The Big Bad Wolf

Photo by Tahoe on Unsplash

Remember “Little Red Riding Hood”? where the Big Bad Wolf was the villain and ate the grandmother? Nursery rhymes weren’t the only tales that cast wolves in such a dark light. There are many tales where wolves are seen as vicious predators thirsty for blood. One of the original monsters in our folklore called the werewolf is based on the savagery and blood lust of a wolf. The curse of a werewolf was also seen as an illness tainting the association with the savage wolf. 

The truth is, wolves aren’t like that at all. Wolves are highly sociable creatures similar to dogs. In fact, wolves and dogs derive from the same common ancestor. Wolves are a lot like us in the sense that their packs are like a strong family unit and they fight to survive together. They all have their important roles to fulfill in their families. For example, older female wolves are often tasked to watch over their much younger siblings when the parents go out to hunt. You can see many moments like that on the Wolf Conservation Center’s YouTube account. Observing their behavior you can see many similarities between a wolf family and a human family. It’s also important to note that they aren’t an aggressive animal and will not go looking for trouble with humans. They’re more afraid of us than we are of them and will not bite unless cornered. 

All of this to say that they are one of the many species that are hunted in the United States and grey wolves themselves were recently taken off the endangered species list this year which means that they are in danger of being hunted and killed off once more. Their protections were taken away. I think it’s important to share the idea of donating to wolf conservation efforts to help protect them in the wild. Not only are they an important key predator in the food chain but they’re very beneficial to the earth and the wildlife around them. I believe National Geographic did an article talking about how the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone helped stabilize the ecosystem and bring back new species that left. Helping the wolves in turn helps us create a more stable earth for the future. I believe it’s the little things we can do to help cause a big change. Little things like donating to the cause of protecting wolves or visiting conservation centers can help make a positive change for not only the wolves but for us and the earth. The wolves aren’t fairy tale villains, they’re gentle creatures that share this earth with us and we should help create a better and stable world for the both of us. 

A Dream Transformed

Glasses on a blank notebook next to a computer
Photo by Trent Erwin on Unsplash

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve kept a journal since I was a child, went through the obligatory bad poetry writing phase as a teenager, attempted short stories and even a novel or two. There’s not much that makes me happier than a blank notebook and a brand-new set of pens. The problem is, I have no creativity. None. I get out my notebook, uncap my pen and… nothing. Give me a research topic though, and I’m on fire. I can write essays, letters, manuals, you name it, no problem. Just don’t ask me to come up with my own ideas. My mind goes blank.

Early on I resigned myself to never being a writer because of this lack of creativity and decided that writing would just be one of those things I daydream about. Everyone has a pipe dream. Some dream of acting, or playing in a band, or painting. I dreamed of writing. At the end of the day, most of us don’t get to live those dreams. We have the ambition, but not the talent. Or we have the talent, but not the drive. Some are lucky enough to have both, but are still missing that spark of something intangible that makes our work, our art, compelling. The pragmatic among us accept this and let the dream go.

When I let go of the idea of being a writer, I did so out of a sense of practicality. I had bills to pay, mouths to feed. I fell into a career as a contract administrator for a small government contractor and spent my days arguing with people about rules and money, only using my small amount of writing talent here and there on detailed contract summaries and strongly worded letters to subcontractors and clients. I became the go-to person in my organization when something needed to be written. More than one manager, after reviewing my correspondence or training manuals, said the words that always hurt, just a little, no matter how well-intended they were – “you’re so good at this – you should be a writer!”

It wasn’t until my late thirties that I discovered that this writing, what I privately just referred to as “work writing” could be a career. When my second child was born and I took a few years off to stay at home with her, I was intrigued to learn about UCO’s technical writing degree program. I was facing the very real issue of what affect taking years off from my career was going to have on my resume, and I was also not sure I wanted to spend the next 20 years until retirement in a career that was only occasionally fulfilling. I had decided to go back to school and earn a degree to show that even though I had been out of the workforce for a few years, I hadn’t spent the time sitting around. Retraining as a technical writer and formalizing the skills I already had seemed like the answer.

Technical writing caught my attention because it seemed like the best of both worlds – the challenge and pleasure of writing, of finding the best way to explain or communicate– without that pesky need for coming up with my own ideas. It’s both creative and practical in a way that suits my personality perfectly. Not to mention it’s a growing industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is projected to grow 12 percent over the next decade. For a wannabe writer like me, it’s perfect.

