One Lovely Blog

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

Here are the rules:

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

Seven Random Things About Me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now, I’m nominating:

My Crazy World

Brown Eyed Girl

The Margarita Philosophy

My Magic Shoes

These Are the Days

Banana Wheels

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NaBloPoMo Success

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

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

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

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

The Evolution of Pen Pals

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

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

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

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

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

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What NaBloPoMo Has Taught Me So Far

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quieting the Inner Critic

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

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

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

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

Frankenstein: A Review

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

Frankenstein (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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

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

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

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

Change Is Good (Or So They Say…)

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

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

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

What It’s Like Being an Introvert

I’ve been called a lot of things over the years: quiet, shy, reserved, socially awkward, rude, a bitch, weird, anxious, anti-social. I’ve heard the cliche, “It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for!” so many times that I may actually punch the next person who says it to me right in the face. I get “You’re so quiet!” and “Why don’t you talk?” so much that it shouldn’t even bother me anymore. But it does.

I’ve been The Quiet Girl pretty much my entire life. I remember it really starting around age 7, which is when my family moved to the US from Canada. I don’t know if that’s what sparked my extreme self-consciousness, or if I was just destined to be this way, but that is the only event I can pinpoint that may have had something to do with it.

I’ve always preferred reading and being by myself to being around a lot of people. People make me anxious. I can handle one-on-one situations pretty well, but as soon as there are more people added to the mix I clam up and want to melt through the floor to escape. This poses a huge problem for me at work since I’m sometimes singled out in meetings. I react exactly the same way I have all my life: I turn beet red, I start to shake, my eye twitches, and I forget how to put sentences together. Sometimes I’ll even have a full-fledged panic attack, complete with pounding heart, ringing in my ears, and nervous sweat. I’m just the picture of professionalism.

One of my biggest fears in terms of social situations is speaking on the phone in front of other people. Even at home, I prefer to talk on the phone in private instead of in front of my husband, and I love and trust him. Talking on the phone at work is a HUGE source of anxiety for me. Every time the phone rings I say a quiet prayer begging God that the call is not for me. It’s one thing to just have to have a normal conversation, but Heaven forbid it be an angry client who is demanding answers or solutions to a problem. I hate to admit this, but there have been numerous times I’ve just NOT SAID ANYTHING in response to a client’s question hoping that they will get frustrated with me and hang up. And when I have to call people in other countries who don’t speak English as a first language? I will sometimes pretend that no one answered the phone or that they hung up on me, just so that I can send an email instead. I often “forget” to call people back, or I wait until everyone else is at lunch so I can make the call in semi-privacy. Today I had to call some clients and apologize for a mistake with their hotel. I purposely waited until a time that I thought they would be out to dinner just so that I could say I “tried” to reach them but couldn’t. Life would be so much easier if everyone would just communicate in writing instead of speaking.

People often misconstrue my quietness for rudeness. In reality, I just don’t want to make a fool out of myself so I keep my thoughts and opinions to myself. It also takes me time to process social situations, so I often won’t have an answer or an opinion until much later, after I’ve had time to think about the conversation. People have told me I’m stuck up or conceited, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m not talking to you, not because I think I’m better than you, but because I sometimes think YOU’RE better than ME.

Honestly, I just find it exhausting having to be around people. It takes so much energy to socialize and try to appear somewhat normal. Small talk is excruciating for me.

I’m clearly in the wrong profession because I am definitely not a people person. However, finding a job that requires very little interaction with others and pays a decent amount of money is surprisingly hard to come by. I’ve begun submitting my résumé for more computer-focused positions and I’m thinking about taking an online writing class. I can’t think of a better situation than to be able to stay home and write all day AND get paid for it. The only thing better would be to read all day and get paid to write about books. How do I make this happen?

11 Things

I’ve been tagged by my buddy Michelle to play this fun little blog game.

Here is how it works:

1. Post these rules.
2. You must post 11 random things about yourself.
3. Answer the questions set for you in their post.
4. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer.
5. Go to their blog and tell them you’ve tagged them.
6. No stuff in the tagging section like “you are tagged if you are reading this”. You (the blogger) legitimately have to tag 11 (or so) people.

My 11 Random Facts

1. I was born in Canada and lived there for the first six years of my life.
2. When I was in elementary school, I sang in my church’s children’s choir. I do not sing well.
3. I joined a sorority in college, which most people find shocking because I’m so shy.
4. My two ring-finger toes grew sideways and look really gross.
5. I could eat pizza everyday and not get tired of it. Ever.
6. I have a completely irrational and debilitating fear of worms. Even typing the word makes me gag a little.
7. My first job ever was at Lord & Taylor as a fitting room attendant. I was the lucky person who got to clean up and put away all the clothes that people leave scattered all over the fitting rooms. I was also in charge of keeping all the shirts and sweaters on display folded neatly.
8. I talk to my cat as if she understands me. Whenever I leave the house, I tell her that I love her, to be a good girl, and when I’ll be back.
9. For Halloween my senior year of high school, my friends and I dressed up like the Spice Girls. I was Baby Spice.
10. I’m 30 years old and I don’t really know how to do my own makeup aside from concealer, powder, and gloss.
11. I do not like coffee. Even the smell of it gives me a headache. I do, however, love me some tea. I’ll have to post a picture of my tea cabinet sometime.

