The Train

Sitting here, I heard the sound of a train rolling by. I heard it off in the distance a couple times before, but the blaring horn and clickity-clack of the metal wheels following tracks was much louder tonight than it was before. I don’t actually know where the train tracks are as I have not stumbled upon them yet, but I was glad to hear the train and remembered this story I told my mother once.

I discovered that I enjoyed the sound of distant trains–especially at night as I am falling asleep. It is comforting to me. Every place that I have lived (minus one) has had train tracks nearby. The tracks near the house I grew up in were so close, the house rattled when the train rolled by. It was very loud–and long–but it never bothered me. I don’t think it bothered any of us because we had grown accustomed to it.

When I went away to college, some people would complain about the train near the school. Of course, I didn’t mind it and actually enjoyed it, but I didn’t know why. One bachelors degree and two apartments later, I decided to move closer to work. The area was nice, I enjoyed my new-found independence, but I did not feel at home there. It was a short-lived excursion to a new land, and it was time to go back “home.” But, where is home? Home is where the train is.

I discovered what it was with me and trains. Home is a place where you [should] find refuge, safety, and love. Every place that I called home just so happened to have a train nearby. Somehow, subconsciously, the train had become symbolic of home. Coincidentally (or not), the apartment near work did not have a nearby train.

Whether I concocted this theory in a fit of creativity, or there is truth to it, everyone has something in their lives that remind them of home. Sounds and smells are powerful triggers for memories, and with this being the holiday season, the time is ripe for making new memories and recalling old ones. Whether you return to your place of refuge, work, or do nothing at all this season, be sure to take the time out to share love with those whom you care about the most. You never know what role you play in the production of someone else’s life. You could play a supporting role, be an extra, or maybe even just be part of the set–like a train. Whatever your role is, play it well. Memories are available for the taking. Make some with your family and friends this season while you have the chance.

Telling All My Business

I’m not a small person. I don’t call myself “big” and definitely never “fat.” Whatever I am, it’s definitely not average.

Shopping is hard because I don’t fit in anyone’s prefabricated bucket. If I go to regular stores that have regular sizes, I have to sift through all the racks in the store to find the one item in the biggest size they carry. Sometimes it’ll do, but most of the time it won’t.  I have a long torso, and most of the time the shirts are just too short. I don’t know about you, but I’m not down with showing my midriff. If I go to the plus sized stores, I have the same problem, but on the opposite end of the spectrum. I have to search the store for the smallest items. Shirts are the worst in these stores because I’m not very busty–at least not busty enough for plus sized shirts. The shirts are long enough, but a lot of times I’ll need to wear a cami underneath because either the neck is cut too low or the arm holes are too big or both!

Pants shopping is a little easier, but it makes me sad. I’m not as wide as whatever the definition of wide is, but I wear wide sizes to fit my fat gut in my pants. I was not blessed with a nice, round backside, and I have skinny legs. So if I get pants that comfortably fit my gut, then they end up being baggy in the leg and have that gap in back. If I try to get skinny or any kind of fitted jeans then I have to walk around with stomach sucked in or wear shape wear to tuck my gut in.

As you can see, it is a happy day when I find clothing that fits me in all the right places.

When I daydream about what life would be like if money was not a concern, do you know what I dream about? Well, besides the cars and what my house will look like, I think about getting a tailor to make clothes that fit my odd body perfectly. I never took the time to find out how much something like that would cost, but I imagine it would be more than what I’m willing to pay right now. I thought the days of having custom fit clothing were far into the future, but to my surprise they are already here! I discovered ILoveFitted.com. ILoveFitted is the sister company to CompletelyFitted.com that specializes in hand-crafted, custom tailored suits, dress shirts, jeans, and ties for men.

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ILoveFitted.com brings hand-crafted, custom fit eShakti dresses, blazers, and tops to women. They are all made by hand according to your measurements–not the standard cookie-cutter size chart that does not take individuals into consideration. First time buyers get $25 off, so I decided that I could not lose by trying it. If you’re like me, then you probably do not like shopping for clothes online because you’re worried about how it will fit. Because you measure yourself (I would highly recommend having someone help you), everything you buy will fit perfectly!

