Friday Favorites #2

links-I-love

Here are my favorites for the week!

 

What I’m wearing/using:  I’m loving First Aid Beauty’s ultra repair cream for dry skin. It can be used on the face or body. It’s super moisturizing and feels great on.

 

 

repaircream

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I’m eating/drinking:  Chobani greek yogurt (blueberry on the bottom) is perfect for breakfast or a quick snack. It’s healthy and delicious!

 

 

chobani

 

 

What I’m reading:  The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey is full of science fiction (aliens), action and adventure (the end of civilization), and (young adult) romance. So far, the book is better than the movie (duh).

 

3D-Book-the 5th wave

 

 

Monday Motivation: You’re Not Here to Make a Living.

dream-job-inspirational-quotes-18-728

“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” – Woodrow Wilson

 

You’re not here to make a living. You’re here to make a life.

 

Some days, or even weeks, I feel like all I do is work and then rest and regroup for work again. It can seem like a never-ending cycle. Am I just living to work? It’s easy for us to get in a routine of counting down the days of the week until the weekend (or until we’re off from work), but we should be appreciating every moment of our life. Whether we realize it or not, we make an impact at our workplace whenever we interact with coworkers, customers, or clients. What kind of impact are we leaving? Personally, I wouldn’t want to be remembered as the complainer or the person with a grimace on my face every day.

I want to attempt to live my life to the fullest wherever I am and whatever I’m doing. Instead of spending my days off checking social media or watching shows, I should be reading or writing to help me become a better writer. I shouldn’t be dreading or worrying about what will happen the next day. To truly live means to be fully present right where you are. It also means to be who you were created to be in order to have a positive influence on others. Life is more than just getting through the work day. To live means to inspire, to encourage, and to make the world better than it was before.

Friday Favorites #1

 

Simply-Brittany-Friday-Favorites

These are my favorites this week!

 

What I’m wearing/using:  I’ve really been into Neutrogena skin care products lately, such as their lip moisturizer.

 

neutrogenalipformula

 

 

What I’m eating/drinking:  Green Mountain’s organic light roast coffee has a unique flavor.

 

GMC_Organic_Ethiopian_Yirgacheffe_16ct

 

 

What I’m reading:  I’m almost finished reading The Martian by Andy Weir. I’ve seen the movie, which was awesome, but I can still safely say that the book was better.

 

 

themartianquote

 

Monday Motivation: Just Get Started

the-secret-of-getting-ahead-is-getting-started.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” -Mark Twain

 

I hate getting out of bed most mornings. I hate cleaning. I even hate the thought of writing on some rare occasions. Once I actually start a task, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. As a serial perfectionist and an avid procrastinator, sometimes it’s hard for me to get started on any work that I have to do for the day. I avoid whatever I have to do, because I think I won’t do a job well enough. Or I might get overwhelmed by all the projects I need to finish that I end up surrendering before I start. Instead of the focusing on the grain of sand, I see an entire mound; maybe even a steep mountain that I feel I must scale before my day is done.

As Mark Twain stated, it truly is easier to get a head start on work by simply beginning. As you start to conquer this week, whether you’re heading off to work or school, don’t let your duties and responsibilities overwhelm you. Take one day at a time or even one moment at a time, putting one step in front of the other as you follow your dreams and aspirations. If you’re writing a book, take on one chapter or one page at a time. If you’re trying to get promoted at work, do what you can for today, but don’t worry about tomorrow. If you’re trying to ace a final, study hard and do your best, but do not linger over one wrong answer. God has provided you with the energy, talent, and resources that you need for today. Make use of these, but do not labor ahead into the future. Simply begin today’s work, and you’ll be one step ahead of those who don’t take that first step.

The Empty Room: A Short Story

dark-room

 

“For me, the short story is the depth of a novel, the breadth of a poem, and, as you come to the last few paragraphs, the experience of surprise.” -Amy Bloom

 

I won’t tell you what I know now, but I’ll tell you what I didn’t know then. When I moved into this small Victorian cottage, no one warned me. They didn’t tell me of the legendary tales of a haunted house. They didn’t utter a word of the mystery surrounding an ancient building. Not one of my new neighbors told me stories of the house’s former tenants disappearing; of their warm coffee cups still sitting on the table and their laundry left in the washing machine. They welcomed me to their small town, greeting me at the door with homemade casseroles and pound cakes. They stared at me with lying eyes, knowing that it might happen to me, too.

