Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone! Hope your holiday is filled with family, fun and fabulous food!

With all my love,
smtwngrl

Friday, December 21, 2007

Going Home

It's that time again, for the long drive and the snow and the family and the holiday gorging...OK, hopefully not the gorging but definitely the rest of the stuff. I'm heading home to spend Christmas with my family. I'm happy that I'll have the week off from work (although I've used all of the paid time off I've accrued and then some) and I'm excited to spend some time with my family. At the same time...

I'm very excited to be going home for the holidays, really, I am. No, no, really. It's a tradition I love and I don't know how I'll handle it when I have my own family to spend the holidays with and can't make the trip every year. But honestly, I wish my family could be transplanted to some place closer to me. And/or someplace warm, like the tropics. Or even North Carolina. I mean, people, they get FEET of snow up there. And it's COLD. I'm not talking 40 degrees cold. Or even 30 degrees cold. It gets BELOW ZERO up there. It gets so-cold-my-ears-are-going-to-fall-off-and-my-snot-is-frozen-solid cold.

Anyway, enough complaining. It will be nice to have a white Christmas, because we don't really get those down here. So I'm headed home today to spend time with my family and enjoy the holiday festivities. Then I'll be back for a weekend of gift exchange and football with My Love before heading back to work on New Year's Eve. (Just out of curiosity, whose idea was it to make Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve work days? I mean, I know the Prez declared Christmas Eve a government holiday this year, but normally, I have to work on those days. Just like the day after Thanksgiving...what's up with that??? I'm sure I'm not alone, but I still find it totally irritating. And retail workers, I really feel for you...who wants to work on Christmas Day or New Year's Day?)

If you don't hear from me for a few days, don't worry. I've probably gotten lost in my nephew's pile of toys, or I'm eating sausage bread until I'm so bloated I can't move, or I've cookie-eaten myself into a carb coma. Just know that I'm thinking of you all and sending you wonderful holiday wishes!

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

TBR Challenge 2008


I've come up with my official list for the 2008 TBR Challenge. I've scoured my bookshelves (and my library list) for the 12 lucky titles that will make my challenge list, and without further ado, here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Girl Meets God by Laura Winner Finished 1/16/08

  2. Citizen Girl by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus Finished 4/12/08

  3. Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose Finished 12/21/08

  4. I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

  5. The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd

  6. Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult Finished 2/3/08

  7. Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson Finished 8/31/08

  8. A Hand to Guide Me by Denzel Washington

  9. Hotel of Saints by Usula Hegi Finished 8/18/08

  10. Writing Your Life by Lou Willett Stanek

  11. We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg Finished 3/14/08

  12. Hollywood Worldviews by Brian Godawa
You might recognize some of these from last year's group. Since I didn't get to all 22 from last year, I figured I'd list them again. I'm going to have to read them all eventually! And just in case any of the first group turn out to be unbearable, or I'm just not in the mood for them, I've also selected 12 alternates (again, some of them from last year's list).

Alternates:
  1. The Ha-Ha by David King

  2. Writing Articles from the Heart by Marjorie Holmes

  3. Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorbach

  4. Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer

  5. Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

  6. I'm Not the New Me by Wendy McClure

  7. To Own a Dragon by Donald Miller

  8. Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott

  9. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

  10. Nourishing Wisdom by Marc David

  11. God's Politics by Jim Wallis

  12. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Again, if you want to join the challenge, visit the official challenge site and sign up. The more the merrier, and just think of how much room you'll be able to make on your shelves for more wonderful stories!


Monday, December 17, 2007

A New Book Challenge

Over the last few years, I've found myself reading less and less because there were always so many other things on my To Do list. Then, about a year ago, I committed myself to a challenge I never thought I'd finish. I signed up to read twelve books in twelve months! I thought that I just might be crazy, given my busy schedule. But joining the 2007 TBR Challenge gave me just the excuse I needed to spend more time with my nose in books.

My book shelves aren't any barer because I keep buying more books, but I read more this past year than I've read in quite a while, and was able to make 12 checks on my long list of "I really want to read that" books. That's probably double the number of books I read in 2006. I also really enjoyed every single one of my TBR picks, which I didn't expect. Especially since many of the books sitting on my shelf stay unread for so long because once they're purchase I forgot why I picked them up in the first place or can't seem to get myself "in the mood" for them.

Twelve months later, I'm half a book short of completing the 2007 TBR Challenge (I'm sure I'll finish by 12/31), and I couldn't be more excited for 2008! Because the TBR Challenge really motivated me to read more this year, I've decided I'll be joining in on the 2008 challenge, too. If you're interested in being part of the challenge group, check out the official challenge site and sign up. Why not make the TBR Challenge 2008 one of your resolutions (or goals if you're like me and don't make resolutions) for the coming year?

I'll be posting my official TBR 2008 list soon, so stay tuned. If you decide to join, let me know—I'd love to see your lists, too. I'm always looking for new books to add to the ever-growing TBR pile.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Geek in Me

This post was originally published on February 16, 2006 at Weight of My World.

I had a few free hours yesterday, so after eating breakfast, checking my email and my favorite blogs, showering and feeding the cat, I grabbed my purse and headed out the door. Excitement rose in my chest as I started my car and put her into gear and headed out on the path of least resistance toward one of my favorite places--the library.

Yes, I said the library. The rows of shelves filled to the brim with stories. The sound of pages flipping gently. The quiet throat clearing and soft whispers. The silent thoughts of paper-writing students that purr in the air if you listen close enough. The smiles of the librarians, welcoming you to the one place they feel most comfortable. I love it all. And it strikes me that the only difference between myself and the librarian--that creature I once mocked and thought of as socially inadequate--is that she is assigned her time at the library and I get to choose the hours that I spend there.

I can easily spend a entire afternoon scanning the aisles of fiction and non-fiction, browsing the magazines and searching the online catalog for the newest releases. It's a sickness, this need to be around printed material. I desire words as much my body desires food.

It all started when I was a toddler and my mother read to me every time she had a chance. It grew into bedtime stories everynight before the lights went out. When I learned to read on my own, I started reading to my little sister. I read her books and then I'd read mine. I'd read out loud until I couldn't keep her attention any more and she'd move on to other toys and toddler activities. And then I'd curl up, in a chair or a corner or my bed, and I'd read silently to myself. I'd devour the stories of others, submerge myself in far away lands, live adventures through characters braver than I was, and when the story was over and the ending tied up in a perfect bow, I would mourn the loss of a new friend and long for more of his life.

My favorite bike rides ended at the town library that was housed in the Presbyterian church on the corner of Main Street. It was small and the selection was limited but it was enough for me. I read my way through the children's section and straight into the young adults aisles before I was old enough to really understand the subject matter. But my voracity for words had improved my reading skills far beyond the books that targeted my age group.

The book store became my second favorite place to be. I started visiting them with regularity, anticipating new releases, and buying them up with my allowance, developing a library of my own to supplement my limited choices at my local hangout.

This hunger for literature has never waned. In fact, at times it cripples me. I spend my entire day at work waiting for the moment I can get home, brew some tea and curl up with that book I couldn't bring myself to put down late the night before. I read away entire weekends, until it's Monday morning again and I don't know where my Saturday and Sunday have gone. But I love every moment of the escape that reading provides me. I love living vicariously through the characters, touching their lives briefly, and then returning to my own. I love learning from their mistakes and successes. I love talking about them with others and gaining new perspective from an intelligent discussion.

Does all of this make me a geek, a nerd to the nth degree? Probably. But ask me if I care.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Weight Thing

When I moved over to Blogger, I planned to focus more on my writing and less on my weight. I guess I knew that my weight would be a subject I'd eventually broach, but I didn't want it to be a focus for my blog anymore. So I haven't talked about the weight thing much since I moved over here, despite the fact that it's often on my mind. Those of you who read me over at Spaces can attest to this. In fact, my initial goal in blogging was to track and discuss my weight loss journey. Unfortunately, this journey hasn't always been successful as far as the numbers on the scale are concerned. About a year ago (on December 9, 2006 to be exact), I decided to take a new approach to my health and I posted the following over at Weight of My World:

I've started a little experiment, and while it's not going all that great at the moment, I have a feeling it's going to be the most successful weight management and healthy lifestyle tool that I've ever used. The goal is not to diet. I know that may sound like a cop-out, and it's even a bit scary from where I'm standing, but it's beginning to make more and more sense.

