Writing Through Writer’s Block

So for the last few weeks I have been dealing with a severe case of writer’s block. Lately I feel like nothing I have been writing is going anywhere. Sometimes I want to give up, but writing is a vital part of life for me, so that is not an option. I feel like I am finally getting back on track now by helping my friends edit some of their stories and essays, and reading a few new books. I love writing, but I will be the first to admit that sometimes it can be stressful. For me, this has been my longest period of writer’s block. In this post I am going to share a few tips that have gotten me through the past few weeks.

Free Writing

Free writing is nothing new. You just type or write for ten to fifteen minutes about anything you want, and the best part is that you do not have to worry about grammar. I, like many other writers, suggest you free write at least once a day. However, it can be a great resource to turn to during times of writer’s block. Several people have told me that they can’t stand to free write because they find it hard to think of a prompt under a time limit. If you are one of those people, I suggest you find one item in your house a day to write about. That way you do not have to worry about thinking of something to write about. I have also had a few people tell me they do not like free writing because it is boring. I agree that I do not write my most exciting material while free writing, but I have had several great stories stem from free writes.

Listing

Listing is similar to free writing, but I think it is a bit easier. Listing is pretty much how it sounds: you simply make a list of your ideas. When I list, I make note of names, settings, animals, and anything else that may pop into my head. I do not recommend listing on your computer because you may not always have your computer as soon as an idea pops into your head. I like to carry a notebook or notepad around with me so I can write down ideas as soon as I think of them; that way I won’t forget them. Sometimes when I do not have my notebook I will text ideas to myself.

Reading

My philosophy!

My philosophy!

Reading is another great way to get over writer’s block. As with free writing, reading is something that should be a staple in every writer’s life. When you read, you will not only come up with more ideas, but you will also pick up on other writing styles. This will improve your own writing style. If you do not want to read another book at the moment you can find a few short stories to read, or you can even reread a few of your favorite chapters from some of your favorite books. I, for one, reread my Harry Potter books all the time!

Meditating

Sometimes the best thing to do is take a deep breath and think about what you are doing. Meditating will help you put aside any stress and help you think more clearly. When I say meditate, I do not necessarily mean to sit with your legs crossed for an hour. Meditating is something that will help you think. For some  people, exercise is the best meditation. For others it is finding complete silence. For me it is long walks in the park or anywhere there is nature. There may be others who disagree with my definition of meditating but as long as it clears your mind, I do not think it matters.

My thoughts exactly!

My thoughts exactly!

This is my advice to you: even in dry spells, keep writing. I know it can be depressing when it feels like a story isn’t going anywhere, but do not give up. Sometimes the stories you feel are not going anywhere end up being the best. So free write, read, think, send yourself text messages; do whatever it takes. I love to write too much to give it up! It is embedded in my blood by now. For me, this blog has been a lifesaver in these past few weeks. It has helped encourage me to write even in my lowest days. So if you think you are up to it, start a blog; it helps!

Have any of these tips helped you? Do you have advice of your own? Either way I would love to hear from you! So leave me a comment and remember to check back every other Wednesday for another post!

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A Healthier Summer

This summer I have really buckled down and focused on getting in shape. I have made it a point to eat better, drink more water, and to exercise on a regular basis. I also get plenty of exercise at the summer camps at the National Fitness Center where I work. The best part of working at the NFC is the free employee membership! As a member, I have access to the main workout area, the cardio theatre, the pool, and fitness classes. I have managed to drop a few pounds, and I have never felt better. I have also made it a point to refer to this as a lifestyle change instead of a diet because I feel like diets always end in disaster. A lifestyle change sounds more permanent. Also, while this has not been easy, it has been way more successful than any diet I have ever tried. In this post, I want to share a few healthy changes I have made this summer.

PiYo

piyo

PiYo

I have made it a point to exercise on a regular basis. I especially enjoy taking fitness classes at the NFC. One of my favorite classes is PiYo. PiYo is a mixture of Pilates and Yoga. It builds strength and flexibility and it is an amazing workout. I always come out sweating, but I feel stronger every time I take it. The first time I took the class, I just wanted to leave and never come back; my legs and sides were sore for three days! However, I refused to give up and started to go twice a week. Now it is one of my favorite classes. One accomplishment I have made in this class is doing a plank for five minutes. I have very weak arms, so for me this was a big deal.

