Wednesday, December 31, 2008

101 Things in 1001 Days

Happy 2009, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful New Year's Eve and recovered quickly from all the *ahem* celebration. I had a quiet night myself and am looking forward to an exciting year filled with new accomplishments, lots of love and laughter, and amazing experiences. Which brings me to this year's goals.

I heard about 100 Things in 1001 Days a while ago and thought it might be something I wanted to participate in. When I was reminded of it a few weeks ago, I decided that I'd make my list and get started on January 1st. The list of challenging goals that are both specific and measurable and can be attained over the next 1001 days (that's about 2.75 years) was not as easy to create as I thought it would be. It took me several days and a lot of creative thinking and brainstorming. The list I finally came up with is below, and my one resolution for 2009 is to actively pursue my 101 Things Project and track my progress at the end of each month.

My 101 Things Project (January 1, 2009 to September 28, 2011)

The Mission:
Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days.

The Criteria:
Tasks must be specific and measurable. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (they should take some effort).

The Key:
In Progress
Completed (Date)
Not Started

The List:

Health & Fitness

  1. Lose 25 pounds. (0/25)
  2. Participate in the CSA each year. (0/3)
  3. Go skiing. (0/1)
  4. Complete the Couch to 5K program. (0/1)
  5. Practice yoga 3 times per week for 8 weeks in a row. (If I miss a week, the 8 weeks starts again.) (0/8)
  6. Meditate 10 minutes every morning for 30 days. (If I miss a day, the 30 days starts again.) (0/30)
  7. Participate in a 30 day fast from refined sugar. (0/30)
  8. Give up caffeine. (0/1)
  9. Take my vitamins every day for 45 days. (If I miss a day, the 45 days starts again.) (0/45)
  10. Eat a vegetarian diet for 30 days. (If I miss a day, the 30 days starts again.) (0/30)
  11. Pick 10 slow-cooker recipes and try them all. (0/10)
  12. Do my monthly self-breast exams every month. (0/33)
  13. Eat locally for one month. (0/30)
  14. Participate in One Local Summer. (0/3)
  15. Can my own preserves, fruit and/or vegetables. (0/1)
  16. Give blood five times. (0/5)

Writing & Career

  1. Take a writing course. (0/1)
  2. Go to three writing conferences or retreats. (0/3)
  3. Review and update my website at least once every 3 months. (0/11)

  1. Finish the 1st draft of my novel. (0/1)
  2. Complete two rounds of edits on my novel. (0/2)
  3. Prepare a proposal for novel submission. (0/1)

  1. Submit FK essay to 10 more markets or until published. (0/10)
  2. Submit FILWB essay to 10 markets or until published. (0/10)
  3. Write book proposal for essay collection. (0/1)
  4. Submit book proposal for essay collection to 20 agents or until accepted. (0/20)

  1. Write and submit 10 separate queries for health and fitness articles. (0/10)
  2. Write a short story. (0/1)
  3. Submit an essay for “This I Believe”. (0/1)

  1. Finish and submit C8ANY book proposal. (0/1)

  1. Spend a weekend at a hotel (anywhere) writing. (0/1)
  2. Set a writing schedule for one month and stick with it. (0/1)
  3. Write and publish an e-book. (0/2)

General Self Improvement

  1. Read 30 books. (0/30)
  2. Buy a new digital camera. (0/1)
  3. Take a photography class. (0/1)
  4. Volunteer as a writing tutor or mentor.
  5. Take knitting lessons. (0/1)
  6. Knit a scarf. (0/1)
  7. Knit a hat. (0/1)
  8. Knit a blanket. (0/1)
  9. Learn a new language (Italian) and carry on a conversation in it. (0/2)
  10. Brush up on my Spanish and find a conversation partner to practice with. (0/2)
  11. Turn off the TV at least one evening a week. (0/142)
  12. Take swimming lessons. (0/1)


  1. Paint my dining room. (0/1)
  2. Buy a dining set. (0/1)
  3. Get 3 to 5 quotes for getting my roof replaced. (0/3)
  4. Schedule the sump pump installation. (0/1)
  5. Put up shelves in my office. (0/1)
  6. Hang the mirror in my living room. (0/1)
  7. Refinish the bookcase in my basement and move it to my office. (0/2)
  8. Install the programmable thermostat. (0/1)
  9. Get 3 – 5 quotes for central air conditioning installation. (0/3)
  10. Finish landscaping the edge of my backyard. (0/1)
  11. Clear out my “wild patch” and plant herbs there instead. (0/1)
  12. Make my bed everyday for 45 days. (If I miss a day, the 45 days starts again.) (0/45)
  13. Paint the kitchen. (0/1)
  14. Paint the bathroom. (0/1)
  15. Get my sewing machine fixed. (0/1)
  16. Make curtains for my bedroom. (0/1)


  1. Save monthly in a long-term emergency fund (for back-up when I go freelance full-time). (0/33)
  2. Pay off my car. (0/1)
  3. Reallocate my 401K funds. (0/1)
  4. Pay off my credit card every month. (0/33)
  5. Refrain from buying any magazines for 90 days. (0/90)


  1. Travel to Italy and take a walking tour of Tuscany. (0/2)
  2. Travel to Arizona to visit my sister. (0/1)
  3. See the Grand Canyon. (0/1)
  4. Travel to an island for a relaxing vacation. (0/1)
  5. Visit my friend in New Orleans. (0/1)
  6. Visit my friends in NC. (0/1)
  7. Go to BlogHer. (0/1)

For Fun

  1. Participate in NaNoWriMo. (0/1)
  2. Get at least three massages. (0/3)
  3. Plan a “me” day at least once a month. (0/33)
  4. Participate in and successfully complete Project 365. (0/365)
  5. Take a self-portrait every week. (0/142)
  6. See three plays and/or musicals. (0/3)
  7. Send 33 cards or letters. (0/33)
  8. Write a secret and send it into Post Secret. (0/1)
  9. Go to a concert and sing along to all the songs I know. (0/1)
  10. Send a surprise care package to three friends or family members. (0/3)
  11. Turn on a CD and dance in my underwear. (0/1)
  12. Ask a stranger to tell me his/her story and just listen. (0/1)
  13. Get a tattoo. (0/1)
  14. Buy myself a gift/flowers on the 5th of every month. (0/33)
  15. Have a dinner party. (0/1)
  16. Host a girls’ night. (0/1)
  17. Compliment a stranger 33 times. (0/33)
  18. Create 15 scrapbook pages. (0/15)
  19. Create a vision board. (0/1)
  20. Go to an NBA game. (0/1)
  21. Sit in the stands for a Ravens (or Cowboys) game. (0/1)
  22. Create 5 new playlists for my iPod with the following themes: Mellow Music; Dance in Your Underwear; Just Like High School; Summer Fun; Road Trippin’ (0/5)
  23. Watch a sunset. (0/1)
  24. Watch a sunrise. (0/1)
  25. Go to the movies by myself. (0/1)
  26. Meet a blog-friend in person. (0/1)
  27. Track my 101 in 1001 progress monthly. (0/33)
  28. Make a new list of 101 things. (0/1)
**Update: For more on my 101 Things list and my progress, visit my 101 Things in 1001 Days blog.**

Another Year Over...

It's time to say goodbye to 2008 and look forward to 2009. Looking back on my 2008 posts, I found the Year-End Meme that I completed last year, prompted by sognatrice over at bleeding espresso (who is continuing the tradition, as well), and decided to give it another go. As for 2009? Stop back later this week for my 2009 goals.

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?

Went to Dave & Buster's, ate at Benihana, read a personal essay in public, joined a CSA, started my own flower garden

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

As usual, I didn't make resolutions last year, per se, but I did create a Thursday Thirteen list of goals to accomplish in 2008. Without relisting them here, let's just say that (as usual) I did well with some of them and not so well with others.

I've decided to something a little different this year. I'll post about that tomorrow.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Two friends had a baby girls.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, thankfully.