I've been counting calories or Weight Watchers Points for so long I can barely eat anything without mentally calculating something in my head. I exercise not for the health benefits, the energy and the mood elevation, but for the calories it burns. I eat foods based on their calorie/points count instead of their nutritional value. And while I know this is all wrong thinking, it seems to be the only way I know how to go about losing weight. Then one day recently, I looked at my calorie calculator and had 300 calories available in my daily calorie range (1300-1600 calories). Instead of considering that I wasn't really hungry and therefore didn't need to use these calories, I immediately started thinking about what I could and couldn't do with them. After munching my way through the 300 and then some, I realized what I was doing. I wasn't eating because I was hungry, but rather because I had calories available to use. It was a wasted purchase, like buying a formal dress, not because I had an event to attend, but because I had the cash in my pocket.

I started wondering why I eat and exercise. I went over certain situations in my mind and it occurred to me (not for the first time) that I often eat when I'm not hungry. In fact, just last night, I continued to eat despite palpable stomach discomfort. So what's the deal? And how can I change this pattern? I also started thinking about what it would be like to have children and what kind of an example I would be. Would I teach them healthy habits naturally, or would I teach them to look at food as the enemy and exercise as a chore? Honestly, I don't know the answer to any of these questions yet. But I do know that even if counting every calorie I put in my mouth and writing down every food that I choose to eat causes me to lose weight in the short term, it's not a weight loss that I'm ever going to be able to maintain over the long term. If I don't first discover what is causing these binges and how I can disrupt them (and maybe even avoid them), then I'll always be bound by them. And I certainly won't be able to teach my children to have a healthy mindset about food and exercise. The last thing I want is to transfer my own obsessions and false ideas to others.

So my plan is simple. No more dieting. Instead, my focus is on getting in touch with myself. I need to understand why I am eating in every situation. I need to develop skills to decrease my tendency to eat everything but the kitchen sink. I need to figure out what it is that allows me to be satisfied with a single bowl of cereal some mornings, and what causes me to crave four or five bowls, and to give in to that craving, on other days. While the plan seems simple, none of this is going to be easy. And it's clear to me from last night's fiasco that I may lose sight of my goals and fall into old habits while I'm learning. But I think that this way may be the best way for me to learn what I need to know in order to accomplish my ultimate goal of living a healthy life, instead of just becoming successful at a lifetime of dieting.

After a year of trying not to diet, and getting out of the habit of exercising, I've put on many of the pounds I had lost. I tend to reevaluate my goals around this time every year, and rereading this post gave me pause. Turns out, I'm still dealing with the same issues. I've learned a lot about my eating habits and have a better understanding of who I am, but change is hard. My behaviors haven't really changed. That is the bottom line. I've decided to keep trying, though. I haven't failed unless I give up, right? And I know that not dieting, that learning to eat based on my body's needs and not on my emotional state or the number of calories I've allowed myself for the day, may be one of the most important things I'll learn in my lifetime.

So I'm tracking what I eat and counting calories again, but I'm trying to do it while focusing on hunger rather than numbers. The goal is not so much the number of calories I consume, as the understanding of how food affects my body and what foods provide me with the nutrition I require. I don't plan to always do this, but I needed a refresher on what and how much I should be eating to fuel my body.

I've also rejoined the gym and am working to regain the muscular and cardiovascular fitness I was so proud of a year ago. I'm not dieting, but I am trying to reprogram my brain and my body to eat and exercise differently. I'm working with a friend who's a dietitian, and when I joined the gym again, I got three free sessions with a trainer. I plan to use these tools to the best of my ability.

Most importantly, I am trying to change how I think about food, exercise and my body. Negative thoughts are not allowed. Bad foods do not exist. Overeating at one meal does not mean all is lost--not for the day, and definitely not for the week or month. Every moment is a moment to make a healthy choice. I can chose to eat well for my body and mind, to love myself no matter what the scale says or what the media tells me I should look like. This time, I'm not rewarding myself for pounds lost or calories eaten. I'm rewarding myself for consistency: regular exercise sessions get me iTunes downloads; each day I track what I eat gets me a dollar toward a manicure and pedicure.

All of this may seem obvious to you. It may seem like a small step or a basic understanding, it may seem like more empty commitments. Believe me, sometimes I see it the same way. This is a struggle I have dealt with since I was very young. But I've come to realize (again?) that moving forward, one day at a time, is all I can do. Today, I choose happiness and health. Tomorrow I hope to do the same.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Review: Eat, Pray, Love

I've been meaning to transfer some of my better posts from my Spaces blog to this one, and since Eat, Pray, Love was recently featured on Oprah and seems to be the talk of the town, I figured I'd start the transfer with this one.




This review was originally posted on August 25, 2006 at Weight of My World.

I know I promised a full review when I finished this book, which I actually did more than a week ago, but I’ve been allowing it to marinate in my mind and heart for a while, and I decided a typical book review won’t do it justice.

Elizabeth Gilbert opened herself up to what the world (and God) had to offer her, and it’s because of that openness that I can honestly say I learned something about myself through her journey. I may not have been able to travel with her physically, but I found myself taking a trip of my own as I flipped the pages and wandered through the chapters of her life. So, instead of doing a typical review, where I tell you how great this book was (and it was great) or talk about its themes and literary value, I want to tell you what I learned:
  1. I want to travel and experience other cultures and places, not as a tourist does, but as a native does. I want to live here and there, for months at a time, and learn the daily routines and rituals of those who have walked the streets long before I arrived and will continue to do so long after I’m gone.
  2. Sometimes we’ll experience pain and loss so great that we’ll believe we can’t go on. But somewhere in the midst of it all, something will push us forward, and when we start to move, amazing, miraculous things will happen for us. It will take time and it will take work, but healing and life will begin to flow in our veins again if we follow that gentle prodding.
  3. It’s ok to experience pleasure. In fact, it’s negligent and abusive not to provide yourself with a little tender-loving-care every now and then. “You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight.”
  4. Learning to be free is hard work. It’s tough for some people to discover their own freedom to experience life, to laugh, to dream, to succeed, to discover, to travel, to just be.
  5. Yoga is about union. It’s about connecting—connecting your mind with your body, your spirit with your God, your energy with that of your neighbor’s or your community’s. As a Christian, I used to believe that practicing Yoga would draw me away from God. I now realize that Yoga isn’t a religion meant to replace my current belief system. Instead, I learned that it’s the practice of uniting yourself with the world around you, be that spiritual, physical, emotional or otherwise. I can use Yoga to connect with whomever or whatever I choose—Jesus, Buddha, or the ground under my feet.
  6. I’ve already written too much, so I won’t get into the specifics, but I learned a lot about faith and devotion. I learned about prayer and peace, diligence and restfulness, confidence and humility, love and living. I learned that we each have “the right to not stop seeking until we get as close to the source of wonder as possible.”

I didn’t start reading this book with the expectation of having some sort of religious experience or spiritual awakening. I bought it because the idea of traveling for a year caught my attention, and the quality and style of the writing held it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that a lot of the struggles I’m going through, Elizabeth Gilbert has been through, too. Our situations may not have been the same, but as I read, I was reminded that there is a cord of humanity that binds each and every one of us together. Knowing that there are others who question and struggle and dig their way out of the holes they’ve buried themselves in gives me at least a little comfort when I find myself pulling out my own handy-dandy shovel, yet again.

So, if you’ve ever been through a tough divorce, experienced a major loss, or found yourself in the midst of a spiritual crisis, I’d suggest you check out this book. I believe that there's something for everyone in its pages. It’s full of fantastic images (some unique and some clich├ęd) and raw emotion, experiences of the senses and of the heart and soul. I won’t say that everyone will enjoy every part of it, but I think you just might find a nugget of wisdom, a guiding word, or a gently written nudge at the exact moment you need it. I know I did.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Playing the Game

It's been a while since I've used a Sunday Scribblings prompt, but I couldn't pass up this week's word. You'll understand why when you read my scribblings below.



Prompt #88: Competition


Competition. It's a word that inspires me. I get sweaty with excitement when I hear it. My heart pounds at the thought of it and my skin tingles with anticipation. Ask anyone who knows me even a little bit, and you'll learn that I'm a competition whore.

Have you ever seen the episode of Friends where the group is in Barbados (aptly named "The One in Barbados, Part 2") and Monica and Mike play ping pong? If so, you get the idea. If not, let's just say things get a little "hairy" and the competition gets a bit out of control. I'm not nearly as aggressive in competition as Monica is, but I REALLY don't like to lose.