Zumba

zumba

Zumba! I’m in the back in the light blue!

Zumba is another class I enjoy taking and it is by far my favorite workout. It is a lot of fun and you don’t have to be an expert dancer to take it. I will admit I was a little lost at first but now that I have gotten the moves down, I have realized that I love to dance. Zumba is a great workout because you have such a great time that you do not even realize you are working out. (And believe me, it’s an intense workout.) On average, I burn about six hundred calories a class. I highly recommend Zumba if you want to exercise but don’t necessarily like to lift weights or run on the treadmill– you will get a full body workout and plenty of cardio. Plus, you will have a great time; I know I do! I am always sore afterwards, but it is worth it for the workout.

Eating right

Eating right is probably the hardest part of weight loss. Sometimes eating healthy takes more work, healthybut it is worth it in the end. One thing I have learned this past summer is that you can have some “bad” food every now and then, it just shouldn’t be the majority of your diet. I’ve also learned that staying hydrated will help curb your appetite and give you extra energy. I have given up soda for good and am slowly making myself give up juice from concentrate. I have found that eating healthy and working out go hand-in-hand. Healthy food gives you the energy to work out, and working out gives you the motivation to eat healthy. A few healthy foods I enjoy are egg white omelets, baked Cajun chicken, Greek yogurt, and fruit cups filled with grapes, apples, blueberries and fresh peaches.

Personally, this has been a productive summer. So far I have lost fifteen pounds and I am not going to stop there. The tricky part will be carrying my new healthy lifestyle back to LMU. I am determined to balance my new healthy lifestyle with classes, school work, and my job. I have been looking up workout videos online, and I will have to schedule in some cardio and healthy meals, but I am confident I can do it. For me, this is about health. I want to be healthy more than anything else, and I have not felt this healthy for a few years. Honestly, I can’t remember a time I felt this good about myself. I know fifteen pounds really isn’t a huge accomplishment, but it is a start.

So how is your summer going? Do you have any health accomplishments you want to share? Or do you have/want advice? If so, please leave me a comment, and remember to like my post and check back every other Wednesday for a new one!

 

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Animals of My Heart

I’m an animal lover. I love cats, dogs, mules, lizards, and many more. I’m not sure why I’ve always loved animals; there really isn’t anyone in my family who cares too much for them. I’ve just always been able to connect with them for some reason. I will admit that I don’t like every single animal out there; I don’t care for black rats and I hate bugs! For me personally, I have always been most content when I have the companionship of an animal. Growing up I have been lucky to befriend a few animals and I have been blessed with the time I have been able to spend with them. So in this post, I am going to share a few of my special animal companions with you.

Dogs

Reilly

So I’ll be honest, I’m a total cat person. For some reason, every time I tell people that they immediately ask, “Why do you hate dogs?” I don’t hate dogs; I just don’t like them as well as cats, but I do like them. Dogs are faithful, loving, and you can train them to do all kinds of things. I especially like hound dogs; I just love those floppy ears! The only dog I have ever owned was a blue tick hound, pointer mix named Reilly. Reilly was a sweet and faithful dog. He loved to go on walks with me and loved me to scratch his back. And he could never learn how to play fetch. I would throw him a tennis ball and he would run away with it!

Mules

I have always loved mules. I think mules are friendlier than donkeys yet less skittish than horses. I never owned a mule since I live in a sub division, but my great uncle owned the sweetest mule named Blue. When my sister and I used to visit, I would bring a bag of apples and carrots to feed him. Blue loved it when I scratched his muzzle and he would always follow me around because I always gave him so many treats!