Who am I, you ask? I’d tell you, but I don’t even know. Perhaps I was a doctor or a lawyer, moving into town to start my practice or even a curious journalist or an illustrious businessman. I’m not sure. All the details are blurred, faded quietly from memory.

On that first day, I arrived at Beryville, a small community in South Carolina, in the early morning hours. I unloaded my boxes from the truck and set to work cleaning my new home. It appeared that no one had lived there for some time. Dust covered every surface and hung in the air like an unanswered question.

Through the front door was the great room. The master bedroom and guest bedrooms were down the hallway to the right. To the left, there was the parlor, the kitchen, and the library.
In the library, wall to ceiling shelves were unoccupied. As I dusted them, I could smell the aroma of old books and tobacco smoke. There was an indentation on the worn rug where a chair had been sitting by the fireplace. I pictured a former owner perusing through history books, smoking on his pipe, and being warmed by the fire during a long winter. Above the mantel, there was a portrait of just such a man. He stood tall, looking distinguished with a gray beard on his chin and a top hat gracing his head. He looked the epitome of an elegant Victorian male, with a vest and ascot peeking out beneath a long coat. But what stood out to me most were his eyes. The color wasn’t extraordinary, as they were only a muddy brown hidden beneath bushy gray eyebrows, but they were piercing. Almost wild, they stared right back at me, seeming to give this warning: “Leave. Leave while you can.”

I blinked, willing the sight away. “I’ve been in here too long. The dust must be getting to me,” I thought and left the room to do some unpacking. As I emptied every box, it was like opening up my memory bank: old papers I’d written in college, the heavy bedspread my grandmother gave me for colder nights, and the t-shirts I’d earned from running in charity races. These were all items I hadn’t mulled over in a long time.

Gradually, I set up each room, so it began to feel more like a home. Every room was filled with treasured pieces, but my favorite room was still the library. The shelves weren’t entirely full of books yet, but some of them were filled with my books and that’s all that mattered.

One evening, I considered starting a fire for the first time. The nights were getting cooler and this night was especially freezing. I stood in front of the fireplace and found myself staring at the portrait of the man again. I wonder who he was. I peered at his penetrating eyes and, for a moment I swore they moved. It seemed as if he looked down quickly and then back up again. I looked down also and saw the fireplace. Scratching my chin, I moved as close as I could to it without burning myself, laughing at what I was doing. I stuck my head inside the mantel and looked all around. As I turned my head to the right, I saw that the fireplace was a lot deeper than I had imagined. The marble of the bottom stopped after a few inches and the wooden floor of a hallway began. It continued to the right inside the fireplace, enticing me to travel down it. I looked back at the library as if someone was watching and then shrugged as I went all the way into the fireplace and started down the hallway.

At the end, there was only one room. There was no door; only an opening for one. The floors inside were made of the same antique wood as the hallway. There were windows on two of the walls. The moon shone through one of them, eerily. There was nothing in the room. It was completely empty other than the layer of dust covering the entire area and dancing in the air. What was truly odd was that it was completely silent. The walls in this room didn’t creak like the others. I could feel a cool wind, but it didn’t make a sound. The only thing I could hear was my beating heart. There was something mysterious about this room, but I wasn’t sure what it was.

As I walked closer to the room, I could hear my footsteps, but they sounded like an echo; like a sound bouncing back from a black hole. I paused for a moment in confusion, but continued as my curiosity was piqued.

With one foot inside the room, I stopped. It had vanished right before my eyes. I could feel my right foot on the cold floor, but couldn’t see it. Paralyzed with fear, I looked into the room as I slowly reached my right hand in. It disappeared as soon as it was inside. All I could do for the next five minutes was put it inside the room and then take it out slowly. Magic? Sorcery? An illusion? I had to know.

So, I immersed myself fully into the cold room and saw people. There were boys and girls and men and women of different ages and races moving slowly around the room like depressed zombies. They weren’t alive, but they weren’t dead either. Their innocent-looking eyes were blank as they shuffled across the floor. I wondered who they used to be. The blonde girl in the corner could have been a college student studying to be a nurse. The middle-aged male in faded overalls looked like a farmer. A young boy and girl held hands, looking straight ahead. Surely, they were best friends who chased each other around during recess. I mourned for these strangers. Their lives were cut short by death or a sort of eternal purgatory. They wandered this small room without genuinely seeing or feeling anything. It pricked my heart, but also made me yearn for their simple existence.