The 11 Questions For Me

1. What color was your room painted when you were younger?
In Canada, my room had some weird-colored paneling. When we moved to NJ, I chose a pastel pink. That lasted until I was about 12 or 13 when I decided that was too girly and changed it to a pastel blue. When I was 16 we moved again and that time I painted my room a bright shade of purple.

2. Did you ever have a favorite doll or stuffed animal? What was his/her name?
I had two! When I was really little I apparently had a koala named Nellie. I lost her on a flight down to FL to visit my grandparents. I had to use the bathroom, so my mom took me and when we got back to our seats, Nellie was gone forever. My mom tried to replace her with other identical koalas, but I couldn’t be fooled. Then when I was about 4 or 5 I got a blue bear which I appropriately named Bluie. He is currently in a Rubbermaid container in my basement.

3. What is your favorite board game?
Scrabble. I love words.

4. What is your favorite thing to do with your days off?
Sleep in.

5. If you could wake up tomorrow and be anywhere in the world, where would you be?
Ireland. I’m desperate to go back and see the country the right way, when I’m not grieving and in shock and on business.

6. What is the most outrageous or exciting thing you’ve ever done?
This is going to sound lame, but the only thing that comes to mind at the moment is when I sang karaoke with my sister-in-law a couple of years ago. I was at my husband’s Christmas party, and since they worked together, she was there too. We both got really, really drunk and she pulled me up in front of the entire bar/restaurant and we sang – what else – Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. If you know me in person, you know this is TOTALLY out of character for me!

7. Name the one song or artist you’re not ashamed to admit you actually like!
I have really embarrassing taste in music, but I’m not ashamed of it, LOL. I rock out to all the boy bands, Spice Girls, Hanson, Bieber, you name it. I also am not ashamed to admit I love me some Eminem and Jay-Z.

8. Has a celebrity ever influenced your personal style (hair, clothing, makeup)?
I don’t think so. I admired a lot of celebrities when I was younger, and wanted to look/be like them, but I don’t remember ever doing anything on purpose to emulate them.

9. Do you prefer wine, beer, or champagne?
I don’t like beer, so if I had to choose between wine and champagne I guess I would say champagne. I like the bubbles.

10. Have you ever made an impulsive decision? If so, were you happy with the results? If not, what’s holding you back?
I make small impulsive decisions all the time, but I don’t think I’ve made a big life-changing one. I’m one of those people who obsesses about the pros and cons and worries I’m going to make a huge mistake.

11. Do you sing in the car, shower, etc? Do you think you sound good?
I sing in the car and I do NOT sound good.

I am tagging Killeen and Brandy!

Here are your 11 questions:

1. If you could choose any other name for yourself, what would it be?
2. What’s your favorite childhood memory?
3. If you could have any job in the world (forget about qualifications or salary), what would you choose?
4. Do you have any regrets?
5. What is your greatest accomplishment?
6. Where would you move tomorrow if money and responsibility weren’t issues?
7. Did you ever get detention in school? For what?
8. What is your worst bad habit?
9. What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
10. What is your favorite song lyric?
11. Have you ever met anyone famous?

My blog-dentity crisis

So. When I started this blog, I had no idea what I wanted to write about, but I figured I would focus on weight loss and our house-buying journey. Then my mom got sick. Then I quit Weight Watchers and stopped working out.

I was looking at my site stats, and do you know what the top search terms are for this blog?

matthew morrison
erinific wordpress
nkotbsb
nkotbsb concert
do i want to sit on floor or risers at nkotbsb concert
god is ignoring you
i’m never going to get over my mother’s death

OK then. Apparently this has morphed into a boy band fanatic/grief blog and I didn’t even know it. I feel all this pressure to pick a THEME for my blog: there are craft blogs, and mommy blogs, and weight loss blogs, and gossip blogs, and whatever. Can I just keep rambling about whatever is going on in my head/life and not have a point?

Also, my top two posts are the NKOTBSB ones. Which is AWESOME and I am not complaining. I’m just… surprised?

In unrelated news, I was on Twitter last night and noticed that I had a new follower (when you have so few, it’s easy to notice new people) and guess who it is? Go ahead. JOSHILYN JACKSON, as in my most favorite author EVER. In the world. I can’t even tell you the level of excitement happening in my brain. Except todayI clicked on her profile and saw that she follows 600-something people, so I feel slightly less special than I did initially. But STILL. If she follows me, there is a chance that she would find my blog and READ it and how awesome is that?!