Archive for Happiness

Trying Something New

Posted in art, kidlit, Publishing, SCBWI, Writing with tags , on March 9, 2015 by Jessica Crichton

I’ve been looking inside a lot of boxes lately, trying to find the path I need to be on for my family and my future. The boxes haven’t held any answers. Tonight, I decided to build my own box.

You can help me do that.

I’ve started a fundraiser to get me to the next SCBWI conference. This could mean everything for my stories. Please vitsit my page. If you can offer anything into the pot, I thank you. If you can’t (and I SO understand that!) please share the link through your profiles and pins so that more people will see it. That, too, helps SO much.

Thank you again, my friends. This isn’t easy to do but it’s something I haven’t tried yet, and right now that’s all I have left.

http://www.gofundme.com/PatronizetheArts

The Demonization of Feel

Posted in Books, Shiny Happy Musings, Writing with tags , , , on November 14, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

I just realized a great big flaw in my writing. It’s not subconscious — in fact, I have forced myself to do it on many occasions as it goes against my natural instincts — but I didn’t realize how detrimental it was to my work until recently. I have forced it upon my writing because this flaw has long been seen as a strength, not just by me, but by many people in our current society (at least, in America where I am). What is it?

The demonization of feel.

So often lately I hear people say things like, “don’t be so emo”, “what a whiner!” and “nobody wants to hear your bitching”. The idea seems to be that with maturity comes ice-cold logic and the ability to bury any and all feelings, especially the negative ones. Nobody wants to be an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on anymore.

And especially nobody wants to admit that they sometimes need that, too.

Like many, I have seen my emotions as something to be ashamed of, because I have been told this over and over again by the society around me. In my characters, too, I have pulled far back from their emotional development because, “readers don’t want to hear a bunch of complaining”. My characters had to be strong, tough, and above all, emotionally self-sustaining.

In other words, they had to be inhuman.

In The Counterfeit Zombies of Noc, I delved further into emotions than I ever have before, showing Tab as extremely vulnerable. I worried the entire time that maybe she was being too whiny, crying too much. But then I thought, in her situation I would certainly be crying too. In fact, most kids her age would be crying at the VERY least. That’s when I realized that I wasn’t making Tabitha a whiner, I was making her human.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There can always be too much of anything, and I have certainly found myself rolling my own eyes at certain people who can’t seem to ever say a happy, thankful, hopeful word to save their apparently horrendous, soul-sucking lives. But there’s a difference between being an emotional vampire and never admitting — even to yourself — that you have emotions in the first place. A happy medium is needed here, as it seems to be needed more and more these days… everywhere.

People have feelings, and contrary to popular opinion there’s nothing wrong with that. But if we can’t support each-other, even in the hard times — especially in the hard times — then sooner or later we’ll all find ourselves just as cold, alone, and two-dimensional as the unemotional fictional characters can can’t seem to care about.

The Five Best Things about Raising Kids Poor

Posted in Family, Family Life, Kids, mothers, Parenting with tags , , , , on September 11, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

cuddle

I see a lot of blog posts about parenting out there, and many of them are a lot of fun to read, laugh with, and relate to.  Still, these are often written about subjects to which I am woefully unrelatable, such as picking the perfect nanny, or how to get your kid into an ivy-league college starting in preschool. Now, I’m not saying these things aren’t relevant; I’m sure for many parents they are, or else they wouldn’t be written about. And I would never be one to judge any parent (unless they harm their children — that deserves a lot more than judgement, as far as I’m concerned). However, I am pretty sure I am not the only mommy out there who’s parenting world is a bit different than the perceived norm of soccer practices and brand-name baby carriages.

As I have written about before, I am not what one would call… well-off. Actually I’m not even middle class. Of course, when one says this, one is usually expected to follow up with reasons why being poor is a terrible thing, how they want to win the Lottery one day, how the world is awful and judgmental, etc.

I’m not going to do that.

