My Ex-Girlfriend, The Yankee Fan

I’m so excited to be switching blogs today with my MFA Big Brother Phil. The other day we were talking about how excited we were for baseball season to begin. I’m a bit (okay, well I’m completely) apprehensive about this season. I’m a huge Francona fan, and to not have him as the manager of the Red Sox bothers me. I also am nervous about all the other trades and changes. The 2012 Red Sox will be a team I do not recognize. I’ve had a long love affair with baseball and the Red Sox in particular. In honor of today(the day the trucks leave Boston to get the equipment down to Floriday for Spring Training), we decided to switch blogs and write about our experiences with…. drumroll please….dating Yankees fans! Enjoy Phil’s post, and when you’re finished reading, come find me at his blog.

It was my third date with Jen. We were shooting pool at Owen O’Leary’s, a low-key pub on Route 9 in Southboro, in September 2007. I was lining up to whack the 3-ball into the corner pocket. I heard Red Sox announcer Don Orsillo’s voice on the TV over the bar, as underachieving relief pitcher Eric Gagne took the mound in the eighth-inning of a late-season game in Toronto.

That’s when Jen ambushed me.

“So, I hope you don’t mind that I’m a Yankees fan,” she said. Like clockwork, Gagne threw a meatball that got launched for a triple, pissing away a two-run lead.

“Yeah,” I said, looking back down to line up my shot again. “I guess I can live with that.”

It actually wasn’t the first time I found myself dating a New York fan. For some reason, Yankee girls seem to find me. Most of my girlfriends have been, like me, card-carrying members of Red Sox Nation. But as first dates go, I’ve probably been out with almost as many Bronx Bomber fans as Sox fans. For the most part I’ve emerged unscathed. One of the worst dates I ever went on was with a Yankee fan, though to be honest, it wasn’t an epic fail because of her love for Derek Jeter. It was because we connected on a dating site and when I met her in person it became obvious that her profile pic was at least 10 years old.

When I asked Jen, she said she inherited her Evil Empire loyalties from her family. Her grandfather came to Boston from Italy in the 1930s. Like many in the predominantly Italian North End back then (and to a lesser extent today), he shirked geography in favor of rooting for a team with players named DiMaggio, Berra and Lazzeri.

I didn’t let this phase me. To be honest, 2007 wasn’t such a bad time to date a Yankee fan. The Yanks barely registered a blip in the playoffs that year, losing in four games in the opening round, while the Sox would go on to win their second World Series in four seasons. Besides, Jen had a lot going for her. She had a great sense of humor. She was caring. She was beautiful. And she gave great massages. I mean killer massages. Those hypnotic, I’m-paralyzed-with-ecstasy massages that most people have to pay $100 for.

We refused to succumb to petty arguments over our teams. Jen never brought up the 2003 ALCS, when the Sox blew a three-run, eight-inning lead against the Yankees in Game 7 to blow the pennant. In return, I never brought up New York blowing a 3-games-to-none lead to Boston in the ALCS a year later. One night we came home from dinner and the 11 o’clock news showed highlights of the Yankees beating the Sox. Jen turned to me and smiled. That was the extent of our smack-talk.

Alas, while baseball loyalties can be overcome to make a relationship work, other things can’t. As time went on, the relationship began to hemorrhage, and it had nothing to do with Curt Schilling’s bloody sock.

The issues never major, but they were relentless. Whenever we were sitting on the couch, Jen always sat to my left. Always. I never really got an explanation why, but one time I tried to sit on the left and she wigged out. (I mean, it was my couch.) When it came to making plans, Jen never called me. I had to initiate every phone call – once I went five days without calling her just to see what would happen, and when I finally broke down and picked up the phone she was shocked to hear from me because she assumed I had broken up with her. I had to set the itinerary for every date. I had to initiate every level of intimacy – even the killer massages. And much of what I initiated was branded by her as “slutty.” She wanted to move in with me, but she had never lived away from home and I suggested that she live on her own for awhile. She said that if she was going to move out of the house she grew up in it would be for a live-in relationship.

None of these, by themselves, are egregious offenses. (Certainly not as egregious as rooting for the Yankees.) But the cumulative effect led to an epiphany to me. I couldn’t be what Jen wanted. She wanted a take-charge guy. I can be that person when necessary. But dating Jen made me realize how attracted I am to assertive, take-charge women. They make me feel wanted. And I’ll be happy to share the assertiveness duties in a relationship if it makes me feel good about myself.

After Jen and I broke up, my friends asked me if I had “learned my lesson” and sworn off Yankee fans for life. The answer is no. Obviously, if I could design my dream mate she would be a Sox fan. But I’d rather date a Yankee fan who treats me well than a Red Sox fan who treats me like dirt.