5. What countries did you visit?


6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

Last year I said, "More focus on the things that I'm passionate about." I'd say this year I could stand more focus again. I would also like to have more time with my family and friends.

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

August 23rd - they day I held New Lines in my hand and flipped to my very first printed essay.
November 4th - Yes, we can!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Getting my essay published in New Lines from the Old Line State.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Not getting myself into a regular exercise routine again.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nothing more than a cold or two.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

A new laptop and docking station

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

The presidential candidates

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Too many politicians to name

14. Where did most of your money go?

Into my house

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Planning a trip to visit my sister; having my essay published, reading that essay in front of real live people, and then reading it on the radio for everyone to hear.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?

Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?

(a) happier; (b) I prefer to call it "thicker"; (c) richer...I got a promotion!

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Being present no matter what I was doing...also reading, writing, submitting my work, and exercising

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Watching television (this seems to be a theme); eating; wishing I was doing something else

20. How did you spend Christmas?

With most of my family in my hometown

21. Did you fall in love in 2008?

Still in love with My Love...and there was that stray kitty that stole (and then broke) my heart.

22. What was your favorite TV program?


23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No hate here.

24. What was the best book you read?

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Alanis Morissette's "Flavors of Entanglement"

26. What did you want and get?

A great new haircut, new windows for my house, a kinder attitude toward myself, new writing projects and an essay published in a book

27. What did you want and not get?

An engagement ring (again), a healthier (thinner) body, a book deal

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

The Dark Knight

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 32 and spent the day doing mundane tasks.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

I had a really great year, but I think there are two things that would have made it more satisfying: 1) having been more dedicating to making healthy choices; and 2) having finished the book proposal project I've been working on.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007?

I think I've become a bit more trendy over the last year, while still being relatively casual and professional. (Is that a concept?)

32. What kept you sane?

Cuddles with my kitty; time with My Love, my friends and my family; mini-vacations; blogging/writing; and lots of reading.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Paul Rudd

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

The Presidential election obviously

35. Who did you miss?

Several friends and my entire family. I felt very separated from important people this year. It wasn't the first year away from them all, but for some reason the distance seemed especially far.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

I met several wonderful new people in 2007, but there were four women in particular that had some major impacts on my writing, thinking and/or living: Ann Bracken, Lisa Spahr, Marion Winik and Amanda Moxley.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.

That gratitude is a powerful tool.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

I have been running so sweaty my whole life urgent for a finish line
And I have been missing the rapture this whole time of being forever incomplete.
(Incomplete - Alanis Morissette)

How do you feel about 2008? Did you do all that you wanted to do? Was it a good year? Are you ready for 2009?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I'm fully engulfed in last-minute gift-getting, eating wonderful food, family activities, wrapping, did I say eating?, and all the fabulous traditions of the holiday season. But I wanted to take a moment out of all that to stop by and say hello. I hope you're all enjoying this time of the year, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or some other winter holiday.

I'm extremely grateful for this time to enjoy my family, the snow and the decorations. I find Christmas is always a great time for me to reflect on the year gone by and remind important people in my life how much they mean to me. So to all of my readers and internet friends:

Thank you for being such wonderful people. I deeply appreciate your comments and the connections we've made. And I wish you all a beautiful holiday and a blessed New Year!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

TBR Challenge 2009 - It's That Time Again

I'm so glad I discovered the TBR (To Be Read) Challenge a few years ago, because it keeps me motivated to read those books I collect so compulsively. I'm glad to be a reader, but sometimes my love of books is bigger than the shelves I have to hold them.

The TBR Challenge for 2008 didn't go so well on my end. I got distracted by books for reviewing as well as new and used books hot off the shelves of the bookstore. I also seemed to have less time for reading this year, although I'm not exactly sure why. Priorities, I suppose. Anyway, I managed to read 7 wonderful books off my 2008 challenge list. I enjoyed every one of them and even added a few books by some of the same authors to my shelves. This is one of the benefits, as well as the curses of reading. As soon as I finish one book, I find I've added several more to my list of books I'd like to read. The more authors I find I enjoy, the more books I have to add to my shelves (physical or virtual).

Which brings me to my TBR List for 2009:
  1. I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb

  2. The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd

  3. A Hand to Guide Me by Denzel Washington

  4. Writing Your Life by Lou Willett Stanek

  5. Hollywood Worldviews by Brian Godawa

  6. Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott

  7. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

  8. Nourishing Wisdom by Marc David (Finished 8/20/09)

  9. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult (Finished 1/18/09)

  10. Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner

  11. American Girls About Town edited by

  12. Girls' Night In edited by (Finished 3/11/09)
Several of these were on my list from last year (and the year before), but I'm hoping to plow through many of them this year. While 12 is the goal of this challenge, and 24 might be a miracle, 15 or so shouldn't be too high of a bar to set. So just in case I get through the 12 above, or I find I just can't get through some of them, here's this year's alternates list.

  1. The Ha-Ha by David King

  2. Writing Articles from the Heart by Marjorie Holmes

  3. Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorbach

  4. Trudy's Promise by Marcia Preston

  5. Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

  6. The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman

  7. The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

  8. Songs of a Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult (Finished 4/26/09)

  9. Mercy by Jodi Picoult (Finished 2/22/09)

  10. Lisey's Story by Stephen King

  11. I'm Not the New Me by Wendy Mclure (Finished 10/29/09)

  12. Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot

If you want to join the challenge, visit the official challenge site and sign up. There's always room for more readers (if not for more books).

Have you read any of these books? Any suggestions on where I should start?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Question Me Good - Pt. 16

We've come to the end of the Question Me Good series. My final question was a great writing prompt. You wouldn't believe all the scenes that I jotted down when I started working on my answer. If you're looking for something to get the writing juices flowing, you should give this one a try.

Shelby asks: What are the sounds that you remember from long ago, or when you hear a random sound, does it ever trigger a memory? Talk about the sounds and memories.

Songs are the most powerful memory triggers for me.

There's "Come to My Window", which reminds me of a particular early summer day, right after I finished taking a Regents exam. My mom picked me up and the song was on the radio.

The one and only time I ever danced with a particular crush was to "Groovy Kind of Love" at a school dance. He was wearing Obsession and I was wearing a green striped drop-waist dress.

I remember being rather young and riding in the car with my mom singing "I Am Woman" at the top of our lungs.

I also remember dancing in my bedroom while listening to my records: the Chipmunks Christmas album in particular.

There was a summer day when my extended family was visiting and I played my George Michael tape on my boom box while I read on lounge chair in the yard and everyone else ran around playing and yelling.

It's pretty amazing what scenes of my life I can remember when a song comes on the radio or into my mind. Music seems to connect me to moments that were important in my life, but also to moments that were otherwise pretty everyday and insignificant. I'm thankful for that, because I feel like it's those everyday moments that made me who I am.

What sounds trigger memories for you?

If you're just tuning in, check the rest of the series.

Monday, December 15, 2008

She's Alive!

Hi everyone! I bet you thought I'd gone MIA and you were going to have to send out a search party for me. Or that I'd been abducted by aliens never to be seen again. Or that I had enlisted in the Peace Corp and was off to Africa.

Nothing that exciting, though.

It's just been a busy couple of weeks and after a month of blogging almost every day, I didn't figure you'd miss me much. Unfortunately, a couple days' break turned into a couple weeks. I hope you're all well. I've missed you!

Since I last blogged I:

  • Almost finished my Christmas shopping and started packing gifts up for my holiday visit back home
  • Shopped at the farmer's market for the last time until spring
  • Attended my company's holiday party and had a great time
  • Worked two games at M&T Bank Stadium, including the disappointing Ravens-Steelers game last night (so, so sad...and we were robbed!)
  • Traveled to D.C. by car/metro for a three days to attend a training in Project Management (Have I mentioned how much I love public transportation? Seriously. I wish I could take the metro to work every day. I read 1/2 a book in three days!)
  • Met some really great people and learned A LOT about managing projects
  • Decided I won't be sending out holiday cards this year because I just don't have the time
  • Saw Four Christmases and Nothing Like the Holidays at the theater and watched Smart People from the comfort of my couch
  • Enjoyed a play at Everyman Theatre
I haven't been getting much sleep, but I've been enjoying December and getting excited about 2009. Hope you're all having fun this month and aren't getting bogged down in the holiday rush. If you are, check out a couple of my articles at Healthy Bliss for some great tips on handling the holidays.