Even in situations where I'm supposed to be playing "just for fun" I'm really competing with you. (Yes, girls, even at game night. I hope it wasn't obvious, because I did try to let it go a bit.) No matter how hard I try to keep my competitive urges under wraps, they usually show through. "Just for fun" is something I can't seem to grasp. I take every opportunity to win very seriously. We must play by the rules, and if we're not officially keeping score--with paper and pen--trust me, I've got the numbers in my head. I may not be writing it down, but I'm tallying in my head.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a name caller or a back biter. I do, however, find competition, in almost every shape and form, exhilarating. Tell me I can't do something, that I won't win or that you're going to do it better, and I bring out the big guns. In most cases, I'd like to believe that my competitive qualities make me more productive and help me to push past my mental limits.

There have been moments, however, that my competitive nature has done me wrong. For instance, My Love and I used to shoot pool on occasion when we first started dating. All would go well for a while. We'd laugh and joke and have fun. But then, as I lost game after game and ran out of excuses as to why I was shooting so poorly, I got grumpy and stopped having fun. He quickly learned that if he wanted to keep me in a good mood, he'd stop playing pool (or any other game) with me. This makes me sad, because I remember those dates as fun, even if we did have to leave and go get pizza before I got too pissy. Now we go to the movies. There's no competition over popcorn or Mike and Ike's.

I wonder sometimes what made me this way. Was it something I learned at home? Or at school? For as long as I can remember I've loved to win. But why? Who told me it was better to win? When did I decide that I was worth something only if I could get the best hand? The A? The Valedictorian Award? The better paying job? Yes, competition has helped me reach my goals. But were my goals mine to begin with, or did they become mine because they once belonged to someone I was competing with?

However I became this way, however I grew into the competitor that I am, know this: I want to have fun. I really, really do. But I want to win, too. So if you find yourself in a situation where I might be competing with you, make me relax. Take away the score board. Make jokes. Refuse to play by the rules. I may not like it at first, but eventually I'll let the competition go. I'll enjoy myself and have some fun. The only thing I ask is please, puh-lease, don't let me win. That's a mortal sin in this competitor's book.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Winter Wonderland

I just got home from a dentist appointment and errands. Simple, everyday experiences. But I had one of those moments on my way home where I was suddenly in complete awe of the beauty around me.

It was dark, and the street lights shone bright against the night. Snow flakes drifted down from heaven, clinging to one another and landing - Splat! - against my windshield. Something about the way they floated on the breeze in tiny clumps like dandelion fluffs made my heart skip a beat. I turned off the book I was listening to and sat up in the driver's seat, more alert.

It was breathtaking: the way the millions of flakes filled the air; the way they formed stripes on bare tree branches; the way they held tight to evergreen bushes lining sidewalks. For a few minutes, I was driving through a winter wonderland. It felt like the world had stopped and this snowfall, a minor storm so many people were probably cussing and fussing about, was sent down just for me. The flakes were falling to the ground so that today I could be driving down a street I don't normally drive and experience this beauty of nature.

A Little Inspiration

Laura, an amazing 10-year-old girl, has started a project to make a difference in her world. This girl is a leader and an inspiration. On the first of December, inspired by the memory of her grandfather, Laura began Twenty Five Days to Make a Difference. I stumbled on Laura's mission through Jen Lemen and thought it was a really sweet idea. I considered committing to joining Laura in her daily pursuit of making a difference, but honestly, I was afraid I'd fail. And publicly no less, because if I did it, I'd of course be forced to blog about it.

You see, it turns out I'm a relatively self-centered person. I didn't actually realize this until I was presented with the possibility of purposefully doing something for others. Every. Day. I couldn't imagine it. It seemed like such an inconvenience.

Then I read about Laura's grandfather, and about why she had chosen to pursue this idea. I read about what she'd done to make a difference in just a few days, and I realized that this 10-year-old was so much more selfless and open and giving than I. It took a child's innocence to open my eyes to my own selfishness. So, with great trepidation, I decided I'd commit. Thankfully, Laura says I don't have to be perfect in my pursuit of making a difference. Instead, I've decided to commit to step up and make a difference when I can.

With Laura's list of suggestions and my own conscious effort to do something good for others and my world this month, I'll be looking for opportunities to make a difference in December. I may or may not blog about it (after my month-long NaNo saga, I'm a little tired of series posts). But seeing Laura's site and reading about all that she's done in just a few days to help others has really inspired me to look outside myself a bit more this month.

Check out what Laura's doing. Her actions might just inspire you to give a little more of yourself during this season of giving, too.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Bits and Pieces

Now that the dullness of NaNo updates is over, I thought I'd do something just for fun. I ran into this meme at inchoate.


do you own a gun?
no sirree

what do you think of hot dogs?
In the right mood, a good all-beef hot dog is the best thing ever. Usually, I think what I really like is the bun, relish, mustard and ketchup, though. So generally, I stick to the veggie dogs smothered.

what do you prefer to drink in the morning?
Water on my way into the office; coffee when I get there.

can you do push-ups?
a few, more if I do them on my knees

what’s your favorite piece of jewelery?
the ring My Love gave me for my 30th birthday

what is your secret weapon to lure the opposite sex?
now if I told you it wouldn't be a secret anymore

middle name?
Sue

name 3 thoughts at this exact moment:
1. I should be working.
2. I can't think of anymore thoughts.
3. I have to remember to stop at the post office on the way home.

name 3 drinks you regularly drink:
1. Diet Dr. Pepper
2. Water
3. Coffee

what time did you wake up today?
4:20AM, 4:35AM, and 4:55AM (alarm went off at 5:15)

current hate?
I hate hate (yes, I understand this is a contradiction, but it's how I feel) and all the bad stuff that happens because of it.

favorite place to be?
in the presence of friends and family

least favorite place to be?
a waiting room

where would you like to go?
everywhere, but top on my list are Australia, China and the Grand Canyon

do you own slippers?
no, my last pair fell apart from wear and tear

what shirt are you wearing?
a steel blue sweater from Gap

do you burn or tan?
burn

favorite color(s)?
brown and red

would you be a pirate?
I'd like to think I'd make a good pirate, but if I'm honest, I have too say no--too much raping and pillaging and mopping the deck for me.

what is your favorite holiday?
my birthday (What? That's not a holiday?)

what songs do you sing in the shower?
not a shower singer

what did you fear was going to get you at night as a child?
ghosts and spirits

what’s in your pockets right now?
lint

last thing that made you laugh?
a short story in a Food Stories collection I'm listening to during my commute

best bed sheets as a child?
Rainbow Bright -- I had the curtains, too!

worst injury you’ve ever had?
I don't remember it, but I broke my collar bone when I was a toddler.

are your parents still together?
no

do you wish on shooting stars?
every time

what is your favorite book(s)?
Travelling Mercies by Anne Lamott

what is your favourite candy?
Twizzlers

how is the weather outside right now?
windy and cold

what was your first thought this morning when you woke up?
Already???

How about you?

Friday, November 30, 2007

No More NaNo

I'm officially done. While the clock is still counting down to the 11:59:59 NaNoWriMo deadline, I've settled at 38,918 words. I could spend the next hour and a half writing another 1000 words or so, but I'm spent. I'm happy with the work I've done so far and I want to continue working on the draft over the next couple of months, but it's time to go back to normal life. There is laundry that needs washing, contract writing that needs to be done, and other freelance work that I'm getting paid for that I've completely neglected over the last month.

So it's back to the real world, where writing fiction is something I have to make time for. At least I know that if I put my mind to it, if I plan and focus, I can reach my writing goals. There will always be something else that needs to be done. I have to make my writing a priority and make sure that even though I'm not getting paid for it, I take the time to write the stories that I have in my heart. I'll never be happy if I don't.

In other news, my car was officially declared a total loss yesterday. The insurance company paid me a sum in excess of what I owed on the car, which was a major blessing. So tonight, I bought a new car. I'm the proud owner of a 2008 Honda Civic in Atomic Blue. It's very cute and drives well, and I got a pretty good deal on it after some haggling. Then there was all the paperwork and the whole financing process. Now I'm exhausted--the car buying process always exhausts me--and ready for bed, which is where I'm headed right now.

Tomorrow I'll be out putting the first few miles on my new car and doing anything other than writing a novel. Of course, I'll still be writing because I have freelance deadlines looming. Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #15

After a very long hiatus, I've decided to give Thursday Thirteen a try once again. Of course, it will be all about NaNoWriMo. (I couldn't give up the theme just yet!)