I’m trying to step up my dress game, so I found a dress that looked like it would look great on me without breaking the bank. I have big shoulders, so I tend to buy shirts and dresses with either a v-neck, or something else that detracts attention away from my shoulders to my chest–especially if it’s sleeveless. Ruffles are great for that. I also do not have a defined waistline. So usually I try to stick with A-line dresses, but that gets boring sometimes. Prints are good because they confuse the eye enough to shield the waistline. The dress I bought from ILoveFitted.com is a sleeveless, v-neck dress with pleated ruffles down the front. I like long ruffles because they also shield my gut–ruffles can cover a multitude of sins ;-). Because this dress was made according to my measurements by hand, the seamstress made sure to make the back slightly longer than the front. Why is that important? Well, when your stomach is as big as mine, most of your dresses end up being shorter in the back because your stomach is taking up extra material. So if you make the front longer than the back, when you put it on it will be perfectly balanced. Also, the arm holes were perfectly fitted. In my world, if the arms aren’t perfect, then it’s better to have them loose than too tight. At least with loose arms you can gather it up and tuck some of it in with a safety pin. With tight arms, you run the risk of ripping–not to mention it’s uncomfortable.

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On the red carpet of Kung Fu, Old Skool & Tyrone the Movie premiere.

The prices are very reasonable. When you’re oddly shaped like me, you just can’t run out to any store and get a $5 shirt. You’re used to going to specialty stores and spending a little extra money on looking fabulous. So, when I saw dresses for $80 and $90, I was pleasantly surprised. I thought to myself, “Really? I can pay the same price I would normally pay for a dress that is going to fit me perfectly? Heck yeah!!” The dress I bought as actually $69.95, and the $25 off brought it down to a totally awesome price.

Every woman should have at least one custom fitted dress in her closet. You will feel amazing, and the stress of worrying about wardrobe mishaps, exhaustion from holding your stomach in, and whatever else you go through will be completely eliminated. For once you can go out and focus on having a good time.  Well, unless, of course, you’re worried about your shoes–that’s a different story! I am very happy with my dress, and I will definitely order more dresses, skirts, shirts, and jackets. I can’t wait until they start selling pants.

My Missing Middle Name

I’m not sure how you grew up, but back in the 80’s, when I was very young, parents made their children write their names, addresses, and phone numbers a thousand times.  This was more than just a writing and learning exercise; It was a rite of passage–a sign that you were no longer a baby.  This exercise served two purposes:  1. so the kids would actually learn to spell their name correctly and learn their address and phone number, and 2. to practice writing.  This was usually done some time after learning to tie shoelaces, but before the end of kindergarten.  I wrote “Jessica Grace Brown” a million times.  That exercise ingrained in my brain that this was my name.  Some kids didn’t like their names and went by nicknames or some other name.  I didn’t really care.  I had a name, and it was mine…at least I thought so.

As I got older, I started to notice some stuff.  Things didn’t really add up.  After all, what is a middle name for if no one recognizes it any way?  Some time during the first half of my senior year I decided that I needed some answers.  I went to the source.

“How come my middle name doesn’t come on anything?”  I asked.

My mother replied, “What do you mean?”

“Everyone else has their full name on their report cards and things except me.  My stuff just says Jessica Brown.”

Without missing a beat, and so casual, she bestowed upon me the answer to my quandary.

“Oh.  That’s because you don’t have a middle name.”

WHAT?!

That was not the answer I was expecting!  I wanted some long, technical answer that started with “Long ago and far away…,” involved monks who built a special computer deep in the alps, and ended with “…and that is why your middle doesn’t show.”  I felt like she ripped out part of my identity.  I didn’t know who I was any more.  I was angry and felt like I had been betrayed.  How could they not tell me this?  What was up with writing “Jessica Grace Brown” a million times?  Who am I??  She said something about when I was born they only had one name picked out, and when they finally selected a middle name they already had the birth certificate and it was going to cost money to get it changed.  At the time I thought that was the most lame excuse of all lame excuses.  It of course makes sense now.  I wanted to give myself a name just to spite my parents, but of course, it does cost money to do that.

