Month: October 2016 (page 1 of 2)

Don’t Dream It Be It: A Celebration of Rocky Horror

As a child, I was always the odd-ball. For as long as I can remember, I struggled with feeling inadequate and strange. No matter where I went, I just never felt like I fit anywhere. I liked weird things. I thought about weird things. From the clothes I liked, to the music I listened to, to my introspective nature, I was always different, and it seemed like the older I got, the weirder I got. For a long time I thought there was something fundamentally wrong with me.

And then, something wonderful happened. I rediscovered a movie that changed my life forever.

That movie was, of course, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I’d seen it as a small child and had loved the costumes and the music. At 12 years old, it became the first thing that made me feel like maybe I was okay. I remember the relief I felt when I realized that so many others felt the way I do about this film.

At the end of the day, it told me quite clearly that it’s okay to be different. It’s okay to be weird. It’s okay to be yourself, regardless of what that may be.  The words “Don’t dream it, be it” encompassed everything I needed to hear and became my motto.

Not going to say it’s always been easy. I still feel like a weirdo, but I’ve learned to embrace it. Some days it’s frustrating, but I can always go back when I need a boost.

And go back I have. For fun I’ve worked out the math, and it seems I’ve watched The Rocky Horror Picture Show at least 1382 times in my life.

number of times I've seen the Rocky Horror Picture Show

When they aired the remake on Fox last week, I decided to make a night of it. I also cooked up a plan to mark the occasion with a new YouTube video and other fun social media treats.

I threw dinner in the crockpot so I could maximize my evening and set my hair up in rollers early in the day.  I was thrumming with excitement as I went through my daily routine and mentally prepared for the shoot.

hair in rollers, getting ready for shoot


Finally, the child I babysit through the week went home and I was able to complete the next step in my process. I put on the Rocky Horror soundtrack, poured some wine, and got into the zone as I dug through my closet and put my outfit together.

Everything's better with wine, red lipstick on wine glass

Everything’s better with wine.

I even enlisted my husband’s help with my eyeliner.  Thankfully, I still had my sister’s jacket from when she dressed as Columbia for my Rocky Horror themed birthday a couple years ago, since mine mysteriously disappeared.  I decided to go for an RHPS theme, versus choosing just one character. I must say, I love the result!

rocky horror themed outfit


When it came time to make the video, I wasn’t as nervous as I normally am. I looked in the mirror and saw me for the first time in what seems like years. That feeling was amplified when I watched the playback of my performance, and I must admit, I am more proud of this video that damn near anything I have ever done.



If I could spread one message it would be this:

Be you, and do so unapologetically. Embrace your weirdness. Celebrate your uniqueness. Go after the things that make you happy. Life’s too short to let others dictate your thoughts or actions.

Motherhood: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Today, my baby turns four years old. I know it’s cliche, but I really don’t know where the time went. It seems like just yesterday I was holding her in my arms for the first time, marveling at the perfect little angel my body created. Now, it seems as though I blinked and someone replaced that tiny bundle of love with a much older child.

birthday collage

The thing about motherhood is that it can be one of the most exhausting, annoying, stressful jobs to ever come crashing into your life. You have to think twice about everything you do, once for you and once for your child. Personal goals often take a backseat as you focus on ensuring the best life possible for your little one and meeting their (always immediate) needs. Housework doubles, downtime becomes a thing of the past, and every day brings an onslaught of new challenges. Some days you find yourself just going through the motions. Guilt and worry can consume you as you continuously wonder whether or not you’re doing this whole parenting thing right.

And then one night, after an hour-long battle with your strong-willed offspring, you tuck them into bed, kiss their little forehead, and they give you the biggest hug their tiny arms can muster and ask you to stay. You crawl in beside them, hold them close, and it all comes into focus.

For all the sleepless nights and arguments over the color of a sippy cup, for all the hurried days and times, for all the pleas of “just try your potatoes!”, you wouldn’t change a thing.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and overlook all the gifts motherhood brings, but on days like today, they are all I can see.

brandyn blaze and daughter, two years old, princess, motherhood

I remember the elation I felt when I first saw that little pink plus sign staring back at me. I remember laughing at how my cat refused to leave my belly and wouldn’t let anyone get near me. I remember the excitement of feeling those first kicks and the amazement I felt watching my belly ripple with her movements as she grew.

I remember waking up the day she made her grand entrance and knowing that it was time. The anxiety and overwhelming joy and fear of what was to come rolled into one big ball of emotion that made me feel as though my heart would burst.

