Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I Can't Help It If I'm Weird

Wednesday Rules
I grew up reading The Addams Family and The Shining, watched One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest when I was probably way too young, learned how to throw a tomahawk and knife from my mom, and concocted strange herbal remedies that often included a bit of my own blood (I think I still have a vial of the vile stuff somewhere).

A yard sale score
So when I thought of setting my latest series in an insane asylum, my self wasn't the least bit surprised. What could be spookier or more macabre than an insane asylum? ...Or at least what I think of when I imagine an insane asylum. Of course, I had to make my insane asylum at Nepenthe Manor more palatable than a real one. I don't particularly like reality. I mean, I truly believe I'll be able to buy a castle someday. But anyway, if you've ever been inside a mental health facility, you understand what I'm talking about. And I think anyone who has had to live in one would much prefer my asylum.

A couple things I've collected
Just some light reading material...
So far, of all the characters I've created (or who have knocked on my skull's door), Pandora Belfry is definitely my favorite. I'm starting to think she's my alter ego (the person I would be if I weren't so restricted by our boring society). She does and says things I never would even dare. She's the much more intriguing me I'd like to be.

And if I were to become more like her? I think the world should be afraid, very afraid.

One of my lethal plants
Let me know what you think of the world I created. And if I should become more like Pandora. And if you'd like to join me in creating mayhem. And if you're weird, too.

I like weird.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Don't Forget Us

I just love this picture!
I've recently launched a new book series: The Pandora Belfry Adventures, which combines my love of writing with my morbid sensibilities with my wish to help people. I'm excited because these aren't just books, they're atypical commentaries on how our society treats the mentally ill. I wanted to take my background in counseling psychology and apply it to the world of Nepenthe Manor in a way that would make people want to read about mental illness - I hope I succeeded in doing that.

The first book is called Mayhem at Nepenthe Manor. It's pronounced like this...Nuh-pen-thee. Just click on the blue word because it does a better job of showing you how to say it than I just did. Nepenthe is the last name of the family that built Nepenthe Manor back in the 1880s.

So you might be wondering...where did I get the name Nepenthe? Actually, I don't remember where I came across the word, which is ironic being that nepenthe means "something that makes you forget."

In Homer's Odyssey, it was actually a drug. This book is not about drugs. I picked the name to represent what Nepenthe Manor becomes - an insane asylum. And what's an insane asylum but a place full of people society wants to forget and who wouldn't mind forgetting a few things themselves?

I plan to keep blogging about mental health, psychology, daily struggles, etc. so stay tuned for more interesting tidbits, helpful insights, and peculiar ramblings.

In case you're interested, here's a synopsis of the Mayhem at Nepenthe Manor:

Precocious and morbidly obsessed with death, Pandora Belfry has spent her entire life at Nepenthe Manor, a dark, Gothic mansion also known as the local loony bin. Recently turned fourteen and growing exasperated with her stifling life, Pandora wants two things more than anything else in the world—to make her escape from the asylum, and to get her mom to finally act like a real mom. Until these wishes are granted, she acts as self-imposed ringleader to a wayward posse of inmates.

Known amongst themselves as the Secret Six, Pandora and her friends spend their time at Nepenthe Manor stirring up trouble—holding weekly Midnight Meetings to concoct schemes, sneaking into places like the Nepenthe family cemetery and the forbidden attic, and generally doing everything they can to avoid the curse of living a mundane life. But when a mysterious new inmate arrives at the manor, things change for Pandora, and not for the better. In retaliation for a trick she plays on him, the charming and handsome Xavier connives to take over the posse, threatens to divulge one of Pandora's biggest secrets, and refuses to tell her what he did to get himself locked up. This boy is obviously hiding something, and it’s up to Pandora to use whatever nefarious means necessary to find out what it is, before he destroys the only world she’s ever known.

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Stretch in Time Saves Nine Lives

I told it was small...
I recently entered a writing contest for a new website, Undertendollars, and made it to the top three finalists (one of the judges was Amber Dusick of Crappy Pictures fame)! I didn't win the contest, so I guess that gives me the right to publish my little piece here... And since I'm desperate for blog posts, even though it's not the grand prize winner, it will have to do.

