Public Service Announcement

As we’re sure you’re aware, Sunday’s are normally reserved for our weekly ‘Sunday Showcase’ where we feature a talented individual who’s living purposefully in tireless pursuit of their dreams. Due to other commitments and time constraints in life we’ve had, we’ve made the decision to move this segment to bi-weekly. While we love to promote the work of others, it has been increasingly difficult to match schedules with other people to keep fresh material on the block every week. Never fear, we will be trying new segments such as comic strips, guests posts, videos, and other collaborative and innovative means of internet entertainment.

Change can be fun.

We sincerely appreciate your understanding, support, and fan-ship during Always Look Up’s process or growth and advancement. You peeps keep us going in our times of darkest drear and slumpiest slumps.

Stay tuned for the continuation of ‘Wash’ tomorrow with Act 6.

-Kyle & the ALUpies

The Best Life Coach

Last week we discussed the importance of having an open attitude when trying new things and having a willingness to fail in respect to the personal endeavors we wish to accomplish. There isn’t one single person on this earth who enjoys failure, losing, or falling flat on their face in the least bit. It’s something in life that stings, is frustrating, can be a heart wrenching deterrence to get around and overcome.

As noted in the previous post regarding failure, all of our heroes, idols, and inspirational figures have failed, and continue to fail, in many aspects of their lives. Bear in mind that they are human just like you and I. They are comprised of the same matter that allows us to exist is mutually shared among them as well.

I have recently become enthralled by Steven King’s story of failure. His first novel, Carrie, was rejected by 30 different publishers before he got so frustrated that he threw the manuscript in the trash. His wife, Tabitha, rescued it and sent it to one more publisher, and bada-bing-bada-boom it was picked up by and published. The rest writes itself.

But King, like anyone chasing their dream, had to go through months, maybe even years, of agony and turmoil in the face of defeat. However, he hung on with every fiber of his being and, with the help of his lovely confidant, saw his dream through to the end.

The following is a list of 4 things failure can teach us. Whatever your dream may be, keep after it and soon it will become your reality.

  • Strength: Disappointment thickens your skin and better prepares you for the next go-around. There’s no doubt that personal catastrophes will better equip your ability to succeed and accomplish in subsequent tasks and future endeavors.
  • Morality: Imagine what our lives would be like if everyone was happy and content all the time. Although this sounds slightly euphoric, it would not be the case. There would be little to no advancement in culture, technology, or intellect and life as we know it would be extremely mundane and boring. It would be a lot like this episode of The Fairly OddParents. Everything would just be…the same all the time
  • Lessons/Coaching: Sure, failure can be frustrating and a royal bummer. Yet it will encourage you to pinpoint and focus in on the specific attributes and characteristics you need to refine to be better at your craft. Let your defeats be lessons for improvement and an invitation to hone in on the areas that need further reinforcement.
  • Realization/Reflection: Have you ever thought of failure as a time to look back on how far you’ve come instead of focusing on how short you came? Know that the feeling of failure only happens to people who are being proactive in doing chasing a dream that they love. I’m not implying that you are restricted from feeling sorrow or pain when you’re conquered, but let it only last momentarily. Get up, keep going, and never throw in the towel.

A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.

                                                                         –David Brinkley

March Madness Poetry 2014

Friends,

Thursdays are normally designated to a brief discussion about a specific aspect of dream chasing, self efficiency, or personal betterment. However, I am currently competing in a worldwide poetry competition presented by Think Kid Think and was hoping to direct some of your attention there for today. If you click the picture below, you will find ‘bracket style’ battles, much like the NCAA basketball tournament, between talented poets from around the world. Click around to find some very quarky, fun, and original rhyming poems from skilled wordsmiths.

MMP

We’re In This Together

So far we’ve focused a lot on the daily and consistent effort we must have in regards to our dreams. We’ve covered many of the distinct characteristics and personal attributes needed to achieve anything you set your mind to. We’ve made the distinction that the mental constructs of bounds, limitations, and fear can be a poisonous deterrent on our path to personal success and happiness. That we must revert our minds away from defaulting to negative, pessimistic, self-defeating attitudes and, instead, focus on harnessing the abilities and talents we know we have deep inside us.

Today I’d like to take a slight turn by promoting ideas of how and why communal advancement will ultimately lead to colossal personal growth.  The way that someone treats those he or she encounters on a daily basis is an appropriate reflection of how they feel about themselves.