Dating Jen ultimately didn’t work out, but I learned a lot about what I need in a soulmate. And for that, it was worth being with someone who worships pinstripes.

prepare yourself for complete awesomeness

Tomorrow my MFA Big Brother and I are switching blogs in honor of Truck Day for the Red Sox. You aren’t going to want to miss this epic event.

interviewing a published author!

So hopefully you were able to read A.J.’s guest blog yesterday. (If not, you might want to check it out, because this post is a follow-up to that one! Also, did you buy her book yet?) She was kind enough to agree to be interviewed, and here it is!

Now that your novella has been out for a couple of weeks, has your anxiety about releasing it gotten better, worse or the same?
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still have some anxiety, but I think the focus of my anxiety has changed. I’m no longer worried that readers might not like my novella. I am more concerned that I’m going to confront the same group of worries every time I publish something, that I’m going to hear that little voice wait “what if they hate it” every time something goes to press. I’m not terribly worried, though. I imagine that I’ll be a little more confident the next time I publish. If I publish often enough, I bet that I’ll eventually be able to hit that little voice with a gag order.

What has been one of the best experiences/conversations/whatever since the novella was published?
Wow – there have been so many. I think one of the coolest things I’ve seen so far took place on Facebook. Two or three people I knew from high school were reading the book and discussing it in a comment thread. They were quoting parts of the book back and forth. Seeing my own words quoted on Facebook by folks I haven’t seen in years was amazing.

How has the feedback been? How did your processing of the feedback change (or confirm) your anxiety about “letting it go”?
The feedback has helped me with my own fears. Many people I know bought the book and told me they enjoyed it, but some of the most validating feedback came in the form of reviews and emails from people I’ve never met. Some of them asked for a sequel.  I’m not exactly sure how some of these readers found my book, but it was wonderful to know that there is an audience for my work, and that this group of readers would like more. The knowledge that there is an audience for this work did help me to let it go.

Any advice for writers who are about to be published?
Enjoy the experience and, if your inner editor refuses to stop editing even when you’re published, try to silence her. Give her a cocktail or something.

Publishing Beware the Hawk

And the Defining Moments Series continues! A.J. O’ Connell, who was previously kind enough to write a guest blog for this series- on having two names– is back to discuss another defining moment in her life. I know A.J. because we both attended Fairfield University’s incredible MFA program. I’m so proud of her for recently publishing her first novella, and I couldn’t be more excited to promote it (you can purchase it here for only $2.99!!) on my blog.


The day my novella, Beware the Hawk, went up for sale on Amazon was the day I realized that I could not take the book back.

It sounds like a strange and ungrateful realization for an author to have.

I sent the manuscript to my publisher, Vagabondage Press, in September, with the hope that it would be published. I proofread the galleys in December, knowing that the book would be published. I promoted the book in January, because I wanted people to read it once it was published. All I’ve ever wanted to do is write  – and publish – fiction.

And then, one day before my official release date, when Amazon put my book up for sale and people actually started buying it, I started to panic a little.

I watched the comments on Facebook as friends spread the word that my book was for sale. Some people even bought it and started reading it on the same day.

I was elated, but in the back of my mind, something clicked: This novella, this story that sat idle on my computer for eight years, while I and I alone had access to the plot and the characters, could no longer be edited. I would no longer be able to make changes. If someone didn’t like it, I couldn’t make it better. It was published.

A little voice in the back of my brain, a voice I didn’t even know I had, started wailing “It’s not perfect. What if they hate it?”

I couldn’t believe my own reaction. I thought I’d been hardened by years of workshop, and it’s not like I hadn’t been cautioned about this. I’ve been hearing the Warning for as long as I’ve wanted to be a writer. If you’re an artist, you’ve probably heard it too.  It goes a little like this: “Once you put your work out there, you cease to have complete control over it. Other people have a stake in it. Other peoples develop opinions about it. You have to let it go.”

In other words, your work is no longer living in the safety of your head, and is no longer even in the relative safety of a writers’ workshop. It’s out in the big bad world, where some people will love it, some people will hate it and some people will remain indifferent to it.

Being published means accepting that, and I think, accepting your own fears about your work and yes, now I know that I have these fears. On the flip side, there is a thrill in knowing that the characters I invented are roaming around in the heads of other people.

I’m elated to know that other people are living in the same imaginary world I created 10 years ago, and I can’t wait to publish something else.

Congrats, A.J. on this incredible accomplishment. I hope many of you will go and purchase the novella. It’s cheaper than a cup of coffee, but will keep you happier for much longer. Also, even more exciting news. I interviewed A.J. after reading this guest blog, and will be posting the interview TOMORROW! So check back tomorrow morning!