So here I am, in my junior year of my third attempt at getting a college degree. The oldest student in most of my classes (at times even older than my professors), but I’m making it happen. I’m going to be a writer. I’m going to live my (modified) dream.

A Love Letter to the Things I Make with My Hands

It started in middle school, a Christmas present from my sister – a kit with three skeins of mottled purple yarn, a petite instruction manual, a red plastic yarn needle I’ve since lost, and two wooden knitting needles. I laughed as I removed the last bit of wrapping paper. “Well, you did ask for it,” my sister huffed.

And I had. As much as I was interested in learning to knit, I still had to approach it from a sort of “I’m doing it ironically” angle; it was a hobby for old ladies, and I was not an old lady. My hesitancy didn’t last for long, though, and soon I was holed up in my room, tearfully begging the stitches on my needle to resemble the picture in the booklet. After my third unravel, I gave up any hope of that and decided to keep knitting, surprised to find a few rows later that my mistakes were barely visible. 

I knitted like a madman (mad old lady?), finishing an entire scarf in three days. . . only to have to redo the entire project when I cut the ends too close instead of weaving them in and the whole thing unraveled in my hands. Even so, I refused to be deterred and completed My First Scarf (2.0) a few days later.

This wasn’t my first foray into crafting, but it was the first to stick. I’d tried my hand at crochet a few times – mostly making pokemon amigurumi – and while I’d enjoyed it, it had never quite clicked for me the same way knitting did. Maybe it was the symmetry of the two needles vs. one hook, or maybe it was the euphoria of watching my stitches slide from one needle to the next – whatever the reason, I’d unlocked a passion that wouldn’t go away anytime soon.

When I packed my bags for college, my needles and growing yarn collection hitched a ride. I’d made scarves all through high school, and now it was time for a new challenge: hats. I downloaded a couple of patterns off the internet and brought them with me to class so I could knit under the table. My first was so small I could barely fit it on my head, but I’d fallen in love with how (comparatively) fast making a hat was, so I kept going.

I tried to learn a new technique with each project: cables, Fair Isle, different types of stitches. I made a hat for each of the Star Wars movies in the sequel trilogy, displaying a yellow, red, or blue logo as appropriate. I went back to my roots and made a scarf that looked like a stylized fox holding its tail. I tried making socks a few times but always got scared when I got to the heel. Eventually I branched out to other mediums like sewing and cross stitch, but I still consider myself a knitter at heart.

Over the years, knitting has come to mean so much more to me than just a way to pass time. I like to joke that you can tell how depressed I am by how many projects I’m working on, and well, there’s some truth to that. I always find myself pulling out the ol’ needles whenever I’m feeling especially down. (Case in point: when COVID hit, I made three hats in five days.) I know whenever I need to be reminded of my significance, my ability, and my autonomy, nothing helps more than using my hands to create something that wouldn’t exist without me. 

It’s been a while since I last picked up my needles. Not because my brain resolved its existentialist crisis; it’s just that I’ve found other ways to keep my hands busy. But I’ll always be grateful to my sister for giving me that kit. Thanks to her, I’ve found a passion and a self-care routine that will last a lifetime.

I am not Pocahontas. And I am not Dancing with Wolves.

A gif, likely from a movie, of a Native American man on a horse lurching forward in a threatening position. His audience, a young man, jumps back, and the Native American man laughs, saying, "Ahh I'm just f**ckin with ya."

When I was a child and gaining consciousness of the fact that I actually was a tiny person walking the Earth (and not secretly a Barbie princess), a thought came from out of the blue and smacked me right in the nose. One, how do I become a Barbie princess, and two,  I don’t exactly look like Barbie…

Then watching Disney’s Lilo and Stitch for the first time, a second thought came and slapped me in the back of my head: I look a hell of a lot more like Lilo… and I was born in Hawaii too!

That only lasted mere minutes as my mother reminded me, I am in fact not of Hawaiian descent, I am Native American, my Hawaiian birthplace was just a happy coincidence. It was a confusing day for a five-year-old to say the least.

But she was right.

Growing up I gravitated toward cartoons and movies with someone that physically looked like me; Lilo, Velma, The Incredibles’ Violet, really any girl with dark hair (if they had brown eyes, I had won the lottery). Then I found her: Pocahontas, black hair and Indigenous? Naivety won the battle that day and I was overjoyed… till I discovered that her life was really sad and not an actually a musical with a temperamental raccoon. Another confusing day.

Was I supposed to pretend that Barbie looked like me?

Why are Indigenous stories only told through the lens of calamity and catastrophe, backdropped by heroic cowboys and knights coming to save the world from our evil mysticism and “savagery”?