Here are 4 ways to better the environment and people around you on a daily basis. I am willing to bet that if you try one or all of these, you will find an almost instant betterment of your life, relationships, and daily circumstances.

  • Speak highly of others. More so when they aren’t around: When you feel the urge to speak poorly, snidely, or rudely about someone, try to imagine that this particular person was within an ear shot away. There’s enough negativity and hatred in the world as it is without us berating and criticizing one another all the time.  What Suzie says of Sally says more of Suzie than of Sally
  • Be genuinely interested in others: When a friend, family member, colleague, or acquaintance accomplishes something great or achieves something they’ve been working for, be the first to congratulate them.  And mean it. Even if it’s in direct relation to your own dreams (i.e. you’re an actor and your friend landed the part instead of you) the happiness you feel for others shows that you are an individual of upstanding moral character and a really great friend. The universe likes when we do things like this and we will be awarded appropriately.
  • Listen: Point blank, everyone loves to talk about themselves. You do, I do, the mayor does, everybody does. What we’re all seeking in doing this is the feeling of being wanted, cherished, and appreciated. Dale Carnegie once said, “Many people fail to make a favorable impression because they don’t listen attentively.” There may be no other facet of life where ‘give and take’ is unquestionably true. If you are quick to offer two listening ears to others, they will surly return the favor in your time of need or want.
  • Smile: Although this may seem so simple, I am constantly disheartened by the amount of frowning and sulking I see every day.  A smile offers so many things and takes so little effort. In fact, you’d be surprised how many health benefits a simple smile can do for you. Keep in mind that we are all in this together. There’s no sense in wearing an outward letter of negativity throughout your day when there’s so much to smile about and be thankful for.

Wash: Act 5

8th of June, 2046

Cecil’s El Camino came to a halt atop the oblong miniature rocks in our driveway. The somber and drooping windows of the normally lively house indicated told us that no one was home. With a delirious sense of urgency, we rocketed into the doorway one after the other. We found the living room, kitchen, dining room, and garage empty with no sign of my family’s departure or forced exit. Did my brother and mother moronically skip town in a desperate attempt of last second survival?

I ascended up the stairs with a light foot, expecting someone to meet me. As I reached the summit, I felt an uneasy silence mixed with the familiar musty smell from the abandoned possessions stored in the attic. My brother and I would constantly find fun in the old moving boxes and vintage oak chests chalk full of tattered clothing and dated home videos. This being a time before it was mandatory to forfeit our sanctified childhood and strong cohesive bond to survive.

The more I think about all this commotion, the more it seems so foolish.

Cecil remained quiet, following my every move and waiting tentatively for further instruction. I gripped the chilled copper door handle of my parent’s room and slowly began to gently twist. Immediately after the door creaked open I heard the soft jingle of what sounded like loose rattling in the pocket change after a weekly allowance. In a fluster, I heaved the door open. Nothing.

Was it my imagination? Restlessness?

I about faced to exit and heard it again. The sound reverberated off the hardwood from underneath the bed. I bent over slowly, with extra caution, to see what beast might be waiting to ambush Cecil and myself. When my cold sweaty hands hit the floor, a blur or fur raced out from under the bed and skedaddled down the hallway.

Our cocker spaniel, Muffin, almost knocked poor Cecil over as he began clawing at my brother’s bedroom door like a convict trying to dig her way out of prison with a plastic fork.

“Open it!” I demanded of Cecil, despite my crippling fear.

I stood in place while I watched he obeyed my command. He gasped and retreated back towards the railing of the stairs. Muffin ran inside. I rushed over as fast as I could.

A pile of flesh and bones lay silently as the body of my mother blanketed that of my brother’s. Bullet holes tattooed their backs, shoulders, and legs. The comforter was sponging up the crimson tide seeping from each opening in both victims. It was ghastly, barbaric, and I didn’t want to see their faces. With no words spoken, Cecil and I grabbed Muffin, a couple armfuls of food from the kitchen, and didn’t look back as we began to head north.

Cecil turned on the radio to break the silence.

Both coasts of the United States are completely under water.

Annabelle Pinser

Plenty of Rhyme and Reason: Sunday Showcase with Susan Blackaby

SuzBI was initially encouraged to contact Susan from a friend who was helping me with a rhyming poetry project I was working on. This friend informed me that Susan’s ear for rhythm and her uncanny knack for rhyme made her an invaluable asset and a tremendous source for poetry and other forms of writing. After a little internet digging and a short digital conversation, I found myself slurping coffee and exchanging stories with this benevolent and intelligent woman. She has since helped me with several current side projects and I’ve found endless inspiration from her love of storytelling and our mutually shared fondness of rhyme. I am blessed with the continual opportunity to pick her brain, learn from her, and enjoy her work.