On a side note, I’ve decided to start accepting submissions again for the Defining Moments Series. I’ll write more about it in a couple of days, but if you think you would like to contribute, get in touch with me.

new around this neck of the woods?

Bonjour!

Have you recently found your way over here from Erin or Ashley’s blogs? If so, welcome! Make yourself at home. I bet you’re wondering, “Who is this Erin character?” Now, that is a good question. The easiest way to get a brief overview of who I am is to check out the “About the Girl” tab at the top of this page (which really does need to be updated, sigh). However, I’ve provided a short list below because I like to make things nice and simple for you.

  • I’m afraid of bees. However, alligators are my favorite animals.
  • I am a graduate student studying creative nonfiction and I do a lot of whining about how I procrastinate too much. (I also don’t have good grammar on this blog, beware!)
  • Besides my day job, I have a part-time gig as a relief worker for adults with mental illnesses, and I also coordinate and plan events such as weddings and concerts. (I’m available for hire! Wink Wink)
  • If I told you that I was a great cook then I’d be lying to you, and I really am an honest person. I can however tell you that I want to be a good cook one day. My boyfriend makes fantastic meals; he’s teaching me what he knows, and the rest we plan on learning together. I’ve been updating this blog with all the cooking I’ve been doing. I cook every single week. Occasionally I’ve been recooking some previously attempted meals, but I like to try new things best.
  • I think everyone really should have a lucky number and a favorite color.
  • I also really want to know people’s middle names. I try to imagine what the middle names might be if people don’t tell me.
  • If it wasn’t for 20 Something Bloggers, I don’t know if I would have continued to blog since I first started in 2008. I also owe a lot of my blogging gratitude to my 101 in 1001 goals list and NaBloPoMo and NaNoWriMo and Grace in Small Things as well.
  • I love everything about home improvement. However, I still do not own my own home. Still, I fantasize about home design projects and knocking down walls and painting and everything that could have to do with houses. Mr. O and I are trying to buy a house right now,  but the process isn’t as glamorous as it may seem.
  • I love to travel. Anywhere.

And here are some of the key players on this blog:

  • Mr. O: The most wonderful man in the world (at least in my eyes). As corny as it may sound, Mr. O is my boyfriend and my best friend. I tend to profess my love for him on here.  I’m apologizing for that ahead of time.
  • Wolverine: The most wonderful boy in the world. Wolverine is Mr. O’s son, and he truly makes every single one of my days better by just being in it. I try not to write too much about him on the blog, but I occasionally profess my love for him as well.
  • Fairfield University MFA Program: I write a LOT about my grad school experiences, and on top of that, you have the chance to get to know some of my classmates, like Phil and AJ and Reuben (who was a guest blogger twice!) and Brooke and Ioanna.
  • Fenway: My Chihuahua/Terrier mix. She’s a rescue dog I adopted while living in Virginia. She definitely keeps me on my toes.

Oh…and these things happen often around these parts.

  • The Defining Moments Guest Series: So far Amanda, AJ, Phil, Brooke, Reuben, Heidi ,Kat, Micaela, Justin, Michaela (with an ‘H’), Holly and Ioanna have all posted about moments of reinvention or inspiration. This series has been a big hit for my readers, and I am always looking for more people to write a guest blog on this topic. You don’t have to be a regular blogger to do this. Kat wasn’t a blogger when she first wrote her post for me… now she has a Tumblr. Micaela still isn’t a blogger, but enjoyed the experience.
  • My Lessons- The Thoughts on Love Series: Now, I’m not an expert, but I’ve been thinking a lot about love this year…what it takes to be in a relationship, choices people make, how other people can affect your relationships, etc. I started this series to share my observations, thoughts and feelings.

So… That’s all folks! I’d love it if you introduced yourself, because I love to check out new blogs. Have an amazing day!

survey says!

Days Until 2012: viaIt is time for a MEME! I used to love filling out those silly survey emails when I was a kid. The other day I got a tweet from Erin that just said Tag! I was like huh? Then I read her blog and realized she tagged me in the meme she completed. Holy, super excited batman! I’m in!

Here’s the rules.

  1. You must post these rules.
  2. Each per­son must post 11 things about them­selves on their blog.
  3. Answer the ques­tions the tag­ger set for you in their post and cre­ate 11 new ques­tions for the peo­ple you tag to answer.
  4. You have to choose 11 peo­ple to tag and link them on the post. Go to their page and tell them you have linked him or her.
  5. No tag backs and you legit­i­mately have to tag 11 people.