I have never once had detention and yet I’m supposed to be the bad guy? How is that fair?

Throughout Hollywood’s history, Indigenous stories have been reduced to black and white, an eternal struggle between good and evil, and we don’t have too many wins under our belt. Where’s the happily ever after? If I’m watching a show or a movie and a fleet of ululating men come bounding over a ridge armed with longbows and riding horses… I can’t change the channel fast enough. Quite frankly, I’ve never even been close enough to a horse to look it in the eyes, much less ride it into battle.

A gif, likely from a movie, of a Native American person on a horse saying "This horse, actually. Little shit."

Indigenous people didn’t miraculously disappear into the bloodstained pages of history books, swept away by the wind. History may be written in the blood of the losers, but we have survived. We are the not the bad guy, the background bandits, or the boogiemen that go bump in the night. Every corner of the globe is home to a group of Indigenous people, people who are more than just a colonized and antiquated ideology.

Just picture it, a coming-of-age romance, or a comedy where the protagonist’s entire persona isn’t diluted and stripped away to simply being the token Native, they just happen to be Native. No romanticism of Pocahontas, no celebration when the last “reskinned savage” falls in war, and no shamans turning into beasts under a full moon.

Five-year-old me would have loved a princess who was Native, not a “Native princess”.   

All the Small Things to Get Through Submissions

This blog is for people (if there are any) that currently struggle with deadlines as an anxiety stressor, within this class or any other. This advice comes from my experiences as both an undergraduate and grad student that still struggles with anxiety and the ways I’ve developed an outlook which attempts to assert some form of control over something as rigorous and labor intensive as a twenty-paper research paper or even a five-hundred word blog. This advice comes with the caveat that like any other form of suggestion this can be simply seen as another method to approach not the only perspective to see. Tackling the last (insert total) submissions might seem to be a tedious task. It is. This blog seeks to show the ways in which treating tedious tasks as they are such as rewriting the same poem over and over can create a perspective that enables the worker an ability to see tasks as not as impossibilities but work. That through labor and patience this work can be done, sometimes even on schedule.

Work and Perspective

I am advocating for a perspective that seeks a detachment when measured and practiced whether in many semesters or on simply an eight to five schedule becomes a healthy method of balancing your own relationship between seeing work in its many forms simply as work, and in relief of such perspective finding the willingness to accomplish such work. Which might appear to be obvious to the reader today, but under some poor circumstance of a task triggering an anxious response might become an overwhelming, such as a research paper, a double shift, a collaborative presentation. Any of which can alongside the natural anxiety of deadlines can simply become incredibly difficult to process if the ability to see what the work requires becomes akin to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, then healthy detachment can be used to ground the details down to the bare work required. Maintaining a healthy detachment creates a necessary filter to approach going through all 200+ submissions or going through dozens of articles for research papers or any another numerous forms of drudgery that must get done, an ability to move past getting stuck on a perfectionist ideal to every step of the process but a fidelity to the worker themselves. One that still requires professional attention and candor but also the ability to continuously chip away knowingly in tedium, not overwhelmed by the significance or in avoidance of the workload but in cognitive control of what is asked by such work and the required labor required to accomplish such labor.

In Praise of Tedium

If there’s anything to be found underneath the driest text, or the silent chipping away is that tedium is the simple practice and application of experiences of previous work, and the joy and excitement of each experience building upon itself in new, sometimes unforeseen direction can give tedious tasks the opportunity to be rewarding in their own way. There is unassumingly a great relief I’ve found of being D-O-N-E with a paper, no matter the length nor the number of rewrites or whatever difficulties produced, just the tension removed and the tedium of performing such a task giving the worker a detached eye to the work itself to be seen in a less myopic perspective. Or even simply being tasked with something or some subject once thought of out of interest, can under healthy detachment of tedious work become a new way to engage were previously untouched ground, poetry can be fun, submissions can blow away all expectations, if you simply allow work to be work. 

Marine Conservation

When I was younger, I would go visit my grandparents in Florida every summer. We would spend most of our time at the beach. Between swimming in the water, looking for shark teeth, and talking about different marine life, I found myself falling in love with every part of the ocean. My love for the ocean has only grown as I’ve gotten older. Learning that coral reefs are dying, and marine animals are becoming extinct, I realized I wanted to do something that protected marine life and helped others understand the importance of our oceans.