I’m proud and humbled to play host to the talents, wit, insight, and humor of Susan Blackaby today on this week’s Sunday Showcase. There’s no doubt that her writing, teaching, and speaking have touched countless hearts of children and adults alike. Grab your mid-morning coffee, a ‘Brownie’ for breakfast, and enjoy this interview with Susan.

Tell us a little bit about your journey thus far. What led you to write poetryHow did you get started? What was your initial attraction to rhyme? Is there a type of prose you strongly prefer? 

I had been writing for the educational marketplace for several years when I tried my hand at a picture book of my own. Rembrandt’s Hat was critiqued at an SCBWI Oregon conference by Ann Rider at Houghton Mifflin and got picked up shortly thereafter (thanks to her expertise and encouragement).  Poetry is a DNA thing—my mom had a keen ear and crazy wicked if unexplored talent. I wrote rompy rhymes in grade school and angst-charged drivel in high school (it was the 60s) before I studied it more seriously as an adult. I have taken lots of workshops along the way, including a seminal week with Ursula LeGuin at Malheur Wildlife Refuge about 20 years ago and a workshop with Ann Paul at Haystack. Little by little Nest, Nook & Cranny took shape—particularly as it was rejected and revised and rejected and revisedMy attraction isn’t to rhyme, necessarily. It is more of a distillation thingThe thoughtful and compelling kind.

In your opinion, what is the largest obstacle for writers attempting to write in rhyme?  It seems like several ‘experts’ strongly urge and recommend not starting out this way.

The reason rhyme is discouraged (and discouraging, for that matter) is that it is extremely difficult to execute with absolutely seamless precision and accuracy, and bad rhyme is a lot worse than bad anything else. So out of the gate, a rhyming manuscript automatically raises a big red uh-oh flag. Editors will stop reading when they come to the first bump, hiccup, cheat, or stretch if they are willing to read a rhyming manuscript at all. In addition, not every story begs to be told in rhyme even it if is aimed at the tiny tot audience, and as an author it is important to approach a text with open-minded objectivity in that regard. This isn’t my opinion, actually, nor is it a capricious whim of “several experts.” It comes from legions of professionals who see thousands of manuscripts a year. My advice is to study masters of form and function. Mary Ann Hoberman, Deb Lund, Heather Frederick, and Rosanne Parry are excellent exemplars. It can be done, but only if it is done perfectly. That is a tall order.

I see that you have been selected to participate in the 2014 March Madness Poetry competition presented by Think Kid Think. Is this your first year competing? Have you ever done any competitions similar to this one before?

This is my 3rd year in the competition. The first year I made it to the Final Four. Last year I got axed pretty early. For work I’ve had plenty of occasions when a deadline loomed and I needed to come up with a poem in short order, but the challenge and adrenalin required for March Madness is unparalleled and unprecedented.

 Are you strictly a writer? Do you ever illustrate, paint, doodle, or create any artwork beyond your beautifully crafted words?  

I doodle and dabble for my own amusement but I’m not an illustrator. I’ve got nothing but admiration, awe, and a little shard of jealousy for fine artists of any stripe.

 I’m a big fan of your work and always get a chuckle from your imagination and creativity. If you don’t mind sharing, what’s on the horizon for Susan Blackaby? Can we expect to have another visit from Rembrandt, or Brownie Groundhog, or are you working with entirely new characters?

Most picture books don’t inspire or require a sequel. Brownie was an exception, and she may be revisited one more time. Otherwise I continuously coax and shepherd along new characters, so there is always a merry crowd skittering around my brain. To say nothing (and I mean nothing) of the glacial YA novel. Yikes.  Coming out in October is The Twelve Days of Christmas in Oregon, part of a state-by-state series.

What are your largest inspirations to write and create? When you find yourself in an artistic slump are there any specific people, places, or things you turn to for motivation?

As many writers will agree, the creative impulse is mostly compulsory to one degree or another—which is why not doing it causes so much anxiety and guilt and bad juju. Lucky for me I live in Garden Home, which is lousy with commiserating children’s book authors who are funny, insightful, helpful, and passing generous. Fresh air and exercise and a loop around the neighborhood are always inspiring in a pinch. I try to keep in mind that it just takes one wacky dog to wag your imagination back onto the high road. And I get cranky if I don’t get time to do my thing, as anyone in my family can tell you.