11 Facts About Myself

  1. I am afraid of bees.
  2. I quit smoking on November 1, 2007. Woot Woot.
  3. I’m learning how to cook now by cooking once a week and I have LOVED it every time.
  4. I love anything crafty. DIY projects are the highlight of my day (when I have time to do them).
  5. I’m trying to buy a house. This process is not as fun as I assumed it would be.
  6. However, decorating for my future house on Pinterest IS ABSOLUTELY so much fun.
  7. I just did a critical project on Facebook and Writing. Check it out.
  8. We have an Elf on the Shelf named Logan. I fricking love this thing.
  9. I thank the universe every single morning for the amazing relationship I am in.
  10. I just started my second 101 in 1001 project (You can check out the blog, but it hasn’t been updated in FOREVER!)
  11. I plan weddings and other events. Hire me. Oh, and I create flower designs too.

And the questions from Erin.

  1. Where is one place (city, state, or country) that you are dying to visit?
    I don’t think I could fairly narrow this down. I’d love to go to Italy, Ireland, Vietnam, ehhh. I’ll stop here, but basically, I want to go EVERYWHERE!
  2. What is your bed time?
    Damn, I wish I had a set bedtime. Honestly, it is whenever I fall asleep. For the most part, that is between 10:30 and 12:00 usually.
  3. What is one resolution or goal you have for 2012?
    I try not to set specific resolutions, and I always have goals going, but I do have loads of intentions. I’d like to be a better student. It is my last semester, and I have so much writing to do. I’d like to be a more patient person, I’d to let other’s actions/moods affect me less than I currently let them. I’d like to blog more, and with better content.
  4. What would be your last supper?
    Lobster, oysters, dumplings, pho, ice cream cake, sour patch kids, banana cream cheesecake, and some steak
  5. If you could eat a meal with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
    A bunch of people jumped to mind, but I think in this very second, I’d like to meet Martin Luther King Jr. and just chat about our beliefs.
  6. What is your favorite animal?
    Alligators
  7. What is your dream job?
    Professional napper or stay at home mom(who got paid for it) or college writing professor or writer
  8. Who is your hero?
    My mom and my boyfriend
  9. When you need a snack, do you reach for sweet or salty? (Bonus points if you list your favorite snack.)
    Sweet. Favorite snack is just about everything. I do love ice cream. Oh, I just made some smores pops (marshmallow covered in chocolate–the white chocolate ones surprisingly taste best!– and then smothered in crushed graham crackers). But if I wanted a mix of both, I do love me some chocolate covered pretzels, and some chocolate covered potato chips.
  10. Does your style have a signature? (For example, I’m known for bold colors and loud prints.)
    Hmm, my signature varies through the years. If you ask my best friend, she’d say that I love prints. I guess I can admit to liking low cut shirts, but I can say its has been a while since I’ve worn one!
  11. What is your favorite book?
    Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp

Okay here is where my questions come in!

  1. Where was your best vacation?
  2. Do you have a lucky #? What is it? If not, why?
  3. What is one job you’d never want to do?
  4. Favorite household chore? Least favorite?
  5. Who’s style do you admire most and why?
  6. Do you fall asleep with the music or tv on (or anything else?)
  7. Favorite fast food meal?
  8. If you could have any animal as a pet (esspecially the kind that aren’t usually pets though) what would you choose?
  9. If you won 100 Million in the lottery what are the first 5 things you would buy/pay off?
  10. Do you like receiving gifts? What was the best present you’ve ever gotten?
  11. Can you keep plants alive?

I’m tagging…Erin, Elizabeth, Angela, Kate, Phil, AJ, Holly, AshleyLexah, Daisy, and Lisa!
If you play along, be sure to let me know. I’d love to see how you answered my questions.

fixing this will be a christmas miracle

Days Until 2012: viaWordPress and I are in a fight. Yup, I said it. FIGHT.

  • My most lovely friend from Her New Deal was kind enough to let me know my comments weren’t working (via twitter). Still don’t know how to fix that one, but I’m thinking an update/reinstall will help. I’ll save that for later tonight.
  • The connection between my WordPress for iPhone and the WordPress computer version is flukey, which is so irritating! I don’t get it either, because I have never ever had a problem with it until maybe about 3 or 4 days ago. It started posting pictures, but not the content I wrote to go with the pictures. And then yesterday, I had no pictures in my post, but I had typed up a decent sized post on my phone and it didn’t publish any of the words! (Thank goodness I recognized that during the day, so I could shoot out a quick post on my computer and I didn’t mess up my NaBloPoMo).
  • If you have a chance, swing by the blog and check it out (I’m assuming many of you read through some type of RSS reader. I’ve updated the posts for the past couple days with the missing content.

Enough whining. Let’s chat. Happy holidays folks. I hope you are all fully enjoying this season of holidays. I love that there are so many different types of celebrations depending on beliefs at this time. I love to learn about different religions or different customs. I’m a forever student. I want to constantly be learning.