As I said before, I’m not the only parent raising their children in what America calls poverty, and we have all heard quite enough about how horrible it all is. Heck, we’re quite aware of it in our own lives thank-you-very-much. But what I haven’t heard much of is the good things. The happy things. The wonderful day-to-dayness of parenting poor (as opposed to poorLY — that’s a very different thing). So, for myself and my fellow penniless parents out there, here is my list of the top five BEST things about raising un-monied children:

5) Our Kids Have to Learn to be Thankful

kidsgarden

I’m not saying that those parents who are better off can’t teach their children to be meek and thankful, but I am saying that poor kids don’t really have a choice in the matter. My own children have learned from day one that they won’t get everything they want in life, not because I don’t want to give them all their desires, but because I can’t. Seeing that Mom would like to give them what they want, but still can’t do it, not only shows my children that the world won’t just give them whatever they desire, but it makes them far more thankful for what they can have. Though any parent can teach their child thankfulness, poor parents have the automatic default of showing their kids — in real time — why hard work is important.

Which brings me to…

4) Our Kids Get Daily Lessons in Reality

kidspool

This is similar to #5, but not exactly the same. See, I am divorced from my children’s father as well as poor. This isn’t something I’m particularly proud of, but life is the way it is. However, it gives me a myriad of lessons to teach my children in order to improve their futures:

“Why are you and dad divorced?” “Because we got married too young — don’t do that.”

“Why are we so poor?” “Because Mommy didn’t do anything to get ready for having kids before she had you. Go to college. Get a career, not just a job. Be ready for your kids.”

My children get these lessons on almost a daily basis. My high school junior is planning college with a view towards a career, not just a degree, and my sophomore has said that she WILL get a PhD… because Mom now has a Master’s and she can do better. I’m proud of my children, what they have accomplished and will accomplish. I am also a natural spoiler. If I had money, my children would most likely be learning some very different lessons… and not the best ones.

3)  Family Time is AWESOME

familytime

I’m sure going to the spa, or Disneyland, or beach house, or whatever is a lot of fun for some families. I’m even sure my family would enjoy such a thing. However, we have some pretty awesome family times ourselves.

For example, there are times when we do have some extra cash, so we have things like a T.V. and video game system for family-time livingroom sleepovers with popcorn, game tournaments, and family movies. There are also some great free, or close to free, family outings that we do on a regular basis. Here in Spokane there is a HUGE free fountain in the central park downtown where kids can run through and splash and have a blast. We go there often when it’s warm, packing a picnic lunch from our own home stores of budgeted groceries. This costs about $3 — for parking. We also go camping, which is a WONDERFUL time to not only give our kids some great memories, but spend real time with each-other without the distractions of T.V., laptops, or even cell phones. This usually costs a bit more for gas and some extra campy-style food, but we have some free campsites we like to go to, so that the total cost for an entire weekend of family fun is only around $40 max. Usually less. Wintertime offers parks for sledding with home-brought hot cocoa, or family game night with mommy-made kid’durves (usually tiny peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches and chips).

Of course, this isn’t meant to say that our family times are any better than anyone else’s, but it is to say that yeah we have it. And yes, it can be AWESOME. Still…

2) It Takes Work

JScience

So, you might be saying “how the heck is this a GOOD thing?” Let me explain.

I am not going to sit here and say I know what it’s like to raise kids with money. That would be asinine, and a lie. That said, I DO know myself, and I know that if I had money to spare, I’d probably take as many shortcuts as possible to make my parenting life easier. However, I don’t have money to spare, and so I have to take extra time to spend quality moments with my children. Between job-hunting, bill paying, and the everyday stress of not knowing details about the future state of either, my kids could easily get lost in the shuffle. I have to make a concerted effort to remember to give my twelve-year-old the scraps of cloth and holey clothes I find in the laundry so she can practice her sewing skills. I have to work hard at planning creative birthday parties around a non-existent budget, to sign my kids up for the free programs at school so they can go to cross country practices and sing in choir, to plan a special fun meal with nothing more than a loaf of bread and some frozen hamburger, to stop and hug my kids, even when my mind is racing with anxiety over how the electric bill is going to get paid…

My kids aren’t stupid. They span in age from 6 to 16. They see things. They hear things. They know Mom and Dad (my new husband) are stressing out. But they also see past that. They see the love. They see the dedication. They understand that no matter what, they are the very most important thing to us. And they know this because it takes so much work to keep their lives as happy, carefree and normal as possible, even while our own feels like it’s falling apart.