And there's one more post for the Question Me Good series, so I'll be sure to get that up this week. Have a great Monday!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Question Me Good - Pt. 15

I'm nearing the end of the current question bank, so if you haven't asked me a question and you'd like to, go here and submit your queries. For today's Question Me Good post, nejyerf gave me a fun little exercise.

Below is a list of song titles and/or lyrics that are in the form of a question. You can either tell us the song/singer or give us an answer or both. Challenge!!

Why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near? (Close to You - Carpenters)

Because my hair looks like a nest.

Why can't this be love? (Van Halen)

Because you're married and I'm practically engaged.

What's love got to do with it? (Tina Turner)


Who let the dogs out? (? I don't know without cheating.)

There are no dogs, only cats.

Who says you can't go home? (Bon Jovi)

The little voices that remind me how long the drive is...what? Can't you hear them?

Where do broken hearts go? (Whitney Houston)

To take a hot, candle-lit bath with a good book and a glass of wine.

When will I be loved? (? Again, don't know without cheating.)

Right now--you're loved more than you know!

If you've got a burning question for me but haven't had a chance to ask it, you can go to the original post and leave your question in a comment. I'll keep answering a question or two a day until they're all answered.

If you're just tuning in, check out the rest of the series.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Do You Need Africa?

Last week I posted about why I need Africa and introduced you to the Mocha Club. Today they're launching an all-out campaign to remind people why they need Africa. I encourage you to read the information below, check out the YouTube video and go to their site to learn more about Mocha Club.

(From Mocha Club)


When I think of Africa, the following images immediately come to mind: Starvation. AIDS. Child soldiers. Genocide. Sex slaves. Orphans. From there, my thoughts naturally turn to how I can help, how I can make a difference. “I am needed here,” I think. “They have so little, and I have so much.” It’s true, there are great tragedies playing out in Africa everyday. There is often a level of suffering here that is unimaginable until you have seen it, and even then it is difficult to believe. But what is even harder is reconciling the challenges that many Africans face with the joy I see in the people. It’s a joy that comes from somewhere I cannot fathom, not within the framework that has been my life to this day. [read more]

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Question Me Good - Pt. 14

After a long day touring DC I'm exhausted, so I'll get straight to the point of this post.

MommyK's question is next on the list and she wonders about my migration to the big city.

What brought you to Baltimore? What do you like best about the city and what's the biggest downside to city living?

The first time I visited Baltimore, I fell in love with the Inner Harbor and had a feeling I might end up living here some day. It was about four years until that actually happened, though. Looking back on my history, it seems like maybe I was fated to come here, if one believes in such things. When I was contemplating medical school, Johns Hopkins was my first choice. When medical school was no longer my plan, I applied for the Teach for America program and my first-choice placement was Baltimore. When that didn't work out, I ended up at Kennedy Krieger Institute. Fate, I tell you.

The details on how and why I ended up here are long and complicated story, but I basically moved to Baltimore to work at Kennedy, a renowned hospital that treats children with a variety of developmental disabilities and disorders. I worked on an inpatient unit that treated children with severe behavior disorders as well as developmental disabilities. I'd been working with children with autism for a couple of years and had developed an interest in Applied Behavior Analysis, so it seemed a place like Kennedy was the logical next step.

The thing I like best about living in Baltimore (and a city in general) are all the available opportunities and resources. Where I grew up, cultural, social, educational, and professional opportunities were pretty limited. In the city I can go to a movie, a mall, a museum, a play or musical, a club, a natural food store, or a park without much planning (or driving). I also love that I'm so close to DC and NYC.

The biggest downside of living in the city is that I don't always feel as safe as I did in my tiny little hometown. There, walking alone at night isn't a problem. Here, at least in my current neighborhood, I wouldn't dare. Don't get me wrong, I feel safe parking and walking to my house and I feel safe in my neighborhood in general. But I wouldn't tempt the fates by, say, taking a jog in the park alone after dark.

It's your turn. What's your favorite thing about your current town? What's the thing you least like?

If you've got a burning question for me but haven't had a chance to ask it, you can go to the original post and leave your question in a comment. I'll keep answering a question or two a day until they're all answered.

If you're just tuning in, check out the rest of the series.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Question Me Good - Pt. 13

I'm still stuffed to the gills after a wonderful dinner with My Love last night, and there are plenty of leftovers in the refrigerator to keep me Thanksgiving Day happy for a few more days. I hope you all had a wonderful day with your families, friends, and loved ones, wherever you are.

It's time now to get back to those questions you've been asking me. Today we have a vague yet interesting question from Louise...

Why haven't you done it yet? Better yet, what is it you haven't done?

Let's see...I haven't:

  • Finished my novel
  • Been published in a major magazine
  • Seen the Grand Canyon, a giant Redwood, Old Faithful or Mount Rushmore
  • Been married
  • Had children
  • Traveled to Africa, Australia, South America or Asia
There are so many things that I haven't done that I can't possibly list them all. And in answering this question I've realized that my answers are specifically about what I WANT to do. There are plenty of things I haven't done (killed someone, stolen a car) that I didn't even think to list because they're not things that I would ever willingly or actively consider doing.

As for why I haven't done these things, there are many reasons some of which are out of my control. I want to address that first bullet, though. It was the first thing that came to mind when I read Louise's question, "Why haven't you done it yet?" And my immediate response? "Fear."

I've been making excuses for a long time. I've been passive about my goal. I've procrastinated, taken on projects that take up my writing time, watched television and filled my time with unproductive activities instead of pursing the thing that I want more than anything else. Why? Because I'm afraid. Afraid I'll finish and it will suck. Afraid I'll finish and it will be great and then people will expect more of the same. Afraid I'll put all that work of writing and rewriting and editing into something that won't find its way into publication.

But when I think about those fears, when they're written out like that, I start to see the holes in my logic. I won't ever know the results if I don't finish what I've started. So what if I write something that doesn't make the best seller's list or doesn't even find a publisher? I'll have written a story that I love and I'll have learned plenty of lessons through the process. This morning I heard David Wroblewski, the author of The Story of Edgar Sawtell, say something that soothed my fear a bit. He said, "As a new writer who'd never been published before I had the luxury of time." It took him 10 years to write his best seller. He wrote it part-time while he worked as a software programmer. He did what he loved and has been pleasantly surprised by the fact that it's been published, much less that it's a best seller.

Who cares if my book takes a long time to write? Who cares if it's not as good as I hope it will be? I'd hate to look back on my life 10, 15, 30 years from now and realize I allowed fear to keep me from doing the things that I really wanted to do.

What haven't you done and why haven't you done it? Go. Now. Make a plan. Get to work. Start saving. Do what you want--no, what you NEED--to do. We'll never regret that.

If you've got a burning question for me but haven't had a chance to ask it, you can go to the original post and leave your question in a comment. I'll keep answering a question or two a day until they're all answered.

If you're just tuning in, check the rest of the series.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

I'll get back to the Question Me Good series to finish it up. I promise. But today I thought I'd post some gratitude. I know it's cliche, but I can't let Thanksgiving go by without telling you all what I'm thankful for. I've had a wonderful year and I'd like to take some time to really consider all the blessings in my life.

