Post Purrday Hangover

In March 2012, I gave up alcohol drinking completely after a night of overindulgence that brought with it a full-body assault of pain, which I attribute to my having fibromyalgia. Whatever pain I had was amplified to a point where I cried and considered going to the hospital. As I was on Lyrica, which says not to drink while on it, I decided I had been stupid enough and that I would stop drinking alcohol altogether.

As my October 18th wedding anniversary approached, I decided one drink on special occasions would not hurt. What I have discovered is that it really depends on the drink. Last night, I slowly had one bourbon on the rocks with lemon and sugar. With the amount of food we had, I do not remember even feeling tipsy. Today has shown me again that, for me, not drinking alcohol is best.

I woke up, took my meds, and went back to sleep for three hours. Even though I got up, showered, and ate, my energy has been super low all day. I was ready to fall asleep on the couch at 7pm. I took all my vitamins, ran a couple of errands, and drank lots of water.

I think in the back of my head is a subconscious tape running a loop that keeps saying, One drink can’t hurt. How many times have we heard this line in a movie, in newspaper articles about people who have been caught drunk driving, and at parties we have attended as teens or in college?

But one drink can. It really can, especially if you drink heavy and fast and try to drive.

Even if we put aside the issue that I am on meds, the fact is I keep thinking it won’t when in fact it does hurt.

Time for some positive reprogramming! Here’s to not drinking. I’ll only be missing out on pain, brain fog, and exhaustion.

Sounds great to me!

Third Birthday Bites

I looked online for places to great places to eat nearby. After browsing a Google map of the area, I figured it would help me to narrow down the type of cuisine I wanted to try. If I was still living in Cambridge, MA, I would want my birthday dinner at Central Kitchen or Rendezvous  in Central Square. I searched for Central Kitchen and saw Yelp reviews that identified the cuisine as “New American” dining….  Continue reading

Second Birthday Bites

Birthday Lunch

After I got into Penn Station in NYC, I wandered over the 7th Ave & 34th Street subway station to buy a MetroCard with some added money on it. Because I less familiar with getting around NYC by subway instead of on foot, I bought a $6 folding map. I checked my list of coffee places to visit and realized that I needed to go to the 8th & 34th subway entrance instead. Continue reading

First Birthday Bites

I’m not quite sure how long it has been since I saw, let alone celebrated, any part of my birthday with my mother. I think it was in my 20’s, but I really cannot be certain. Unfortunately, it is my first birthday without my Dad around.

Because I had plans to spend the day out today, I asked my mom if she would go to breakfast for me. Breakfast is our favorite meal of the day.

I drove us in her 2004 gold Ford Escort to the Hillside Diner, which is located about about 5 minutes from our house. I ordered challah bread french toast with bacon and one scrambled egg. Mom ordered the pancakes. Only a few other people were in the diner, so we received super-fast service. We went there, had breakfast, and came back within an hour.

After we came home, I showered, got ready, and took the 11:25am Hempstead train from Floral Park heading into Penn Station, NYC.

2014-01-30 09.06.15
Here is a picture of the younger old lady (and her flat hair) with the older old lady.

More later….

Today’s Top 7 Done List

One way to adopt a positive mindset is to end each day by making a list of all the things you managed to accomplish that day. Once your brain is faced with the raw facts that you did not waste the day, you get into a right cheery old mood. Do this every night and your mind learns how to think in positive terms even during the day. My top 4 on the Done list include:

  1. Obtained 2 tickets on pre-sale to see Eddie Izzard at the Beacon Theater in NYC on May 14, 2014 for his Force Majeure tour.
  2. Completed turning my 156-page story into a lean 22-page outline.
    • Next steps: group my lists into scenes that I can shuffle and/or cut from.
  3. Read through 138-pages of an amazing 500 page HTML+CSS visual textbook. I have already learned some basic HTML+CSS, so this is for review and continued learning.
    • Next steps: Complete the HTML section.
  4. Survived 3 hours at the Starbucks After-School Program with headphones.
    • Next steps: Visit a list of NYC coffeehouses tomorrow until Mark can meet me for a birthday dinner.
  5. Participated in an interactive online webinar about how to edit a story. Ordered an editing book so I can get a 20-minute free consult from The Book Doctors. That’s gotta be dead useful.
    • Next steps: Wait for book to arrive so I can apply their advice to my story.
  6. Listened to my friend Jack’s incredible Goth Industrial radio program on WKFU for only 1/2 hr. out of 2hrs. because of webinar.
    • Next steps: Look forward until next week when I can listen to his program for 2 hours.
  7. Completed this my 26th daily post so I can keep my promise to myself to blog every day.
    • Next steps: Go to sleep. Wake up tomorrow. Blog all over again.