Thirteen Things I've Learned About Myself
As a Writer During NaNoWriMo

1. A Starbuck's Frappuccino can be a wonderful motivator.

2. I am able to product approximately 1500 words per hour if I lock my inner editor in the bathroom or closet.

3. My inner editor is an evil person during the writing process, but is a wonderful helpmate when it comes time to edit.

4. Sometimes my inner editor doesn't like to be locked in the closet during the writing process and insists on being present. During those times, I won't get as much written and I'll use the delete key way too much.

5. Telling a story on paper isn't as scary as I thought it would be. In fact, it's quite fun.

6. A day job is no excuse.

7. I'm way more productive when I'm writing somewhere other than my living room couch with the television on and my cat nudging me for attention.

8. When I put my mind to it, I really can do things I never thought possible.

9. If I had started to doubt it, I know now that I love writing.

10. Plotting is not my strong point. I'm going to have to work on that.

11. Random strangers make great characters.

12. Writing fiction is all about understanding your characters' motivations.

13. Just because writing a story seems like it will be difficult doesn't mean you shouldn't do it anyway. In fact, it usually means you should do it.

There you have it: lessons learned from a month of rabid writing. I know I won't be able to keep up this hectic pace (many responsibilities have been neglected this month) but I certainly know now that writing the stories that are stirring inside me is not an impossible feat. Here's to many more months of productive writing and editing. And just to throw this intention out there, here's to a published novel in my near future!



UPDATE: Here's the daily word tally--1,213 words for today, giving a grand total of 37,796. Seeing that number makes me think I should have typed a few more paragraphs to make 38,000. In fact, I think I'm going to open the file back up and do just that. Add 204 words to today's total. I'm going for 38,000.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

It's Almost Over

I'm sure you're sick of reading about this process, but it's almost over, I promise. Just two more days of NaNo'ing to go. It's not likely that I'll make 50K, but I have surpassed my original goal. I wrote just over 3,000 words tonight at my final write-in and I plan to write late into the night on Friday, so there's still hope. For now, I'm sitting on 36,583 words.

And now, for your reading pleasure, excerpt number two:

He must have fallen asleep, because when he opened his eyes it was dark in the living room. He could see light coming from the kitchen and the noise of someone rustling through drawers. “Sara?” he called softly, hoping not to wake her if she wasn’t the one in the kitchen. When he didn’t get a response other than more sounds of drawers opening and closing, he said, a little louder this time, “Sara?” Still no answer.

He lifted his leg from the pillows and swung it over the edge of the couch, sitting up awkwardly and reaching for his crutches. “Mom?” he called. This time he heard sniffling and the movement stopped.

“It’s me.” Sara’s voice was strained and thick. She had obviously been crying for some time.

“We can order out,” he said, assuming that the drawer searching and clanging meant Sara was trying to cook something. “All the menus are on the refrigerator.”

“Yeah, that’s fine,” she said, and the sounds started again.

Steve pushed himself up and onto the crutches, sliding each pad under and arm and moving gingerly toward the source of light and sound. When he crossed the threshold of the kitchen he saw what the noise had been. Sara was standing amid piles of drawer contents strewn on the counters, in the sink and on the floor. All of the drawers and cabinets were in progressive states of disarray, some open completely, some only slightly, others appearing not to have been disassembled yet.
“What are you looking for?” he asked in disbelief, looking around at the mess she’d created.

“I can’t find his silver spoon. The one my mom gave him. It’s an heirloom. I can’t find it.” She looked around her wildly, apparently not seeing the mess she’d made and only seeing the absence of the spoon.

He hadn’t seen the spoon for months, since Sam had graduated to solid foods. “I think you put it away in his room, in that keepsake box we got at the shower. Remember?”

Sara looked at him with fire in her eyes. “Of course I remember!” she spat. She stormed out of the kitchen and Steve heard her climb the stairs. He stood there, continuing to survey the kitchen. He would have to call his mother and ask her to come help straighten up tomorrow.

Sara returned a few minutes later, holding the spoon in her fist, triumphant. “I found it,” she said breathlessly. Then without warning she wrapped her arms around Steve and buried her face in his chest. He propped his left crutch against the refrigerator and put his free arm around her shoulders. She melted against him and it took all his strength to hold her up. “I found it,” she breathed again.

After a while, she straightened up and looked into Steve’s face. “Let’s go to bed.” Her eyes were wet, and she looked at him with a pleading in her eyes that he couldn’t bear.

“OK,” he said. “But you’ll have to help me up the stairs. I’m an invalid, remember?”

Sara actually broke into a tiny smile. “I think I can do that.” Steve used the crutches to get to the stairs and Sara followed him up them, steadying him when he wobbled. When he got to their room, he sat down on the bed and dropped his crutches to the floor. Sara sat next to him and put her hand on his knee. They made love with a passion he had never experienced, with Sara or anyone else. And when they were finished, she rolled over and rested her head on his chest. He couldn’t have loved her more in that moment. Despite his pain and sadness for their loss, he was so grateful to have her there, beside him, for better or worse.

Well, that's a bit longer than I expected. Again, remember this is a VERY rough draft--no edits, no re-reads, just writing.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Week's Worth of Excuses

It's been a while since I've updated my NaNoWriMo saga. I'd like to be able to tell you all that I spent my long Thanksgiving weekend writing like crazy and have completed my 50,000 words with plenty of time to spare.

Instead, I have to tell you that I will need to average a little more than 4,000 words per day for the last five days of this month to reach my goal. I haven't given up, but I'm pretty sure that's a little out of my reach. Thankfully I have until midnight on Friday, and I'll probably use every last minute of those last few hours to pound out as many words as I possibly can. I've also decided flowery descriptions and random scenes are not against my writing religion. "Whatever it takes" is now my motto and if that means writing out contractions and describing every detail of the room my characters are sitting in, so be it!

The good news on the writing front is that while I didn't get much writing done over the last week, I did try to write at least a little every day since the last time I posted an update, and on most days I managed it. But in case you're wondering why I didn't meet my word-quota, here is a week's worth of excuses:

  1. I had company last weekend, along with a friend's birthday party and work at the football game on Sunday.
  2. On the way home from the game I was in a car accident. I wasn't injured aside from minor muscle strain, and my passenger is doing OK, although she was a bit more banged up than I was, but my car--well, here are the pictures.
  3. I spent Monday setting up a rental car, working from home, relaxing my back, making insurance calls, getting my belongings out of my car at the impound lot, and stressing about whether or not my car will be a total loss.
  4. Tuesday I worked late to make up some of the hours I missed Monday and some of the hours I'd be missing Wednesday, then went home, did laundry and packed for my Thanksgiving vacation.
  5. Wednesday I made the long drive home after a half-day at work. During the trip, I listened to Elizabeth Berg's Dream When You're Feeling Blue. It helped the time pass on the way there and the way back, and it inspired me to ask more questions about my parents' pasts. It also made me regret what I didn't take the time to ask my grandmothers, who were alive during the war.
  6. I spent Thursday through Sunday with my family and did manage to get in about 5 hours of writing over the long weekend.
  7. While I was home, there were two serious illnesses and several small mishaps that made it quite the adventure, and of course took away time from my writing plans.
  8. The long drive back on Sunday, and then dinner with My Love after several days of not seeing him, meant no writing.
So after all that, tonight there's a write-in and I'm headed to it. I have to try to meet my quota by 8PM so that I can get home in time to watch Heroes. I'm going to do my best to make that 50,000, and if I don't, I'm still 29,000+ words closer to a novel than I was a month ago.

UPDATE: Just got back from a productive write-in and I'm happy to report 3,046 words have been added to my total. And an excellent scene, if I do say so myself. A little wordy, but definitely a welcome addition to the story. Stay tuned for another exerpt...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Playing Catchup

I barely wrote anything yesterday, and I have company joining me for the weekend, so tonight I just finished writing 3,537 words to put me back on track for my daily 1,667 words. I'm at a total word count of 26,745.

Let's just hope I can keep this up for another 14 days. Despite some serious questions about where my story is going, I learned more about my main character's husband today, and met a new character I didn't know existed, and who might have a bigger part in the story that I think. I was also introduced to an egotistical co-worker who thinks he's God's gift to women. We'll see where that takes us.

Have a good weekend everyone! And if you're NaNoing (or NaBloing), keep going!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Plugging Along

No words yesterday.

1,744 today.

Yes, I've been slacking a bit. No, I don't have any excuses or pledges to do better.

