Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chasing Daylight

Now that the days are shorter, I feel like I am always chasing daylight. The holiday lights help for now, but after the New Year, I always feel the months drag slowly toward the spring. While the weather remains pleasant, I make an effort to spend at least an hour each day walking in a local park; sometimes I walk to my Mother’s house, which is three miles away from my apartment. I know my days of regular outdoor walking and basking in the sun are numbered, so I am doing it all now while I can.

As a child, I looked forward to winter because I hoped for days off from school and playing all day in the snow. I also did not pay attention to the shorter and darker days, but I always remember being overjoyed when spring arrived; it always came just in time. Now that I am older, I find do not enjoy winter as much as I used to because I am always driving, and the limited sunlight can make me feel a little down at times. Now, I feel that spring does not come fast enough. Like those who lived through the Northeast’s terrible winter weather last year and the freak snow storm late last month, I am not looking forward to the upcoming season. Still, I am going to chase daylight whenever I can get it throughout the winter, even when the weather and time stand in my way.

How will I do this? I will walk outside when the temperature is at least forty degrees Fahrenheit (4.44 degrees Celsius), with minimal wind. When that is not possible, I will still try to expose myself to sunlight when I can see it from my windows. Working out indoors rigorously, even more so than in other seasons, always seems to prevent me from sinking into the winter doldrums. I will also try to fit in a trip south (destination to be determined) in the next few months. Now I am looking forward to winter season!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Breaking Turkey Day Rules

Just as Kekla spent her Thanksgiving in a non-traditional way, I broke a few Turkey Day rules myself in what was probably one of my favorite Thanksgivings ever.

The plan for the day was to have Thanksgiving "dinner" around 2pm at my best friend's place, with her mother who was in town, and then I was going to have a late dinner around 8:30 or so for my friends who either had no Thanksgiving of their own or wanted post-family plans. Earlier in the week, my best friend and I prepped for her meal and the day before, I prepped for mine.

Once the day arrived, I got a bit of a late start and was still baking two desserts for her Thanksgiving and another two for mine. Eventually, I made my way to her place and the three of us cooked while we watched the parade and some movies. We had a delicious meal with a turkey breast and turkey leg rather than a whole turkey, but all the sides were typically Thanksgiving.

Soon after we were done eating, I made my way back to my place where I made buffalo chicken mac & cheese, green beans with mint and pancetta, and a creamy baked fennel. It felt really strange to go from cooking in a group with the tv on to being the only person home with only music on. But in some Thanksgiving miracle, I managed to make all of that, shower, clean a little, and straighten my hair in less than 4 hours and I was even prouder to have done it all by myself, especially when everyone tasted the food and loved it. I had been worried earlier in the week that nobody would show up, but a boisterous, fun group of friends all made it and had an incredible time.

There was no turkey, no family, and no downtime, but it was still my favorite Thanksgiving. It'll be hard to top next year!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Embracing the Non-Traditional

For the first time in my life, this year I celebrated Thanksgiving away from my family and without a home-cooked turkey. I probably would have been worried about this if I'd spent any serious time in the past few weeks thinking about the holidays. As it happened, the end of November sort of snuck up on me, and I found myself sitting around the day before Thanksgiving thinking that maybe I ought to do some shopping and menu planning. But I didn't.

A friend of mine came to visit from far-away Texas, someone I haven't seen in a couple of years. It was just the two of us spending the holiday together, a first for both of us, and initially we weren't sure what we were going to do, or if it would even feel like Thanksgiving if we didn't do up the whole day the way we were used to. But neither of us felt like putting in a lot of effort cooking, and we somewhat awkwardly negotiated a two-part plan for ourselves for the day: hang out at home, then eat dinner in a restaurant. We agreed not to stress about creating a meaningful holiday celebration.

What was amazing was, the big day still felt like a holiday. Special, because I spent time with a friend who I don't usually see. Lazy, because we cooked pie and watched movies all day. Delicious and food-filled, because we went out and enjoyed a turkey dinner that we hadn't spent all day slaving over. Entertaining, because we ended the day at a jazz club listening to live music.

I can imagine that it would be difficult for me to spend a holiday like Thanksgiving truly alone, or without any festivities, but that's not what happened. Changing my T-Day routine made me realize that the things that matter most about the holidays are not related to perfect, repeated rituals. Change can be good, and surprisingly, this very different Thanksgiving turned out to be one of my most delightful!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Forum: College Memories

This month, we're taking a trip down memory lane and reliving some great and not-so-great moments.