Delirium

Stumbling through the mist,

My eyes they are not ready.

As highway whales swim fast and steady.

A succulent taste,

A warm embrace,

I have found my strange utopia.

.

.

.

For Walter and whatever he dances with due south.

A Piece to the Cosmic Puzzle

It’s very difficult to cope with the pressures and anxieties of daily life if your mindset always defaults to negative. Constant pessimism can cause us to turn sour, bitter, and aggressive towards the ones we care about most. It’s not too uncommon to see that when we project negativity onto others, many more bad things happen than good as a result. This mental disposition can be projected in various emotional states but is most frequently seen as anger, depression, hopefulness, and loathing, among others. However, none of these are as toxic and personally defeating than the feeling of jealousy.

Jealousy is the most frequent go-to attitude when we feel defeated or overwhelmed in life. We begin to solely concentrate on the stuff we don’t have instead of the things we do. It provides us with a cop-out validation to become complacent and not go after our dreams. This can often be a one way ticket to a regret-filled lifetime completely wasted. Coveting and desiring the life of someone else is mentally draining, unhealthy, and utterly tragic. No matter how hard we squeeze our eyes shut and hope that we will wake up in the fairy tale be believe other people live in, it will never happen. The truth is: if you want something to happen, you, and only you, are responsible to make it such.

Instead of being jealous of others and their aptitude for action, why not use it as a silent motivator? We have to understand that these people put in hours, and hours, and hours of hard work to establish the lives they are currently living. And despite how things may seem, their lives aren’t paved with gold and topped with whip cream either. Just like ours. We must be willing to sacrifice time we spend focusing on what others have that we don’t. Instead, let’s use that time to better ourselves and practice our craft every day. I can assure you that if we are willing to follow the appropriate steps and learn from the people we look up to, as opposed to desperately wanting their life, we will quickly find that existence has a whole new positive meaning and outlook.

Time is short, that’s a given. Why would we spend it trying to hop into the skin of someone else? We must trust in ourselves that we have talents and abilities that no one else does. Sure, something like it or similar may have been done or created in the past but no one can sing, or write, or dance, or box, or paint, or teach, or play tennis exactly how you do. We must be willing to study the greats and learn from them, not look towards their lives with vanity and doubt. Each of us hold a crucial piece to the cosmic puzzle of the past, present, and future. We mustn’t squander the opportunity of life by being inherently negative and jealous all the time. You have something very special to offer the world just as much as anyone with 50 Grammy’s or 5 million Twitter followers. Let’s not count ourselves down and out before the starting gun has sounded or we took the first step. Even if we have to start at a crawling pace, it’s just that: a start.

In exactly one year from March 13th, 2014, what are you going to wish you did today?

It’s Important to Produce ‘Garbage’

When creating any body of work, art, music, short story, or even a child, you’re bound to fumble, get lost, experience frustration, and fail several times before you reach your desired result or outcome. No one in the history of artistic creation has ever “hit a homerun” on their first attempt at a new endeavor. It’s not probable, or by any means healthy, to believe that the first anything you do will be wildly successful without bouts of revision and time spent strengthening the work.

It is often the very first hurdle that deters most people from even trying at all. The lurking, looming, seemingly inevitable feeling of losing, of failing, and of embarrassing yourself causes many to turn around or note even try in the first place. The fact of the matter here is this: those who we look up to, whose lives we covet, and whose talents we crave, they were the ones, and continue to be the ones, willing to take that leap into uncertainty.

We cannot be afraid of being letdown. The refusal to try, take risks, and go after your dreams is a much larger self-sacrifice to your dignity than if you give it your all and put.  We must be willing and open to falling flat on our backs with the knowledge and understanding that this is the only process in which we can push ourselves farther, leap higher, and become better than we ever thought imaginable. The readiness to be terrible is one of the most essential parts to standing out and weathering the storm to become the person you want to be and accomplish the things you want to accomplish. There’s no way under, around, or over small moments of disaster and momentary downfalls. There just isn’t.

We have to be accepting to produce absolute rubbish at the start in order to have the ability to build, manipulate, and adjust to create the masterpiece. The belief that first time tries result in all time success is like believing skyscrapers sprout up from the ground over night. It simply doesn’t work that way.