At least I'm still moving forward. I haven't given up yet. And, honestly, I think this story could be something.

With a whole lot of editing and rewriting, of course. But something, nonetheless.

Total words: 23,208

Almost half-way there!


Monday, November 12, 2007

Back and Pounding Away

I had a great time in AC with My Love. We shopped and ate and laughed and he even won a couple hundred dollars playing blackjack with some pretty interesting people. People I will surely try to weave into a story or two somewhere down the line. I'm not sure they'll fit into my NaNovel, although if I'm hard up for word count toward the end of the month, I might just throw them in there for the numbers.

I spent several hours today writing away. I'm having a really hard time fleshing things out because I'm trying to figure out where the story is headed and how it's going to end. It's like I keep outlining or dialoging scenes so that I can get to the next scene and find out where things are going. I feel like I do when I'm reading a good book and can't wait to find out what happens next. Unfortunately, I don't think anyone reading what I'm writing would be able to say that about my story--not yet anyway. (It's a first draft, she thinks to herself. It's OK. It's supposed to be shitty. Do. Not. Stop. Writing.)

So, I haven't made my 5,000 word goal for today and I have to head out for a business meeting in a few minutes, but I have managed to get in 4,502 words. That puts me at a grand total of 21,463. That averages out to better than the 1,667 words per day that will get me to 50,000 by the 30th, so I'm still on track. I was sure that the long weekend without writing would put me in the hole, but all's well on the NaNoWriMo front so far.

Hope you all had a good weekend.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Time Off for Some Celebrating

Two hours and 2,603 more words means I'm at 16,959 words. Pretty impressive if I do say so myself. Of course, there are several people writing for NaNoWriMo who have already surpassed their 50,000 word goal and are still going strong.

I, on the other hand, probably won't do much writing for the next four days. I might get in a bit before dinner tomorrow, but that's about it because there's cleaning and packing to do before Friday morning. I'm going to NYC Friday morning and then Atlantic City Friday night. It's an anniversary trip for My Love and I, so I'm guessing there won't be much writing going on. We'll be too busy shopping and playing black jack and eating delicious meals together. It's been a while since we've spent a full weekend together because of our busy schedules, so you can probably imagine how much I'm looking forward to the quality time. We'll be coming back late on Saturday. Then Sunday, there's a Raven's game, so I'll be working at the stadium most of the day.

Thankfully, I have Monday off for Veteran's Day so I'm planning to park my behind at some bookstore or cafe somewhere and ignore all the household chores and other writing that needs to be done so that I can make up for my weekend off. I'm hoping to have a 10,000 word day, so I don't feel too bad for taking a weekend off. Of course, at the rate I've been writing, that would mean 8 hours of work, and I don't really see that happening on a day off. Maybe I'll set my sights on 5,000 words instead...we'll see how I feel after my weekend of relaxation.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Tuesday Count

Two thousand, five hundred and fifty-eight words. Learning so much more about Sara and Steve. And Janice, too. Oh, yeah, and Maddy. I'm almost at 15,000 words.

And I'm tired.

Going to bed now. It's early, but I don't care. Maybe I'll get in a few pages of this month's TBR read (Blue Like Jazz) before my eyelids get too heavy to keep them open. Or not.

Goodnight!

Monday, November 05, 2007

An Update and Some Product Reviews

I spent three hours at B&N writing along with another Wrimo tonight and I have 3,134 new words to show for it. Woohoo! That's a grand total of 11,796 words. Um, Eleven. Thousand. People!

You know what's really cool about all this? I feel like I've taken the "have-to" out of writing. There's no "have to do it right," "have to do it perfectly," or "have to make it good." There's just doing it. And it's so much fun!

Now for some non-NaNoWriMo topics to spice things up a bit.





Creative Expressions


If you remember, a while back I suggested you check out the Inspired by Diabetes Creative Expressions Competition. Well now you have even more reason to check out the campaign and enter the competition. Elliot Yamin, best known for his third-place finish during the fifth season of American Idol, has signed on as the Global Ambassador for the competition. (Oh yeah, and Al Roker, too.) At 16, Elliot was diagnosed with Type I diabetes and has since been speaking publicly about diabetes treatment and prevention. I know you're all ready to run to the site and sign up now, but wait! There's more!

Not only will Elliot serve as a judge for U.S. entries in the competition, but in addition to the original prize of a $5,000 contribution to charity and a trip the U.S. Inspired by Diabetes art exhibition, Elliot has also donated concert tickets and backstage passes for the U.S. Grand Prize winners. (Global winners will still each receive a $5,000 contribution to charity and a trip the global Inspired by Diabetes art exhibition.) Now get over to Inspired by Diabetes and enter your diabetes story today!





Curves Cereal and Granola Bars


You've probably seen them on the shelves in your local grocery store by now, but in case you live under a rock and haven't seen the excited women jumping for joy on their boxes, Curves now has a line of cereal and granola bars. I wasn't impressed by their advertisements, or even their peppy boxes--if you ask me, the last thing we need is another diet-sponsored product, but who am I to turn down free samples.

My box of Curves Honey Crunch Cereal was the first to be devoured. I'm a cereal girl, and I'm not super picky, but my cereals have to be crunchy. Honey Crunch was certainly that. They were a little sweeter than I generally like (sweet cereals tend to trigger carb binges for me), so I doubt I'd buy them on my own. But if you like sweet and crunchy, with lots of fiber, this cereal is for you.

The Curves Chocolate Peanut chewy granola bars were next in line. I'm not much of a chewy granola bar eater, and these were nothing new. There are so many other chewy granola bars on the shelves, and these don't really bring anything new to the table. They were tasty, don't get me wrong, but they weren't anything special. I might get them as a treat if they were on sale--at only 100 calories they make a nice candy bar substitute--but they won't be regulars on my grocery list.

For more information on the Curves products, check out Curves Foods. You can also enter their Real Change, Real Women contest, created to promote positive lifestyle changes and encourage women to reach their weight management goals. The Grand Prize is a free one-year membership to a local Curves (worth $5000) and the chance to be on a Curves box. So if you've got a personal story about weight loss and management, why not enter? You just might get to see your jumpin' self on a cereal box if you do!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Weekend Update

OK, the original excitement is starting to wear off. The story is coming in a bit more disjointed manner, and the plot is developing in strange ways. The good news is, I'm still writing, albeit more slowly. The trouble is, I can see where things are headed, but getting there means coming up with side stories and sub-plots. Turns out this is not my forte. I'm working on it, though.

I have to keep reminding myself that this is my first draft. It doesn't have to work perfectly, it doesn't have to fit together like a puzzle, and it doesn't have to be wrapped up tightly with a pretty little bow. In fact, as I'm writing I'm thinking of scenes and information that probably should have come sooner in the story and I'm just writing it out as it comes to me. I can cut and paste later, right?

So here's the weekend tally: 8,662 words so far. If I've done my math correctly, that's 2,861 words this weekend. Not up to my previous daily standards, but not too bad considering I've put in some hours on freelance projects and spent some time with My Love this weekend, too.

Tomorrow, from 5PM to 8PM I'm hosting a NaNoWriMo Write-In at the Barnes & Nobel near work. I'm looking forward to meeting some other local writers and getting in at least 2 hours of solid writing time. I'll let you know how it goes.

Write on!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Something to Whet Your Appetite

Two thousand, four hundred, and seventy-six. Words that is. Yes, you read it right. I've broken 2,000 again today! I'm a fiction writing machine! It's amazing what a little pressure, and the motivation of a large group of people doing the same mad thing that you are, can do for a person. And I'm so excited about my story. I wrote some real crap today, but there are some good parts in there, too, I think.

Here's an excerpt from my write-fest this evening:


Now two of those boxes were pressing against Sara’s stomach from the inside of her purse, waiting to tell her the future, while she sat in her lawyer’s office where in just a few moments she was supposed to sign and file divorce papers.

Whatever Mr. Fitzgerald was saying now, Sara interrupted. “I’m sorry,” she said, standing abruptly. “I just remembered that I have another appointment. Can we reschedule?” She was already heading toward the door. “I’ll call you tomorrow to set up a new appointment. I’m sorry.”

Sara turned the doorknob that she was now holding and forced a smile in Mr. Fitzgerald’s direction. He looked so completely taken aback that he didn’t say a word.




The pregnancy test lay on the edge of the sink. Sara could see it from where she was sitting on the edge of her bed. It had been there for almost an hour. She couldn’t bring herself to look at it.