Tonight, I have a list. Tomorrow, I have a plan. Tune in tomorrow to find out!

Editing at the Bellerose Starbucks

This afternoon, I was at the Bellerose Starbucks on Jericho Turnpike, which is the coffeehouse nearest to my home. Mark pestered me this morning to get back to editing my story Butterfly Wings. After outlining 91 pages of this story a couple of weeks ago, I put it aside and had trouble getting back to it because I judged my story to be inane and my writing skills utterly lacking.

At 2pm, I packed my worn hot pink paisley Vera Bradley computer bag with my afternoon essentials: computer, story print out, sunglasses, earplugs, house keys, wallet, a pen, my medication packet, and a full water bottle. After getting my grande chai latte and an old fashioned glazed donut, I walked towards the long table near the back of the store to join the two Indian students who were studying.

I passed a six-foot transgender woman in her 50’s sitting at the drink bar who comes into the store in the afternoons. She is dressed as if she could go out for an elegant late-afternoon lunch. If she came to my restaurant, I would serve her caviar and champagne. She wears red lipstick, a black beret, very dark sunglasses, a black blazer and scarf, black pants, and black high-heeled boots with a silver buckle on each ankle. Part of me wants to introduce myself. Maybe make friends. I feel embarrassed to try with so many people around. I pass her without saying anything. I make my way to a seat at the big table.

I have made small talk with another afternoon Starbucks jockey who often sits at the big table. He is a six-foot two, hefty, African American cop who comes in to do work on his laptop and make phone calls. When I saw him the prior two times, he was talking on his phone. He has a warmth which comes through in his voice. I decided to risk making chit chat. I expressed surprise to him after he came back from the bathroom because he left his laptop alone on the table. He shrugged his shoulders and told me that no one would take his stuff and, if they did, he would track them down. We laughed.

I sat down at the long table with my back to the window, unpacked and opened my computer, took out pages 91-156 of my story, and started to jot notes about each page into an existing Microsoft Word document. At 3:15pm, the store began filling with groups teenagers who huddle around small tables, pull out their iPhones, and start playing computer games.

I look over at a group of five teens, three girls and two boys. The girls are staring at a phone held by the girl in the middle. One of the boys looks around, bored. None of them are talking to each other. Only after the boy takes out his phone and joins the game that the girls are playing do the teens talk to each other, but only about the game. He turns the game sounds on his phone and a rhythmic series of beeps starts. The longer the beeping goes on, the more irritated I get. I fantasize asking him to kill the sounds. I worry about getting this teen angry with me and decide it is better to put my headphones on and blast Benny Benassi. I rock on with my story.

Adults swarm the counter. Orders are filled. Seats are taken. One woman asks for a short chair at the big table and takes it to the drink bar. She sits two feet lower than her friend who got a bar stool. They laugh at the absurdity of the height difference. The drink bar where the transgender woman has been sitting is suddenly crowded with adults. This is her cue to leave. She gets up and slowly starts to wrap her scarf around her neck. Two of the teens at the small table take the now available seat and the one next to it, ignoring her as they continue to play games on their smartphones. The cop, who found a seat at a small table next to me, waves good-bye to me as he leaves. I smile and wave. I return to outlining.

At 5pm, I decide three hours and 40 pages of taking notes is enough for one day. But I’ll be back tomorrow to take up my place for another fun-filled afternoon at the Bellerose Starbucks, aka the after-school program for high school teens.

Near and Dear: Courageous Cats of Valley Stream

When I lived in Boston, I volunteered every week with my friend Alicia. On Sunday mornings, we would take care of and play with cats and kittens for a couple of hours.  After moving to NY, I knew I had to continue with volunteer work helping animals.

In NY, pet stores like PetCo and PetSmart sponsor feline animal rescue organizations. I happened to drive by a new PetSmart that was opening up in New Hyde Park. After they opened, I asked for the contact information for the rescue group, Courageous Cats.