I'm including a picture of my shower, which I didn't have in the original, and which probably would have catapulted me to winnerdom. Sigh... Success is all about choices and once again I made the wrong one. Actually, I was just too lazy to stand up and go take the dumb picture.

Dear Under Ten Dollars,

It’s March 1st and I just found about your contest and its deadline, March 4th. Crap. I’m supposed to write about how I save time, money, and/or reduce stress in my life. Well, that’s just great cause now I’m getting stressed AND wasting time as I quietly freak out about the approaching deadline. I think I might be missing the big picture here.

Time to inhale pink, exhale blue.

Okay, I’m back. While meditating, I remembered one thing that I do that saves time. It’s a little weird, though, and I’m not really sure I should share it with the world, even if it means I might win a contest…

All right. I’m going to do it. Time is precious, the kids have been home all week on break (one of them is currently playing organ music on our electric piano – and not good organ music), and I’m feeling the winter doldrums. I need to get crazy. Are you ready? Wait for it…

I exercise in the shower. Yes, it’s true. Not only do I maximize that hair conditioning time (two whole minutes), I’m showering off the sweat. (Truth be told, I don’t sweat all that much. It’s really just stretches…but go with me on this).

A long time ago, back in graduate school, I injured myself studying. That’s right. Studying. I think I’m the only person in the world who has done this and I should probably receive some sort of accolade or letter from the president.

Did I get injured from lifting all those heavy books, you ask? Not quite. Was it from racing to the library to snag the best carrel? Not even close. Oh, I know! You got a paper cut! I wish it were that simple.

The pain radiating throughout my chest – which, as I staggered to the student health center, I sincerely believed was a heart attack – was from leaning over so intensely, and for such long periods of time, that I hurt myself.

Pathetic, you say? Righto.

The doctor gave me a few stretches to help avoid the agonizing pain and I did them religiously. In a few weeks, the pain went away and I was able, once again, to study like nobody's business without wanting to cry at the end of the day!

These days, I no longer study, but I do write every day. So to keep the pain from returning and to maximize every spare minute of my day, I do my stretches in the shower. I do shower every day, which is not the best for the environment, I know, but it keeps me from forgetting to stretch, releases me from my typical morning zombie-like stupor, and helps my fine, oily hair retain some measure of perkiness. To counteract my wasteful ways, I use natural products, recycle, compost, and hand sew all my boys’ clothes (okay, I don’t actually do that last one because I sew like I imagine a monkey would). So please, fellow Greenies, don’t lynch me.

I’ve even added some stretches to my routine over the years – I stretch while the water is heating up and while rinsing out my hair. Crazy genius, I know, but that’s how I roll.

It’s a win-win situation. I save time, I stay limber, and I stay clean.

So who wants to join me?! We’ll start a shower stretching revolution! We’ll conquer sore muscles! We'll— Um, you know you have to do this in your own shower, right? My shower is like, 3 x 3. It’s tiny and my elbows swing and…

Oh, what the heck, come on in! It’ll save on water!

Sincerely yours,

Kristina Schram, Ph.D. (in Shower Stretching)
P.S.  Here are my stretches:

1. While water is heating up, lift arm over head, grab elbow, and gently pull down for 10 seconds. Do for other arm. Then stretch arms backward, keeping them straight, clasp hands and gently pull upward for 10 seconds. After that, I do the following 20 times (stomach pulled in): lift shoulders, pull back elbows (so your chest thrusts outward), then drop your shoulders. 

2. Once in the shower, while shampooing my hair, I hold in my stomach muscles. As I rinse out, I stand flat-footed, then lift up onto toes...twenty times. Again, hold in your stomach muscles. I'm not going to repeat this again because it gets annoying...but do this as much as possible while stretching. It's an added core builder.

3. Once the conditioner is in, I do shoulder rolls, forward and backward (almost like you're rowing, but quickly), twenty times in each direction. I also do ankle rotations (make circles), 10 to the right, ten to the left, for each foot. While rinsing out the conditioner, I bend my arms, turn palms upward (as though in supplication to the almighty shower god), pull back, hold for 10 seconds. Do ten times.

4. Don't forget to towel could even do leg stretches while drying!

Easy, peasy, one, two, threesy, now you're fresh and flexible!