Living in Oklahoma makes it hard to engage in something like that. Deciding to go to college in state, I based my major around another thing I have always loved. While I enjoy English and writing, I have still found myself longing to be near the ocean, helping marine life. Not wanting to change my major from English, I started to look up ways to help save our oceans without having to live on the coast and get a completely different degree.

 After doing some research, I found out that I didn’t need to have a degree in Marine Biology to make a difference in saving the oceans. I learned about several different ways to contribute, whether it be donating to a conservation company or just reducing plastic use. Now that I have found these resources, I think it is important to share them with as many people as I can.

One of the common things that I have learned is that plastic pollution is one of the biggest problems when it comes to destroying our oceans. Reducing the use of plastic bags, straws, and cups can be a small step in helping marine conservation. I have come across several companies that put their focus on and dedicate their earnings to help save marine life. One company that I have followed is 4Ocean.

4Ocean sells products such as reusable straws and jewelry. When you purchase one of their bracelets, that money is used to pull one pound of trash out of the oceans and beaches. Not only are you helping marine conservation, but you get a bracelet out of it. (They’re super cute, too!)

Learning about marine conservation has helped me understand our oceans better, and it has given me the opportunity to do something I love even when I don’t live near the coast.

Finding Comfort in My Favorite Band

The five members of the band The Wanted.

Have you ever been saved by a band? I have. In 2011 I was going through a lot. My grandma had just been diagnosed with stage four liver failure, one of my best friends moved to a different state, and my job was incredibly stressful. I was at an all-time low and that’s when I found The Wanted. They were formed by Jayne Collins in 2009 but didn’t make it in America until around 2011-2012. Many people will remember their song Glad You Came as the summer anthem of that year, but it’s their songs I’ll Be Your Strength and Gold Forever that got me through those difficult times.

In 2013 they came to America and signed under Scooter Braun which, to me, was the worst decision they had ever made. They announced early that year that they were going to do a reality show and I told my friends that that would be the end of them. Sure enough, later that year they announced they were going on hiatus. I was incredibly lucky that their last show was in Shawnee and so I and my two best friends got to go see them live before they split up. It was a very emotional night to say the least, but we had fun.

Last year one of the members was diagnosed with a stage four glioblastoma brain tumor and it was devastating to hear. The fans (the TWFanmily) all gathered around him as much as we could online, and he’s been doing amazing with the treatments and the tumor has even shrunk! Last month they announced they were getting back together to do a concert to raise money and awareness for glioblastoma. The concert was thankfully live-streamed and so I was able to watch it a couple of days afterward and my heart melted seeing them all together on stage again.

Having The Wanted back together after seven years has actually shown me that I wasn’t as happy as I had pretended to be, but it’s something I’m working on and it has also shown me that no matter what, the TWFanmily will always be there for each other.

Motivation Bridge

1 Image by Susann Mielke from Pixabay

This is an idea I got from HowToADHD, a Youtube channel for those with ADHD or loved ones with ADHD. Dealing with ADHD is not something I’m going to talk much about, as it is a large journey with many stories.

When it comes to doing anything, particularly things that require effort, people must cross the motivation bridge to begin the process. For many people, the bridge is complete or only missing a few planks, making the passage easy and the work easy to begin. For those with ADHD who have weaker executive functioning, the bridge is missing many more planks, which makes it much more difficult to cross the bridge and start working.

Planks go missing for everyone though. If I’m hungry it feels like there are only a couple planks for me to cross on, having to dance and leap across in order to start working. While this makes already hard tasks harder for me, hunger is something everyone feels and knows its distractions. Being tired works the same way, as both make crossing the bridge a task even for the most diligent of individuals. This is part of why sleep or nap is sometimes more productive than trying to work. Obviously sleep improves your critical thinking and makes the quality of what you’re doing better, but it’s critical to the actual doing of the thing as well. So if you’re tired after work, class, getting the kids to school: don’t feel guilty taking that powernap!

The same self-allowance for rest applies to food. I am trying to lose weight, but I’ve learned that school and strict calorie-counting are not simultaneously achievable for me. That doesn’t mean I order a pizza, because as one of our writer’s previous blogs discussed, bad food makes you feel bad. But it does mean I let myself make a taco, have that latte, or cook another microwave meal. It may slow one goal down, but it doesn’t put it in reverse and it allows me to put my efforts toward school. So if you’re trying to lose weight but also trying to achieve and grow in other ways, don’t beat yourself up! Just like a nap, take a few more calories. One step a day is great, but a quarter step a day still takes you forward. And when you’re providing yourself more planks of motivation, those quarter steps will still get you across.