Every Monday night since December 23rd, I have been going in for a couple of hours to clean cages, wash dishes, and feed and play with the cats. I even received a year-end thank you gift from Maria who runs the rescue group. Now that’s graciousness.

Today I was feeling a bit adrift and having trouble staying focused on what needed to get done. After a couple of hours with the cats, I felt a renewed sense of happiness and focus. Getting lost in the joy of caring for animals reminds me that my purpose in life isn’t about me; it’s about what I can do for those around me, humans and animals.

Fibromyalgia Pain Management: Easier Said Than Done

Pain management is often discussed when talking about patients under going major medical problems, such as chemotherapy or surgeries. However, the type of chronic pain that comes with fibromyalgia, which is what I have, can often be compounded by other types of pain, such as menstrual pain.

On the one hand, I have my daily pain medications, Gabapentin and Cymbalta. They provide me with with relief from a good deal to most of the pain on good days. Cymbalta especially allows me to get a full night’s sleep. I am therefore able to get up, take care of myself, and even work for part to most of the day.

If I am under the influence of menstrual pain, then my body is in chaos. Menstrual pain amplifies the chronic daily pain so that it feels like my entire body is suffused in a nonspecific pain. I can control it with medications like Premysyn but, if I take too much, then I can’t do more than lay around on the couch or take a minimum four-hour nap. So I can only take 1 Premysyn pill to take the edge off. I am left with a slightly overmedicated feeling, which is better than being in a state of amplified pain.

Managing chronic pain is a delicate balance between living with too much pain and taking too much medication. The additional one pill I take for menstrual pain only slightly pushes me into the overmedicated category, which is better overall for my ability to live my life in any way that I can.

Ode to Robert Burns and Eddie Izzard

Happy 254th birthday to Scottish poet Robert Burns! Out of all the things I read in middle school, I still remember reading Robert Burns’ poems To A Mouse. Eddie Izzard, quite possibly my favorite comedian, about does a great little bit about this poem. This is a clip from Eddie’s 1996 Definite ArticleEnjoy!

Under Consideration: NYC Writers’ Group

I recently signed back into my NaNoWriMo account after a few years because I decided to edit my novel for publication in 2014. The information about my 2008 novel had been removed, and I added it back. Through getting reacquainted with NaNo site, I discovered that a NYC writers’ group was looking for members.

I went to the initial meeting at the Whole Foods cafe in Tribeca on Greenwich Street. The four group leaders expected about 10 people to show. One hundred and twenty-five people signed up, and about 40 attended. Despite the raging noise all around, the leaders seemed to do a good job explaining the format, expectations, what kind of feedback to give, and the schedule.

The group format is meet every other week from February through the end of September on one of three days. You send your draft of 6,000-10,000 words to the group email at least one week in advance so that readers have a weekend to review what you send. At your scheduled meeting, critics bring their notes and give you verbal positive and constructive criticisms while you keep your mouth shut and listen. When all the critics have done, then you can ask questions of the group.

Getting feedback, we are told, requires thick skin and the bravery on par with mountaineering up K2. I am not sure how we as writers have come to view our writing as deeply personal extensions of ourselves. I tend to be sensitive to criticism, so I am going to take this opportunity to learn how to live with it and, more importantly, improve my writing and editing abilities.

After I wrote Butterfly Wings in 2008, I tried to edit the story. However, my own pessimism and internal critic depressed me until I gave up. When I have given up on endeavors, especially artistic ones, this is how it happened. I used to believe that a thick skin could be grown. Through therapy and exposure to new situations, I have tried to thicken that skin more times than I can remember. After over 20 years of lessons like these, I think I have been going about it all wrong.

To grow a thick skin would be to dull my sensitivity to other people’s words, actions, and feelings. Even if it were possible, I think that a more useful ability is to tolerate the personal pain of criticism and judgments in order to become better at one’s craft. The question should not be, “How can I grow a thick skin”? Instead, the questions should be: “Is there anything useful in what I hear?” and, if so, “How can use it to improve what I do?” If I were to grow a thick skin, then I would become something and someone else that I would rather not be: a closed person who is insensitive to others and, ultimately, closed to personal growth.

The first meeting is on February 8th. I ask the Universe (and my friends) to guide me in the direction of growth, change, and challenge.

