Tuesday, September 25


According to Wikipedia, Desiderata – Latin for “desired things” – is a 1927 prose poem by American writer Max Ehrmann (1872-1945) that only became widely known after its use in a compilation of devotional materials, subsequently found at the deathbed of Adlai Stevenson II twenty years after the author’s own death.

The reason I wanted toshare it with you today though, word for word, is because (ironically) they’re words to live by, and because sometimes my job as a writer is to know when I couldn’t have said it any better . . .

So, without further ado:

XO, Mal


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Wednesday, September 19

10 Things Superheroes Can Teach Us About "Real Life"

Well, it was only a matter of time before my inner nerd burst forth, like Superman’s iconic S from behind Clark Kent’s well-pressed dress shirt. I doubt those of you who know me are at all surprised, and that those of you who are know me at all.

But anyways . . .

This week’s post is about superheroes because (other than the fact that I LOVE SUPERHEROES!) every superhero there is or ever was is a metaphor – a metaphor for our two selves: the person we are day by day and the person we are capable of becoming. 

And, superpowers aside, the reason we think of them as “heroes” is that they always do the thing that most of us feel is beyond us most of the time; the right thing, no matter how hard it is (or how easy doing the wrong thing would be) and no matter the consequences . . .

The latter is probably why most of them rock an alter ego, mind you, but nonetheless, we could all stand to walk that line a little more closely.

As I have yet to come across a copy of “Being a Superhero for Dummies,” though, here’s a list of the basics so, should you ever come by actual superpowers, you’ll be good to go!


Wear one whenever possible.


While you’re hopefully never going to find yourself going to toe-to-toe with a bunch of bad guys in a dark alley, what day to day or life-or-death situation has ever been improved by a side ache or having a “spare tire ” . . . ?

It’s one of those things you’ll just never regret.


While we can attribute the earliest usage of this phrase to Voltaire (albeit in French) it was Stan Lee’s Amazing Fantasy #15 a.k.a. the first Spiderman story that made it famous, foreshadowing the murder of Uncle Ben, the murderer being a criminal Peter Parker could have stopped. Could have, but didn’t. And as if Uncle Ben dying didn’t stress the importance of these words enough, the fact that in the history of Marvel he is the only notable character who “stays dead” certainly does . . .

So, lesson:

Superheroes don’t ask themselves why bad things happen, they ask themselves, “What can/could I do to stop bad things from happening . . . ?”


Superman, er . . . I mean, Clark Kent was fetching Lois Lane’s coffee and answering to “Smallville” for what must have felt like years before the time was right to reveal his true identity.

Take a second to just imagine how good that moment must have tasted.

Now, imagine that taste every time someone puts you down or sells your short. Imagine the look on their face when someday – supposing you’ve worked hard and stayed the course – you finally get the chance to show them what you’re really made of . . .

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” so when that day comes – and it will – be ready.

And have something really snappy to say. All the best superheroes always do.


You can’t accomplish anything by doing nothing, let alone everything.

Want it all . . . ?

The “perfect life” . . . ?

Be prepared to work your @$$ off and have no life first. Batman’s office is a cave and Superman’s pad is called the “Fortress of Solitude” for a reason.


Don’t ever stoop to their level, whoever “they” are.


Monologues are for super villains and people who like to hear themselves talk the talk.

Superheroes walk the walk.


Have you ever noticed how, although they’re both billionaires, Batman does his own hacking and Ironman builds his own sh*t . . . ? That’s because they have to be better at what they do than anybody else, friend or foe.

(I mean, c’mon, calling up the Geek Squad with their unique kind of “technical difficulties” isn’t exactly an option.)

But superheroes have to able to do a lot more than just hack your Facebook and build death machines – they have to be knowledgeable about practical things, too, the basics of First Aid, how to change a tire, self-defense, how to work a compass, etc.

Golden Age Wonder Woman, I bet you didn’t know, could type 160 words per minute.

Now, that might not sound that impressive in comparison to her Amazonian strength or Lasso of Truth, but as an administrative assistant by day, believe me when I say that is on fire . . .

The point is it’s good to be well-rounded. You never know what life’s going to throw at you – just you – and it’s best to assume that you’re going to have to figure it out on your own.


About something.


Life’s too short (and too long) to be that person just going through the motions, wearing just a plain ol’ undershirt beneath your work clothes day after day after day . . .


Superheroes get their butts handed to ‘em, too, occasionally. Christopher Nolan’s Batman by Bane, Superman by Doomsday, Elektra actually died as a result of her injuries from Bullseye . . . but here’s the thing:

A superhero always – ALWAYS – comes back for more.

And on that note, here’s hoping you’ll be back for more Mal Adjusted next week!

XO, Mal


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Monday, September 10

5 Ways to Flip Off Writer's Block

As I’m sure those of you who follow have noticed by now, Mal Adjusted – though made for and open to all off the beaten path – tends to lean more towards those of the artistic type, myself being one.