There’s something in my past I can’t remember. Was it unrequited love or a broken heart? Had I been running from the law or buried deeply in debt? Mistakes or burdens, I remember wanting to forget something. In that moment, I made a decision. I decided to join the serene dance of these lost people. I roamed around the room, trying to find my place in the somber choreography. With heavy steps, I beat out their rhythm with my feet. I kept their slow pace for a minute and then felt my brain go numb. Flashes from my past haunted me for a while, but then they were gone.

I am still here, unaware of what has gone before and unable to perceive any role for me in the future. I can’t tell you what I know now, because I don’t know anything. Sometimes I try to remember what I’ve forgotten, but my brain has been imprisoned or maybe it has been erased neatly with a magical delete button. I’ll never know. I will never remember what I meant to forget, but I will always know it was meant to be forgotten.

No One: Chapter 4

mojave-phone-booth

Read from the beginning here.

Who would I call? I can’t even remember my name much less the numbers of complete strangers from images in my head.”

Melanie ate some fallen bananas that she hadn’t noticed earlier near the beach.  Then she decided to go back and follow the path past the old cabin. At the end of it, she found a road, unmarked, but paved.  It wasn’t busy.  She might have seen one car go by if she had been paying attention.  All she noticed was a sign.

She knew she recognized it, but she didn’t know what it meant. It looked like a normal yield sign, but in the middle there was a single black star. Underneath it the word Lunal was printed in block letters.

She looked up and down the road for signs of civilization. Seeing nothing but the horizon on the right and the left, she began to walk down the right side of the highway, hoping to find a car to pick her up or maybe just a phone booth. She laughed internally at the thought. Who would I call? I can’t even remember my name much less the numbers of complete strangers from images in my head.  Yes, it was ludicrous, but still she trekked on.

As if fate was making a joke of her, a phone booth appeared as soon as she crossed the next hill on the road. Shrugging, she went up to it anyway. Once inside, she discovered a number etched into the thin wall of the booth. Smiling at what she was doing, she quickly dropped in the change she found on the floor of the booth and dialed the number.

“Hello,” a deep male voice answered.

“Hi. Um, this is…uh…Melanie.”

“Yes, we’ve been expecting your call,” he said pleasantly.

Shocked and frightened, she let go of the receiver.  She ran off, a trail of dust swirling out behind her.

Bloom Where You’re Planted

Flowers-growing-out-of-the-concrete-photography1

 

“Bloom where you are planted.” -ancient proverb

 

I have lived in the same house for nearly all of my 28 (almost 29) years of living.  This home is full of so many memories.  Echoes of my past reverberate around me daily.  Like a time traveler, I cross my own time line more often than I realize.  Sometimes the ghosts of me are suffocating and sometimes they remind me how far I’ve come.

My childhood memories are like a distant dream.  I jumped on a trampoline in this yard, I played with dolls in my room, and I lay on this same living room floor while I did my homework.

My awkward, uneasy teenage years were spent here.  I cried in my bedroom as I battled insomnia.  I wrote poetry in my journal.  I got ready for prom and graduation.  I grew up.

After college graduation, I returned here.  I dreamed of leaving this place.  I left and discovered that the real world could be unpredictable and unpleasant.  I tried to move away twice, but returned each time and I’m still here.  This house has been my launching pad, but for some reason, I always find my way back.

Almost every day I wish I was somewhere other than here.  I complain about how small my town is and that I don’t have many opportunities here.  It seems like I spend most of my time wishing instead of growing. Instead of blooming where I’m planted, I whine and become bitter.  Because life doesn’t always go the way I expect, I forget how I blessed I really am.  Though my roots are firmly planted here, that doesn’t mean I can’t learn, thrive, and blossom.  This town might be the perfect soil I need to help me dream, write, and create.

If you feel like you are stuck as I do sometimes, know that you are where you are for a reason.  It doesn’t matter your location, but what you do with the talents and resources you’ve been given. You and I must learn to let our roots provide a solid foundation for us as we grow upward and strive towards our full potential.  As we let our past water us with wisdom, we will look to the rays of hope shining down on us, and leading us to a brilliant future.

Poetry is Full of Emotion

official poetry ebook cover by sneakybookworm
Look for ‘Emotions’ on Amazon.