Months later at our class ring ceremony all of those feelings resurfaced when I saw that I would be haunted by this my entire life.  Before I confronted my mother, I had already designed my class ring.  I opted to have my signature engraved on the inside of the band.  I signed my whole name.  So, while my classmates were celebrating a milestone, I stood there in anguish, staring this stranger’s ring.  I thought, “This person doesn’t even exist.”

Three Years

24432_635985877795_793803990_nFor three years I lived on 60-75% of my income. I can count on two hands how many times I went shopping. I was a hermit, and my friends had to convince me to take breaks. I was in the zone. For three years I focused solely on one thing. I dropped everything for this. Everyday was the same thing:  6:30 wake-up, go to work, leave work between 2:00 & 3:00, go to class, get home some time between 8:00 & 9:30 (a couple times I was lucky enough to get home at 6:30!), eat, do urgent assignments, and sleep as soon as I can. On the weekends I slept in and did school work. When my brain couldn’t take  anymore I’d try to relax and do something else–mostly procrastination–but there was always something else I should be doing. That guilt was always eating at me, so even the times of relaxation were stressful…for three years.

Those three years were not only the most stressful time of my life, but also the most focused and peaceful time of my life. There is a nice calm that comes over you when you know for certain what you are doing, what you are doing it for, and what the outcome will be. When you know what you’re doing, the decision-making process is simple–at least it should be. There is only one question that needs answering:  Is this going to get me closer to what I want? If the answer is yes, then you do it. If no, then you don’t. Plain and simple. In the stressful times, it was very comforting knowing that the chaos was for a reason–a good reason. It kept me going.

I saw firsthand how God loves unconditionally. I neglected my spiritual life often all in the name of being too busy, too tired, too this, too that. But God never stopped providing for me and ordering my steps. It was three years of confusing amazement. On one hand I felt far from Him, but on the other hand I’ve never felt closer.

In three years, I met a lot of interesting people and learned a lot of interesting stuff. I hope that I was able to make a positive impression.

The last three years were awesome experiences, but I am relieved they are over. This post is bittersweet (mostly sweet though) because it is the finale of The 2nd Time Around category. People have been asking me “what next?” You’ll see! I expect the next three years to be far more awesome than the previous.

Exciting Things Are Happening!

529092_35688940Well HELLO everyone in my blogosphere!  I have a few pieces of exciting news for you.  First things first:  I finished my LAST class today, and I am DONE with school!!  I graduate on May 16.  Now I have the time to dedicate to writing and creativity.  You should be hearing from me more often now 🙂

The second order of business is both an announcement and a request.  Maybe I’ll tell you the full story soon, but the short story is I have been extended a contract to publish my first book!!  How exciting is that?  Extremely!  I need a little help though.  If you would please visit this link, watch my video, and then consider supporting me in this, I will be forever grateful.  Thank you in advanced, and God bless you!

http://www.gofundme.com/Jess1stBook

Almost There

It’s been a minute since the last time I posted.  Sorry for leaving you guys hanging.  My world is a bit hectic at the moment–heck, the last several moments :-).  As you remember, I’ve been in school for the past two years (see my other posts in The 2nd Time Around category).  As of right now, I have four weeks left in the semester before the last one!  I have a terrible case of senioritis, and I believe it started during spring break–that was eight months ago!!  With four weeks left to go, I still find myself confused and frustrated.  I still haven’t totally gotten adjusted to my schedule.  I don’t know what day it is half the time.  I don’t look at my iPad to see when my assignments are due.  I’m in really bad shape!  Well, let me give this disclaimer before you REALLY get concerned about me:  I’m not failing any classes!  (lol)  I’m not in THAT bad shape.  I’m just having a motivation issue.  I don’t care to be bothered with school anymore, and I just want my life back.

I usually have the best performance during the fall semesters.  After having that nice long summer break, I’m amped and ready for a challenge.  My study habits are great, time management on point, and I make the best grades.  That one time I made the dean’s and the president’s list was in the fall.  However, I go so hard and exert so much energy that by the time the spring semesters come, I’m out of it.  I’m ok in January, but by the time spring break comes at the beginning of March, I am toast!  After spring break, I could care less and performance is on a steady decline.  I remember having senioritis when I was in school the first time, however I remember it being different.  I think it’s worse, but those who remember me from then disagree.