1) Our Kids are Compassionate

sisterslove2

Again, let me qualify this with the fact that I am not saying wealthier kids can’t be compassionate. What I am saying is my children have empathy for those in need, because they have been in-need themselves many times. We have been to the food bank where my kids have given other kids the donuts they just got, because maybe those kids don’t have a big sister who will bake for them later. My now sixteen-year-old daughter, when she was only eight and very shy, stood up for a friend who was being bullied because she herself was bullied so often for wearing the “wrong” clothes. My nine-year-old son shares everything he gets with his six-year-old sister, because he knows that maybe neither of them will get it again any time soon. I have been complimented in public, not for how well my children behave, but for how well they treat each-other. The words from one particular old lady will forever echo in my mind as one of the greatest moments of my life: “It’s so wonderful to see your children together. It’s obvious that they love each-other very much.”

Am I bragging? Maybe a little. 😉 But I have a sneaking suspicion that if my children hadn’t had it so rough growing up, they wouldn’t be so soft now. Sure, my influence and lessons have made an impact, but again, I am a natural coddler. If we had money, my kids would quite possibly not understand what it’s like to be in need, to be downtrodden, to be on the outside looking in. And without that understanding it’s very difficult to sympathize — let alone empathize — with others in the same position.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I want to remain poor for the rest of my life. Like the vast majority of people, I want the best life I can have for myself, my husband, and my children. This is why I have worked so hard to earn my Master’s (which I just received last month, hence the lack of job at the moment). Still, I’m a little tired of seeing only the bad side of being poor. Poor parents aren’t bad parents, and we aren’t always miserable, either.

In fact, sometimes being a poor parent is pretty danged great.

“Come Hither”, the Night Whispers… and I Answer the Call

Posted in Books, Shiny Happy Musings, Writing with tags , , , on November 21, 2011 by Jessica Crichton

For a few months now, since soft Summer gave way to her blustery brother Autumn, I have been attempting to keep a daytime schedule. To say this has not been easy is to say it’s difficult for a human to fly. I am, by birth and blood, kith and kin, a night person. I thrive when the sun has gone to slumber and the moon shines silver in my window. This is when I work best, and this is when I feel the most alive.

Sadly, the world does not seem to understand my need for the dark and quiet hours before dawn. My children have school in the mornings, which I must rise to ready them for and take them to, and by the time I am back home it is too late to sleep again because if I do I will lose any time I might have to work in the peace and quiet of my family being away. Unfortunately for me, most of the time when I am awake for that reason, I am also at my very lowest level of productivity. It would be more productive to give the keyboard to a zombie and ask it to write my books and graduate papers than it is for me to try when all I can think about is taking a nap to possibly relieve the pounding headache fatigue has graciously gifted me with.

Mind you, the night before I have had an average of 7.5 hours of sleep.

But my body screams “why are you doing this to me? It’s not natural! I need the NIGHT!” And sure enough, as the sun goes down, so too do my energy and alertness go up. It is not laziness, and it is not an inability to keep a proper schedule.

It is who I am.

My grandmother, who is also a writer and editor and owns a library that I drool over just thinking about, recently confided in me that to this day she stays up until 2 AM most nights. Night people are this way because it is who we are, and always will be. Sadly, for the most part we must live in a day-peoples’ world, but I am curious to know… how many more of my fellow scribes work best when Luna is their muse?

This One’s For the Kids

Posted in Family, Kids, Shiny Happy Musings with tags , , , , , , , on September 8, 2011 by Jessica Crichton

Psst… hey you. Yeah, you. Over there. The short one. Yeah, you. I wanna tell ya some stuff, OK?

OK.

First of all, you’re a pretty cool kid. Maybe you’re told that all the time, or maybe you never hear it. Either way, you are. Just remember that.

Also, you have huge potential. Like, major. Did you know that? Potential doesn’t just mean that someday when you grow up you’ll be an awesome adult. It also means you’ll be even more awesome tomorrow than you are today. And that’ll just keep building every day, day by day, week by week, year by year. Imagine all the great stuff you’ll do with that kind of potential! What’s your dream? Have you been told it’s impossible? I have a secret to tell you:

It’s not.