Adventures in Coding

In November 2013, I decided to start my own professional business in technical communications for the computer industry. In December, my friend Alana Riley, who does amazing branding and business communications, helped design a logo, business cards, and a URL for my business under the name CATALYST Technical Communications. If you need branding and/or marketing communications, I highly recommend her.

If you look online for technical writer/editor positions in the computer industry, you will see that positions often have a lengthy list of technical skills to go along with the writing ones. One high-demand skill set involves web dev, whether it’s XML, HTML, CSS, Java, PHP, etc.

During my gradate studies, I learned the basics of XML. On my own, I took a series of basic HTML/CSS classes with a very cool woman-led non-profit coding organization called Girl Develop It. For $80 to cover the instructor’s time, I went to four highly-attended classes with upwards of 30 women in each class. The classes were kindly hosted by a Cambridge-based firm called Custom Made that pairs artisans with people who want custom-made goods, everything from jewelry to furniture and more. They even bought us pizza every time! Although I know female coders, I have never been in a room with so many women interested in learning programming. I found it inspiring. I recommend GDI classes to anyone interested learning to code.

In 2014, I made it one of my work goals to learn HTML/CSS. Today I began to review the basic course materials on HTML/CSS that GDI makes available publicly and apply it to my own web site. Even if I ultimately decide to use a custom WordPress theme, I will get some much-needed coding practice in.

Now off a-coding I go!

Shows I Rather Like: Criminal Minds

Criminal Minds is one of the few long-running series that I watched nearly from the beginning. I imagine it must be difficult to write episodes year after year that garner millions of viewers. Unfortunately, CM has suffered from a few changes in scripting that I would love to see restored.

Lack of Continuing Personal Plot

Each year, the writers had a major story line that involved at least one of the characters in some kind of interesting thread. In Season 5, Agent Hotchner was involved in a plot line involving a serial killer out to get him and threatening the welfare of his family. This was not limited to one episode. Derek Morgan has his storyline about lost cousin. Reid had a briefer multi-episode thread involving a secret love interest threatened by a stalker. However, season 9 seems to be lacking multiple-episode engaging story lines that involve any of the main characters. They are mostly one-offs, which are still good but less satisfying.

Lack of Engaging Insight into the Crazy

My husband Mark and I were talking about this after watching this week’s episode, The Road Home. The writers used to build story lines that slowly revealed the depth and type of crazy driving the serial killer. Season 9 writing and, to some degree, Season 8 writing seems to be more straightforward about it, letting you know up front, and spending the rest of the episode hunting them down. Not as engaging.

Despite my desire for changes to the storyline, I will continue to watch Criminal Minds because, overall, it’s a show I rather like.

3 Ways That Living on Long Island is Like Living in LA

VeniceLA-Pacific Ave

Perspective

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I recently moved from the Boston metro area back to my hometown on Long Island near NYC after 24 years away. In the last 7 years, I went on vacation to Los Angeles three times; the first time I stayed downtown, the second time near Park La Brea, and the last time in Santa Monica. Now that I am back on Long Island, I see similarities between the two locations that I did not see or understand in the past.

SIMILARITY #1: TOTAL SQUARE MILEAGE

Whether you live in Nassau County, in one of the five New York City boroughs, or in the city of Los Angeles, you live in a metropolitan area that covers hundreds of square miles. Nassau County is smallest at 453 square miles, New York City is slightly larger at 468 square miles, and the city of Los Angeles is largest at 503 square miles. When I was growing up, I kept hearing about how much bigger LA was. I imagined the difference would be considerably larger than a 50 square mile difference. I know that LA is a county but, for comparison purposes, I am focusing on the city proper itself.

SIMILARITY #2: RELIANCE ON CARS

Although NY has better public transportation, the sheer size means that getting around on public transportation can take a while and not always convenient, which is why many people choose to drive cars. Because of the number of cars on the road, traffic is terrible in both cities, especially rush hour traffic. According to this USA Today online article, New Yorkers spent more time in traffic (the highest average commute time of 34.9 minutes) during peak hours than in Los Angeles (the 15th ranked average commute time at 28.6 minutes). I am not sure how LA can be more congested than NY and still have a lower average commute time.