Then she came on the scene.

The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” played from my phone as I gave the final push and they handed me my precious daughter. It was as if the world had stopped. Nothing else would ever be as important as this tiny human.

brandyn blaze and newborn baby, motherhood, baby's first day

Those first few weeks at home were magical. I’m not going to say it was all smooth sailing, but there was a special feeling in the air that I cannot find the words to describe as we found our rhythm. I still feel it when I think back on those early days. Looking at her little face I saw endless possibilities and felt an amazing sense of hope and wonder. I still do.

So many memories have been made in these last four years. From the first time she rolled over, to her first words and first steps, silly things she’s said and done, even the more trying times,  these memories are truly wonderful gifts that I will cherish until I take my last breath.

However, as special as those memories are, they are not the only gifts this motherhood gig brought to the party.

The birth of my daughter brought me a sense of purpose and direction that I had been lacking. Although she may not know it, she pushes me to be a better person each and every day. She’s taught me to step outside myself and see the bigger picture. She’s taught me to be more considerate, more compassionate, and more loving. She’s taught me to slow down and think before I speak or act.

Perhaps most importantly, this feisty, independent, headstrong little girl has taught me patience and how to find the lesson in every challenge. Her tenacity reminds me to employ the same grip to my own goals, and her eagerness to learn new things is nothing short of inspiring. Her resilience astounds me and it’s something I strive to match.

As I watch her continue to learn and grow, I never cease to be amazed at how much of a two-way street motherhood really is. While I’m teaching her the basics, she’s teaching me profound truths. We pick up so many unhealthy habits as we grow into adults and forget the simple things that children intrinsically understand. It’s up to us to listen and unlearn all the lessons that hold us down.

Today, I celebrate four years of love and laughter. Four years of trial and error. Four years of remarkable growth.

my princess

And one little girl who changed my life forever.




Re-imagining Reality: A Halloween Adventure

The other day I decided to transfer all the posts from my other site, Life Motherhood and The Pursuit of Happiness, to this blog in order to keep all my work safe as I prepare to shut it down. After saving them all as drafts and doing some annoying cleanup work, I began sorting through them to see if any of those old posts would be a good fit for this site.

I smiled when I ran across a post from two years ago. Interestingly, as I read it I was once again taking steroids, this time for an inflammation in my chest wall. It’s funny how every fall I seem to need them for something!

I loved this post so much I decided to reprint it here, exactly as it appeared when it first ran. I hope you laugh as much as I did!

spooky tree, reimagining reality, halloween

Steroids and Strollers: The Night My Family Was Attacked By Zombies, Mutants, and A Living Statue

The day was nearly done. A sense of accomplishment had settled over me as I sat back in my chair and glanced at the desk in front of me. Almost-Husband had kept the girl occupied most of the day and I’d made a major dent in my to-do list. Now, it was time to do something as a family.

I pushed away from the desk and strode into the living room. Sitting in front of the TV was not an option right now. I needed to keep moving.
“How about a family walk?” I suggested.
Almost-Husband looked at me quizzically.  “Really?”
A small laugh escaped my lips, as he was right to be surprised. I’m not generally the type of person to “do” things, especially if they require effort. However, I had been recently put on steroids to reduce inflammation in my knee, and they kind of make me feel like this:
Brandyn Blaze steroids

So! Much! Energy!