Going beyond earlier memories and to more recent ones, we want to know about your first semester in college. What classes did you like? Who did you make friends with? Are they still in your life now?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope everyone has a great day relaxing, cooking, eating, watching football, or doing whatever else your heart desires. Most importantly, we hope you take some time to show appreciation for whatever you're thankful for!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Great Holiday Expectations

When the holiday season approaches, I always feel a bit wary. Could it be the blatant commercialism, the same slick Christmas soundtrack played at almost every store you go to ad nauseam, or the pushy crowds of rabid shoppers? All of these things remind me to keep this annual experience in proper perspective. After all, I don’t only give thanks on Thanksgiving, and I have become good at avoiding the materialism that often distracts many of us from what Christmas is really about. It has taken years of practice for me to resist making great holiday expectations.

Don’t get me wrong; I am a big fan of childlike awe and pleasure in the season. Watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade on television and seeing a Christmas tree light up for the first time are just two simple things I will never get bored of, so I am not completely apathetic. It’s just those commercials for Black Friday, and listening to people who dread seeing certain family members once a year behind their backs that grates on my nerves. These two occurrences are so commonplace that they have become universally accepted to many. I am just one of those people who want to avoid these unnecessary and negative aspects that can ruin the goodness and purity of the holidays, if I can. I think I do this to avoid being disenchanted and cynical. I want to enjoy the season for the right reasons.

I stay true to the holiday spirit by avoiding commercials as much as possible, and shopping at stores when the crowds are not there. I have my own Christmas playlist on my iPod, and I listen to the songs I like when I want to. I also remember to breathe when in an uncomfortable holiday-related situation. The only way I can avoid it all is to go to Sri Lanka now until after the New Year. I did not pick this location at random; I actually did my research on great escapes from the commercialism and stress of the season.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

French Connection

My French class is almost over and I signed up for the next level over the weekend, so I've been thinking a lot lately about what I've learned, where I need to improve, and what my plan is. In the last several weeks, I've learned all about verb tenses, and the basics of grammar and sentence structure. There are some things I remembered from high school French class, but a lot of things I'd completely forgotten. But I've committed to really grasping a lot of the material and have gotten some positive feedback on the more technical part of French. For the next level, which I plan on starting in the new year, I know that my struggle will be improving my vocabulary and practicing my conversational French. 

With that goal in mind, the idea of moving to Paris is becoming more of a reality. Talking with a friend a couple of weeks ago, the topic of going back to school came up. It suddenly dawned on me that I could easily move to Paris and do a one- or two-year program at American University of Paris. It would take away the drama of obtaining a work visa or long stay visa, it would allow me to adjust to the language switch, and it would give me a built-in social network that I wouldn't have if I moved on my own without knowing anybody there. Of course, then I'll have even more debt to worry about than I already do, but it's definitely a possibility I hadn't considered before.

Having the beginnings of a plan in mind, I now have a motivation to excel in French that I didn't have before and a desire to go through the final level of classes. I still don't know how it'll all turn out, but I'm happy with where I'm at right now.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Knot My Problem

Every once in a while, it seems, I take up knitting again. I've been spending time with a few friends who knit heavily--and much better than I do!--and it has inspired me to get to work on my small projects again. It's a good thing to jump start in advance of the holidays, when I'll be traveling a bit and probably sitting around watching football games and bad TV specials with my parents for a period of days.

I like knitting. Supposedly, once you get moderately comfortable doing it, the repetitive motion becomes meditative and soothing. I'm finally getting to that point, and it's become even more enjoyable. The problem I'm currently having is finding a balanced project that will look nice in the end but not drive me crazy learning new stitches.

In talking with my knitting friends, I've realized that the way they experience satisfaction after finishing a big, cool knitting project is similar to the way I experience satisfaction after completing a novel manuscript. One of them told me there are "process knitters," who just love the act of knitting, and "project knitters," who do it to end up with a neat homemade item.

I suppose the same could be said of novelists--some of us just do it because we love spitting words onto the page and the process of honing a first draft to a manuscript is painful, while others love the revision process because they want so badly to see a finished book.