Today and every day, I'm thankful for:

  • Love, support and commitment from My Love
  • Family and friends who love and support me, even though they're not all as nearby as I wish they were
  • Girls' nights that give me the chance to bond and laugh and do girly things with a few of those friends on a somewhat regular basis
  • My health and a body that functions just as it should
  • Hope for the future of this country and the world
  • Publication of my work in an actual book
  • A stable job that I enjoy and plenty of freelance projects to keep the creative side of me happy
  • The people that I've "met" through blogs and Twitter who are incredible writers, storytellers and plain old good people sharing snippets of their lives with me and so many others
  • Our Armed Forces troops both here in the US and abroad who protect our country every day
  • Good, local food that doesn't break the bank and keeps me healthy and happy
  • Books and time to read them
  • My house and a running car that gets me where I need to go
I'm sure there's plenty more, but you don't need to be here all day reading my list. Go make your own list and share it so others can be reminded to give thanks for all they have. So often we focus on what we don't have. At least for one day, let's do something different.

Enjoy your time with family and friends during this great holiday, eat good food, have wonderful conversation and then take a nice long nap. I know I'm going to!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Why I Need Africa

I'm taking a break from our regularly schedule Question Me Good programming to bring you a post that I hope touches and inspires you.

A couple of weeks ago, I learned about Mocha Club, a community-based website where members can start a team and invite friends to join them in giving $7 a month – the cost of 2 mochas – to support a project of their choice in Africa. Mocha Club's vision is to provide a way for people who don't have hundreds or thousands of dollars to make a difference in Africa. To help get the word out about Mocha Club and their mission, I was asked to write a post about why ‘I need Africa more than Africa needs me.’

The answer to this question has been bubbling up in my spirit for a years. For as long as I can remember I've had a special place in my heart for Africa. There's something about this vast continent that excites me and terrifies me just the same. It's a land of countries, people and natural beauty so varied and wonderful that I can barely wrap my mind around the idea of it. Despite the turmoil that we are accustomed to hearing about, I believe that Africa is filled with people and places, with passion and purpose, that would leave even the most jaded of us in awe were we to experience it.

One of my favorite bloggers, Jen Lemen, proved that my vision of Africa was true when she began writing about her friend Odette. After a series of events only God could orchestrate, Jen ended up in Rwanda spreading love and hope, and discovering that it would be reflected back to her and multiplied exponentially. Her experience reminded me that Africa has so much to offer.

Then, last week, as I was sweating it out on the elliptical machine at the gym, I flipped the page of my current Oprah magazine to an article about Leymah Gbowee. After witnessing violence and atrocities that no one should have to see much less experience, Gbowee led a group of Liberian women from various faith backgrounds in protests against the 14-year civil war and the dictatorship that had allowed it.

In 2003, Gbowee and the Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET) handed then President Charles Taylor a signed resolution petitioning for peace in Liberia. Gbowee and WIPNET protested fearlessly until that peace was realized and Taylor was exiled. Since then, Gbowee has founded the Women Peace and Security Network Africa (WIPSEN) and with financial support from a variety of donors, this organization "has been able to export peace-building programs to war-torn zones in Sierra Leone and the Niger Delta."

It's because of the experiences of women like Jen Lemen, her friend Odette and Odette's family, and Leymah Gbowee that I need Africa more than it needs me. Jen, Odette, and Leymah are just a few of the women who set powerful examples of the influence we can have over our communities, our countries and our world when we find a cause that speaks to our hearts and we fight for it with every ounce of our being--despite our fear, our pain, our discomfort. That cause will not be the same for all of us, and we won't be able to do it alone. But we have others who have gone before us that we can learn from and emulate--perfectly human women who are both powerful and humble, fearless and frightened, strong and weak, boisterous and softspoken, wild and subdued. Without Africa and the women who fight in big and small ways to make their communities and nations stronger and more secure, where would we be?

I have always believed that I will visit Africa one day. The one opportunity I had has become the one major regret of my life: I allowed course scheduling and my own fear keep me from taking a semester in Kenya in college. Since then, I've considered missions trips, the Peace Corp, and many other paths to get me there, but so far none have panned out for me. Jen's experience has opened my heart to the possibility that there's still room in my dreams for Africa. I can only pray that my opportunity to visit there will be returned to me at the exact moment when I am ready to take full advantage of it.

How does Africa make you feel? Do you believe that you need Africa as much as, if not more than, it needs you? Share your thoughts in my comments, and even blog about it yourself. Join in the worthwhile cause of recasting the damaging images that force pity over partnership. Come back Dec 1st to see what Mocha Club is doing about reforming that image.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Question Me Good - Pt. 12

OK, so I missed a second day. I won't lie; this time it was out of pure laziness. I didn't feel like turning the computer on and typing out a simple answer to a few questions. I enjoyed my Saturday, though, and I hope you did, too.

Now on to the questions. Crazy Daisy over at Forever Daisies wants to know:

Where do you most want to live?

Outside the US, I'd love to live in Italy. Inside the US, if money or the location of my family weren't a consideration, I'd love to live in San Francisco. I've always wanted to live in New York City, too, but I feel like I'm too old to really enjoy it now.

Who would you most like to spend the day with?

Hmmm...Anne Lammott, I think. I'd love to talk to her about her writing, her sense of humor, and her life experiences.

If you weren't writing, what would you be doing?

Probably teaching, either high school English or Biology, or elementary special education. There's still a possibility I might end up doing one of these in the future.

If you've got a burning question for me but haven't had a chance to ask it, you can go to the original post and leave your question in a comment. I'll keep answering a question or two a day until they're all answered.

If you're just tuning in, check the rest of the series.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Question Me Good - Pt. 11

I'm running out of questions to answer. It looks like this series will come to an end this weekend unless I get more questions over the next day or two. If you haven't gotten your question in yet, there's still time. Just go leave a comment on the original post. Hurry!

The question of the day comes from Betsy.

What other professions did you consider?

This question is best answered in list form because there were plenty. I've listed them in the order in which I considered them, and I found that this order says a lot about my evolution as a person. I have to admit that many of the professions listed below are things I'd still consider doing in the future. Who says a woman can't change her career path a few times before she retires, anyway?

  1. Astronaut - Who didn't want to be an astronaut after watching Space Camp?
  2. Teacher - Doesn't every kid go through the teacher phase?
  3. Doctor - This one lasted for a long time, until I passed out at the sight of blood a few times. After almost four years of premedical coursework I just wasn't sure that I'd make a very good doctor.
  4. Behavior Therapist - After working with two children with autism, I started to wonder if becoming a licensed psychologist who treated children with severe behavior disorders might not be for me. It wasn't. While the rewards were great, I got burned out really quickly.
  5. Special Education Teacher - Five years at Kennedy Krieger Institute coordinating special education programming for one of their inpatient units was great experience, but dealing with the school districts and trying to get those patients services in the classroom once they were discharged convinced me that I wouldn't fit in well with the status quo mentality of many school administrations. Money was a major issue and despite how much teachers believed their students needed services, administrations were often staunchly against providing them. I'm sure they wanted to, but their hands were tied more often than not.
  6. English Teacher - While butting heads over special ed services wasn't something I was interested in doing, I still imagined myself working with city high-schoolers and teaching them to love books and lanuage as much as I do. After looking into a few teacher certification programs and considering my options and my skills, I'm still not convinced I'm cut from the teacher cloth. There's still a possibility that I'll take that leap one day, though. Maybe at the college level...who knows.
  7. Freelance Writer - I'm currently working on this one. I'm employed as a tech writer/project manager and pick up freelance projects of all writing types on the side. I've written and/or edited everything from resumes and cover letters to grant proposals to web copy to fiction and creative non-fiction stories. You name it, I've probably written it, or at least attempted it. Eventually, I imagine trying my hand at full-time freelancing, but having a steady gig that pays the bills and provides benefits is a very comfortable place to be. I don't know if and when I'll ever take the freelance leap. Especially in today's economic climate. I'm trying to plan for it though, so that if the opportunity presents itself I'll have money saved and clients at-the-ready.
  8. Novelist - Again, working on this one. My first novel is in the works and I'd love it if I could become one of those great novelists who can afford to do nothing but write books. In the meantime, see #7.
What professions have you considered and how do they compare to what you do now? Are you working in your dream career or do you have a career goal that you're still striving for?

