Monday, July 28, 2014

The Day I Went to Prison

Something that has always been on my list of things to do is go to prison.  Not just any prison but the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio.  Unfortunately, I was still a child when the prison shut down (December 31, 1990) so I could no longer serve my 25-life but luckily, as it turns out, I still got to go to this prison...on a tour.

This prison is a rather popular and historical sight.  If you've seen The Shawshank Redemption, you are familiar with the grounds because the movie was filmed there twenty years ago.  Yes, that's right, TWENTY years ago.

I decided to watch the movie before heading to the reformatory so I could look for certain movie scenes and have a better understanding of the movie location.  It really is a good movie.  Every time I watch it a new part stands out to me.  Everything about it is so well written (thank you, Stephen King), the acting is spot on (thank you, Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins) and the directing is perfect (thank you Frank Darabont).

I got a little giddy when I saw the ever so popular sign...Brooks was was Red.

Finally, I was able to cross the Ohio State Reformatory off of my things to do while I'm alive list.  I tried to get my family to go with me a few years ago but it never got beyond talk.  I had a friend ready to go along with me last summer but we never got around to it.  So, when my coworkers realized we all had Monday's off, we decided we should do something fun together...and so we decided to put in some hard time.

Since they only offer self guided tours during the week, we made our way down the winding rows, up creaking staircases, past the warden's living quarters, through the cells, and past the solitary confinement corridors.  Every bit of the building was fascinating.  From the paint falling off the walls, to the brick ceilings, to the unexplained smell from the cells, we were actually happier that we decided to do a guided tour with our audio player instead of coming on a day where we would have had to join in with a group. 

There are tales of ghost sightings and horror stories.  At one point, I think I heard what sounded like a fight in the jail cells two stories up, but Sonja thinks the dust and eeriness of the building was getting to me.  Then, later, Dee was walking and her cell phone fell out of her back pocket.  No one was around, and she hadn't done anything to shift her position to make her cell phone fall out, it just did.  That was enough for us to hurry our pace out of that room!  In another room, Dee was listening to the audio telling us about visions of a small boy that was unexplained. We got to the closets and I dared Dee to open up the door. It was a short door, probably something the size of a kitchen-under-the-counter-cabinet-size.  When's Dee opened up the door she said someone's been in here because there were skidmarks in the dust...something we'd seen in a bunch of other rooms. 

"Say, something a small boy would make?" I mention as she opens the other door.  We see a tiny hand print.

"A kid was in there messing around." Sonja said.

"Or possibly a little boy ghost who likes to play hide and seek..." I added.

Sonja rolled her eyes while Dee shivered. " What! You just told me the ghost story of the little boy! It's possible!" I defended my comments.

It was a really neat place to visit and if it isn't already on your do-soon list, be sure to put it there!  It's a little bit of everything.  It met my behind-the-scenes desires, it met my ghost-hunting desires, and it met my historical nerds desires.

It took us about three hours to get through every room.  Sometimes we would climb in small spots because curiosity got the best of us.  From some of the windows we could see the new and functioning prison where we saw current inmates spending time outside and walking the grounds.

This was the first time I've really hung out with these ladies outside of the work place and it turns out that we had a lot more fun together outside of work than we do when we're working similar shifts.  I have a sneaky feeling we'll have more adventures planned for another Monday and I'm looking forward to it.

Prison is the new sexy.  Bow chicka bow wow.
Sonja:  Please stop, I'm embarrassed for you.  (Any time Dee and I would take ridiculous pictures.)
Sonja:  I take it you've never been blackmailed before...because you're giving us a lot of pictures to use...

P.S.  I posted a ton of pictures on my Instagram so if you want a better here.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Dinosaur Eye

I’m having a hard time enjoying life when I know my thyroid is four times larger than what it should be and that there are soft tissue lumps on my thyroid, however, I’m doing my best to stay positive by reminding myself that I tend to eat and live a healthy lifestyle.  Then the haunting words seep in, words like cancer, and how so many family members have had cancer…and luckily all also cancer survivors.  I’m not letting my mind wander at that option for long because it’s one of those—I’d rather cross that bridge IF I get there things.

So, I’m doing my best to go about everyday life and continue to make healthier choices by cutting out more sugar, more wheats, more meat, more processed food.  It’s making my work day a lot harder since I work with foods full of sugar, wheat, meat and processed. 

The other night I had a WILDTREE party.  For those unfamiliar with this company, they are an organic based food company with lots of food products to make cooking and eating healthy actually something easy to do.  There are no GMOs in their products and none of that other bad stuff.  Knowing the best thing I can do for my unresolved thyroid issue is eat organic, I’m thankful for this company. 

A few days before my party I remembered to invite my female friend Kyle.  She has some health issues that limit pretty much everything she eats.  Since I knew the products were better than most, I was thrilled to learn the foods in Wildtree’s catalog could be consumed by her.  We ended up talking more about our health and I told her about my recent diagnosis.  Since she is a traveling ultrasound technician, she said she would give me a quick ultrasound before the party to give me a little bit of peace of mind since my official ultra sound isn’t until May 6.

With the Wildtree consultant setting up, and the other early arrival, Kyle put the machine to my neck and we all looked to the computer screen. 