I'm struggling through copyedits on my latest manuscript, a laborious process that has taken me many days of work. It usually goes faster. But it's the end process of more than a year's work on this book. How does this relate to my knitting, you ask? It's shown me why I am definitely a project knitter. And small projects, at that! You'll probably never hear of me tackling a sweater--if I'm going to spend a year's creative energy on anything, it's going to be a novel. But when the going gets rough with my writing, it's soothing to know I can grab a ball of yarn and knit up a pair of gloves or a hat in a weekend. It reminds me that creative projects can and will be finished!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Forum: Not-So-Happy Childhood Memories

This month, we're taking a trip down memory lane and reliving some great and not-so-great moments.

We've had some good memories so far, but today we want to know about one of your childhood injuries. We all have them: twisting an ankle during a baseball game, burning yourself with an iron. What's a time you hurt yourself and your parents or siblings helped you?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Link Love for 11/17

Get ready everyone, there's another link love round-up coming your way! Check out the links below for some great stuff to read.

Awaken Your CAREERpreneur gives a shout-out to those who definitely deserve it: our personal cheerleaders.

Downtown Dharma reminds us all to listen our intuition -- it's usually smarter than we give it credit for.

Girl w/Pen takes a look at two shows that seem similar, but are quite different in how they portray women.

In Good Company points out the different ways in which entrepreneurship is full of tricky contradictions.

Lindsey Pollak wants you to be ready to "crack the new job market" and features an interview with the guy who wrote the book (literally).

That's what we have for today. What have you been reading and writing online?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Art of Social Diplomacy

Being diplomatic and polite to people who don’t deserve it can be an art. There is finesse involved, as well as a large dose of restraint. I exercised my diplomatic muscles recently when I encountered my late neighbor’s relatives who came to her apartment to go through and collect her belongings. She mentioned them once to me before when I first met her a year ago, and from what she told me I knew they were not close and never saw her. I also realized how rude they were when they asked me impertinent questions about my neighbor and her cat. They actually wanted me to be responsible for the latter, which I firmly declined. I also refused to trap him for them, which I thought was odd and distasteful of them to ask me for.

Some people would have expressed their feelings of being insulted directly, but I decided not to; I still stood my ground so they knew not to ask me similar questions again. I knew I would probably never see them again, and this helped guide me during our short exchange. I pitied my late neighbor for having such disagreeable relatives, but I am glad she is at peace now and will never have to deal with them again.

The fact is most of us encounter unpleasant people in our lives on a daily basis. Effective coping mechanisms vary due to personal circumstances and the person(s) involved. For example, dealing with a difficult relative is different from dealing with someone who swipes the parking space you were waiting for. I heard on the news recently of a man accused of a road rage incident where he actually knocked down another woman with his own hands, causing her to be in a coma for a week. I don’t understand being so angry about a minor incident with my car that I would actually cause physical harm by force, and on purpose.

What are your thoughts on dealing with difficult people? Do you vary your strategies diplomatically, or do you handle each situation the same?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rethinking Thanksgiving

It seems that every year, the holidays sneak up on me. For some reason, my brain doesn't realize that Thanksgiving is less than one month after Halloween, or that Christmas is about a month after that. Instead, I find myself amazed when I'm making plans a week or two out and see that my calendar hasn't forgotten about Thanksgiving at all.

This year, I'm even more worried about how quickly the holidays snuck up on me because, for the first time ever, I plan on hosting Thanksgiving dinner. It was one of those things that just made sense: I didn't want to go to my parents' for the holiday, it's one of my roommates' last Thanksgiving in New York, I have a lovely apartment, my best friend has lofty dinner goals and her mother will be in town, I love baking and my best friend loves cooking, etc. It all sounded so perfect...

Now I'm feeling like this was the worst idea ever. Friends I thought would be around might not be. My roommate might actually go to somebody else's dinner. No menu has been set. My kitchen is not yet ready for any large-scale cooking (I don't even know where we keep the glasses). What on earth was I thinking?! With my luck, this will end up being one of those terrible Thanksgivings people look back on and laugh at in a sitcom flashback episode.

Of course, I have saner moments sprinkled in between all that panic. So what if nobody shows up? And who really cares if some of the food is terrible? Even if it's just me and a few slices of pizza enjoying the 500th showing of The Wizard of Oz this month, I'm sure I'll still love the night.