SIMILARITY #3: NO ONE WALKS ON LONG ISLAND, EITHER

When the market crashed in 2007/2008, the streets of Boston and Cambridge were flooded with bicyclists commuting to work in protest of the $4/gallon gasoline prices. Even when things returned to normal, bicycle commuting did not drop off. When I drove around New York in my parents car shortly after moving back, I was stunned: I saw almost no one walking or using a bicycle. Granted, I am now in Nassau County, but the lack of anything other than cars shocked me. It feels like a human wasteland instead of a vibrant community of humanity.

Maybe they are all at the gym.

4 Essential Tips for Surviving Winter

After living in the Boston area for 24 years, I moved back to the NYC metro area to help my elderly parents. In comparison, this NYC winter has been mild and snowless. Yes, I am saying this even in the middle of a storm that is slated to bring 6-14 inches by tomorrow morning. Although my mother complains of this year’s bitter weather, I keep saying how warm it is.

While NY gets visits by a polar vortex, the winters in Southern New England are living in a polar vortex for months on end. January is the worst. 32 degrees Fahrenheit is the highest it gets and is often much lower. Snow can come on a weekly basis and often does. Biting wind whips across your unprotected skin every single day. Unless you find ways to effectively deal with the cold, you are one miserable person.

Here are 4 winter survival tips that I hope you find useful:

Tip #1: Wear fur-lined boots

Your boots do not have to have real fur. I have a pair of Bear Claw boots, similar to Uggs, that keep my feet nice and toasty with a thick layer of fake fur from my knees to my toes. Without some kind of fur lining, your tootsies will be like ice cakes.

Tip #2: Wear layers

Wearing multiple layers is another great way you can stay warm. I regularly wear a tank top under a t-shirt under a long sleeved shirt under a sweater and a second longer sweater under my coat with a scarf wrapped around my neck. You can strip off a layer or two during public transportation to make the commuter less sweaty. Sometimes.

Tip #3: Substitute Wool with Cashmere and Down

Sorry, but there is no way that wearing wool hats, scarves, and coats comes even close to keeping you warm in Boston winters. Want to be warm? Invest in a cashmere scarf, at least one cashmere sweater, a down coat, and a down duvet. I got more warmth from a single loosely-wrapped cashmere scarf that I bought on sale from Ann Taylor for $15 than any other scarf I ever wore. I have never been warmer (or saner) since.

Tip #4: Go out for walks every day

During winter in Boston, I used to refuse to go out except for work. If it was below a certain temperature, I would decline invitations and events. I saw the bitter cold as a reason to stay in. It would be warm soon enough, right?

Wrong! Unless you love the cold, staying in for months on end except to go to work is depressing. I battled seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a depressive disorder linked to lower levels of light in the wintertime, for many years. One year, I got sick of it. I refused to wait until spring time to get outside, which I missed terribly.

I started taking short walks, even if it was just to the store and back. Not only did I get to be in the outdoors more, I found that it helped my tolerance to the cold. Too much time spent indoors and in heated houses and workplaces only makes it that much harder for your body to adjust. This same dynamic happens in summer if you spend too much time in air conditioned locations and not enough outside when it is hot. Exposure helps tolerance.

Tonight, I will sleep under my down duvet and wake up tomorrow morning to shovel the snow, but only after I put on my tank top under my t-shirt under my sweater under….

Stay warm!

Today is Hit the Wall Day

Does Hit the Wall Day sounds like an inane holiday? Thinking of getting your boxing gloves out and give a good old one-two to the punching bag? Well, get up and celebrate with me because it’s even better than that!

Today is the day when I looked at the white space on my blog post after two solid weeks of daily posting and thought: What the hell am I going to write about? I tried writing an opinion on reading and morality. Scrap. Then I tried writing a small blog on what inspired me about Martin Luther King., Jr., a man who I admire. Scrap 2.

When I need to write, I need to think of something inspiring or interesting (to me). In doing so, I hope I am writing a post worthy of a read, of engagement. I know that this post is not necessarily it. But it is better than trying to write a post about Martin Luther King, Jr., that comes up shorter than the man deserves.

I guess all I can really say about MLK, Jr., is that I am so grateful that he existed. I am grateful that MLK fought for the civil rights of African Americans. He took us on another step towards the progress towards human equality and freedom that America and the entire world needs to take.

Enough with all forms of hatred.
Enough with excessive punishments for crimes based on skin color.
Enough with religious (or lack thereof) hatred and discrimination.
Enough with keeping the (black) man (and woman) down like they were unworthy of the lives they were given.
Enough with the discrimination and killing of LGBTQ human beings.
Enough with hate upon hate.
Just ENOUGH.