(Write what you know, right . . . ?)

Nonetheless, I will be the first one to tell you that writer’s block is not unique to writers; having more than just “dabbled” in martial arts, dance, and art I can tell you that it afflicts anyone doing anything that requires unbidden expression, anything that is equal parts discipline, intuition, reckless abandon, and skill.

Too much of this and your creative process can quickly begin to resemble a pinball machine, too little of that and it’ll be about as interesting and as productive as a game of solitaire.

I can also tell you that writer’s block is different for everyone – how it gets to you, how it hangs on to you and, most importantly, how you handle it.

Therefore, you may find only some (or none) of these solutions helpful as I can only compare them to my own experiences, but hey, here’s hoping:


There’s a difference between being inspired/motivated and being keyed-up, going over an obstacle as opposed to throwing yourself at it hoping it will yield before you knock yourself out. Once described as a “hummingbird of emotions,” you can see how this is my biggest challenge when it comes to overcoming writer’s block – how to supplement my writing with my emotions, that fight I had with my boyfriend, that manager I’m having a problem with at work or that friend who didn’t turn out to be who I thought they were, without overdosing on them and then wallowing in bed for hours eating cake, drinking whiskey and watching Supernatural.

And while I can now eat my weight in German chocolate cake, no longer believe in chasers and know my Dean Winchester quotes forward and backwards, I don’t have any writing to show for these “burnouts,” none at all.

Knowing where your “point of combustion” is is important because burnouts (and more so, recovering from them) are a waste of time, and because once you have that information you can act preemptively.

Breathe, go for a run, take your dog to the beach, whatever it is that clears your head and leaves you with a clean “workspace” and room to focus.


If something's really not working, it’s probably not working for a reason. Writers, for example, sometimes cling to the poem or story that we want to write and ignore the one that wants to be written when, if we could only let go of the former, the later might simply unfold.

To accomplish this, a college professor of mine encouraged me to “word vomit.”

To write sentimentally, quickly, even badly, so long as I was writing.

“Write about what has you fired-up,” she said. “Write your truth first and then worry about your words.”

Similarly, my Grand Master often tells his students, “Don’t think. React.”

Whatever is that you do, take a hint from both of them and from Nike and Just Do It. Let whatever happens happen and go from there, because you’re not getting anywhere where you are. 


Basically, read.

(If you’re a writer, that is.)

More generally, take time to appreciate and learn from the work of others doing what you do.


Now, I don’t know about you, but my mind is not unlike that pin-ball machine I described earlier, as in sometimes I don’t recognize a good idea unless I have something to bounce them off of, whether that something is a conversation I overhear, a song on the radio or the surprising imagery that can found in everyday life when you’re actually looking.

Also, inspiration/motivation can be like a having a cat: When you want to hold it, it doesn’t want to be held, but give your attention to anything else and suddenly your keyboard is the only acceptable place in the world for it to take a nap.

My cat Lily illustrating my point for me.
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve given-up after hours of staring at a blank Word document only to go out and be “that person” holding up the conversation to write something down on a napkin, then in my journal, now on my iPhone . . .

And if that doesn’t work at least you went out and had a good time.


Trust me.

You brain can do whatever it is that you’re trying do a thousand better without even trying if you’d just get out of the way.

A little lucidity goes a long ways . . .

XO, Mal


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Tuesday, September 4

Being the Black Sheep (or Dog)

Last week I asked my boyfriend the pirate what I should write about this week.

“Stitchy,” he answered flippantly, Stitchy – a combination of stinky and itchy – being his nickname for my little black dog Tessa.

But the more and more I thought about it the more and more in line it seemed with my overall message to those trying to make their own way in the world.

For those of you who don’t know Tessa’s story, let me tell you before I elaborate:

It was the fall semester of my junior year at USD. My boyfriend at the time and I had been going through a rough patch. He was gone a lot, I was difficult, admittedly, his family was more difficult – let’s not pretend I’m not biased here – and somewhere in the panic of trying to hold on to each other, we decided to get a dog together.

I would pick the dog, he would pay for it.

So one night I skipped my evening class to make it to the animal shelter down the street from campus before it closed. I just wanted to look. If one jumped out at me, I would come back the next day with my boyfriend and we would discuss it . . .

But of course I wanted to take them all home right then and there.

If you’ve never been to an animal shelter, they’re sad places.

The San Diego Department of Animal Services is a nice shelter as far as shelters go, and yet the floors were cold and wet. Every aisle was a barrage of echoes, gates slamming, dogs barking, chain-link rattling – you get the picture.

The hearts and smiley faces doodled on the printed bios of the animals were especially depressing knowing that half of them would be euthanized anyway, no matter that they were a “staff favorite” . . .

I felt so bad for those ones – the introverted ones and the old ones and the pit bulls, the ones you knew had been there a long time – that I almost didn’t look twice at Tessa.

At 12 weeks old she was still cute and fluffy, still had puppy breath, but the bedazzled pink leather collar hanging around her neck suggested to me that she already had a home.