 

“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”-Robert Frost

 

I’ve been writing poetry since I was 14.  One of the first poems I remember writing was in gifted class in 8th grade.  I wrote a poem using Georgia History facts by making every line rhyme.  I continued writing poetry in high school:  most of the poems were similar to worship songs.  Later on, I wrote them to help me work out feelings after hard break ups or to get through other difficult times in my life.

Poetry has been there with me through it all.  That is why I love writing it so much.  Constructing phrases, rhythmic or rhyming, helps me to work through my emotions and experiences.  I can dive deeper into my problems in a beautiful way as I place all my pain on paper (or a document).

I wrote ‘Emotions’ as an expression of the various feelings we all experience:  anxiety, peace, apathy, passion, jealousy, contentment, despair, and joy.  I hope it reminds others that they are not the only ones to ride the roller coaster of life.  That everyone rides its many highs and lows and holds on tightly for every unexpected twist and turn.  I hope it reveals that there is beauty and purpose in the pain and that joy is made sweeter after a mountain of difficulties.

 

Here’s an excerpt from ‘Emotions’, the poem ‘Passion’:

 I am alive

Or at least that’s how I feel

Pulsating with energy I didn’t know existed

My eyes widen at the thought of doing what I love

I’m surfing on an endless surge of emotion

The ocean is full of ebbing waves

Carrying me on a crystal sea of happiness

I can’t be still, so I move swiftly with grace

Gliding through the waters with joy

As pure ecstasy joins me

We are whipped by powerful winds

But we remain undeterred

Even the shore is glistening as we reach it

I feel peaceful knowing I can do it again tomorrow

My heart is full of unexplored depths

Its cadence is mesmerizing

I dance to its rhythmic beat

To know I’m truly alive.

My friend Brandon enjoys writing poetry, too.  He wrote an in-depth review for ‘Emotions’ that I’d like to share with you.  You can follow him on twitter here:  @bardspell and read his writing here:  http://bardspell.blogspot.com/.

Review:

“‘Emotions’ by Erin Bower is a collection of verse on the ruminations of a daydreaming introvert’s experiences with self in relation to her own personal universe. It contains eight poems that explore the range of emotions the author experiences, alternating between the painful to the pleasant in couplets through the octave. The collection is a fascinating look at how someone, trapped inside of themselves, unable to express their feelings to fellow human beings in conversational language, expresses those feelings to the unknown through the medium of poetry.

The apparent daydreaming nature of the author is shown through the fact that she generally eschews concrete imagery in favor of what seems to be dream symbolism and the archetypal. In “Anxiety,” the author’s haunting line,

“Worries tumble out of me like dangerous flames…”

is reminiscent of someone who associates the danger of fire with panic, a primal fear, showing the author to be connected with the collective unconscious. It is intriguing how, although most people I know in reality become anxious through distorted perception of their security, the author draws upon a memory, perhaps her own from childhood, or perhaps from the deeper part of the mind that reaches back to ancestral fears. And I find this part of the essence of being a dreamer.

Other poems utilize similar imagery. “Passion,” the longest in the collection, I imagine represents the most important emotion to the author. She utilizes the ocean as a metaphor, again archetypal, yet somewhat more concrete. She associates the blissful state of being near to the sea as an invoking of that great passion within her to simply exist. The experience of reading this poem was like being inside the head of one who greatly desires to be at the beach while facing the drudgery of everyday existence, something we can all relate to. I imagine the author at work, miserable, hearing endless wave upon wave in her mind, and then suddenly being quickened to complete her duties with vigor. It is endearing.

I connected most with the author in her poem “Apathy.” It was soul crushing, utilizing the metaphor of death. Death, probably the most concrete of all human experience, is again treated as dreamlike. No person in particular dies, except for the author in her day to day experience of agonizing discontent. There are words here which stick inside of my head and haunt me: “My soul is a pit of nothing / I am dead inside .” I think back to my own experiences with the Abyss talked about by so many mystics and feel the author has experienced this “dark night of the soul” as well. I feel close to her through the shared experience of sinking into the void, the darkest days of my life, and I imagine her experiences with the same sinking into the fabric which annihilates the self and ego.

I would recommend “Emotions” to anyone, whether they be an introvert or extrovert. For introverts, it is soothing to know that there are others out there that experience the same feelings that you do, which is a sort of bonding unavailable to those who find it difficult to communicate. For extroverts, it is a glimpse into the lives of those you see everyday, so quiet and inhibited, whom you fail to understand through your day to day experiences with them. All in all, though this collection bears a roughness inherent in any first publication, I will revisit it again and again, and look forward to reading more of the author’s work in the future.”