I am not saying we all need to like each other, think like each other, or even respect each other for our choices. But we simply cannot  discriminate, hate, and kill each other any more. No reason is justified. None. Until this stops, the work on the path that MLK, Jr., walked remains left to be done.

Happy Birthday, Edgar Allen Poe!

Today is the 205th birthday of one of my favorite writers, Edgar Allen Poe. For today’s blog, I decided to revisit some of the stories written by Poe that I have loved for three decades.

I remember reading The Tell-Tale Hearta story whose protagonist goes insane thinking he hears the heartbeat of the man he murdered and stored under the floorboards. My heart thumped hard against my chest. I could experience criminal madness from the safety of my chair.  This is creepy, I thought, I love this! 

Please don’t misunderstand me: I am a chicken. I am often afraid to step outside of my comfort zone. I have no fantasies about actually being involved in a horror story. I do not romanticize the idea of having someone stalk me and plot my murder out of a hatred for my very existence. But to read an enthralling tale of horror like the kinds written by Edgar Allen Poe has been one of my favorite ways to pass the time.

Another of Poe’s tales involve madness and murder that I love is The Cask of Amontillado; a story where the protagonist lures the man who has wronged him, Fortunato (a bit of irony there, wouldn’t you say?), down to his wine chambers to be bricked up in a wall while offering opportunities to turn back, all of which are declined. The cold and calculating nature of the murderer ignited a fear deep in my stomach, the building suspense made me jitter in my seat, and fed my appetite for scary, thrilling stories.

In Poe’s poem The Bells, his word choice to describe the way the bells sound (tinkling, clanging, etc.) builds the sense of hearing bells get increasing loud in your head. I remember seeing my 12th grade advanced English teacher Mr. Frenzke walk back and forth in the front of the classroom, reading softly about tinkling bells to reading loudly about clanging ones. I wanted to hold my hands over my ears and yell, Make it stop!.

In The Raven, Poe’s word choices and repetition of Lenore and Nevermore lets the narrator build the sense of self-flagellation. Because the narrator knows the Raven will only answer in limited ways, it allows him to build a story of denial from the woman he loves in his mind until he is overwrought with emotional pain at his dilemma. After reading The Raven, I began to love black birds because they reminded me of the story and the author.

Reading Poe’s tales ignited a desire to read and write thrilling horror stories myself. I loved how his stories included elements of the mind (madness or murderous intent), the heart (emotional pain), and the body (physical suffering). 

My desire to write my own tales of horror, also stirred by reading books by Stephen King and stories by H.P. Lovecraft, faded long ago due to my lack of consistent writing and my struggles with finding my purpose in life.

Maybe I need to reread my favorite writers. Maybe I will rediscover my love for tales of horror and my imagination. Maybe I need to write my own tale of horror. Maybe… 

[Correction: I updated the anniversary date from 105 to 205 as Poe was born in 1813, not 1913.]

Shows I Rather Like: Ask Me Another on NPR

As I sat down to write my daily blog post, my husband started playing the latest edition of Ask Me Another from NPR Radio,which pretty much incapacitated my ability to think of anything else.

The number one reason you should listen to AMA is that the house musician is Jonathan Coulton, who is famous for his song Code Monkey among others. His genius is in creating alternate lyrics to songs in ways that listeners never imagined.

The second reason is my favorite reason:  contestants participate in contests that engage them in word play. Personally, I love plays on words (not necessarily puns). For the most part, the word plays on this show are intellectually stimulating. When I say that, I do not mean high-brow and snooty. I mean that your brain feels alive with newness.

The format of the show feels similar to Wait Wait..Don’t Tell Me!  Each segment brings on a special guest (this week’s was Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things) who also participates in the show.

Third, this show takes place in a bar. Instead of being in a sterile office studio, the audience gets an intimate performance and often talks with and to the host and contestants. The location enhances audience participation, which give this show an extra pleasure to hear.

What’s on the Menu for Date Nite?

You don’t have to married to go on date night. Maybe you and your partner have been living together for so long that you feel like roommates rather than romantic partners. After you live with someone for years on end, the romance does get worn down by the humdrum routine of daily living.