When she had burst through the kitchen and headed straight up the stairs with energy that she hadn’t demonstrated in ages, Steve came running from his office. “Are you ok?” he called after her. She hadn’t answered him. She couldn’t answer him. How do you tell the person you are planning to leave that you might be having his baby? Again. So soon after he’s killed the last one.


Now remember, don't judge too harshly--it's a first draft and they're allowed to be shitty, ok?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

And the tally is...

I did it! I sat my ass in the chair, and I wrote...drum roll, please...2,224 words! Seven whole pages!

It was way more invigorating than I expected it to be and not nearly as intimidating/frustrating/overwhelming as I anticipated. Turns out that I had a lot more of that story in me than I thought I did. All I had to do was start and there it was. Don't get me wrong, I know a good deal of it was crap, but I'm getting somewhere. A plot is starting to form. Sara and Steve and Jackie are coming alive, and I met some new characters, too. Now I'm off to eat some dinner and get some sleep. I'll let you know how tomorrow goes.

Get Ready...Get Set...Go!

I'm off to the Barnes & Noble for some NaNoWriMo writing madness! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

And NaNo Begins

The anxiety is rising and the absolute impossibility of writing 50,000 words in a single month is staring me down. Beginning at 12AM, the fun that is NaNoWriMo begins. Of course, at midnight this writer will be sound asleep and dreaming of all the fantastic scenes she'll be writing tomorrow.

As huge and daunting as the task may seem, I am getting excited about it. I've planned to meet a fellow NaNoWriter at a Barnes & Noble near my job from 5 to 8:30PM every Monday and Wednesday this month. (Don't ask me when I'm going to eat dinner.) I figure the accountability will help me to commit to writing at least those two nights. And I'm planning to go there on my own every other night after work for at least two hours. That's the plan.

So, my dear readers, it's very likely that all you'll be hearing from me during the month of November is the occasional word count and maybe a few excerpts from the novel-to-be. Unless, of course I find myself sitting at work with a few minutes and some serious inspiration for an original post.

Here's to a month of Novel Writing Bliss!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Four Things Meme

I got this as an email from my best friend out in Minnesota (love you Poopers!). I thought I'd turn it into a meme so that you all could enjoy it, too. Here goes!

Four Things You May or May Not Know About Me

Four jobs I have had in my life:
  1. Ice Cream Scooper
  2. Babysitter
  3. 1-on-1 Aide for Children with Autism
  4. Writer of things technical and otherwise
Four movies I would watch over and over:
  1. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
  2. Anything with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan
  3. Serendipity
  4. Big Daddy, 50 First Dates, Spanglish, The Wedding Singer

Four places I have lived:
  1. Sackets Harbor, NY
  2. Canton, NY
  3. Parkville, MD
  4. Baltimore, MD

Four TV Shows that I watch:
(when I should be writing)
  1. Heroes
  2. Lost (when it's in season)
  3. House
  4. Criminal Minds (if I remember it's on)
Four of my favorite foods:
  1. Sushi
  2. My mom's lasagna
  3. Turkey chili
  4. Peanut butter
Four places I would rather be right now:
  1. In Arizona with my sister
  2. In Upstate New York with my family
  3. On the couch with a good book
  4. Anywhere with My Love
Things I am looking forward to this year:
  1. More publications and opportunities to get my writing "out there"
  2. Dreams coming true
  3. Visiting with my friends and family
  4. Traveling somewhere I've never been before
Four friends I'm tagging to do this, too:
And of course, if you're joining in on NaBloPoMo in November, you'll have one less post idea to come up with!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Some New Posts in Other Places

I know; you're amazed at my proliferation of posts over the last few days. I'm super excited about things that are going on, and feeling uber creative, so posting here is just another wonderful outlet for what's happening in my head. Today, it's an update on the writing front.

I've been hard at work trying to get my name out there as a freelance writer and editor, as you've all heard before. So new clips are surfacing regularly, and my work is getting out there more and more. There's the Going Green blog at Radiant Magazine Online where I recently posted two entries on living a greener life. There's the fitness and nutrition blog at Feed the Soul, Inc where I'm still posting regular tips on creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I just submitted an article for the Winter issue of Radiant Magazine. I'm also working on a query for an article about an integrative nutrition program I heard about through a friend. I'd like to get that one published in a national magazine (think Health, Natural Health, Shape, or Self). Oh, and the website I was writing content for is finally live!

All in all, it's been a pretty productive September and October. I'm very excited about what lies ahead! Of course, with NaNoWriMo starting in just a couple of weeks, I'm trying to get things in order for my month of novel writing. I'm really excited to put some serious focus on this story I have to tell. You might not hear much from me during the month of November (you should be used to that by now), but I'll at least try to keep you posted on daily word/page counts. Maybe I'll even post a few exerpts if I find myself writing good stuff!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Where Is My Beloved Autumn?

Last October I wrote about my love of Autumn over at my old blog. This year, I find myself wondering where my dear love has gone.

It's October 23 and the high for today is expected to be 75 degrees. This is not normal for my area. The average high in Baltimore for the month of October is supposed to be 68 degrees. Where are my cool, crisp mornings? Where is the smell of decaying leaves and the feeling of calm and preparation that fall always brings to me? Where is my beloved Autumn, with his colorful leaves and moderate weather?

It's just not normal to wake up at 5:30AM with my windows wide open and not feel a bit of cool air blowing through. It's unacceptable that this morning I wore a sleeveless shirt and didn't need a jacket or sweater when I walked out my front door. It's OCTOBER, people! I hate to think that winter may hit me like a ton of bricks in December because I haven't had my wonderful Autumn here to help me transition.

Please, Autumn, if you're out there please come back. I want you. I miss you. I need you.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Training the Baggers

I've been getting better at taking reusable bags to the grocery store. But the baggers aren't getting any better at dealing with it. You'd think with all the talk of going green and being more environmentally conscious, grocery store cashiers and baggers would get used to being handed a canvas bag in which to place my groceries.

They're not. In fact, they generally look at the bags blankly until I explain that I'd like my groceries to go into them. Even the cashiers at the grocery store where I bought a few of my reusable bags are confused when I hand the bags over. Some practically insist on bagging things in plastic bags and then putting them in my canvas bag while my back is turned. And don't get me started on the cashiers at Wal-Mart, who have twice tried to charge me for the bags I brought in.

Maybe an open letter will help.




Dear Cashiers and Baggers of the World,

When a customer hands you a canvas bag that doesn't have a tag on it and doesn't look like anything you've ever sold in your store before, you can assume that the customer wants you to place her purchases inside the bag. She does not want you to first bag the purchases in plastic and then place the plastic bags inside the canvas bag. She also does not want you to place one or two things in the canvas bag and then move on to plastic bags. This defeats the purpose of the canvas bag, which is to REDUCE the number of plastic bags the customer uses, therefore reducing the number of plastic bags that need to be produced. Her canvas bag is big and strong, and if all of her things won't fit into one bag, trust me, she has another one to handle the overflow.

Also, please note that your huffing and puffing, sighing and rolling your eyes when a customer presents you with a canvas bag does not deter her from bringing them again next time. In fact, it just makes her want to seek you out again the next time she's at the store so that you can learn by practice. A better approach would be to smile kindly, thank the customer for caring about her environment, take the canvas bag, and neatly pack her purchases into it. It'll make your day, and hers, much better.

Sincerely,

Earth-Friendly Shopper

Friday, October 12, 2007

NaNoWriMo, or Now I've Gone and Done It, or I Think I've Lost My Mind

So it's finally happened. I think I've cracked. You all know how busy I've been lately (and if you don't, you certainly should, since I can't seem to stop telling you that every time I post here, which hasn't been often enough). So imagine my surprise when I found myself clicking the "Sign Up!" link on the NaNoWriMo site. If you haven't heard of NaNoWriMo, you can learn more here, but it boils down this: I've just commited to write the first draft of a novel (that's 50,000 words) during the month of November.

Does anyone know what happens in November? There's My Love's and my 4-year anniversary during which we hope to spend a couple of days relaxing and playing a little Black Jack in Atlantic City. There's the Baltimore Writer's Conference, which means I have to brush up a non-fiction essay that I'd like to have critiqued. And of course there's Thanksgiving--I'll be spending 4 1/2 days traveling and hanging out with my family. Not to mention starting over at the New Old-Job, doing per diem work for the Current (or Old New-) Job, writing group and association meetings, and various and sundry freelance projects that seem to be flying through my windows and doors every time I open them. (Don't ask what my house looks like right now...) I'm not complaining, but I truly think I must be mad to have just signed up for a motivational "contest" of sorts during which I'm required to pound out Fifty. Thousand. Words.