Cats

Padmé

So now it’s time for my favorite animal, cats. I am a total, crazy cat lady and I am proud of it. I love cats because they’re loving, but they aren’t as intense as dogs. They may not want attention every time you want to give it to them, but they’re more than willing to snuggle up in your lap at the end of the day. My first pet, Angel, was the most loyal pet I have ever owned. She used to cuddle with me, play with me, and even kills bugs for me until the day she died when she was ten and I was thirteen. I’ve had three other cats since her. I got my kitten Smokey a few weeks after Angel died but she was stolen from me after a year. I adopted a year old black cat named Padmé a few months later.Padmé was more skittish than Smokey and Angel were so she didn’t like many other people besides me. She died my sophomore year at LMU during finals. I had a hard time coming to terms with her death because it was so sudden and unexpected. I’ve recently adopted a new cat, Spock. He is actually the first male cat I have ever owned. He seems to like his new home even if he did get stuck in a tree his first day!

Anatole France once said “until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” I can still remember what it was like that first night Angel came home. I was very young but I felt something I had never felt before, and I’ve never been able to live without that feeling since. I remember how my heart shattered when Angel, Reilly, and Padme died. Sometimes I still stay up at night wondering if Smokey is still alive. And sometimes, I worry that something will happen to Spock. I understand now why my parents were so hesitant when I used to ask to adopt an animal. It has to be so hard to watch your child cry over their dead pet. When you adopt an animal, there is always a possibility that something will happen. I have had to deal with my own share of heartbreak, but if I had a chance to go back in time, I would still adopt Angel and all of my other animals, even if it would lead to the same outcomes. Every moment I spent with them was worth it because I loved them, and there is no one in this world who could convince me that they did not love me too.

Do you have any pets? I am always up for talking about animals if you want to leave a comment. And remember to like my post and check back every other Wednesday for a new one!

 

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A Musical Journey

I’ve been in band ever since I was 10 and cannot imagine my life without it. So naturally when I first came to LMU I immediately auditioned for band. You may have read my post “Get Jazzy” that encompasses my experiences playing saxophone. In that post I briefly mentioned that I played clarinet but I have actually played a variety of instruments over the years. My musical journey started when I was 10, and hopefully will never end. In this post, I would like to share the experiences I have had on my journey so far.

Squeaky Beginnings:

My story begins with a hand-me-down clarinet. When I first joined band in the 5th grade I wanted to play flute, but I had to settle for clarinet because my cousin had an old one I could use. And thus, a musician was born! I played that squeaky little instrument until clarinetI got to high school. Well actually that’s not completely true; I did try playing oboe but it didn’t quite work out, and I did play bass clarinet one year in middle school. By my freshman year of high school it was back to clarinet and I wasn’t too thrilled. I wasn’t bad at it by any means; I got first chair in my school band all the way through middle school. I love clarinet but it just wasn’t for me. After my first year of high school I knew it was time for a change.

Moving to Tenor:

When I made the change from clarinet to tenor sax, I knew I had made the right choice. The clarinet was my first love but tenor sax was my true love. The instrument was a perfect fit, and I made quick progress the two years I played it in high school. I will admit that sometimes when I marched I did miss clarinet. A clarinet is lighter and easier to march, but I enjoyed playing saxophone too much to dwell on that thought for long. I took every opportunity I had to play it and ended up playing for a community band, an all-state band, and of course my high school band.

Moving to Bari

By the time senior year rolled around, my school’s baritone saxophone had caught my eye and I wanted to give it a go since our bari sax player had graduated. Now baribefore you judge me for cheating on my tenor, you have to understand what a magnificent instrument the baritone saxophone is. It’s big, it has a big looped neck, and the sound is so deep! And we needed a bari sax that year so I got the okay from my band director, packed up my tenor for a year and played bari. I had thought my tenor was heavy, but you can only imagine how heavy the bari was. This instrument was truly a beast. It was significantly larger than my tenor; I actually had trouble reaching some of my keys because my fingers weren’t long enough! I also had to wear a harness when I marched it so I wouldn’t strain my neck. The bari sax also marked a significant point in my life. My senior year was a year full of change and switching to the bari sax was one of those changes and I’m glad I got that experience.

Back to Tenor and New Experiences Ahead:

Even though I enjoyed my year of playing bari sax, I missed my tenor. After I graduated I got my tenor back out and started practicing for my audition at LMU. I now play tenor in the concert band, pep band, and jazz band here at LMU. I take saxophone lessons with Dr. Carucci and even took a semester of clarinet lessonstenor with him. My college experience has not marked the end of learning how to play new instruments. My musical experiences at college have actually allowed me to pick up a few new instruments; I took a semester of guitar and am still continuing to practice on my own until I can fit guitar lessons into my schedule again. Also, as part as my requirement as a music minor, I have to take a semester of piano, so I get to learn how to play that too! I am lucky to have had opportunities in my life that have allowed me to improve as a musician. My life my take me to faraway places that I cannot even imagine right now, but the experiences I have had with music will stick with me for the rest of my life.