The Princess was already on board with this. “Outside?” She asked, bringing me her tiny pink sneakers.
“Yep, outside,” I confirmed.
We got around quickly and loaded the girl into her stroller.Darkness had already settled over the sleepy little town we call home. The night air was still and a light fog hung in the air. Perfect walking weather.
We set off in the opposite direction of our normal route, exploring parts of the town we’d never seen. “Want to walk through the graveyard?” Almost-Husband asked.
I laughed. “Not that I’m against graveyard walks, but no.”
“Why not?” The man questioned, a hint of laughter in his voice.
“Because we have an unbaptized baby,” I replied, the darkness concealing my smirk.
He chuckled and we carried on. Eventually we came upon a gravel road. Following Almost-Husband’s lead, we set down its path.
Glancing over my shoulder, I caught the outline of a man as he disappeared into the wooded area off the side of the road. “I don’t know about this,” I worried aloud.
Almost-Husband laughed. “It’s fine.”
I looked into the stroller. The Princess was looking around, seeming quite content. “You know, this is how all those 50’s b-movie horror flicks start,” I noted, unable to keep the laughter out of my voice.
As we continued down the rock-strewn path, we came to the realization that the road ran behind the graveyard. To our right, a sea of headstones took up the view. “See, it was calling to us,” Almost-Husband observed.
“You’re really not helping,” I sighed.
He laughed and we pressed on.
What I saw next, stopped me in my tracks. A hand had popped out of a grave near the road. In a matter of seconds, the entire population of the burial grounds had crawled out of their graves and were chasing us down the road. The Princess laughed with glee as the wind whipped in her face, and I feared she would be the end of us.
That fear was confirmed when the front wheel of the stroller struck a particularly large chunk of gravel and tipped over ahead of us. As I tried in vain to untangle my daughter from the wreckage, the swarm of zombies descended upon us. Almost-Husband put up a good fight, but there’s only so much one man can do against thousands of the undead. We’re still zombies to this day.
zombie attack zombies halloween adventure
Okay, well, that’s how it went down in my mind, anyway. As I expressed such thoughts, Almost-Husband and I shared a laugh. The Princess was still looking around in awe.
The path grew dark and I pulled out my cell phone to light the way.
“Put that away, you don’t want whatever is out there to see you first,” Almost-Husband admonished.
Playing into our newly created story, I put the phone back in my pocket.
The gravel road soon ended and we found ourselves once again entering a residential area. A dog barked from the safety of the shadows as we passed the first house on the block. “See, that dog’s going crazy because he can see all the ghosts that are following us,” I said, feigning annoyance.
This particular block was very clean, with houses that looked as though they belonged in the 50’s. Something about the neighborhood struck me as a little Stepford-y, and my imagination whirred to life again.
 “All these houses are full of mutants,” I said confidently. “All of them. Badly deformed survivors of some sort of apocalypse. It’s been that way so long that when someone finally sees us, they’ll think we’re the mutants and they’ll chase us with pitchforks and stuff.”
Almost-Husband laughed, although I’m fairly certain he was beginning to worry about my mental state.  As we continued our walk we ventured down a street lined with old-timey street lamps that reminded me of a Stephen King story I’d once read, which contained a foreboding old house with ridiculously overgrown trees and bushes obscuring most of its face. We dubbed this the murder house.
A few blocks later we passed a house with a white picket fence. All the windows were dark and the entire property appeared weathered. I imagined that a man lived there. He was alone, save for the skeletons of his deceased parents and younger sister. They’d all died when he was a child in the 50s and he kept up the inside of the house to be exactly as it was before the accident. The family’s television set had been modified and old shows from his youth played on a constant loop.
I laughed at the thought. “Is it wrong that I can’t pass any of these houses without thinking of horrible things?”
Almost-Husband shrugged. “Nah.”
Content, I reached forward and tousled my daughter’s hair. “Mommy’s a nutcase,” I laughed.
A very large house came into view on our left. The yard was impressively manicured. A statue of a fireman holding an ax stood apart from the rest of the landscape. “I think he’s watching us,” I whispered.
“Is it just me or did his head turn?” Almost-Husband asked.
“It did…he’s watching us. Hurry up before he comes at us with that ax.”
We didn’t make it. Living statues are fast creatures, faster than one may suspect. He caught up to us a few feet from our house. With an impossibly silent leap, he sank his ax into the back of Almost-Husband’s head, knocking him forward onto the ground. I stood transfixed, mouth frozen in a silent scream.
The figure turned his head to me, his stone face twisting into a morbid grin. With a swift yank of the handle, he freed the weapon from my partner’s skull. He swung at my leg, failing to connect as I jumped in front of the stroller. I quickly snatched up my baby and held her tight. I took off on a dead run in the direction of my house.
The statue gained on me and with a mighty slice, severed my right hand. A car passed just then, the light of its headlights turning my assailant back to stone, buying me enough time to get to the safety of my home.
Or, maybe we just walked the rest of the way home, laughing at the goofy stories we were coming up with.  That’s probably it.
graveyard, zombies, halloween adventure

Or maybe we live here now.

At any rate, if there’s a point to this story, it’s that I finally have my imagination back and that is super cool. It was always how I tried to deal with my anxiety when I was younger. Something would make me uneasy and I’d find a way to make it funny, even if it was by taking something scary and blowing it up to the point of absurdity. Somewhere along the line, my mind started taking my imagination and turning it on me, causing me to worry all the time about everything with much more realistic scenarios. That was not a fun place to be.
However, I can now say with pride that I’m beginning to get a handle on that once more, and who knows? Maybe I’ll finally write some amazing works of fiction (or, more accurately, finish all the piles of half-written stories that are cluttering up my desk).
At any rate, I feel more like myself again, and just in time for my favorite time of year. Speaking of which, can Halloween hurry up and get here already? As you can see, I’m more than ready!

