One Lovely Blog

Thanks to Missing Noah for nominating me for the “One Lovely Blog” award!

Here are the rules:

1) Thank the one that nominated you.
2) Put up the picture for the One Lovely Blog Award.
3) Tell everyone seven things about yourself.
4) Nominate seven other people and tell them that you have nominated them.

Seven Random Things About Me:

1. I had never met or spoken to anyone on my dad’s side of the family until this past June when I met my dad’s brother. We now keep in touch through email.

2. My husband and I met each other Freshman year of high school and started dating Senior year. We’ve been together ever since.

3. I have an irrational dislike for small pieces of paper like tags in clothing and receipts. Tags get cut out of everything and I don’t like touching small receipts.

4. I majored in Computer Science, Psychology, Comp Sci again, and finally Management Science in college. I also briefly considered majoring in English and Sociology. I may be slightly indecisive.

5. I used to curse like a sailor in grammar school when I was with my friends because we thought it made us “cool.” Oh, how mistaken we were.

6. I’ve never actually had a conversation with my mother-in-law because she speaks Spanish and I don’t. We both understand the other, but we’re also both too stubborn (self-conscious?) to try speaking the other’s language. Despite that, I love her and feel like we have an incredibly close relationship. I know I can count on her for anything.

7. I’ve been to a psychologist 3 times (each time a bad experience) and was on anti-anxiety meds for years. Without them, I don’t know if I would have made it through college sans nervous breakdown.

And now, I’m nominating:

My Crazy World

Brown Eyed Girl

The Margarita Philosophy

My Magic Shoes

These Are the Days

Banana Wheels

NaBloPoMo Success

Well, you guys, it’s November 30th which means it’s the last day of NaBloPoMo and I made it. I posted every single day this month even if I had nothing to say or I had to force something out of my brain and fingers. It was tougher than I thought it would be, but I enjoyed every single second of it.

It got me writing every day, but more than that, it got me thinking about writing every day. It forced me to sit down at the keyboard and put my thoughts down on digital paper for the whole world to read.

It made me be more bloggy-sociable and I went out of my way to read other people’s posts. I forced myself to be brave and post comments and “like” strangers’ posts. It’s seriously unnerving to jump into the comments on someone’s blog for the first time when they already have a following. It makes you feel like some awkward teenager trying to hang out with the cool kids and you don’t want to say the wrong thing in case they all laugh at you. I took that risk MANY times this month and it was totally worth it. I’ve found new blogs that have been added to my Reader, I’ve followed new people on Twitter, and perhaps most rewarding of all: many of these people have reciprocated. I can’t tell you how excited it makes me to see that little quote icon at the top of the page lit up in orange. Getting an email that I have a new follower is like opening presents on Christmas morning. I’m still learning all the etiquette and rules surrounding these strange Internet relationships (How often should I comment without looking creepy? Should I “like” a post if I don’t have anything to say? I don’t want to appear over-eager, but I know how much I appreciate feedback from others.)

Will I continue posting every day? Absolutely not. But I will definitely be posting more often than I did pre-NaBloPoMo, and I suppose that’s really what this was all about. Well, that and the iPads that were up for grabs over at Blogher.com that I didn’t win.

The Evolution of Pen Pals

I first started writing letters when I was 7 years old. I had just moved to NJ from Canada and I wanted to keep in touch with my cousin, so we wrote a couple of letters back and forth. Our correspondence was fairly short-lived and we fell out of touch until a couple of years ago when I found her on Facebook.

Christina and I started writing notes and letters to each other a few years after we became friends. It didn’t make much sense, really, considering we lived across the street from each other and hung out every single day, but it prepared us for when she moved 45 minutes away and we couldn’t see each other as much. Notes turned into multi-page letters which turned into “notebook letters,” which were just blank composition-style notebooks that we decorated with stickers and filled with anecdotes about our days and what was new in our lives (much like a diary). The notebook was given to the other person when it was full.

When I was in elementary school, during the Gulf War, my class participated in a pen pal program with the troops over in Kuwait. I was paired up with a woman named Claudia Pagan, and we became fast friends. We wrote each other often and even exchanged photos. Our letters became less and less frequent until we were only hearing from each other maybe once per year. I think I last heard from her sometime when I was in high school, and despite my best Googling efforts, I can’t seem to find her anywhere.