Last night my Masshole Writers Group met to critique each others writing and do a holiday book swap. I’m super pumped to have been given a novel to read. With all these deadlines and requirements happening for school, I don’t read very often, but since I was given the book as a gift, you better believe I will read it!

I’m so fortunate to have such great friends. My Masshole friends, my blog friends, my school friends, my “real life” friends, etc.

Holiday Cards

Days Until 2012: via

I figured I would round off what appears to be Holiday week on the blog with the awesomest Christmas card I got from Holly at Scattered Words! My first ever international Christmas Card! YAY 🙂

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Girls’ Night In…aka we’re getting older and poorer

Days Until 2012: via Thanks to Duncan Hines for sponsoring my writing. There’s no limit to the baking possibilities, so grab your favorite Duncan Hines mix and Comstock or Wilderness fruit fillings and Bake On! www.duncanhines.com.
 

My girlfriends and I used to manage to get together for a monthly Girls’ Night Out and we would usually try new restaurants. It has unfortunately fell to the side recently—one of us is pregnant, two of us are in graduate school, one person just bought a house (I’m trying to make that 2!). The last time we got together, we decided to resurrect it and attempt a Girls Night In so that we don’t have to budget for a big meal out. We’ll still go out, but maybe we will alternate every other month or something. December will be GNI, January will be a night out, etc. Anyway!

Our first night in is coming soon, and we’ve decided to do drinks (nonalcoholic for the preggo) and desserts the first time. I think with the holidays coming up, we’re all going to be stuffing ourselves at company parties and family get-togethers that instead of attempting a pot luck meal, it is best to do a pot luck dessert.

What’s going to happen is the host is going to pick up the beverages, and the guests will each be bringing a small dessert and a bigger dessert. I decided to attempt a sweet snack I saw on Pinterest, and made white chocolate peppermint pretzel sandwiches as my small dish. I figured I would use the white peppermint chocolate rather than the normal chocolate since we are getting together during the holiday season! (I just made these a few days ago! I’m storing them in the fridge until the party)

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My big dish is going to be a repeat from something I tried last month: Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes. I actually get a lot of hits on the blog for my cheesecake, and I thought it tasted fantastic, so I figure I might as well get my friends opinions. I’m going to do it a LITTLE different this time. Instead of making one big cheesecake, I’m going to make all of them into cupcakes. I really like that the cupcakes I made last time (with the extra filling). I had a full Oreo on the bottom as a “crust”.

If I get ambitious enough, I might try to make something snazzy on top of the cupcakes, like a snowman (out of marshmallows) or a white tree (see Erin’s blog for a fantastic tutorial). Actually, nevermind what I said about Erin’s tutorial. She moved blogs and now writes at the amazing Speckled Palate. The tutorial was at her old blog, but I’m thinking maybe she can repost the old link on the new blog if we all ask nicely?

Remember to check out Duncan Hines’ website www.duncanhines.com to find some great recipes for your holiday get-together! I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective.

randoms

  • I’m not a big fan of waiting. I’m an action girl. I like to make things happen, not sit and wait for them to happen.
  • I am a very positive person, and believe in the power of intention.
  • I really need to type up and post my new 101 in 1001 list that went live 10/2/11.
  • Even more than that, I need to post all the updates for my original 101 challenge that ended 10/1/11.
  • I need to organize my entire life… because it isn’t.
  • I also need to see Michaela soon, because it has been ages since we have been together, and that, well that just doesn’t feel right.
  • I am addicted to Pinterest. It’s true. I can’t stop pinning. I just want to do it all the time.
  • I’m getting a coffee this weekend with Kristen, the fantastic Season 5 Statejoy blogger who happens to live near me. This will be epic.
  • I’ve cooked a whole lot since I started the new 101 challenge. At least once a week. So I need to get those blog posts written and posted.
  • My graduate school project is coming to a quick end, and I’m already wishing I had more time to develop it. I loved studying social media and its relation to writing. I definitely want to do more with this project in the future.
  • Speaking of school, my kick ass mentor Porochista won a NEA Grant! And so did two other amazing teachers in my program. Great job ladies!
  • Oh, and the Director of my MFA program won the Best Fiction Connecticut Book Award for his novel Beautiful Assassin.

 

Edit: I never finished this post yesterday morning. I had plans of finishing it when I got home, but instead I watched some X Factor and fell asleep. This morning I woke up to a comment from the aforementioned Michaela, and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy, because we were both thinking of each other yesterday. I really miss her.

living with intention

Last week I had a mini breakdown.