I won't be disappointed if I don't reach the pinnacle, but I do think this might help me get into gear where that novel is concerned. At the absolute minimum I'd like to average a little more than 3 pages a day--90 pages total. That's doable.

Right?

Do you think My Love will mind if I lug along the laptop on our weekend getaway? Will I be able to get away from the family madness for a few hours each day over the Thanksgiving holiday? I suppose only time will tell...

Stay tuned for more on the NaNoWriMo saga.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Nutty Snacks Kill the Cravings

I've been getting some offers to try out new "healthy" products recently. I generally say "yes" if they seem like anything I might actually pick off the grocery store shelves myself. A couple of weeks ago, I received a couple of boxes of Roasted Nut Crunch Bars from Nature Valley. I'm big on their granola bars and I love nuts, so I was all for giving them a try. I'm glad I did.

They come in two flavors: Peanut and Almond ($3.39 per box of 6). With only 6 ingredients, about 200 nutrient-packed calories, 7 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber each, they're a satisfying snack you can feel good about. The Peanut Crunch version reminds me of peanut brittle, with the sweet and salty flavor of roasted peanuts and sunflower seeds that kills my afternoon cravings. The Almond Crunch, my favorite, has a combination of almonds, peanuts and sunflower seeds and doesn't seem quite as sweet or salty, which I prefer. They're filling and pack in enough energy to get through an evening workout and dinner preparation without the usual hunger pangs. With that kind of power, they'll definitely be added to my grocery list in the future.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Feast or Famine

I know I keep saying this, but things really are busy around here. It's amazing to me how busyness seems to cycle in my life. Maybe I need it to be that way to keep going, or maybe it's just the way of the world, but it seems that one day I have very minimal going on in my life and then suddenly, the Heavens open up and the work starts raining down, my personal life becomes more active, and the new television season starts. What's a girl to do???

Put her nose to the grindstone and churn out the work, taking breaks only to watch her three favorite shows, eat dinner, and enjoy short bursts of QT with My Love, of course. And to keep you semi-up-to-date, I'll provide another bulleted list. I know at least one of my readers enjoys them. ;o)

  • I took the offer from Old Job. It was something I just couldn't refuse.
  • I'm excited to return to the old office and be around my peeps again.
  • I visited Philadelphia for the first time this past weekend.
  • I was very excited because I took the train for the first time to get there.
  • The train isn't all that exciting.
  • I stayed with one of my closest friends in Philly. She was there for a conference.
  • While she was busy I spent time in Rittenhouse Square hoping to run into one of my favorite authors. Turns out it was all for naught because she was out of town.
  • We worked on some writing projects during my friend's off-time.
  • We also ate an amazing dinner at the Midtown version of the Continental Restaurant and Martini Bar and drank a little too much wine.
  • We then ate ice cream that was to die for at Scoop DeVille. (OK, I got fat-free frozen yogurt, but if you check out their menus you'll see that it really doesn't matter...I got the Snicker Doodle Dough concoction.)
  • I didn't feel guilty afterward.
  • I'm almost finished with one of my recent projects--website content for a diabetes coalition in NY state. Very exciting stuff.
  • I've just taken on two new projects: one is very short term, the other will take much longer, but will pay better, too.
  • I can see several other freelance gigs on the horizon, including some potential ghost writing opportunities.
  • My iPod Mini is on it's last battery legs and I'm debating whether I should just get it refurbished at the Apple Store or if I should suck it up and buy the 8GB (PRODUCT)RED or the 80GB classic in black. Any recommendations?
  • I'm really tired...It's way past my bed time. Goodnight!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tell Your Diabetes Story

Have you or your loved ones been affected by diabetes? Are you and your family looking for a way to give back to others? Do you enjoy being creative? Then check out the Inspired by Diabetes initiative. According to the website:

"Inspired by Diabetes is a global campaign asking people with diabetes, as well as their family, friends and healthcare professionals, to express how diabetes has impacted their lives — and share those stories with others around the world."
The initiative is hoping to get those who have been touched by diabetes to share their journeys and triumphs through the Creative Expressions Competition. And if you enter, you won't just be sharing your story--you'll be helping children around the world live with and overcome the disease. For every entry to the Creative Expressions Competition, Eli Lilly and Company will make a donation to the Life for a Child Program on behalf of the entrant. The Life for a Child Program uses donations to provide insulin, diabetes supplies and diabetes education to children around the world. In addition, Eli Lilly and Company will support initiatives to help children with diabetes here in the United States.

So what are you waiting for? If you have a diabetes story to tell, why not do it now? You'll inspire others through your experience and help children, here in the U.S. and across the globe, receive the treatment and education they need to live with diabetes.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Another Bulleted Friday

Lots going on. Unfortunately, that means not a lot of time for posting. Stick around, though. It will get better, I promise!

  • It's official! I'm a contributing blogger for Radiant Magazine Online. Check out my first post to the Going Green blog, if you're so inclined.
  • Jury duty is over and I have to say that it was quite the experience. I hope to do a complete post about it in the future, but for now, suffice it to say that the six days I spent on that jury were stressful and emotionally draining.
  • On the bright side, I met some really great people while performing my civic duty. I had the opportunity to network and we ate some really great food, too!
  • I'm still considering the offer from Old Job. It's a pretty tempting offer, complete with new position, more responsibility, and competitive pay. *Sigh* Now I have to sit down and create a pros and cons list. It's not going to be an easy decision.

Well, it's off to spend my Friday night working on freelance projects. Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Week's Worth of Bullets

It's been a long week. Bullets are all I have time for, so without further ado:

  • I had jury duty on Wednesday and got chosen to sit for a trial.
  • Trials in the city are not all fun and games.
  • This is no civil trial I'm talking about.
  • On a brighter note, new projects are popping up all over the place.
  • Dare I say this writing thing may really be starting to take off?
  • Old Job is trying to win me back, and I'm actually considering their offer.
  • Last week's Thursday Thirteen must have really inspired me because I've been on the treadmill three times this week, which was my goal, and I have plans to get on it Saturday and Sunday, as well.
  • Of course, the snacks and lunches out this week during the trial have not helped out in the calorie cutting department. One thing at a time, I keep telling myself. One thing at a time.
  • I'm hoping for a productive weekend because deadlines are looming. Wish me luck!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #14

I've been very, very lax in the exercise department. This week, Thursday Thirteen is my motivation tool.



Thirteen Reasons I Should Get on the Treadmill

1. Because it's right there in my dining room and I have to walk past it every time I go to the kitchen to get something to eat.

2. Because I keep going to the kitchen to get something to eat.

3. Because the scale is screaming for relief.

4. Because my buttons and zippers are screaming even louder.

5. Because my chin is starting to grow a baby again.

6. Because I feel lathargic and tired most of the time.

7. Because what used to be muscle has quickly lost its firmness.

8. Because while I like my curves, I prefer them a smidge smaller and tighter.

9. Because I can definitely tell I'm not as fit as I was six months ago.

10. Because I remember (way in the back of my mind) that I enjoy exercising when I actually do it.

11. Because I could use those endorphins to pump me up.

12. Because the holidays are coming and I could use a little metabolism kick to keep me from gaining a buttload of pounds.

13. Because I got a last minute invite to head to the beach this weekend and my bathingsuit isn't looking as good as it did the last time I was in it.

If all that doesn't get me on that treadmill, nothing will!



Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!


The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Monday, September 03, 2007

Ta-Da!

The painting is finished! I actually did it, all by my lonesome. And I'm very pleased with the result. It went from this...



To this...





I was a little worried that the wall color might be too dark, but it looks great. Exactly the way I'd pictured it. You can't really tell the true colors from these pictures because of the lighting in the room, but the walls are a warm medium blue (Behr's Bleached Denim) and the ceiling and trim are a light blue-gray color (Behr's Cumberland Fog). The walls are a bit darker than they seem in the pictures, but the bottom picture is the closest to the actual shade.

Now that I've finished that little project, I'll be moving my furniture back in and getting things organized as my home office. I'm hoping to find an affordable futon or day bed to make it a combination office/guest room, but for now it's all book cases, file cabinets and desk.

I've already picked out the colors I'll be doing my dining room and kitchen. Now I just need more three-day weekends.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Reading: A TBR Update

It's been a while since I've talked about my TBR Challenge progress, so I thought I'd give an update.