I very concerned about this upcoming semester.  If I typically start losing steam at that time, then what in the world happens when I never had any?  I’ve been working full-time and attending classes near full-time.  Next semester I’ll be working full-time and attending classes full-time!  Thirty one hours at work, and 12 hours at school…every cotton pickin’ week…for the next four months.  I’m so anxious about it I could throw up!  My life is already hectic and bland.  My friends would have me think of the positive.  There is only four more weeks!  HA!  It’s soo easy to say, but they’re not going through it.  However, they are right.  The end is near.  It can’t get here quick enough!

 

“School is your job.” – Humorous Perspectives from an Hourly Employee

As a full-fledged adult with real responsibilities, I really hate the phrase “school is your job.” One semester, my young classmates were complaining about having too much work to do in one particular class.  They said that they had jobs and the amount of work the professor was giving was a lot more than any other professor–I actually agreed, but having been through school once before I didn’t think the load was that bad.  The professor sympathized with us, said she understood, and knew it was hard, but SCHOOL IS YOUR JOB, and so your coursework should come first.  WHAT?!  I KNOW she didn’t pull that one out on us!!  Don’t you just hate it when someone claims to see your side of the story and they throw a “but” in there?  It’s like they totally counteracted everything they just said with the “but.”

Anyway, there was a time in my life where the school is your job thing would have been appropriate.  However, I HAVE a job, and I’m not looking a second one!  School being my job is not appealing on so many levels, however, I want to explore one of them right now.

I have always been an hourly employee.  I don’t know what it’s like to be anything else.  What I do know is that, at this point in my life, salaried life is not for me!  When people say, “school is your job,” the meaning comes from a salaried, career oriented perspective.  It mostly only applies to traditional students because for a short time school is the main focus in their lives just as a career is for others–salaried employees.  So, I thought it would be fun to explore how school being my job is a horrible concept from an hourly perspective.

1.  “You can’t take it with you.”

The best thing about being an hourly employee is that I don’t have to take the job home with me!  I work from 8:30 to 5:30.  When the clock strikes 5:30 I am no longer obligated to to stick around unless I choose to.  However, if school is my job, then what’s homework all about?  Why do I have to spend my personal time studying and doing projects?

2.  “If you need something done you have to do it yourself.”

Another great thing about being an hourly employee is I don’t have to be concerned (terribly) about getting stuff done.  If something isn’t done today, then I can do it tomorrow for the most part.  Often times there is someone else who will have to complete it for me because it will become their task when I leave.  However, if school is my job, then who’s going to “foot the bill” for me?  Who’s going to have my back and finish my work if I can’t get to it?

3.  “What happens in Vegas….”

A wonderful thing about being an hourly employee (that is, if you do it right) is I don’t have work waiting for me when I get back from vacationing–mostly.  I do what I can before I leave, I go to “Vegas,” and if something just happened to not get done, then it becomes someone else’s problem…unless that person is really evil and saves it until I get back!  However, if school is my job, then why is it that every time I get back from “Vegas” there’s always something waiting for me?  How come teachers always assign stuff to do when I’m supposed to be in “Vegas??”  This job bites!

4.  “There ain’t nothin to it but to do it.”

I think some people in my department forget that I am an hourly employee.  They expect me to think about the job when I’m not there, take on extra responsibilities, improve my skills, consider doing extra [unscheduled] work, and all kinds of other things after hours and on the weekends.  To an hourly employee, this is called overtime.  To a salaried employee, it’s just called life.  They think that the extra money I’ll earn will motivate me to do more, but ummm…I have a very full life outside of work–I’m a student!  They fail to remember that whatever I do that is work related outside of work they must pay me to do it.  So, no, I didn’t get your email last night.  Why?  I was asleep!  You don’t pay me to check email at home…on my personal computer…on the Internet that I pay for.  So, when people say that school is my job, they are DEFINITELY coming from a salaried position.  They expect me to have school on my mind 24/7.  They want me to join clubs and do extracurricular activities.  They want me to read every email they send no matter what time it is!  They want me to study at least two hours per class period per meeting time PER DAY!  Do they not realize how many hours that is in one day?  That’s a full time job!  Oh, wait…school is my job.  😉