Thanks for reading!  You can buy ‘Emotions’ on Amazon here: 

No One: Chapter 3

cabin

Read Chapter 1 here and Chapter 2 here.

“Melanie slept fitfully as flashes of memories continued in her dreams. Most of them involved her mystery man who piqued her curiosity and frustration simultaneously.”

After gaining control of herself, she realized, “My name is Melanie…..He could have been talking to someone else.” But somehow the name resonated within her. “Maybe I’ll call myself that until I figure out who I really am.”

 

Then she decided to set up camp at the beach. “It’s where I woke up,” she thought. “So, I better stay here; it might be important.”

 

It was easy enough for her to start a fire. “I must have been a Girl Scout growing up,” she laughed bitterly to herself. After a supper of the last of the blackberries, she lay down beside the warm flames. Sighing, she fell asleep to the now surprisingly soothing sound of the ocean with a blanket of stars as her only covering.

 

Melanie slept fitfully as flashes of memories continued in her dreams. Most of them involved her mystery man who piqued her curiosity and frustration simultaneously. In the last one before she awoke, she was laying in pain in a hospital.  “I’m right here,” the man spoke while holding her hand.

 

She woke up with a start, sweaty and breathless. “I have to get out of here!” she thought. But she didn’t know where she was going or how to get there. “I’ll find a way,” she said to the ocean. Determined, she ignored her hunger and started traveling down the path through the trees.

 

After a few hours, without fruit; either in a meal or in finding a way out of the forest, Melanie sat down to rest. Suddenly seeing a clearing a few feet ahead, she got up and walked towards it. As the trees parted, a cabin came into view. With hopes for food and someone to converse with, she walked closer and knocked on the door. “Foolishness; there’s no one here.” The cabin had obviously not been inhabited for some time. The wood in it was rotten and the hinge on the door was rusted. Even so, she pulled the door open with a little effort.

 

Inside was what one would usually find in an old cabin masquerading as a set for a pioneer TV show: old pots and pans in the kitchen and an old bed and trunk in the common room. Not surprisingly, she tried to open the trunk. “Of course it’s locked,” she thought begrudgingly. Although, she thought it odd that it didn’t fit in with the rest of the cabin. “It looks almost new,” she thought astonished. Her stomach rumbled and decided for her that she was done with discoveries for the day. Sighing, she left the cabin as it was and headed back into the forest to find some food.

Find Peace Within

MarvinGaye.001

 

“If you cannot find peace within yourself, you will never find it anywhere else”- Marvin Gaye

 

It’s hard to find peace today.  Watch any news program and you’ll be reminded of the wars and violence that are so prevalent around the world, in each of our countries, our cities, and even in some of our own neighborhoods.  Greed, hatred, selfishness, and a love of power has seeped in and stolen others’ innocence, faith in humanity, and an outward peace that we wish was reigning in humanity today.  We’ve learned that we can’t find peace in the world and that has left some of us feeling despondent.

It’s difficult to find peace in our daily lives as well.  Money troubles, school or job stress, our personal hang-ups or struggles, family or relationship problems, and even social media drama.  The list seems endless as we deal with the messy details in our lives.  These dilemmas can leave us full of anxiety, worry, and fear.  Sometimes we can turn to friends and family, but they will eventually fail us at some point, because they are only human also.

If we can’t find true peace in the world or in other people, where can we find it?  We have to look inside ourselves.  But can we create peace on our own?  No, we have to look to God.

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:5-7

This verse always challenges me.  As a person who gets social anxiety in a crowded room or when I’m meeting new people, it’s hard to overcome my feelings and be at peace.  I also worry about the distant future and even what might happen to me in a coming week.  I forget that God is in control of everything and that He has already taken care of my future.  I focus on my circumstances instead of talking to Him about them.

If we would learn to let go and change our mindset about our lives, we might just find the serenity we desire.  Instead of opening our souls to dread and worry, we should greet each day with eager optimism and unbridled hope.  We can’t depend on the world or other people to create a peaceful atmosphere around us, but we can learn to find inner peace through prayer and surrender.  We have to give up trying to orchestrate our lives and remember that He is in control already.

#MondayMotivation and #FridayFavorites