How could it not? Our lives settle into routines: work routines for us, school routines for our kids (if we have them), errand day on the weekend, etc. After a while, the only excitement happens when you go on vacation or find a new hobby together. For my husband and I, finding a new joint hobby happens rarely because we are the opposites that attracted.

If you designate the same night each week for date night, it could be that even that gets to be routine. The only way to shake it up, other than changing the night of the date, is to commit to not to default to the same activity every week. It can get expensive and tiring to always come up with new things to do. At least, try to not do the same thing two weeks in a row.

Our default date night is eat dinner (in or out) and then stay home together. Watch a movie. Play games. Screw around. Or whatever we feel like doing. Because I deal with chronic health issues, I often only have so much energy. I might only have energy for engaging in one activity. Or we start off with dinner and then I poop out.

How do you keep your date nights interesting?

Self-Loathing and the Making of Art

Life is short, art long, opportunities fleeting,
experience treacherous, judgement difficult.
~Hippocrates (460-400 B.C)

While reading one of the blogs I follow**, I learned about a book called Art & Fear, Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of ARTMAKING by David Bayles & Ted Orland, which contains the quote by Hippocrates at the beginning of chapter 1. Since fear has long interfered with my ability to follow my artistic dreams, I ordered myself a copy and began to read yesterday. The book’s main topic is why art does not get done.

As I read through, I saw myself in each chapter. Reasons I have told myself why I couldn’t do art:

  • I have no imagination/ideas/creativity.
  • Other people are better than me at art.
  • Art is an all-or-nothing gift and I was left out of the party.
  • Whatever I do, it won’t be good enough.
  • I’ll never make money making art.
  • It’s not practical and, therefore, it is indefensible.
  • I feel stupid saying I am an artist when my stuff isn’t any good.
  • It’s easier for others/impossible for me.
  • It’s too hard.
  • I can’t get good enough fast enough to justify doing it.
  • I must justify my art/my own personal pleasure isn’t a good enough reason.

According to Bayles & Orland, I am not alone. All artists go through periods of self-doubt when moving forward seems impossible. The difference between those who do and those who don’t is the difference between those who stop and those who quitI don’t think I have been a stopper; I have been a quitter. The longest sustained art making that I have done is with my jewelry making, although I have taken a bit of a hiatus since I stopped working at a bead store. (I think I need to find a new place where I can go and make art so I can get out of my house).

In recent days, I have begun to outline a novel I wrote so that I can evaluate the storyline and make organizational changes. The more I have reviewed my writing, the more stupid I felt. I began to hear my voice in my head: This story is unsalvageable. The dialog unimportant. The characters’ actions ridiculous. When I imagined sharing my writing, I felt a sense of inadequacy and shame. How will I be able to face people when I show them this tripe? The sense of hopelessness I felt was increasing.

And then this morning, as I was drying off after a shower, I realized that my problem was not fear. I remember as a child trying to play Barbies with my best friend. What was I supposed to say? What was I supposed to make them do? It was difficult, and I felt stupid. The more I felt stupid, the more I hated myself for it. One can only take self-loathing for so long, even when the activity brings you joy. For years, I have thought fear was my problem. But I was wrong.

I am glad I realized that feelings of self-loathing have interfered with my art making. Now I can address the real feelings, which means I might be able to process them and let go. Because, this time around, I’m going to be damned if I quit this writing thing. I am going to devote my time to improving my writing craft.

I will ask for help. Read books and articles. Take workshops. There is a year-long NaNoWriMo group in NYC dedicated to helping members write their drafts and give each other feedback. I will attend an information session in 10 days. If that does not pan out, I will search for and join another writing group to get writing feedback. Whatever I will go through, I do not want to go through it alone any more.

[**Unfortunately, I cannot find the original post so that I can link back to the blogger who got me thinking. If it’s you, let me know so that I can update this post and link back to you.]

Liebster Award Nomination? Who, moi?

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The Liebster is awarded to new bloggers as an encouragement and to get them started in the world of blogging. Its offered by fellow bloggers. A requirement is that they have fewer than 200 followers. Apparently, a fellow newbie blogger found my blog and nominated me for the award on this post of hers! Thank you so much, fellow blogger!

The rules for accepting the award are as follows:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog. (Check!)
  2. You must answer the 10 questions given to you by the nominee before you. (Check!)
  3. You must nominate 10 of your favorite blogs with fewer than 200 followers and notify them of their nomination. (30% check!)
  4. You must come up with 10 questions for your nominees to answer. (Check!)
  5. Nominees: If you link back to this post, your response will appear as a “pingback” in the discussion section at the end of this post, which allows me to share your words with your fellow nominees.