So what are some of your experiences with music? I would love to hear all about them if you want to leave me a comment, and please remember to like my post and check back in with me every other Wednesday for a new post!

 

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Don’t Give Up

So I’m sure we are all settled into our summer breaks by now. Speaking for myself, it is a relief not to have to worry about homework, essays, or classes in general. I’ve been sleeping in late, reading to my heart’s content, and of course working. Sometimes though, I still look back to finals week and cringe; how am I going to go through all of that again? I have to constantly remind myself that I’ve been successful in the past, and if I keep working hard, I’ll continue to be successful. Sometimes though, I just want to quit so I never have to worry about school again, but I know that would be a decision I would always regret. School is stressful; I’ll be the first to admit it. Why do we do it then? Speaking for myself, I have some big dreams I want to see come life, like writing a book and getting my PhD. So here are some words of advice to those of you who are also chasing your dreams: Don’t give up.

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Adventures in the Workforce

So the school year is finally over, and I’m sure many of you are ready to sit back and put your feet up during summer break. However, I bet just as many of you have a summer job just waiting for the second you get home; I know I do! I love having a nice long break from school, but I also know that my summer breaks are no longer full of days where I can just sit back and work on my tan. When I was fifteen I entered the workforce and discovered there are no summer breaks for work. This summer I have a brand new job at the daycare in the NFC in Morristown. I am especially excited about this job because I love to work with kids! I’m sure that many of you are about to go and start working so I thought I would share some of my work experiences with you.

Pushing Buggies

I’ve been a cashier at Food City, Priceless Foods, and Food Lion so I’ve spent my fair share of time pushing buggies. If any of you have worked as a bagger or cashier then you know how hard it can be to push a line of buggies into the store. Sure they have wheels but after about four buggies they get pretty heavy for me. Plus you have to try not to hit

He's stronger than I am!

He’s stronger than I am!

obstacles like cars, customers, etc. Despite the physical labor, pushing buggies was one of my favorite tasks when I worked as a cashier. Sure it made my arms sore but it was worth the break. I would usually volunteer to go, so I could take a break from my register and get some fresh air!

Making Sandwiches

The short time I worked at Quiznos, I learned how to make a variety of sandwiches; Italian, steak and cheese, etc., you name it and I made it. I know when you go to Subway or Quiznos, it seems like this is a pretty easy job, but it takes some time to get the hang of it. The first week I worked at Quiznos, I thought I would never get all the different sandwiches straight. I made the wrong sandwich, I put on the wrong toppings and condiments, I burnt bread; I just ruined food in general. However, after some practice I could make them without having to look at any instructions. After I got used to it, this was actually one of my favorite jobs because we got to make ourselves a free sandwich for our breaks.

Capturing animals

I worked for a veterinarian one summer, so I have a little experience handling animals. I worked with rodents, reptiles, cats and the occasional monkey. After my freshman year at LMU, I discovered I didn’t want to be a vet, so I got a new job at Priceless Foods the following summer. Once a snake somehow got into the store, and I was asked to get it since I had previous experience handling animals. So I got a paper bag and pair of leather gloves from the back and captured it. I even got permission to leave and find a place to set it free. So, I got a paid fifteen minute break!

Answering phones

This is the job that started it all. My first job as a telemarketer at the Citizen Tribune was the job that got me over my shyness. I have always been a bit of an introvert, but I’m way more outgoing now than I was at fifteen, when I first started working. Working as a telemarketer gave me the chance to get used to speaking with customers without necessarily having to be face to face with them. When I started working at grocery stores, I had this experience to fall back on. I will never forget how nervous I was the first week of work; the idea of calling people and trying to sell the magazines and newspapers did not appeal to me. However, after the first two weeks I was fine. For me, this job was a stepping stone into the workforce.