If you've got a burning question for me but haven't had a chance to ask it, you can go to the original post and leave your question in a comment. I'll keep answering a question or two a day until they're all answered.

If you're just tuning in, check out the rest of the series.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Question Me Good - Pt. 10

Before I get to today's question, let me say that I completely blanked on posting yesterday. Suffice it to say there was a busy day at work, sushi for dinner and an evening with My Love involved. I was so close to getting something up every day, and I'm a bit disappointed, but I will not quit just because I missed one day. Onward and upward, as they say...

Corine tagged me for the Five Things meme. She's knew at the blogging thing, so if you have a minute, please go visit her and say hello.

Five Things I Was Doing 10 Years Ago:

  1. Working as a 1:1 at-home instructor for a boy with autism
  2. Working as a 1:1 preschool aide for a different boy with autism
  3. Trying to figure out where my life (meaning: CAREER) was headed
  4. Living with my dad
  5. Exploring and expanding my faith
Five Things On My To Do List:
  1. Send out queries to major health and fitness magazines
  2. Finish the first draft of my novel
  3. Send packets to agents
  4. Finish the book proposal I'm working on
  5. Start my Christmas shopping

Five Things I Like To Snack On:

  1. Popcorn sprinkled with ranch dressing mix (dry from a packet)
  2. Pretzels dipped in homemade honey-mustard
  3. Carrots (or other veggies) dipped in ranch dip
  4. Chocolate of any kind
  5. Almonds
Five Things I Would Do If I Was A Millionaire:
  1. Put money in a trust for both my parents and my sister
  2. Sell my house and buy one with a yard
  3. Invest in an environmentally-friendly company or some other fair-trade business
  4. Write full-time
  5. Have and adopt several children

Five Places I Have Lived:

  1. Northern NY
  2. Baltimore area
  3. TBD (someplace warm year-round)
  4. TBD (someplace exotic)
  5. TBD (someplace Euoropean i.e. Italy, England or France)
Five Jobs I Have Had (in addition to the two mentioned above):
  1. Ice-cream scooper
  2. Jewelry retailer
  3. Babysitter
  4. Special education coordinator
  5. Technical writer

Five People I Am Tagging:

  1. Jen
  2. Angie
  3. Lulu
  4. The Reluctant Housewife
  5. Over Coffee
And anyone else who wants to do this meme is welcome to. If you do, I'd love it if you'd leave a link here in the comments so that I can read your answers!

If you've got a burning question for me but haven't had a chance to ask it, you can go to the original post and leave your question in a comment. I'll keep answering a question or two a day until they're all answered.

If you're just tuning in, check out the rest of the series.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Question Me Good - Pt. 9

Today's reader question comes from Mitzy. She really made me think with this one.

Who would you most like to interview and what would be the first question you would ask them?

In light of recent political events, I'm tempted to say the Obamas, but they're all over the media right now and I can't think of anything to ask them that they haven't already been asked. Then there's the current president, who I'd like to ask a dozen or so questions, none of which I would expect to get an honest answer to.

There are dozens of writers whose brains I'd like to pick. And plenty of historical figures (JFK, MLK, Rosa Parks, Ghandi) that I'd like to have dinner with. But I think the one person I'd really like to interview is someone much less famous, someone I only know by name and a grainy black and white photograph. I'd interview my grandfather and I'd ask him what the best moment of his life was. Then I'd ask him to start at the beginning and tell me everything else.

Who would you like to interview and what's the first question you'd ask?

If you've got a burning question for me but haven't had a chance to ask it, you can go to the original post and leave your question in a comment. I'll keep answering a question or two a day until they're all answered.

If you're just tuning in, check out the rest of the series.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Question Me Good - Pt. 8

I'm still plugging through reader questions, and I'm loving this! Thanks again to all my readers who've left questions for me to answer. It's like being a celebrity on my own blog. Today's question comes from Lena at Over Coffee who asks the deep and probing question:

Why did you start blogging?

My blogging experience started with reading a variety of blogs. I kept finding bloggers whose writing would touch a nerve, was lyrical and deep, or came across with such great humor that I would laugh out loud. I wanted to be like those bloggers. I wanted to try my hand at expressing myself through this strange thing called a "blog". At the most, I thought I might be able to get a book deal or some writing contacts out of it. And at the least, I figured it would force me to write regularly.

The rest is history.

Why did you start blogging?

If you've got a burning question for me but haven't had a chance to ask it, you can go to the original post and leave your question in a comment. I'll keep answering a question or two a day until they're all answered.

If you're just tuning in, check out the rest of the series.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Question Me Good - Pt. 7

Neil at Citizen of the Month asks an interesting question that I hadn't really pondered before.

What is the one thing you dislike most about the online world?

I haven't personally had any negative experiences in the online world and I generally enjoy the freedom that the internet allows and the access that I have to a wide variety of perspectives on any given topic. Blogging in particular has made it possible for me to develop connections with people around the country and world that I wouldn't have been able to "meet" without it. That being said, I think that the perceived anonymity of blogging and commenting allows some people to say and do things that they wouldn't say and do if the interaction was face-to-face. Sometimes that's a good thing, giving people the courage to be more open and transparent about their problems or struggles and allowing a venue for open dialog about tough subjects. But sometimes people use that anonymity as permission to be hateful and rude. That's the part of the online world that I dislike the most.

How about you? Is there anything about the online world that you dislike, and if so, what is it?

If you've got a burning question for me but haven't had a chance to ask it, you can go to the original post and leave your question in a comment. I'll keep answering a question or two a day until they're all answered.

If you're just tuning in, check out the rest of the series.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Question Me Good - Pt. 6

I'm getting this in just under the wire today. I just got back from a night of scrapbooking with the girls and I'm buggy eyed with delirium, but I had to answer a question and get my post in for NaBloPoMo. Today's questions come from Lulu.

What other creative things do you do?

Well, I just started scrapbooking and while I don't do it often I find it's incredibly addictive. I'm really enjoying the creativity of coming up with the perfect layout for my pictures and keepsakes. I also like to make my own cards. I went through a rubber stamping phase where I would spend hours on the weekends making cards for every occassion imaginable. I'm still using those cards. Photography is my favorite creative outlet, though. I've always been known as the girl with the camera. If I wasn't writing, I'd probably pursue photography more. One of my goals for 2009 is to take a photography class.

Do you write full-time?

I work full-time as a technical writer, but my hours at work aren't all spent writing. And now that I've been promoted to a management position, my writing time is even more limited. I do a lot of editing, though. I also freelance part-time, taking on projects that get done in the evenings and on the weekends. I'd like to get a few steady clients and start freelancing full-time some day. For now, I'll take what I can get.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, tomorrow, where would you go, and what 5 items would you take?

That's a hard one. I think I'd go to Italy, either Venice or Tuscany. I've always had a fascination with Italy. I'm assuming I can buy clothes, notebooks and pens, and find a place to stay, so I'd take My Love, my cat, my laptop, my book collection, and my iPod. It doesn't take much to keep me happy.

Where would you go tomorrow if you could go anywhere and what 5 things would you take?

If you've got a burning question for me but haven't had a chance to ask it, you can go to the original post and leave your question in a comment. I'll keep answering a question or two a day until they're all answered.

If you're just tuning in, check out the rest of the series.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Question Me Good - Pt. 5

It's that time of day where I grab a question from the bank and get to work on my daily NaBloPoMo post. Today's question comes from Brooke, who's a new reader and wants to know a little more about me...but not the boring stuff.

How about a few fun facts on you - beyond the "About Me".....I'm new to your blog, so these are things maybe some other followers might know...and obviously enough details to make it fun, but not so much that it would give a stalker a chance to find you!!