How did you prepare for the first Thanksgiving you hosted? Did things turn out better or worse than expected?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bits of Inspiration

I opted out of NaNoWriMo this year, but I do hope that Sally decided to give it a try. And I'm still trying to get into the spirit of the event, whose full name is National Novel Writing Month. I don't need to write a novel this month, but I do have several writing projects that need finishing, polishing or editing before being sent off to my agent or editor. So, I'm doing my own version of NaNo, and I suppose that counts.

The greatest thing about NaNo is that it inspires people to rise up and actually DO something that they might otherwise only talk about. Upon learning that I'm an author, people often react by saying something to the effect of "I wish I could write a novel," or "I want to write a book someday," or "I might write something after I retire." The polite thing for me to do in the moment is to smile and nod blandly and hope they read it as approval or encouragement. The less polite thought that typically bounces through my mind is "Well, why don't you?"

Anyone and everyone who wants to write can do it, but the fact of the matter is, most people who talk about writing never actually sit down with a pen or a keyboard. And that's the trick in the end, just sitting down and doing it. Little bit by little bit. No one--not even the most accomplished author--wakes up in the morning with the intent to write a novel. We go to the computer with the intent to put something on paper. A single letter, which begins a word, which sparks a sentence, which blurs into a paragraph, and after many, many such occasions might add up to a piece of prose that means something.

If the intensity of NaNo seems too daunting, think about some simpler math:
One page a day = 365 pages in a year (Don't look now, but that's the length of a book!)
Half a page a day = 182 pages in a year
One paragraph a day (1/4 page) = 91 pages in a year

Little bits add up! And here's the good news: in my experience, the best writing occurs inadvertently. Meaning, when you sit down to write and just let it flow you may be surprised by the quality of what comes out in the process. As opposed to sitting down with the goal of saying something profound--in that case you're almost guaranteed to be disappointed. Nothing comes out fully formed. Revision is inevitable--if your goal is to share your work effectively with others. But for a first draft, in response to that creative urge to get something on paper, absolutely anything goes!

Do you have things you want to say? If writing doesn't appeal to you, what other dreams could you be following, little bit by little bit?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Forum: Civic Memories

This month, we're taking a trip down memory lane and reliving some great and not-so-great moments.

In honor of Election Day, we want to know about your first voting experience. How old were you? Do you remember who you voted for?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Favorite Reads

Every few weeks, we like browsing our favorite sites to find posts you might enjoy and feature them in Link Love round-ups. But we want to know your suggestions for sites to check out. What are your favorite reads? What do you think others would love to check out? Leave links in the comments and feel free to self-promote.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Death of a Neighbor

Just the other day, I overheard people on my street talking about my neighbor passing away. After some speculation, I learned that she died while walking to the door of her apartment to go outside. Thankfully, the property management checked up on my neighbor regularly due to her limited mobility and bad health, so when she did not answer her phone, the manager went to her apartment, and then immediately called for an ambulance. She was already dead when they arrived. I had no idea what had happened until that afternoon, on the street in front of my apartment, from people I had never really spoken to before.

I checked on my neighbor periodically, especially since I knew she had no family to speak of. She had a friend who shared a taxi with her when they went grocery shopping, but was mostly a recluse. I often heard her shouting on the phone to someone associated with her health insurance provider, or to one of the many doctors she visited and complained about after the fact. When I spoke to my neighbor, it was usually in front of her door in the common hallway we shared, and she would talk incessantly about her many medical conditions. She was always going in and out of hospitals every other week, at least. It was the way she spoke and represented herself, which made me believe that her medical conditions were not as serious as she said they were. I proved to be wrong, of course.

My neighbor’s death and the glimpses of her life I witnessed before it ended remind me that while I continue to enjoy good health and mobility, I must continue to make each day count. Sleepwalking through life is not an option, which was what my neighbor did near the end of her life; of course her medical and psychological states contributed to her limitations. My goals are to make meaningful connections with others and stay open to a variety of experiences throughout my life, for however long that might be.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Election Day Guilt

Every year on Election Day, I think about all the people who are out there volunteering at the polls, calling people up to encourage them to vote, and sharing important information with their friends to make sure they know where to vote, who's running, and so forth. As most of you know, voting is something I've been passionate about for a long time, and while I normally spend Election Day giving people information they need, today I'm feeling guilty because I won't be voting.

For starters, I haven't updated my address with the Board of Elections. I wasn't going to let this get in my way and planned to get up extra early to go to my old polling location. Of course, I didn't even wake up on time this morning, let alone early, so that was out of the question. I have work all day and French class immediately after. By the time I'm done with my day, it'll already be 10pm -- well past the time polling locations close.