And by mini breakdown, I mean that I pretty much freaked the heck out from Thursday am to Friday night. This happened last month too, and while I very much wish I could pin it on PMS or something of the sort, I just can’t (although there was a full moon- just saying). I’m the type of person who likes to understand why things happen. I believe that there is a “reason” for everything, and it honestly makes me feel so much more comfortable and calm to know how things are related. For example, if I don’t take my vitamins or I start eating food with a lot of whey, my joints will begin to really hurt. So, when I feel like my world is crashing down, I like to understand why I feel like that.

The problem is… that there are no problems. I’m very, very fortunate to be as happy as I am in my life.

I am head over heels in love with my boyfriend and his son.  I love every single moment of our lives together, and cherish every single step we take towards our future, like buying a house with Mr.O or reading stories and bedtime kisses with Wolverine. Even more than that, I couldn’t ever thank Mr. O enough for the support he gives me in times like this. He is nonjudgemental and loving and kind. More importantly, he doesn’t make things easier for me (which drives me a bit crazy, but this might be the most important aspect). When I am sad, I want to immediate relief. I want Mr. O to play Prince Charming and have him swoop in and make everything better. But he won’t. This is what I’m grateful for. He is smart enough to understand that I need to fix my own emotions; he can support and encourage me; he can hug and kiss and hold me, but I am the only one who can change my life. This is what makes my heart flip and flop for him. He probably hurts to see me sad, but he doesn’t bandage over the sadness, he lets me experience it and move past it. He makes me feel confident enough to know he won’t leave me, and he firmly reminds me that I am absolutely not “crazy” when I claim that something is really wrong with me. This true love.

I am a student in the greatest creative writing graduate program ever. I am working with a kick ass, incredible mentor this semester and am very proud of my critical project I’ve created this semester (Side note: today is the last day to submit to The Story Behind the Status, so if you’re interested, get a move on!) I will be graduating in less than 8 months, and I’m kinda bummed about it. I wish I could get my MFA, but stay in the program forever (and not have to pay for it). Thank goodness for our Alumni Association!

I have some pretty amazing friends and family. I’m lucky to have people around me who support me and usually do not question my decisions, etc. It is nice to know you have people in your corner. I’m so glad to have friends that I can pick up with easily even if we haven’t spoken in a while. I went out last Friday night (which is what helped kick me out of my melt down) for my best friend’s birthday, and was able to spend time with a handful of other friends who mean so much to me. Plus, I had a FANTASTIC margarita.

I work for a great company in a job that I’m good at.
I changed jobs the month after I started graduate school I went from working in the HR field for 8+ years to a medical software company where I would be training clients. There was a pretty major pay increase and I love to teach, so I thought it would be perfect. There were a lot of people who didn’t think this was the best decision, and I do understand why. I needed to devote my brain to school, and by changing careers, I couldn’t give school the attention it needed. It felt like I went to school during the day (for work) and then came home and went right to school (for school). There was a LOT to learn in my company before I could start training clients, and by the time I got home, I felt mentally EXHAUSTED. The company is great, and the friends I made there are great, but it isn’t where I needed to be in my life right now.
However, I know now that going to work there was one of the best things that ever happened to me. In my time there, I completely paid off my credit card debt, and I met the man I will spend the rest of my life with.
But, I needed a change. So my “fairy godmother” (aka my current boss- who also happened to be my old HR boss) contacted me one day in May and presented a golden opportunity- a job that was the next city over from my house (meaning a daily commute of about 30-40 minutes total instead of the 3 hours daily at the medical software company), with a salary that I was very pleased with, a job that I’d be creating from the ground up and best of all, in a field where I KNEW MY STUFF. Did/do I have a lot to learn here? Absolutely! I’m actually working soley in one area of human resources that I was never involved in before, but I GET it. That is the amazing thing. I understand it all, and the things I need to learn, well I absorb them easily. It isn’t my dream job. I want to be standing in front of a college classroom challenging them to WRITE! But for now… it is exactly what I need. I feel safe and secure here. I love having my “fairy godmother” for a boss. She teaches me, pushes me, trusts me and is a really great friend too. Do things get hectic here? Every Single Day. Does it work for me right now? You betcha!

So why the meltdowns? Actually, why the multiple meltdowns? I had one last week, one in the end of September and then again a week later in the beginning of October, and umm, I think I had one in June. Why?

When I breakdown, I feel like my world is crashing around me. I know that it isn’t. I mean, I’m rational enough to understand that things are great, but then acknowledging that makes me feel even more nuts. If things are great, then what the F U C K is wrong? Am I crazy? Like legitimately, I mean that. Is something wrong with me? My thoughts are like a carousel and I obsess and I freak out and imagine all the bad things that could happen and then I imagine how I would feel if they would happen and then I think about all that is wrong with the world and then I think about how nuts I am being and then I think about how much I don’t like myself sometimes and then I just cry.

and cry…

and cry…

and do some more crying.