Fun fact #1: I'm a nerd. I'm WAY more comfortable in a book store or a library than a bar or night club. In fact, my favorite Saturdays, when I'm not writing at Panera, are spent browsing my local library shelves or hanging out in Barnes & Noble.

Fun fact #2: I was on every sports team that was available to me in high school, but I rarely got to play. I wasn't too athletic and would rather have my nose in a book (See #1) than chase a soccer ball or try to land a layup. This was obvious to the coaches, but since my school was so small they needed all the players they could get. And at least I got a little exercise.

Fun fact #3: I graduated in a class of 29 students. Classes have grown over the last decade, but that was the average class size when I was there. My school (K through 12) was about 1,200 kids. I was a big fish in a small pond, and I liked it that way.

Fun fact #4: I was a chunky child. I know this because my mother likes to tell a story about a summer day when I was running around in my diaper with my adolescent cousin and my aunt told her to go get her training bra for me because I needed it more than she did. Needless to say my cousin ran home crying and I could have cared less. I ran around half naked oblivious to my baby boobs.

Fun fact #5: I once peed in my shoes. I was in high school. Needless to say I threw the shoes away.

Now it's your turn. What's a fun fact about you? Share your fun facts in the comments so we can all enjoy!

If you've got a burning question for me but haven't had a chance to ask it, you can go to the original post and leave your question in a comment. I'll keep answering a question or two a day until they're all answered.

If you're just tuning in, check out the rest of the series.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Question Me Good - Pt. 4

Next in line for the Ask Me a Question series are a few questions about my writing process from The Driftwood Collector.

How do you deal with writer's block? Distractions? How do you keep yourself motivated to write?

These are great questions, and the simple answers are "I give up," "I give in" and "it's not easy," respectively. That's what I'd like to do sometime, anyway. In reality, giving up or giving in just aren't options when I'm getting paid, and I'll never get that novel written if I give up. So here's what I do when I'm hit with The Block, I'm distracted by dust bunnies or I'm losing motivation.

When writer's block strikes, I try to push through it with a random writing exercise or by working on something I enjoy. Usually writer's block is more about fear or boredom for me, so to get past it requires getting word--ANY words--down on paper or on my computer screen. Once I've started I can usually transition into that dreaded project or scene I'm struggling with pretty easily.

Distractions are a bit harder for me to deal with. Sometimes I let them take over a little bit, like allowing myself to take a 15 minute break every hour to check my Twitter replies or email. A little distraction can be a good thing. On the other hand, sometimes they threaten to take over. For instance, if I'm at home trying to work I avoid turning on the television at all costs. Even the worst shows (we're talking infomercials, here) can distract me when I don't feel like working yet another weekend. On a bad day, I can also be tempted by laundry, dishes or rugs that need to be vacuumed. On those days, I pack up my stuff and head to the nearest Panera or Starbucks or other writer-friendly locale, where household chores and a comfy couch aren't calling my name.

To keep me motivated in my freelance writing, I try to choose more projects that excite me than projects that don't. If the topic interests me, it's easier to motivate myself to get it done. If it's dry and boring...a little harder. For the not-so-fun writing, I generally have to bribe myself. ("When you finish this article, you can watch that movie.") For my personal (meaning non-paying) writing, motivation is more about staying excited about the story/blog/article that I'm working on. I do that by:

  • telling everyone I know about the project
  • setting aside time to work on it (or at least think about it)
  • setting goals and deadlines and sticking to them
  • rereading old pieces
  • joining a critique group that requires me to write something bimonthly
Motivation is another challenge, but because I enjoy writing (in general) it's easier to motivate myself to write than, say, mow the lawn. Although if the lawn needs mowing and I'm feeling the need for a distraction...

How about all the writers out there? How do you deal with the challenges of writer's block, distraction, and lack of motivation?

If you've got a burning question for me but haven't had a chance to ask it, you can go to the original post and leave your question in a comment. I'll keep answering a question or two a day until they're all answered.

If you're just tuning in, check out the rest of the series.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Question Me Good - Pt. 3

Today's question in the Ask Me a Question series comes from iWriter, and it's a tough one.

In the story of your life, what is the exclamation point?

I've been thinking about this one all day and I've been having a hard time coming up with an answer. Mostly that's because I can't think of any specific "Aha" moments or life-changing events that have defined me. I want my answer to be profound and touching, but it's just not happening. Then again, I suppose how I answer depends on how I interpret "exclamation point", and since I'm answering the question, I guess I can interpret it however I want. So let's say that the exclamation point is the time in my life when I felt like I was making the biggest impact.

In that case, my story's exclamation point was the two years I spent working one-on-one with two autistic boys. I wrote about B a while back, but my time with him (and his family) has forever shaped who I am and what I believe in. And A was a challenge like no other, but his wide smile and gangling, uncoordinated limbs could make me laugh on even the worst of days.

With those two boys, every vowel sound--and later word--spoken, every hour without aggression, every toy shared with a classmate, was a major success. Having the opportunity to teach and shape those boys each day during those two years made me feel like I was truly making a difference. Even if only for a short time and on a very small scale.

If you've got a burning question for me but haven't had a chance to ask it, you can go to the original post and leave your question in a comment. I'll keep answering a question or two a day until they're all answered.

If you're just tuning in, check out the rest of the series.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Question Me Good - Pt. 2

It's Day 2 of the Ask Me a Question series. Today's question comes from Angie.

How about a short synopsis of your novel in progress?

This was a great exercise in really nailing down what my novel is about. And it also made me really excited to get back to work on it. Thanks for the prompt Angie!

Every Saturday, Sarah drives down Interstate 95 to the same spot, pulling onto the grassy median where a white wooden cross awaits her.

Sarah and Steve tried for more than a year to have a baby, ultimately conceiving only with the help of in vitro, and when Sam was born, they thought they finally had everything. Two years later, as Sarah celebrates her last day at the job she's leaving to stay at home with her son, the unimaginable happens--Steve and Sam are in a car accident and Sam dies.

As the anniversary of Sam's death approaches, Sarah is still in a fog of grief and barely able to look her husband in the eye. Unsure she can ever forgive him and move on with her life, she contemplates divorce. But a queasy stomach and a positive pregnancy test change everything. Can another baby close the rift between Sarah and Steve and help Sarah heal from the loss of her first son? Or will her pregnancy remain a secret she carries with her to divorce court?

So what do you think? If you read this on the jacket would you take this book home?

If you've got a burning question for me but haven't had a chance to ask it, you can go to the original post and leave your question in a comment. I'll keep answering a question or two a day until they're all answered.

If you're just tuning in, check out the rest of the series.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Question Me Good - Pt. 1

Thanks to everyone who volunteered a question (or two or three) for my little experiment. Looks like I've got several days worth, and that's good news for me AND you. If you haven't had a chance to get your question in, you can go to the original post and leave your question in a comment. I'll keep answering a question or two a day until they're all answered. Even if that takes my beyond November 30th and the end of NaBloPoMo.

To be fair, I'm answering in a first ask, first answer order, and the first question came from Colleen.

Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

That's a great question. Inspiration for my writing comes from a lot of places. Early on, it was emotion and angst--typical teenage stuff. I find that the most powerful emotions can inspire great stories.

Now that I'm older, I like to think I'm more open minded when it comes to inspiration, though. Maybe it's the fact that I feel more like a writer now than I ever have, but I try to look at everything for inspiration these days. It might be a conversation I overhear, a picture I see, a person on the street, or an experience that strikes me as universal in some way. Some days inspiration comes from nature, like on my drive home tonight when the orange and red leaves caught the light of the sunset in such a way that the trees looked like they were on fire. Other days, it's a memory or experience that I find particularly moving.

So how about you? What inspires you, in your writing, your creative pursuits or your life?

If you've got a burning question for me but haven't had a chance to ask it, you can go to the original post and leave your question in a comment. I'll keep answering a question or two a day until they're all answered.