So go for it! Do what you want to do. Just remember that some dreams take a lot of work and tenacity (that means never, ever giving up), but if you keep trying and keep pushing (and start young… that to), you’ll find out that it IS totally possible to live your dreams!

So, to recap: you are awesome, you have mad potential, and you can be whatever you want to be.

Have a killer weekend! (I know it’s Thursday, but it’s never too early to start being happy!)

 

Love always,

~Morgan Marshall

Lazy Sunday

Posted in Family, Shiny Happy Musings, Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 4, 2011 by Jessica Crichton

Today’s lazy. I’m sleepy, the kids are watching Monty Python’s Holy Grail (which I am highly proud of), my eldest is listening to Guns N’ Roses and reading The Crows’ Nest, and lunch is on the stove (bacon, eggs and homemade hash browns). Unlike many Americans, I’ll be working tomorrow. I have a banner ad to design, a book trailer to edit and finalize, and some ads to place.

I’m excited about them all.

Tuesday school starts and I have a lot of running around to do on top of work. Almost every kid goes to a different school, one clear across town (in construction), and my two youngest have well-child appointments.

Fall is coming fast alright. And if I’m not careful it’ll run me over like a steamroller.

But for now, as I sit in front of the computer and listen to the sounds of my family, I’m just content to be lazy and happy.

Sometimes we all could use a lazy Sunday.

Humanity Revisited

Posted in Family, Shiny Happy Musings, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 13, 2011 by Jessica Crichton

Normally I’m a pretty optimistic person. I like to see life as an adventure just waiting to be had. But recently I, like the vast majority of humanity, have been pommeled by a plethora of pfft. From America’s sinking economy, to England’s riots, to the wars in the Middle East that have lasted forever and show no sign of stopping, this world has been a pretty cruddy place to live in lately. And I figure if I’M feeling blue, with my usually sunny look on life, plenty of other people are probably on their way to deep purple by now. So I’ve pulled up my bootstraps (I do love combat boots), and decided to count down my personal favorite top ten of the many good things we still have going for us.

Drumroll please…

#10 – Space Exploration

Not too long ago, NASA was officially decommissioned by the government. And everywhere people wept for the loss of their ideal Roddenberry-esque vision of the future. Of course, the Russians are still in space, which is good for humanity as a whole (since Russians are, you know, people), but beyond that I knew that this was actually good news for America too, and lately I have been proven right!

Muahahahaaaa!I was RIGHT!

*Ahem* ANYway, my first thought was, now that space flight is no longer under the government’s radar, private companies will get in on the deal. And really, what’s the number one motivating force in America? You got it. Profit. So… now that companies can make money on space exploration, do you think they’ll just let that sit? Nope. And they haven’t. Everyone from Seattle’s Space Needle to Boeing to a company called SpaceX have begun getting in on making the present much more science-fiction… y, and now that they’ll make money at it, do you really think they’ll stop at the moon?

Even NASA isn’t down for the count. Now that they’re no longer tethered to the government, the space-exploration giant is planning bigger, better, and deeper excursions into space than ever before.

The end of an era? Hardly. Say hello to Science Fiction becoming Science Fact, folks! It’s gonna happen… and soon.

#9 – Environmentalism

Say what you will about humanity’s ability to take care of our Mother, we’ve gotten a lot better at it over the years. In fact, since 1970 when The Environmental Protection Agency was formed and people began to really notice and care about our environment, the Earth has gotten steadily healthier. Regulations on water, air and land quality have kept everyone from individual campers to multi-billion dollar corporations on their toes, and it has paid off. According to The Environmental News Network, “In the year 2010 alone, clean air regulations are estimated to have saved over 160,000 lives.” That’s good news, no matter how you look at it.

Now, I’m not saying the Earth is as healthy as it was before the Industrial Revolution — that will take a lot more time — but I am saying it’s healthier than it has ever been since. And that’s something to be happy about, if anything is.