“Well, there’s your thyroid—whoa!”  Kyle said as she went slightly pale.

“So, that’s not good, is it?”  I do my best to remain calm but I’m relieved I’m doing this with close friends.

“You have a very large mass on your thyroid.” Kyle confirms.

“It looks like a dinosaur eye.”  I continue to look at the screen as I slow my breathing.

“What’s that color mean?” SJ asks as she looks over my shoulder and at the screen.

“Color isn’t good, is it?”  I ask but I already know by Kyle’s expression.

“IT could be benign.  Remember when I gave Deb a scare?  Hers wasn’t anything and she had color too.”  Kyle says, trying to comfort me.  “But, if it is something, you can have your thyroid removed, so it could be something fairly simple to fix.”

I nod my head but my eyes can’t leave the screen that looks like a dinosaur eye.  Since the ultra sound scan, I can find and feel my mass much easier.  It’s nearly the size of a golf ball.  And the only thing I can think is 1) How long has it been there?  2) What caused it to grow? And 3) How can I make it disappear and still keep my thyroid?

Naturally, financial issues keep sneaking in on me since I got a call from the financial consultant about my upcoming ultrasound.  I’ve been denied for Medicaid.  I’m really not sure what I’m going to do…and the not knowing if this large mass on my thyroid is cancerious or not, isn’t really helping.  But, like most things in the medical field, I have to hurry up to wait some more, and I don’t like the waiting part.

However, I’m glad I have a friend with a portable ultrasound machine to give me a heads up, a friend who works in a holistic chiropractic office who has a bundle of information on alternative health plans for whatever I might be going through,  and a few nurses in the family, makes me think I’ll be able to give as much information as I’ll need to make it through this, but most importantly, I have some friends who are being encouraging and supportive despite my insecurities at the moment.

And it's true...I've been nothing but a hot mess lately.  At least I kinda have an excuse to be...right?!?

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Unfair Disadvantage of Being a Writer

One of my friends is writing his third book and we have been in heated discussions about the proper use of commas, quotations, and other writing technicalities. Then, we talk about spelling errors, lousy feedback, and whether or not being an indie author is a good thing or not.

The more we discuss these things the more I wonder what the world has against writers.

It seems indie/self-published authors have a bad reputation.  The theory is the only reason indie authors are published is because they couldn't find a real publishing company to take on their story so they had to self-publish their work.

This isn't true at all.

Some people like the freedom of self-publishing, some people work better without the rules and regulations, and some people simply want to express themselves through the art of writing.  

And writing is just art.

Sure, we can learn the proper placement of commas, point out spelling errors, and a variety of other thing as steps in honing the craft but writing is still an art from.

It's a talent.
It's a gift.
It's a blessing.

It's an expression.

It's not something that can be learned without allowing yourself to be a part of the evolution.  Writing is exhausting; emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically.  To write well, you have to pour yourself 100% into writing at all times, day after day, hour after hour, project after project.  Not everyone understands why those with the passion of writing exclude themselves from company to write something down or keep a notebook that makes you look like a schizophrenic.

At the same time, writing is completely exhilarating because we allow so much of ourselves to be a part of the expression of words on a page.

So then, why do I think writers have a huge amount of pressure on them?  Because we do!  We have to satisfy ourselves through our writing and still satisfy the readers and the critics.  Others have high expectations of us with our usage of grammar and our artistic ability or story-telling and mixing words on a page.  We have certain word counts to make a "legit" novel and those who do go through a proper publishing company are told how to rewrite their story so it will become a money making product instead of an expression of art.

Doesn't it seem unfair?  

But what about that small budget movie maker who wants to display his talent at the indie film festival?  That's okay because that person is an artist, right?  But wouldn't that mean they aren't good enough to get into Hollywood so they take a cop-out to work in their desired profession because MGM didn't hire them?

And what about that band that plays at the bar on Friday nights?  You listen to their self-produced album constantly because the music is so raw, so authentic, and their, you'd love to hear them on the radio someday.   Are they ruining their chances of making it big with their record releases on their own label instead of something Simon Cowell produced?

Instead of being able to use indie author experience on our writing resume, it makes us look like a sell out, when, like many other artists, we are using it as a chance to expose our talent until we "hit it big." 

I love to write and I am very bashful about sharing my talent beyond the blogging world because of these stereotypical issues.  People have told me I should go to college so I can be a better writer if that's what I want to do with my life because then, I'd at least have a degree... and that suddenly makes me a best-selling author.  That's how it's supposed to work, right?

I have a friend who teaches creative writing 101 or whatever her course is called.  She constantly posts her students flaws, mistakes, and other ridiculous things they've written.  Because of her posts, I refuse to ever take a college course on writing.  She can easily tell them what is wrong with each paragraph and this bothers me she's posting it on social media, exposing their "mistakes".  Her students are people in pursuit of their dreams and no matter how creative they are, it doesn't fit in the handbook of how to be an author.

Writing is as much as an art form as painting is yet it isn't recognized as such.  If an indie film maker can find his picture, and a unknown musician can find his song, then a writer should be able to write in their own voice — even if that means breaking some of the rules.