If you're just tuning in, check out the rest of the series.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Ask Me A Question

In an attempt to avoid boring you all to tears this month with quickie posts about what I ate or did at work each day, I've decided to give you the reins. I was inspired by Magpie Girl to start a series of posts where I answer all of your burning questions. All I need from you are, well, the burning questions.

Is there something you've always wanted to know about me? Ask it. Wondering about something I've posted about and want more details? Let me know. Whatever it is you want to know, I'm willing to give you an answer (within reason, of course).

Leave your question (or questions) in the comments and I'll start answering. Ask away!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A Good 5 Years

It's hard to believe My Love and I have been together for five years. In some ways it seems like so much longer than that. I can barely remember what my life was like before we started dating. On the other hand, those five years have gone by so quickly.

Either way, it's been a good five years. We had a great "celebration" over the last 24 hours. We saw a movie, ate a late dinner of take-out, slept in, ate breakfast in bed, got ready to go, went bowling, took a trip to the mall, saw another movie, ate a late lunch/early dinner and then regretfully parted ways.

This might not sound like the most exciting anniversary, but it was exactly right. We laughed, we cuddled, we held hands, we talked. There was some kissing, too. I'm pretty easy to please.

Love really is something amazing.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Ready for the Weekend

It's Friday, and I'm ready for the weekend. I'm sure you're all ready for the weekend, too.

I haven't caught up on my sleep, so I'm looking forward to a lot of resting. I'm also looking forward to celebrating my 5th anniversary with My Love. It's really hard for me to believe that we've been together for 5 years. It hasn't all been easy, but I'm glad we've made it this far together.

I'm not exactly sure what we'll be doing to celebrate. We have vague plans to do dinner together tonight and spend the day together tomorrow. Whatever we end up doing, it will be low-key, low-cost quality time. And I plan to enjoy every relaxing minute of it.

With NaBloPoMo going on, you'll probably get to hear all about it in semi-real time. I know, no need to thank me.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

This is Called Commitment

I got home late (OK, not really late, but late for me) from a girls' night out. (Thanks for the laughs ladies!) I came into the house, immediately put my PJs on and went straight to bed.

As I was dozing off, I realized I hadn't posted anything for NaBloPoMo today. And so here I am. Out of my warm bed typing a quick post, just so I can say I did it. Just so I don't miss a day. It IS only 5 days into this thing after all.

I guess while I'm here, I might as well tell you about my pet peeve of the day. Driving to dinner with the girls, I was running late and got stuck in traffic. Why was traffic at a creepy crawl you ask? Well because the hundreds of drivers ahead of me had to slow down to 3MPH to crane their necks and get a glimpse of the three cars lined up along the side of the road, of course. Yes, there had been an accident, but the slow traffic was not a result of a fender-bender blocking a lane or two. It was purely the result of Every. Single. Driver. trying to sneak a peak at what? A tow truck? A crumpled fender?

Please, if there are any rubber-neckers out there, do yourselves a favor: Stop! No, don't stop on the highway to stare at the cars parked on the shoulder. Stop staring! Drive. Just drive.

Pretty please?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Exhausted and Elated

I barely slept last night.

I'm really tired today.

I can't stop smiling, either, despite the dreary, rainy day.

I believe that good things are on the horizon. There's nothing we can't do if we all work together, Democrats and Republicans alike. I'm proud of this country and I'm so happy that I lived in this moment.

All I have are three little words for you: Yes, we can.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

CSA Report - The End is Near

It's almost over. The CSA season, that is. Oh, yeah, and the election, too.

I'll spare you all my ooooing and ahhhhing over what an experience it was to stand in line for more than an hour and a half this morning with a rowdy group of city-folk excited to cast their history-making ballots. Instead, I'll tell you about root vegetables and greens, which are basically all that's left to collect from the farm this season. Not that I'm complaining. I love me some roasted sweet potatoes and carrots!

This week's share:

  • 1 head leaf lettuce OR 1 head bok choi OR 1 large bunch scallions (I took the scallions since I still have lettuce and bok choi from last week's share)
  • 0.5 lb Swiss chard
  • 1.5 lb carrots
  • 2 Thai peppers, 4 Chinese lantern peppers, 1 jalapeno pepper, 4 Cayenne peppers
  • 0.5 oz. parsley OR cilantro (took the parsley because I'm drying it for use later in the year)
  • 1.5 lb sweet potatoes
It's not much, but it's enough to keep me happy and satisfied with sweet, roasted vegetables and sauteed greens. Now's the time for simple comfort foods and the flavors of fall. I'm looking forward to it.

Read Me at Blissfully Domestic

I won't count this as my NaBloPoMo post, but I thought I'd let you all know that I've had a couple of articles published recently on the Healthy Bliss Channel at Blissfully Domestic. If you're interested, you can read about how I'm becoming an Unintentional Semi-Vegetarian or my adventures in trying something new at the gym.

Either way, I'll be back later with today's NaBloPoMo post. I promise.

And please, if you haven't already, get thee to the poles and VOTE.

Monday, November 03, 2008

In Anticipation of the End

I was going to write today about how beautiful the autumn colors are, but that post will have to wait. I can't seem to get my mind off tomorrow.

You know, TOMORROW.

In the face of this election, I find myself feeling:

  • Relieved that the campaign is almost over
  • Hopeful for our future and yet worried about how we might get there
  • Excited for change but anxious about what those changes will be
My stomach is tied in knots. I know the results of the election will depend on the voter turn out. I hope the turn out is good. I'm not looking forward to standing in line, but I'll gladly do it to ensure my vote is cast.

I don't expect much relief until Wednesday morning, although the anxiety might keep me up until the results are in tomorrow night. Either way, I've got just a little more than 24 hours of internal tossing and turning and then I'll be able to relax. I hope.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Sunday Favorite

I love Sundays. They usually involve a nap and often include a book. They're quite and comforting.

My favorite thing about Sundays is that, on most Sundays throughout most of the year, I get to go to the farmers' market. I get up early, get dressed, grab my market basket and head out to experience the Baltimore Farmer's Market in all its glory. Walking from my car to the area beneath the I-83 overpass where the market is held, I can smell the cooking mini-donuts, popping kettle corn and brewing Zeke's Coffee. Entering the market, I am immersed in an ocean of sensory pleasures.

Cider and jams have replaced fresh peaches and berries. Apples are crisp and shiny. Pumpkins and squash abound. The last few peppers, zucchini and eggplant find homes. The bright yellows and reds and greens of early summer have been traded for the deep browns, purples and oranges of autumn. This time of year, the brightness of the foods is beginning to dull but the people are just as colorful. The farmers chat with customers about the weather, what they'll be planting next year and how they'll be spending their winter. No need to push a sale. Their produce sells itself.

While the choices are fewer, this is a great time to visit the market. Artisans and craftspeople peddle their creations to the pre-holiday shopping crowd. Root vegetables make my mouth water as I dream up recipes and imagine piles of roasted potatoes, beets and carrots on my plate. Jars of preserves tempt me to take home a reminder of the summer to get me through the cold months before fresh fruits and vegetables will return. Still, it's a sad sight watching the stacks of vegetables dwindle and knowing that in just a few weeks this area will be empty on Sundays, haunted only by the memory of market day.

For now, I hold tight to the weeks I have left with my Sunday love and enjoy every moment of my time at the market. I soak in the sights, sounds and scents, hoping that it will be enough to get me through the winter and into spring. It's only a few months, but it will seem like an eternity. My freezer will empty out and I'll be forced to return to the bright lights and high prices of the grocery store. I'll envy people living in warmer climates where the market stays open and active all year round. I'll dream of moving to one of these places.