The Feeling of Freedom

Silhouetted woman with her arms outstretched against a sunset.
Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

Growing up I never really had a strong male figure in my life. My dad passed away when I was 14, and never really had any male family members to really give me any sense to how men think or feel. I was surrounded by women. Not that that was ever a bad thing, I actually take pride in telling people that I come from a strong matriarch; being raised by my mother really made me understand that men aren’t really that “important.”

Cut to pre-pandemic, and I met one of – what I thought at the time – the best men I had ever met. We shared the same music taste, we were both politically on the same page, and he grew up around women. How perfect was that? A man who understood where I was coming from and respected women in ways that I had never seen.  We spent WEEKS at a time together. It was what most call “puppy love”: wooing over each other, sending good morning and good night texts, telling each other about our dreams with each other in them, yada yada yada. I was living in a ‘perfect’ world at the time because I thought that this first real relationship was going to be my only relationship.

A gif of a cartoonish puppy with hearts for eyes. Caption is "Puppy love"

Come July 2020, we had already hit a couple of rough patches, and then something I wasn’t prepared for: the Breakup™️. I was crushed. I had aches that I hadn’t felt in years. I fell into the biggest depression that I hadn’t felt in a long time. Why was this happening to me? Should I be so heartbroken when I’ve experienced actual death in my life? Am I overexaggerating? I was embarrassed when he didn’t show up to group outings, and friends asked where *he* was. I would lie and tell them that he was with his family or he just didn’t feel like coming out that night. Embarrassment. Over a guy. I didn’t tell anyone for months, I felt like a fraud for always combating against men and then ironically falling for a guy who had no serious intentions.

Yet time has led on, and I don’t miss him as much anymore. I figured this was just a learning curve, and I needed to get over it and find real sense in the world. I started focusing on me. I started thinking a little bit longer and harder on things that actually mattered to me: my degree, my activism, my family, my friends.

I think about him often, and we still send pictures (memes) to each other, though not as often. I even saw him at a hardcore show just a few weeks ago, and I didn’t even flinch.

It’s easier being alone when you’ve had experience, and I actually enjoy my own company now. I’ve become more confident, and am less scared/intimidated by the presence of men (I’m sorry to all the men reading this).  So go through that breakup, that loss of a job, that feeling of being alone. Understand that the feeling of freedom is so much more rewarding than torturing yourself being someone you know you don’t like.

Before It’s Too Late

There is this thing that happens

when you grow old

and no matter how hard you try,

you cannot go back

and you cannot stop it

and one day you wake up

and realize that 

you are no longer magic enough.

As a senior at UCO, I graduate in only a few short months, which I suppose that gives me some authority, or at least some credibility, to give the average college student a small piece of advice on the whole college thing. Even though I feel like I know about as much as a goldfish does, or maybe even a moderately well-trained Golden Retriever, there is one thing I learned the hard way. If you take my advice, maybe you won’t have to. Or maybe you will because who am I to give you advice and why on earth would you listen to me? Anyway, you can decide for yourself on what to do with this tidbit of hard earned knowledge:

Don’t make yourself grow up too quickly.

That’s it. It seems pretty simple, but in my experience you don’t realize you’re doing it until it’s done. This gets a little dark, but it’s important so bear with me.

One day you are driving down the interstate and that something that you had just disappears. It fades into a memory that you cannot even name, and it never even makes a sound.

It’s something like innocence, or intelligence, or possibility, or infinity, or maybe it is all of those things. It is something like magic, like childhood

It doesn’t have a name, but it is certainly something good. It is something intangible but it is there– in the hollow spots of your mind. It fills you until you fill it up with something else, something you think you need– something like anxiety, or the impossible weight of death, or maybe the desire to be remembered. You fill those unhollow spots with something unremarkable without a second thought because you didn’t know what you were doing. You didn’t know you were sentencing yourself to a kind of death even though that was what you were most afraid of. 

You never even knew that something until its loss washes over you like realization.

Maybe that something is “muchness”, as the Mad Hatter would call it, but unlike Alice you cannot get it back. This life is not a fantasy and there is no miraculous cure for death, no sleight of hand that can trick the villain and save you because you are the villain too. 

You kill yourself a little more everyday and the only thing you can do is choose a better method for tomorrow. 

You cannot save yourself.

You are not magic enough.

No matter how hard you wish to be, you can’t take back the filling of that space, the growing up, the “becoming an adult.” You can be an adult and still keep your magic, but you have to find it before it’s too late. Find it before you cover it up– before it covers you up.