#8 – Individuality


We’re all different. Lately we’ve been more and more prone to accepting that fact in ourselves and in others. In fact, since the 1980’s there hasn’t been any one specific style to describe a decade, be it the 90’s, the 00’s, or the 10’s (which, of course, we’re still in, but whatever). That is because there are so many more different kinds of styles than ever before, and they are all pretty equal in scope of use. Sure, there are still people who feel they have to pretend to be who they aren’t to “fit in”, and those annoying neighbors who work hard to “keep up with the Joneses”, but that’s all heading out of style pretty fast, with each generation being more free to express their own individuality than the last. I believe the advent of the Internet sparked this change in attitude, as social media sites, vlogs, blogs, forums, and print-on-demand publishing have all given a lot more  power to the people, instead of traditional media, to decide what’s cool and what isn’t, and the latter is turning out to be a very small percentage indeed.

After all, if you can talk to millions of people online who think cone hats are as cool as you think they are, why should you care that your sister’s boyfriend’s mother disagrees? You’ll wear that cone hat proudly, thank-you-very-much, and be exactly who you are because you can be.

And while we’re at it…

#7 – The Internet

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. There are bad things online. But there are bad things everywhere, really, and honestly always have been. Of course, the big difference is that it’s way easier to find now. True. But that can also be said of the good things.

And there are plenty of good things you can find online. Here’s a short list:

  1. Educational Research from Trusted Sources.
  2. Fun videos that you can share with you friends, family, and even (once you have watched them first),  your children.
  3. Information to help you achieve your dreams (case in point, this.)
  4. Classic Books. (YAY!)
  5. Classic Artwork. (Also YAY!)
  6. Information on your favorite movies, TV shows, and Actors/Actresses.

I’m sure you could add  a million more bullets to this list. Like many other things in this world, the Internet can be good. It all depends on how you look at it.

#6 – Pets

I mean, really. Look at how cute they are. They make me smile just looking at them. If I didn’t believe in God already, the loving gaze of a little doggy would certainly convince me. Seriously. We have pets. And they make life happy. Really, it’s as simple as that.

#5 – Music

I have a lot of friends who are music-crazy. My fiance’ is one of them. I, myself, am much more of a literati, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the experience of listening to a beautifully composed piece of music. I’m also quite the karaoke fool. Whether you’re a self-proclaimed reborn Mozart / Kurt Cobain or just like to listen to your iPod as you take a stroll around the block, I don’t know anyone who can argue against the fact that music is a beautiful part of being alive.

#4 – Art

“Smoke and Mirrors” – H.A. Crichton (Click on image to go to artist’s site.)

Art has been called the soul of humanity, and I don’t doubt it. For myself, I can’t do visual art to save my life (check out my cartoon of “The Elementals”… oi), but my sister and my illustrator have both shown me in their works what it means to be a true artist. The beauty and majesty of great works of art take one’s breath away. As long as art is being created, humanity will continue to thrive.

#3 – Books

Thanks to Book/Daddy's Blog for this image!

Yeah. You knew I was going to go there, huh? But really, next to art and music, the creation of literature is the end-all and be-all of being human. It is in storytelling that we capture the human condition completley and share it with others who then cherish and share the stories for generations. Plus, I did say BOOKS, not just FICTION. Before computers, books were where we stored all of our most trusted and important information for centuries. I mean, seriously, books just rock. Period.

#2 – Love

(Me and my wonderful fiance’)

There are a lot of different kinds of love. From the love of a good friend to the love of one’s self to family love to, of course, romantic love, love is a wonderful feeling that makes you happy. True, sometimes it’s because of love that we suffer (losing a loved one to death, divorce, etc), but even then we are suffering for a good reason… something that matters. In the end, love is good.

And I, for one, want to acknowledge that fact.

#1 – Kids

Watch children play. Listen to them laugh. Just try not to laugh with them. That is our future… if we don’t mess it up. As the saying goes, “children are God’s way of telling humanity that we haven’t messed up too bad… yet”.

Agree or disagree with me all you want, but these are the reasons I still smile while greeting a new day. I hope they made you smile a little, too.  🙂

(Note: Most of these links go outside of my blog, to sites that are not owned by me. Most images are also tagged to the site where I found them, unless they are mine. I do not own the rights to any of the ones to which I have linked, nor do I claim to. Thanks.)

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