And then it will be time again. Time to get up early on Sundays and visit my favorite market and my favorite farmers and bring home the products of their labor. I suppose a few months of rest for them is a small price to pay for fresh, locally grown produce.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

NaBloPoMo - Putting the Fun Back in Blogging (I hope)

More than a month ago I convinced myself that November was not going to be a novel writing month for me. As much as I wanted to join in on the NaNoWriMo fun, I knew it wouldn't be a smart move. Last year was fun, but it took all of my spare time and I got nothing done except writing. Dirty laundry and dishes, an empty refrigerator, frozen dinners and take-out, no exercise and absolutely no holiday preparations were par for the course. I couldn't handle that this year, with a book proposal due in January, blogs to write for, articles to pitch and a waistline to rein in, writing 50,000 words is just not in the cards for me this year.

And then I woke up in a stupor at the NaBloPoMo website, having just signed up and sent off an email requesting to join in on the month-long quest to write a blog post every day. Every. Single. Day.

You regulars know that lately I've been having difficulty getting up a post a week, much less a post every day. The only thing she can write about lately is her CSA and what meals she's cooking, you're thinking. This ought to be interesting, right? But the thought of posting every day reminds me of my early blogging days, when I was always looking for a topic to blog about and found myself typing furiously on my lunch break about some mundane, extremely funny, or oh-so-serious topic or another. Because I just HAD to. Because I wanted to write. Because it felt good to share the little things in my life with the internet universe. Because it was new and exciting and FUN.

I want to feel that again. And if the excitement and motivation that I felt last year during NaNoWriMo is any indication of what a month of regular writing can do? NaBloPoMo will be just what I need to get those words flowing again.

Here's to a month of blog posts. I can't promise they'll be good, or interesting, or even very long, but I'll be here every day. And I hope you will, too.

Friday, October 31, 2008

CSA Report - Winding Down

Each week makes it clearer that the end of the season is nearing. It makes me sad to know that the only fruit and vegetables I'll be getting are what I can round up at the farmer's market through mid-December and what I've managed to store away in my little freezer. I'm so glad I committed to this farm, and I'm already setting aside money to sign up again for the 2009 season. I know I've said this before, but I'll say it again. If you haven't considered joining a CSA in the past, you really should. You can find a CSA in your area at Local Harvest. Check into it, see what you can find, and sign up. The fresh fruits and vegetables will be well worth the effort and forethought.

This week's share:

  • 1.5 lbs green tomatoes
  • 1 head leaf lettuce
  • 0.5 lb kale
  • 1 Thai pepper, 4 Chinese lantern pepper, 1 Habanero pepper (includes additional full share cayenne peppers)
  • 1.5 oz. cilantro (includes additional share)
  • 1.5 lb sweet potatoes
  • handful of dill (free-choice item)
I'm still working my way through all the green tomatoes, and I've been eating a lot of bok choy stir fry. Last night I roasted the sweet potatoes along with some garlic and a few carrots that have been hanging around since my last trip to the farmers' market. My favorite dish this week was an attempt at using up all the kale in my crisper. I pulled out Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets (which I bought after Patresa suggested it) and found a kale recipe that was easily adapted to included ingredients I had on hand. For something so simple, this dish was surprisingly flavorful and satisfying. Give it a try!

Kale with Red Beans, Cilantro and Feta Cheese
Makes 4 servings
(adapted from Local Flavors)

1 can kidney beans (15 oz), rinsed and drained
1/2 cup water or broth
1 medium onion, diced
1 large bunch kale
1 TBSP olive oil
3/4 cup chopped cilantro, divided
sea salt
3 oz. crumbled feta cheese

In a medium saucepan, combine drained beans, water, half the onion and 1/4 cup cilantro and simmer over low heat until onion is tender.

Remove the kale leaves from stem. Chop the leaves coarsely into bite-sized pieces. Boil 2-3 quarts of water in a large pot. Add the kale and a 1/2 tsp or so of salt. Turn down heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until the kale is tender, then drain.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the rest of the onion and cilantro. Cook until the onion is tender and then add the kale and beans, including the remaining liquid. Simmer for several minutes to blend the flavors, about 10 minutes. Serve topped with feta (and additional cilantro, if desired).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Review: A Jolly Good Fellow

When I received my review copy of A Jolly Good Fellow, by Stephen V. Masse, I wasn't sure what to think. While the book was a winner of the Independent Publisher Book Awards, I must admit that if I don't find it on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, I rarely give a book a second thought. As a struggling writer and a hopeful novelist, this probably isn't the best of attitudes to have. So I gave myself a stern talking to and then hesitantly gave the book a chance.

I'm glad I wasn't deterred by my book prejudices, because I found A Jolly Good Fellow to be interesting and enjoyable. The main character, Duncan, is an unprepared kidnapper whose mark falls into his lap one day and proceeds to change his life. Gabriel, the son of a man Duncan loathes, turns out to be more than Duncan bargained for. The kidnapping doesn't go exactly as planned, but in the end Duncan gets more than money for his efforts.

A Jolly Good Fellow was a quick read, and I found myself pulled along by Duncan's multiple foibles and mishaps. Without Gabriel, this book would have faltered early on, but Masse made sure Gabriel was as interesting and insightful as an 11-year-old boy can be. If you're looking for a book with rich, vulnerable, flawed characters who grow and change despite the odds being stacked against them, then you'll enjoy this book.

For an author interview with Stephen V. Masse, visit Write Out Loud.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Weight Control Chicken, Anyone?

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of some spending some time with the girls. Three of us went to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner and, most importantly, dessert. After a long wait, which was expected, we sat at the table browsing the book they call their menu. I love the food at The Cheesecake Factory, but the number of choices is always overwhelming. As I scanned the long lists of appetizers, pasta dishes, pizzas, and entrees, I noticed a dish called Weight Management Grilled Chicken™. I also saw an entire section of Weight Management Salads™. (Yes, they were actually trademarked names with the term Weight Management in them.)

What in the world?!?

First of all, who in their right mind is going to sit down in front of their dinner companions, scan an entire menu of dozens and dozens of delicious descriptions, and then order anything with Weight Management in the name? Really. Imagine sitting across from your new boyfriend and ordering the Weight Management Asian Chicken Salad™. What self-respecting woman would do such a thing?

With names like that, I have a hard time believing that these dishes are very popular, except maybe with the women (and men, I suppose) who want to give the impression that they are on a diet or watching their weight. Frankly, as someone who's done her fair share of dieting, the last thing I'd want to order is a dish with "weight management" in the name. I mean, ordering a dish called Weight Management Grilled Chicken says, "I know I'm a fat cow and I'd like to order the one dish other than a salad that shows you I am trying to do something to rectify the situation."

Using the term "weight management" in the name of a few salads and a single chicken dish is insulting and is obviously targeting people who are insecure with their bodies. Why not Healthy Fare or Light Choices, or something a little less obviously directed toward those of us with weight issues (thin or not)? Were all the good terms for "lower-calorie," "lower-fat" or "healthier" dishes already trademarked? They couldn't come up with anything more creative at the menu brainstorming meetings than Weight Management? For real?

I find it more believable that they were hoping to guilt us fatties (or self-perceived fatties) into choosing the weight management options. What do you think?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

CSA Report - Back in My Good Graces

After my slight disappointment last week due to the lack of pumpkins, there was redemption this week. Not because of anything new, but because I'm looking forward to trying some new things with what I got.

This week's share:

  • 3.5 lbs green tomatoes
  • 1 large head bak choy
  • 0.5 lb chard
  • 1.75 lb pole beans
  • 16 cayenne peppers, 4 Thai peppers, 4 Chinese lantern pepper, 1 Habanero pepper (includes additional full share cayenne peppers)
  • 0.5 oz. parsley
  • 1/2 pint red raspberries (u-pick, which I passed on again this week because I was in a hurry; I'm really missing out on these)
I made a delicious stir-fry with some of the bak choy tonight. I think I'll dry the cayenne peppers, Thai peppers and parsley. The beans are already half gone (I had them for dinner last night). As for the green tomatoes, I'm researching recipes for green tomato relish. Got one you'd recommend? If so, please share. I made green tomato salsa with the last batch and am working my way through it one scoop at a time. Who knew green tomatoes were so versatile? I might even give fried green tomatoes a try this time around.

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