I used to read Seventeen and YM magazine religiously, and one of my favorite parts of both was the advertisements in the back. There always used to be at least one for pen pals – you would send in $5.00 or whatever it was for one pen pal, $7.00 for two, etc. Does anyone remember those? I’m guessing they don’t offer those programs anymore since hardly anyone actually writes letters these days. Anyway, I signed up for pen pals fairly frequently, which when I think about it now, was kind of creepy. I sent my information out there to some random company, who then sent it on to some strange girl (hopefully) who was also looking for someone to talk to through letters. Crazy. I know I had a lot of pals, but one that stands out to me was a girl named Katie Beers from Las Vegas – her name and location just seemed so exciting to me that I remember them to this day.

As the internet has gotten increasingly popular, I’ve naturally gravitated towards message boards and blogs and whatnot. When I was planning my wedding, I joined a message board aimed towards Disney brides. I met a lot of great and helpful women on there, and a bunch of us started a private board just to chat about other things unrelated to weddings and Disney. We became friends. A smaller subset of us eventually branched out and formed our own private board, which is active to this day. There aren’t many of us – 9 actually – but we’ve been friends for several years and I’ve met all but two of them in person. We’ve been to each others bridal showers, baby showers. We’ve had sleepovers, dinner dates, and movie nights.  We talk every single day, and although we don’t receive physical letters in the mail (although we do send each other Christmas cards and just-for-fun cards sometimes), we would most definitely be considered modern-day pen pals. But we are so much more than that; these women are my friends – we trust each other with the most intimate details of our lives, we support each other during the difficult times, and are there to cheer each other on when we succeed.

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What NaBloPoMo Has Taught Me So Far

We’re on Day 8 of NaBloPoMo and it has definitely been interesting. I’ve learned a lot so far:

1. Scheduling posts is a must. I work all day and have no access to my blog while there. When I get home at night, typically after 6pm, I work out, tidy the kitchen, figure out something for dinner, eat, help hubby with his work, and then go to bed. This leaves me about 20 minutes during my lunch break and maybe an hour at night (if I’m willing to stay up late) to come up with something witty and philosophical to write about. I need to write more on the weekends and schedule my posts to automatically upload during the week.

2. The prompts from Blogher.com and WordPress are not all that helpful (except, I admit, for this one). I’ve read them every day this week and none of them have seemed very exciting or thought-provoking. Not that I’ve been doing a stellar job on coming up with my own mind-blowing topics, but I guess I was expecting something different when it came to prompts.

3. Commenting on other blogs is key. Obviously if you comment on someone’s blog, they are in turn more likely to check out yours and return the favor.

4. Cross-posting on Blogher helps A LOT. I get a pathetically low number of visitors here, but I’ve noticed a teeny tiny increase in visitors since NaBloPoMo started. I was getting maybe 1-2 visitors per day and now I’m getting between 4 and 8. Still embarrassingly low, but technically my traffic has more than doubled!

5. Tags and categories are SO important to organize your posts. They enable you to view your stats based on topic, which obviously tells you what most of your readers are interested in and what you should be posting about more often.

Quieting the Inner Critic

So, I’ve slowly allowed myself to entertain the idea of pursuing a career in writing. I still don’t know how exactly I am going to do this, but I’m trying. When I started this blog several years ago, it was because I wanted to write. I thought this was the easiest way to try it. If no one read it, oh well. If someone left me a nasty comment, I could delete it.

I just entered week three of an online creative writing course and so far it’s going… OK. It’s got me writing, so I suppose it’s a success so far. I’m having a lot of trouble silencing my inner critic, though. I’m hyper-critical of myself (although I suppose we’re all like that) and although I have ideas, I have a hard time putting them down on paper (keyboard?) even if I’m the only one reading them. Each lesson has a writing exercise that we can either keep private or share with the group — the group of 100+ people, I might add — and then there is an assignment that we’re supposed to post for everyone to read.

I find myself reading through the entire lesson first and thinking ALL day about how I can make my exercises “perfect,” even though I know I won’t post them for anyone to read. Then I go over the assignment in my head until it’s “perfect” before I let anyone read my work. Then I compulsively reload the page a million times to see if I’ve received any comments. I check back constantly to see if anyone has given me any feedback. I automatically assume that my post will be at the bottom of the page because everyone else is better and has elicited more praise for their writing. I compare my work to theirs, chastising myself for writing what I did and not doing a better job. I find myself getting jealous of people I don’t even know, wishing I could write like them.