These are just a few of my experiences I’ve had in the work force. I know it isn’t glamorous but I’ve had my share of adventures. Sometimes I miss those days when the only worry I summer vacationhad over summer break was laying out in the sun and getting a tan; I’m sure we all miss those days sometimes! However, I cannot deny that I’ve had my share of fun, and that paycheck at the end of the week is pretty great!

So what are some of your work experiences? I would love to hear all about them if you would like to leave me a comment. Remember to like my post and check back every other Wednesday for a new one!

 

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Get Jazzy

I am one of those few, proud people who can say that they play a musical instrument. I actually play two instruments, saxophone and clarinet. I have played clarinet since I was ten, but I did not pick up saxophone until I was a sophomore in high school. Learning saxophone was difficult at first, but all those long hours of practice were worth it. Learning to play saxophone was, by far, the best decision of my musical life. Sure, I still like clarinet (it’s a great instrument), but I experience music in a different way on saxophone. Saxophone has a beautiful, profound sound I am more drawn to than any other instrument. Being able to play saxophone has shaped both my character and my LMU experience in a significant way. When I first came to LMU in 2011, I decided to join band, and I cannot imagine my life here without being in all the ensembles. I devoted most of my practice time in high school to learning how to actually play saxophone, but when I came to college I had the opportunity to take one-on-one lessons with Dr. Carucci, the Music Program Director. This is still an opportunity I continue to take advantage of because it has been so beneficial to my musical abilities. Dr. Carucci has taught me techniques and practices that I would have been unaware of if I had continued to learn on my own. When I first started lessons I was an okay musician at the best. I’ve learned to add vibrato to my sound, certain ways I can practice, and to project more. Lessons aren’t all work though! We usually play a duet at the end of every lesson just for fun. I have improved significantly as a musician since my freshman year here thanks to these lessons, and I still learn something new in every session.

My favorite style of music to play on saxophone is jazz, and I am especially lucky that Dr. Carucci happens to be an astounding jazz musician and saxophonist. I prefer jazz over other styles because there are fewer rules to follow, and there is more room for improvising. I like to improvise because it gives me the freedom to put a little bit of myself in the music. This is a technique that I work on in my lessons, and I also get many chances to improvise in jazz band every Thursday night. Jazz band is my favorite ensemble that I perform in. I enjoy every practice and I am proud of the progress we have made as a group. The first semester we played, we had little instrumentation but we still put on an amazing concert. Since then, we have gained many more members. We improve a little more every practice.

Lester Young is one of my favorite jazz musicians, other than Dr. Carucci, of course. Lester Young, like me, played tenor saxophone and clarinet. His relaxed, cool tone and free floating style is what I aim for every time I pick up my saxophone. Here’s a taste of his style:

I love absolutely everything about the saxophone: I love the shape of the instrument, I love the feeling of the keys beneath my fingers, I love the deep growling sound of my lower register, and I love the high squeal of the upper register. I love the taste of a new reed, and I love the feeling I get when I play something with great, musical expression. I love to lose myself in a song more than anything else. When I play saxo10001507_764236093600724_1946024206_nphone, I feel in different ways; I can put all my emotions into it and create a new song. Different emotions and feelings influence my playing, so I never play the same song twice. I especially love my own saxophone. I own a professional, Cannonball Hotspur, and I may be a little partial to it because it is my own, and it is gorgeous! I had played on a Bundy II until my sophomore year of college. It was a good saxophone, but nothign compares to my Cannonball Hotspur; it’s is an amazing instrument. This saxophone has a deeper, smoother sound, and the quality of the instrument is just so much better than anything else I have ever played on.

Being able to play saxophone has shaped my character. My saxophone has been with me through school performances, recitals, and practices. I cannot imagine my life without it! My saxophone is part of what makes me me. The saxophone has opened a gateway of new opportunities for me. I’m more involved with school activities, I have made friends I would have never met, and I even get a gig every now and then. I listen to music I probably would have never come across if I did not decide to play saxophone all those years ago. My entire life would be completely different! When I decided to pick up tenor sax five years ago, I never would have dreamed that I would be where I am today. To me, that is pretty amazing.

Do you play a musical instrument? What is your experience with music? Please comment below and follow my blog!

 

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