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.

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