I do this with my blog as well (and pretty much everything else in my life…). I so desperately want this, to be a successful writer, but I can’t stop tearing myself down about it either. I have an idea for a novel, but I can’t bring myself to write down more than a couple scribbles in a notebook because what if it’s not any good? What if no one likes it? What if I write it and no one wants to publish it? I don’t know how to silence my inner critic and give myself the freedom to JUST WRITE without worrying what people will think or post in response. I know that writing is hard work and that most authors spend years upon years trying to get published. Logically, I understand this. Emotionally, I am struggling between wanting to try and not wanting to get hurt.

Frankenstein: A Review

I like to read, A LOT. I’ve recently decided that I should try to incorporate some more “classical” works of literature into my reading list to help me with writing. I thought it would be good to read (or re-read as the case may be) some of the popular classics – I’ve read most of them in high school or college, but I didn’t appreciate them at the time (shocking, I know) and I feel like they deserve a second chance. I’ve downloaded a bunch for free on my iPad, and I have a handful of other sitting on the bookshelf. The first one I decided to tackle is Frankenstein, at my husband’s recommendation (he didn’t actually read the whole thing, but he thought I would probably like it).

Frankenstein (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

I admit that I skipped the introduction with all the back-story and I stopped consulting the footnotes after the first chapter because I just couldn’t be bothered, AND I may have even skimmed through some parts of the actual book because I was losing interest. That being said, I really enjoyed the story and was surprised by some of the plot twists. Frankenstein, who is NOT the monster by the way (I knew that going in, but I know a lot of people don’t realize this), had a rough time growing up – his parents took in an orphaned girl as their own daughter, his mom died, he moved around a lot. He found comfort in reading about science and was super excited for college. But, when he got to college and told one of his professors what he had been reading and learning about, this professor basically told him he was a loser for believing any of that nonsense. This turned Frankenstein’s view of the world upside-down and he ended up bitter and jaded and decided to see if he could put a bunch of people-pieces together and make a person. Naturally this is what one would do in this situation.

Surprisingly enough, he was successful and then decided that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all. So, instead of taking responsibility for his actions or destroying his creation, he runs away and tries to ignore it. I get it, he was overwhelmed and didn’t want to deal with it. This turns out to be another bad move. The monster wreaks havoc on Frankenstein’s life and the two of them eventually run into each other and have to deal with their issues.

There was a ton of flowery description in this book, and that tends to bore me, so those are the parts I skipped. I feel like it would have been better just sticking to the point and forgetting about the mountains or the boat or whatever Mary Shelley went on and on describing. I can usually get through a book of this size in a weekend, but it took me FOUR WEEKS to finish this one – not because it was boring, but it was definitely not an easy read.

Next on my list is Pride and Prejudice, but first I need a break and will be diving into Inferno by Dan Brown.

Change Is Good (Or So They Say…)

Wow. When I wrote the previous post, it was after a few high-anxiety days and I didn’t think much of it when I clicked the Publish button. I’ve been toying around with the idea of writing more lately, so I figured I would post it over at Blogher as well. I thought that maybe a handful of people would read it. Maybe one or two of them would find their way over here.

My entry has been read over 1400 times and has been shared over 500 times on Facebook. I realize that to the experienced bloggers these numbers are probably minuscule, but to me this is HUGE. Last Friday night I received an email from the Executive Editor at Blogher telling me how much she liked what I wrote and that she was going to feature it on the homepage. I may have actually jumped up and down and squealed while I told my husband. Aside from two not-quite-negative-but-not-quite-positive remarks from people on FB, everyone has been so nice and supportive. One person suggested that maybe I have some form of Autism (I don’t) and someone else thought I made “it” (Being introverted? My life? I’m not quite clear.) sound depressing. Normally that would be enough to make me give up and quit entirely, but instead I’ve enrolled in a creative writing course. I realize I have a lonnng way to go, but I think I can do this.

Anyone who knows me or has read more than a couple entries here can probably figure out that I do not deal well with change. At all. I like routine. I am terrified of making the “wrong” decision anytime I need to make a choice. This time is a little different, though. I’m scared of this class (What if the instructor tells me I’m a horrible writer? What if everyone else is better than me? What if I realize this isn’t what I want to do after all?), but I’m also really excited. It’s online, so I can hide behind the anonymity of the Internet and even if I do royally suck, no one will know who I am anyway! I’ve reached the point where I realize I have to take the chance and try to make a change in order to maybe, possibly, find work that will make me happy.