Self-Care: The Importance Of Putting Yourself First

Do you ever have the feeling that you’re running on empty? That moment when you feel like you’ve given everything you have to give, when you’ve scraped the bottom of your emotional barrel and can’t even come up with a speck of give-a-damn?

this is what burnout looks like. You need self care

That my friends, is what we call burn-out, and trust me, I’ve been there a time or two. In fact, it’s something I’ve been experiencing recently, despite the fact that I know full well how to handle and prevent it. Between all the normal duties of a wife and mother, slogging through our financial struggles, dealing with first a sick child and then an illness of my own, and trying to meet deadlines for both this blog and my books, I’ve stretched myself thin.

When burnout sets in, it’s easy to withdraw from family and friends and wallow in your exhaustion. Work can grind to a hault, and the knowledge that you are running from your responsibilities just adds to the stress. It’s a hard cycle to break, and the more you try to push through it without first taking time to soothe yourself, the more resentment you’re bound to feel towards all the things taking up time that you could be using to re-engergize yourself.

One of the biggest factors that contributes to a lack of self-care is guilt. Most of us have internalized ideas that tell us it is selfish or indulgent to take time for yourself, and there’s never a shortage of people to remind you how frivoulous those acts acts are. With every “You need to consider your priorities” and “there’s always tomorrow”, the nagging sense of guilt and resentment grows.

It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it. Why you need self-care

When I worked for the women’s shelter, we focused a lot on the concept of self-care. We discussed it at nearly every meeting, we covered it exhaustively in trainings, and we preached it to our clients. We often reminded each other to take some time for self-care and our bosses would suggest time off for revitalizing when it was obvious that someone was going through a tough time. In fact, I would venture to say that it is one of the more important life lessons I took away from that position.

The concept is simple,chronic stress is associated with many health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, and mental disturbances. It can also lead to burnout, which is characterized by feelings of fatigue, insomnia (or, in some cases, oversleeping), frequent headaches or back pain, loss of motivation, and feelings of self-doubt or worthlessness. It can cause one to use drugs or alcohol to cope or lead one to take their frustrations out on others. It can also lead to depression or problems with anxiety, among other problems.

In order to avoid burnout, one must engage in self-care. While it is an important practice for everyone, it is vital for women, especially mothers. Women often take on more responsibilities both at home and at work than they can manage, out of the perceived notion that women should always be selfless. Many of us feel the need to take care of everyone around us and feel guilty when we wish to take time for ourselves.

self care don't set yourself on fire to keep others warm

So what is self-care?

Self-care is the art of making yourself a priority and ensuring that your own needs are met. It can be anything that leaves you feeling replenished, ranging from the basics of eating right and exercising to taking care of your spiritual health.

This can include saying “no” to requests you really don’t have the time or energy for or doing something you personally find soothing, such as soaking in the tub or getting a manicure. I know a few people who find respite in taking a drive. Just as each of us has a different level of stress we can take before we reach our breaking point, we all have different self-care activities that work best for us. Regardless of how you choose to care for yourself, it is recommended to engage in some form of self-care daily to help prevent the accumulation of stress.

Additionally, I’d venture to say that different amounts of stress require different amounts of self-care. For example, a 20 minute walk may help with day-to-day stress, while a major life crisis may require a combination of techniques. It’s all about finding what’s right for you.

you can't pour from an empty cup

My personal self-care routine involves journaling each night, taking time to make music daily, and treating myself to an at home spa day once a week. I also make sure to spend time with family or friends whenever I can and reach out to at least one person daily, even if it’s just a short text conversation to check in. Another important part of my system is setting limits on myself. For example, I never do any housework after 7pm and I try not of overload my schedule, even if it means turning down an invitation to a night out.

In order to be effective mothers, partners, friends, or employees (or bosses, for that matter), we must feel whole. When you’re feeling depleted, you can’t give your all to anyone or anything. How many times have to snapped at someone because you were having a rough day? How many times have you been too distracted by your own feelings of emptiness to really be present? It’s time we stop feeling guilty. As they say, “What you do for yourself, you do for others. What you do for others, you do for yourself.”

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