Here are the 10 questions that I was asked to answer:

My questions for you all above:

1. What is the hardest word for you to write. Why? Not from a spelling or grammatical angle, I am talking about your feeeeeeelings.
I am not sure I have a word that is hard for me to write. If I am feeling afraid to write a word, it usually manifests with me rewriting a sentence or paragraph several times until I get it just right.

2. What time of day do you most often write? Why is that?
I am not a morning person. It can take me a few hours to have my thinking cap on, and I tend to sleep later than most people. I have a schedule that I set, and I choose to get up around 7:30a-8:00a, sometimes later if I am exhausted or sick. Afternoons into evenings is the time I write the most. Unfortunately, I tire easily. I also tend to procrastinate. I am making an effort to write in the early afternoons so that I can do what is most important (daily writing) first before my brain fog settles in.

3. Do you check your stats as much as I do to see if anyone actually reads your posts, or are you writing and then tuning out entirely until you have something else to say?
I don’t know. How much do you check? I do check my stats several times a day.

4. What was the last book you read?
I recently finished reading The Bromeliad Trilogy by Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series. The three stories, TruckersDiggers, and Wings, were about nomes who leave their wilderness home to find someplace else to live. They venture into a store where Inside nomes live. Hilarity ensues in typical Terry Pratchett fashion. I love this sense of humor and highly recommend his books, if you like fantasy. 

5. What was the last blog you read?
One of the blogs I follow is Flavorwire, and their blog post reply to the NY Post on the women emcees at the Golden Globe awards was the last blog post I read (yesterday).

6. What is your favorite word to write and why? Remember guys, feeeeeeelings.
Again, I’m not sure I have a favorite word to write. Sorry, but it’s true. 😀

7. What would make you delete a post after you’ve composed/published it?
I would delete a post if I wrote it in anger and, upon further consideration, decided that it might harm a relationship that is dear to me. I might also delete it if, in hindsight, the post was unduly critical in a negative one. I have already done this in the past, which is why my focus in this blog will be sharing my true feelings. Expressing myself with kindness and care is very important to me. I will carefully judge whether my need to express myself is greater than a need to consider others feelings. That may or may not be the case. If I must express feelings which others  find hurtful, I hope I can do it in the least hurtful way possible.

8. What are your thoughts on identity theft in the land of blogging? What have you done to protect yourself, your words? Will you do anything?
I had not thought about it. When I was taking a creative writing course in 2011, I posted my daily writings in this blog. Some spammer wrote in poor English in a reply suggesting I had stolen his own content! This was crazy as it had all come tumbling out of my head. I quickly hid their comment but posted my own comment refuting any such accusation that the work contained herein was anything other than my own. What else can I do except invoke copyright, invoke copyright with each post, and show proof that I did something before someone else.

9. Why did you decide to accept this award?
Because I wanted to show my thanks for being nominated. I also wanted to encourage other new bloggers in the unexpected way that I was encouraged. Paying it forward.

10. Why did you start your blog?
Because I wanted to commit to writing every day. I used to write heavily in a LiveJournal account, and I like the conversational feel that writing to an audience brings. I decided to make my daily writing commitment here.

This next part is tough because I am not sure I am following enough blogs, let alone with less than 200 followers. Here goes:

  1. http://michaelrierasmith.wordpress.com/
  2. http://mscoffeehouse.wordpress.com/
  3. http://livingwithshadows.wordpress.com/

In fact, I removed more old, stale, deleted blogs from my Reader than blogs I was able to nominate. These are the 3 bloggers I want to encourage. I had more that I really like, but they had way more than 200 followers. Sorry!

Here are my 10 questions to my nominated Liebster Bloggers:

  1. Why did you start writing your blog?
  2. How do you get motivated to write when you do not feel like it?
  3. What topics will you write about in 2014?
  4. Do you have any writing goals, and, if so, what are they?
  5. What was the first thing you ever sat down to write that was not for school?
  6. Who is your favorite author/poet and why?
  7. What do you enjoy the most?
  8. If money were no object, how would you spend your time?
  9. If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about yourself, what would it be and why?
  10. What is your first memory about life?

Happy Blogging!