TBR #7 was Digging to America, by Anne Tyler. I really enjoyed this book. There wasn't a lot of action, but the tensions of culture-clashes and assimilation were enough to keep me turning the pages. A very character-driven book, the story followed three generations of two families as they attempted to create an American story of their own. I found the different race- and culture-perspectives of each generation were well-written. The miscommunications and underlying tension caused by these perspectives were amusing, saddening and angering all at once. The obvious message of this story is that "Digging to America" isn't as easy as it may seem. And finding a place for yourself and your traditions once you get here is even more difficult.

TBR #8 was Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri. I liked it. A lot. Reading a short story collection was a good change of pace from the novels I'd been reading. I like to throw in some variety every now and then. I can understand why this collection was a Pulitzer Prize winner. The stories were execellent studies of the human experience, particularly that of immigrants, but also that of married couples (young and old), families torn apart by war, women searching for belonging and purpose, men learning to be gentle and kind. If you like stories about other cultures, you'll like this book. If you like stories about people, you'll like this book. I think it has something for most people who enjoy character driven stories about the struggles and successes that life often tosses our way.

And then, since I got through Interpreter so quickly, I decided to read Anne Lamott's Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith. I want to BE Anne Lamott. If I could chose any person to be my mentor, she'd be the one. I admire her sense of humor, her vulnerability, her ability to be honest in a way that most people aren't, her bare-naked spirituality and willingness to admit she isn't perfect. And man oh man do I want to write like her. So I devour everything she writes in the hopes that some of her talent and humor will seep into me. A writer can dream...

Friday, August 31, 2007

Labor for Labor Day

What's a Labor Day weekend without, well, labor? So, instead of visiting family for a clam bake, I'll be painting all weekend. The plan is to get the guestroom finished. I'm very excited about the colors, which I picked up today. I hope it all turns out as well as I'm imagining it (and gets done as quickly as I'm dreaming). I'll post pictures when I'm finished. If, in fact, I do finish. Because right now I should be moving things out of the room and laying down drop cloths and I'm dreading all the sanding and taping and scraping.

It will be worth it.

It will be worth it.

It will be worth it.

(*peaking through squinty eyes* Is it done yet?)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #13

It's Thursday already???



Thirteen Things I Can't Live Without

1. Caffeine - Tea, coffee, soda...sometimes I just need a jolt.

2. Pens and paper - I've gotta be able to write. I don't even need a computer. Just give me a pen that never runs out of ink and a lifetime supply of paper and I'd be happy.

3. Phone - My family and friends are spread out all over the country. Phones are my lifeline to the people I care about.

4. My family - I'd be lost without their love and support.

5. My best girlfriends - Love, support, advice and fun--these girls are just as important to me as my family.

6. My dreams - They keep me going when I'm feeling useless, pointless, or lost in the world.

7. Chocolate - I think we can all agree that life without chocolate is not worth living.

8. Email - Another lifeline to the people I care about most.

9. Sushi - Some days my cravings for the stuff are out of control.

10. Reading material - Books, magazines, newspapers, blogs--I gotta read, people!

11. Nature - Even city dwellers need a little nature to remind them to stop and smell the roses, the rain, the freshly cut grass.

12. Faith in something bigger than myself - If I didn't believe in a Higher Power, I'd feel purposeless. I know there are plenty of people out there who disagree, but for me, my faith is what keeps me getting up in the morning.

13. And last, but certainly not least, My Love - OK, I'm sure I could live without him (just like I could probably live without most of the list above) but I certainly wouldn't want to.



Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!


The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Linky Post

I thought I'd pass on a few things to tide you over until I have time to write a well-organized, thoughtful post. Enjoy!


  • If you're looking for some great recipes to make use of all the fresh fruits and vegetables you're finding at the grocery stores and farmers' markets, look no further.

  • If you're a fan of Jennifer Weiner (and if you're not, you should be) check her out on Seattle's KKNW show "Chat With Women" at 11:05 ET. And while you're at it, check out what she has to say about the downfall of Miss America on NPR's All Things Considered.

  • Interested in a local eating challenge? Join the 30-day Eat Local Challenge on September 1st. You can plan a 100-Mile Thanksgiving, too.

If none of this piques your interests, I'll be back soon to write something substantial (hopefully). Have a good week!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Can Someone Toss Me a Lifepreserver?

I'm feeling bit overwhelmed, but what's new? As you can see by my lack of posts, things are a bit busy around here. It turns out that being busy during the work day doesn't bode well for getting personal stuff done. I didn't realize how much personal stuff I used to do during work hours at my last job until I started this new job. Since I'm actually doing work for 8 hours, I don't have time to pay my bills, check my email, research and plan my vacations. So, I have to do those things when I get home, along with mowing the lawn (does it ever stop growing???), washing the dishes, doing the laundry and getting rooms ready for a tentative painting weekend in the near future, which means less time for reading and writing blogs.

Hopefully, ya'll won't feel too neglected. Feel free to check in with a comment or email (thanks for being so good about this, Jen and Katy). Getting into a new routine is going to take some time, but I'll be around and I'll post when I can. Thanks to my faithful readers (all five of you) for sticking with me. I like having you around!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #11

Busy, busy, busy.

For this week's thirteen: 13 places I don't even have time to dream about right now.



Thirteen Places I'd Like to Visit in My Lifetime

1. The Grand Canyon

2. Hawaii - all the islands

3. Sydney, Australia

4. A beach in St. Lucia

5. A Buddhist temple in China

6. The ruins in Rome

7. Greece

8. Sicily

9. Barcelona

10. Paris

11. Alaska

12. Georgia (Atlanta and Savannah)

13. A lighthouse in Maine



Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!


The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Friday, August 17, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #10

Better late than never, I always say.

For this week's thirteen, I thought I'd share a few lessons I've learned (or am still learning) that I think some young (and not so young) people could also benefit from.


* Graphic courtesy of Write From Karen


Thirteen Things Young People (and Some Adults) Need to be Taught

1. Just because you can talk on a cell phone anywhere doesn't mean you should. In fact, if you're in the check out line or having dinner with a friend, hang up the phone or ignore that call. It's just plain rude not to.

2. You won't die if you don't check your email every hour, or every day for that matter. It's mostly spam, anyway. Trust me, the time you spend reading, deleting, sorting, writing and sending emails is time you'll never get back. Unless you're expecting something specific, use your time for more important things, like living.

3. And in related news: Being connected to everyone, from anywhere, all the time doesn't leave you much time to be you. Technology has done great things for our expanding worlds, but if you don't take time to yourself, to discover who you are and what you want out of life, you'll regret it later.

4. Travelling in packs doesn't exempt you from the rules of common courtesy.

5. Neither does being on your cell phone.

6. Or being in a rush to get somewhere. Look around you. Notice your surroundings. Smile. Hold that door for the person behind you. Say "Thank you" and "Excuse me," even if your friends don't. Remember, you get what you give.

7. A sincere smile does more for your looks than that lipstick, designer outfit or trendy hairstyle.

8. Your value isn't determined by the things you own, the gadgets you use or the people you know.

9. No matter what the media (or your friends, or your mother) tells you, you should judge yourself by what's on the inside rather than what's on the outside. Cliche, yes, but oh-so true.

10. Just because you treat others the way you'd like to be treated doesn't mean they'll reciprocate. That shouldn't stop you from doing it anyway.

11. Wanting something isn't the same as needing it. And no, you don't automatically deserve everything you want.

12. Hard work is good for you. It makes the finished product or final result that much more enjoyable.

13. Enjoy the ride. It may seem like you want to get there (wherever there is) as fast as possible. But you're experiencing a "there" right now. Just be, before you're 80 and realize that the "there" you were trying to get to is always out of reach.



Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!


The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Unsettled

After a week on the new job, things seem to be going OK. I won't be running back to my old job just yet. The more I learn about the company, the more I like what they're about. I'm glad I'm going to be a part of what they do.

Still, I'm not feeling connected yet. I keep reminding myself that it took months to feel settled in at my last job. I didn't just immediately know and like everyone there, and I won't immediately know and like everyone at the new place either. Still, it would be nice if I was fast friends with everyone on day one so that I could stop worrying about whether I'm going to find anyone to relate to at work. I can't imagine going through day after day without having a conversation about something that's not work-related. I need personal connection. I can't spend my days in front of my computer or talking about projects without a break every now and then to talk about movies or music or even the weather.

It's going to get better, right?

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