Mr. O made a very valuable point on Friday. When I get in freak out mode like that and cry like a nutjob, it is as if I’m a little kid who is inconsolable. You know when kids start to cry for whatever reason (they don’t want to eat their dinner, someone said something mean to them on the playground, it is bathtime, etc) and then they can’t stop crying. And the crying gets louder and the breathing gets all crazy and they get themselves to the point where they could almost throw up? Yeah, that is what happens to me. I was so interested when he said that. He is SO correct! Let me tell you one thing about Mr. O… he gets me to THINK sometimes. That is EXACTLY what I do. I get to the point where I am absolutely inconsolable, and because of this, even if I pull myself out of a crying fit, the sadness will linger for a good couple days.

Now, the freak out at the end of September was justified. I understand why I cried like a maniac. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the one in October was probably the remaining emotions from the September freak out. But I do not understand my freak outs last week and in June.

Do you think I’m being nuts writing an extremely long blog post about four crying incidents? Because if I didn’t make this clear enough, these incidents didn’t FEEL like temporary moments of sadness. They FELT like the end of my world as I knew it. Dramatic? Yes. But was that how it felt? Yes. I am extremely uncomfortable feeling like this (I’m also extremely uncomfortable with the amount of adverbs in this post). A few years ago I had a period of pretty severe depression that lasted almost a year I’d say. Obviously depression is unexplainable, and just happens. But it feels horrible and scary (actually terrifying is a better word) and unending. So, for the record, I never, ever, ever want to feel like that again, and take my mental health very seriously. These four mini breakdowns felt like that depression. And THAT is what terrifies me.

I don’t want to scare you guys. I feel remarkably better. I feel safe and normal. But I do feel cautious. Was it a mini bout of depression? I don’t know. Probably not. It was probably just an overwhelming moment. While my life is truly blessed, I do have a lot of stress. All of the blessings I noted above can be overwhelming. I’ve got deadlines for school and projects I’m behind with at work. I’ve got houses to look at and disappointments when my favorites go off the market. I’ve got friends I don’t see, things I don’t do.

It all adds up.

And then I usually break down.

Why the hell am I writing all of this? Who knows. I guess I just want to be real. I can’t do everything. I can’t be everything. I’ve got to take everything one day at a time. I just want you to know that this is who I am. I wrote a post a week or so inspired by Ashley of all the things I don’t do. I’m not Wonderwoman. To me, my life is perfect…it is everything I could have ever wanted. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get overwhelmed at times. Because I do.

I wish I could sum this up better– present you all with the key to managing life, paint a pretty picture– but I can’t. If there is anything that I have learned this whole year is that our life MUST be defined by ourselves. Am I crazy? Not by my standards. Am I happy? Yes, by my standards. Is my life where I want it to be? By my standards, you betcha. I’m still going to have tough days here and there. I won’t always understand why. But it’s a part of life I need to accept, acknowledge and experience. And once I learn how to do that…. I will feel better.

Oh, and side note. I want to thank you. My blog followers always amaze me. You guys are some of the most supportive, caring individuals. You too make my life better every day. I couldn’t do it without you.

i just don’t..

Inspired by Ashley and Becky’s posts, I decided to also share all the things I don’t do.
Ashley wrote about the mask of perfection, in the sense that, while there are so many wonderful things she has experienced or witnessed via blogging, she also see so much “perfection” on blogs that just seem too good to be true. She suggested we “declare ourselves rife with imperfection” (love that phrase) which I think is just the greatest thing we can all do. Here goes nothing…

