What I usually write is fantasy insanity.  The first time the plot had holes big enough to drive a semi through and the tone could never make up its mind (am I a family drama? a mystery? an absurd fantasy) but there was a crime ring set at a circus.  The second time I created an awesome fantasy trilogy that will one day be published but currently, yeah, has plot holes big enough to drive a minivan through.

This time I’m planning on being a lot more focused – no fantastical elements, no supernatural powers – just a hopefully arresting story that I can look back on and be proud of.  This time I want the emotion to come through, loud and clear – this Published Author’s no longer joking around.

I’ll be proud when I make it to the end cause I’ll have written thousands of words in a month.  People brag about running 5Ks – this 50K sprint is much harder to achieve.  And much more up my alley – I don’t much like running.

So wish me luck!  It’ll be a crazy journey but you know what they say, it’s all about the journey baby, not the destination.  T-minus 27 hours and counting . . .

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Publication Accomplished!

We can now add “published author” to my resume.  Between the recently acquired MBA letters after my name and that nifty contest I won for having the most pathetic living situation 10 years ago.  It’s not the longest resume, I’ll give you that, and yeah, it’s both eccentric, random, and self-promoting but hey – I’m A Published Author Now, give me a

My book cover – isn’t it cool! Designed by Maritza Lugo

bit of slack.

The hard thing about being a Published Author (and yes, I’m going to keep writing that in Caps because it’s just that awesome) is that being one did not magically create a banner to follow me around proclaiming it.  I have to do that myself.  That’s what being a SELF-Published Author means.

So I sat down and I wrote a book – a good book if I do say so myself, and I do – but that is not the end of the story.  No, this story is nowhere near complete.  I’ve fulfilled my dream, that’s true – I have sent my creation out into the world, I contributed something to the general conversation, the possibility that I have touched someone’s life with my words exists – but that’s just not enough anymore.  Now I don’t only want to write a book, I want people to read it too.

Ah, there’s the rub.  I wrote some words, I formatted them into something recognizable as a book, I put them on the web to be part of our consumer culture.  All of that can be done in basic solitude – now I need to Converse with people, Market to people, Sell to people.  I am many things (Published Author now too!) but a salesman is not one of them.  Unlike my father, I don’t think I could sell water to someone dying of thirst (he cold sell ice to an Eskimo).

So I’m published and that is Awesome and Amazing.  Don’t get me wrong, I 100% believe this – I’m proud, tickled pink, pleased as punch.  It’s something that I can say for the rest of my life – Published Author – and nothing that can ever be taken away from me.   But it’s not enough.  And I’m not sure what the best way to make it enough is.  To make it more.  To make it matter.

So my name is Valerie.  I wrote a romantic comedy that everyone is destined to love.  I have a few other books in my back pocket (some fantasy, some more romance, some general fiction, but most of all just some well-written stories).  And if you’re looking for something to keep you company for a few hours, I know just the characters to do it.

Follow the link and go check it out – at $2.99 it’s a literal steal.  If you like your romance with a side of comic books, superheroes, and movie stars, I think you’ll like what you see.  And I know I’ll Like It. 😉

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