There are countless people who have complained over the years that having Election Day on a Tuesday is inconvenient, and I've certainly agreed in the past, but I'm really feeling it today. If you don't live close to where you work, if you work strange hours, if you have a lot of responsibilities on a weekday, etc. then voting becomes an added burden. 

There's a lot going on in the political landscape right now, with Occupy Wall Street being the loudest and most prominent, so it would be fantastic to see a higher voter turnout than usual. I'm still hoping that happens, even if I can't be part of it myself. At least I know I'll get one important thing done today: I'm updating my address so this doesn't happen again next year.

Don't forget to vote!

Monday, November 7, 2011


Kekla is feeling a bit under the weather today. She's stuck at home with a bad cold. So, it's as good a time as any to catch up on some of her past posts that you might have missed.

Take a look HERE for the full archive.

How are YOU feeling these days? Struggling with the change of seasons, too, or still rolling happily along?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Forum: Movie Memories

This month, we're taking a trip down memory lane and reliving some great and not-so-great moments.

For today's trip, we want to know about the first time you watched or remember watching your favorite movie. What movie was it? Why did you like it so much?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What We Want to Know

What we do in this space is for you, and every so often, we like to check in and see how we're doing. Do you want to compliment us on something you love or is there something you dislike? If so, we want to hear it. Whether you leave a comment on this post or email us at, get in touch to tell us what you think.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Snowtober Memories

I was one of the unlucky people who found themselves on the road on Saturday, October 29th, now known as “Snowtober” here on the East Coast. I was working that day, and cut the itinerary so I could leave earlier due to the weather. First it rained, then the rain turned into sleet, then rain again, then thick snow fell, some of which turned into ice. On the highway as cars would pass me, sometimes this mixture of snow and ice would fly from the bottom of their tires or the top of their cars and fall on my windshield, blinding my view for a few seconds. Other times I would feel the car skidding a bit here and there on the road and would think to myself: am I going to make it back home, or will I be stuck on the road for hours or more?

The relief I felt after finally getting off my last highway changed to pure discomfort when driving back home on the local roads and being greeted with fallen trees and tree limbs. Downed power lines added to the danger and discomfort I felt as I carefully navigated my way to my place, and chose where to park before getting out of the car after being in it for more than two hours straight.

Even though the weather is completely different now, I did witness a medium sized tree branch break off from a tree near the mailboxes on my street just the other day. It wasn’t too large, but it wasn’t too small either, meaning that if someone had been walking on the sidewalk underneath that tree at that moment, he or she would have been knocked out and left with a minor concussion, at the very least. I was a bit paranoid for the rest of the day because of this incident.

I count my blessings that I did not get hurt or lose power during “Snowtober,” which is not what everyone can say unfortunately. I am wary of what Mother Nature has in store for us.

Do you have storm stories to share?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Getting Past Perfection

I learned about NaNoWriMo a few years ago and have known several people who tried it (including Kekla!). For the month of November, you're meant to write a novel of approximately 50,000 words but because I've never been much of a creative writer, I hadn't considered participating. Over the last six months or so, I've been wanting to tap into my creativity -- I even signed up for creative writing classes that start later this month. Of course, I've barely written at all since then, I just keep telling myself I will, so I still didn't think I'd do NaNoWriMo.

Then I was looking through Gotham Writers' Workshop's enewsletter and saw a blurb announcing that it begins tomorrow (well, today), and for some reason, it stood out to me. I wasn't sure why, at first, but I read through the description and remembered that one of the things that makes NaNoWriMo so interesting and unique is its departure from the way a lot of us normally work: the goal isn't quality, it's quantity. It's about putting words on the page, pure and simple. If you create something incredible, then great, but that's not the point of the exercise.

I suddenly remembered that a couple of weeks back my friend and I were talking about writing and he said I was making excuses by saying things like, "I don't have time to write." He made me write for 10 minutes to get me to see that I didn't need much time. It only made me stronger in my conviction that you need time to write something of quality. For me, it always comes down to quality, and that's surely an easy way to stop myself from doing what I love because of course nothing's perfect in just 10 minutes or 30 or even 60.

So I'm wondering, what happens if I take the challenge? What if I simply write and write and write without worrying about perfection? I guess I'm ready to find out!

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