The perfectionist in all of us tries to take the reins when we are creating something new for the first time. When we start a new workout routine, we become easily discouraged if we can’t lift as much as or run as fast as that guy or lady who’s been doing it for the last 20 years. When we start writing again after 10 years without scribing one word, we get dispirited that we can’t do it like Dr. Seuss or Kurt Vonnegut. We must let this creation come naturally and organically as possible before we go back and fine tune the piece to make it distinctly spectacular.

Truth be told, we have no idea how many times ‘the greats’ produced absolute garbage or rubbish during the get-go. The psychological trap we fall into is completely one-sided in that we only see the end result that was successful and recognized. We rarely, if not never hear about or view the hours upon hours they spent producing work that didn’t get published, shown to the public, or consumed by society.

Then, why do they do it?

It’s their passion, not their job or obligation. No matter the level of frustration, anger, aggression, or pain they go through when creating something, the entire time the spend doing that thing they love is pure bliss. Monetary compensation, fame, fans, failure, rejection. These are a few of the many things that are utterly irrelevant to people who go after their dreams in full force. The ones who endure the risks and setbacks in order to earn the sweet taste of reward in the end.

Don’t be afraid to produce something you think is absolute garbage at first. This feeling is perfectly natural and a process in which all past and present genius’ have experience. There’s no doubt that if you preserve and continue to work with it, the work in progress will evolve into something you will cherish.

“Life is tough, that’s a given. When you stand up, you’re gonna be shoved back down. When you’re down, you’re gonna be stepped on. My advice to you doesn’t come with a lot of bells and whistles. It’s no secret: you’ll fall down, you stumble, you get pushed, you land square on your face. And every time that happens, you get back on your feet. You get up just as fast as you can, no matter how many times you need to do it. Remember this: success has been and continues to be defined as getting up one more time than you’ve been knocked down.”

Gary Raser, Founder, President, and CEO of The Limu Company

 

Wash: Act 4

4th of June, 2046

There were no visible signs of the old man in the front yard as I quickly approached his house. After maniacally barging through his front door without knocking, I began bawling for help at the top of my lungs. It was at this point that the realization of my father’s dismemberment, and most likely his death, finally set in. I thrashed, banged, and threw myself about in search of the only man I knew of within miles that I might be able to help.

A whisper wandered from the end of the hallway:

“Hello? Is somebody there?”

I raced towards this soft sound as if I was holding the baton in the final leg of the summer Olympic 4×4 relay finale. My feet pounded to a sudden stop and I started to explain incomprehensibly:

“My father and I were going to the store to get supplies and we saw this red light and there was broken glass and a bunch of people and they start beating him — ”

“Hold on,” he interjected, “take a breath, slow down, enunciate and speak clearly, small child.”

In a sudden urge or brevity, I said nothing but instead took his hand and lead him towards the corner store without an offer of guidance or explanation. In retrospect, he must have felt some sort of moral obligation to adhere to the wants of this hysterical teenager without question. My pathetic whimpers and silent but firm pleas for help refused to let go of his heart and demanded the undivided attention of his conscious. I guess nothing was unfathomable at a time like this.

The never ending rain gifted us an organic baptism as we arrived back to the scene of the crime. With premeditated hope of our safety and survival, I explained the information he may need to know before entering such a hostile environment. In regards to the dangerous men inside, the safest exists if need be, and the likely unfavorable condition my father is in. He seemed to understand but stunk of skepticism brought forth by our half-assed plan.  For that, I could not fault him. We were like a discount version Starsky and Hutch if Starsky was a withering and decrepit granddad in a retirement home and Hutch as a 14 year old girl whose parents gave her the ultimatum of either visiting him or forfeiting television for a week.

We cautiously burst through the still shattered front doors of the supermarket, being sure to stay as low to the ground as we could and as quiet as a soaring owl in search of field mice at 3 a.m. Hearts walloping, brows moist, we searched every corner, caveat, and crevasse in the place only to find it vacated. The only reminisce of my father or his assailants was a still crimson puddle of my father’s blood resting in the middle of the candy isle.

“Well…where do we go from here?” The old man asked. Half of his voice was hinted with both comfort and hesitation.

“The only place I think they would take him is to our house,” I replied. My heart was gaining weight by the minute and I feared it would soon pack its things and leave for good. We hustled back to his house, jumped in his 1968 rusted El Camino, and, with me acting as a GPS covered in flesh, headed back towards the house.

“Just in case you were wondering, my name’s Cecil,” the old man said.

“What might yours be?”

Annabelle Pinser