I thought of Lady and the Tramp:

“You’re too nice a girl to be in this place.”

She already belonged to someone, I was sure, and yet there was guardedness about her; while the other dogs spun and bounced as I walked the line of kennels, she all but ignored me, only thumping her tail (albeit half-heartedly) when I knelt down in front of hers and squeezed my hand through. She wouldn’t even pick her head up.

“Don’t be scared,” I whispered, scratching the space between her eyes with my index finger.

I told myself she didn't need “saving,” though, and went on with my walkthrough, writing down a few kennel numbers on the square of newsprint they gave me with one those teeny yellow kiddie pencils. I gave those numbers to a volunteer behind a desk and, while she was printing up those dogs’ information for me, asked about the little black dog with the pretty pink collar.

“Oh,” the girl said, brow furrowing at her computer screen. “She’s been relinquished. Just today, actually.”

Relinquished, as in “retired from; given up or abandoned.”

That word made my mind for me.

Tessa in the bin.
But a week after I signed the adoption papers, the day fall finals began and a week before Christmas, my boyfriend dumped me. And that would have been one thing on it’s own, but it soon came out that he’d been telling our so-called mutual friends he was going to break up with me as early as November.

“Why the [expletive] did you get her a dog then?” one of my true friends asked him pointedly.

His answer?

“So she had a reason to live.”

. . .

Needless to say, I laughed.

Well, not right away, obviously. At first I was – quite understandably – wounded, indignant and, more than anything, mad at myself for being with such a . . . such a . . . cum-rag in the first place!

(Yeah, I just said that. Sorry, Mom!)

I learned to laugh about it. You learn to laugh about a lot of things after college.

But before laughing again was even a thought in my head, I had exams to take and a life to straighten out – a life that now included a 12-week-old black lab Chow mix with some serious people problems . . .

You see, despite the bedazzled pink leather collar Tessa (previous name unknown) came with, she hadn’t exactly been living the posh life; we didn’t have any details, but from the way she cowered at the outstretched hand of strangers, mistrusted the food in her bowl, ran from loud noises, and yelped if taken by collar even gently, we could surmise.

The overwhelming consensus of my friends and family was that I should take her back. For $40, I could re-relinquish her to the same place I had rescued her from. She was defective, after all, and I had enough on my plate as it was, right?


1) The word relinquish and its definition have no place in my life, and 2) I hate it when people judge a book by its cover.

I hated that people were somehow disappointed with my puppy, that they regarded her as though she were a broken toy, damaged and therefore disposable because she wasn’t like other puppies – a feeling I was all too familiar with.

For those of you who don’t know this either, when I was 8 the youngest of my two younger sisters died. My parents divorced not long afterwards, we moved, and I hit my awkward chubby phase just in time to begin middle school in a new town where I didn’t know anyone.

I had my own share problems, you could say – a junk drawer of them, really – but then what kid wouldn't.

Making things worse were the people who, because they couldn’t look past those problems, never gave me the opportunity to be anything more than those problems.

To this day, unfortunately, there are people in my life who look at me and are only able to see a kid from a “broken home,” because that it what they want to see.
There are people who look at my boyfriend the pirate and are only able to see someone who can’t get “with the program” and put in his fourty hours a week at a desk like everyone else, not somebody with an irresistible desire to travel to better understand his very existence.

There are people who look at my dog and are only able to see a sad little black mutt.

Herein lies the point of this post:


Whether you’ve always been something of a black sheep (or dog) or if life off the beaten path is a new adventure, whether it’s more alienating than you thought it’d be or you’ve been doing it for a long time and find yourself tiring, don’t let the people who will try to define you by your maladjustments make you doubt your greater worth. Don’t let the people who don’t recognize what you have to bring to the table stop you from bringing it.

Somebody will, and that somebody (or somebodies) will probably have a unique perspective like your own.

They will understand the difference between being different and being damaged.

They will value your eccentricities and experiences for how they have shaped you, honed your strengths, and contributed to your conviction.

They will be the ones who know that even if life has made its mark on you in ways that hurt still, a diamond with a flaw is worth more than a pebble without imperfections.”

Until then, though, steel yourself . . .

Keep your head up and your eye on the prize. Go forth off the beaten path with sublime self-righteousness, never forgetting that no one else is capable of the same things you are, because nobody else can be you, character defects, quirks, scars and all.

As well-behaved and as much-loved as Tessa is now, it was the maladjustments that someone else deemed unlovable that made her the one to jump out at me that day and saved her from the pound, that saved her from going back to pound and had me wondering, “What else is  in there?”

Tessa & I today :)
In the evenings, though, when she’s sitting quietly on my parents’ deck – listening to the cars go by, smelling what there is to smell on the hilltop breeze, watching the sun go down on the rooftops with all the profundity of an old man in his favorite old chair – I doubt it’s her maladjustments that she’s counting . . .

XO, Mal


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