  • While I do actually work at my 101 in 1001 list, I never update the blog. This drives me insane personally, because I take notes and take photos; all I need to do is post them. My first 101 list ended on 10/1/2011, and my second one started 10/2/11. I haven’t even posted or updated anything about the new list! I’m so behind schedule.
  • I don’t write nearly as much as a graduate student (in creative writing) should. I hate to admit it, but it is true. That is something I have been working on very hard this semester, and I should probably pat myself on the back and admit that it is slightly getting better.
  • I haven’t been on the 20SB site in forever. I love the community and what it has grown to be, but I’m neglecting it.
  • I buy birthday, holiday, new house, new baby, new job, congratulations, thank you, retirement and sympathy cards all the time. When I need one, I usually fill it out and address it. Then it sits somewhere stamp-less for way too long. I just found a card for one of my friend’s who got an awesome job in May. It is November and it was never mailed.
  • I don’t know how to cook very much. I can cook killer breakfasts: anything with eggs, pancakes, waffles, french toast, cinnamon rolls, monkey bread.  I make a mean spaghetti, great chow mein, mac and cheese, oh yeah I made a great salmon (like twice) ehhhh… I can grill stuff good too. I sear a tuna like a  pro. Basically, I’ve been learning how to cook. Mr. O has been helping me learn, and I’m excited about it.
  • I don’t spend as much time with my grandparents as I would like to. I know how important it is, and I just need to put more effort in.
  • I don’t comment on blogs like I used to. I read every single post in my reader, and I “star” so many of them so that when I have a chance I can go over and comment. But 1/2 the time I never end up doing it. 🙁
  • I don’t ever complete a NaBloPoMo. Ever. I’m on day three and going strong though, so I’ve got hope for this month.
  • I don’t clean my apartment like a normal human. I’m hardly ever there, so I tend to just let things pile up until it is a big mess and then try like hell to attack it all at once.
  • I don’t do my laundry more than once a week. In fact there is a good chance that I do my laundry every other week. How? Well, I’m fortunate to own a LOT of clothing. The only thing that stinks about this is that I usually do a LOT of loads all at once.
  • I don’t get my oil changes on time… EVER. I wait and I wait and I wait and then the guilt piles up and finally I get it done.
  • I don’t send attachments in emails. Most of the time. I’ll send an email out at work that says something like, “reference the attached email,” but then forget to attach it.
  • I don’t remember half of what I am supposed to. It is sad, but true. Lists keep me sane.
  • I don’t complete 98% of the DIY or craft projects I aim to. I still however love to shop at Michael’s and AC Moore.
  • I don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy this season. It is my favorite show, but I just can’t remember to put it on.
  • I don’t wash my hair everyday. If I did it would be stringy and gross. However. If I go more than 48 hours without washing it, it will be ridiculously greasy. It’s a lose-lose.
  • I don’t floss as often as I should. I’ve got no excuses for this one.
  • I don’t write in my diary. I like my diary, but between school, this blog and the talking I do with friends and family, there isn’t that much more to say.
  • I don’t wake up early enough for work every single morning, which in turns make me rushed and almost/sometimes late.

help a girl out…

Alright, folks. I am asking for help, which I don’t do very often.

As most of you know, I am in graduate school. I’m currently pregnant with my thesis (read that sentence carefully!) which means I’ve got 9 months until graduation. From now until my “due date” (Mid July 2012 woot woot!), I will be writing a collection of nonfiction linked essays.

But right now, I am working on my (creatively) critical thesis. I’m spending my 3rd semester in graduate school studying the connection between social media and nonfiction writing. Specifically how we can use Facebook posts and Tweets as prompts to write the “true” story.

I’m collecting and editing an anthology of creative nonfiction (in the forms of essays, letters, poetry, lists, etc) based off social media posts.

Not only would I love if you wrote and submitted something to my collection, but I really need help spreading the word. The submission deadline was originally set for November 1, 2011. I’m hoping I can convince someone of you to share the link to my project website ( http://thestorybehindthestatus.com ) or possibly even write a blog post about it. I know that is a lot to ask, but I also know I have some pretty amazing blog friends out there.

In the meantime, would you please take a moment to see what it is all about?

You guys are the best.

welcoming the fall

Welcome to the next installment of the Defining Moments guest blogging series. I’ve been fortunate to have Ioanna in one of my workshops in each residency at Fairfield. Not only is she a great writer, but she is a fantastic human. She is kind, trustworthy, intelligent and fun. I’m very honored to have her write something for the blog. When you’re finished reading, you should go check her out at Climbing the Treacherous Mountain.

People who’ve read my work may know that I’m somewhat obsessed with the concept of falling. My MFA thesis begins with a scene in which I’m gazing over the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge, contemplating what it would be like to fall, wondering if I’d really die, and speculating that “it wouldn’t feel like falling.”

When asked to choose one or two lines from our work to be read at our graduation, it was somewhat of a no-brainer for me. I chose, “But it wouldn’t feel like falling.”

To me, this concept relates to at least one major theme in my memoir: how we learn to reconcile contrary instincts—for instance, the instinct to trust completely to the point of abandon, or to fear to the point of paralysis; the instinct to blindly follow our emotions, or to rely solely on our intellect. How do we nurture one instinct without weakening the other? How do we maintain a safe and reasonable, yet emotionally and spiritually fulfilling, sense of balance? If we have to choose to follow one instinct and suppress the other, which do we choose?

A couple days before our residency at Ender’s, I quit my adjunct teaching job. To many, this might not seem like a big deal. Adjuncts come and go; it’s the nature of the profession. But for me, it was like choosing to fall. It was telling myself it wouldn’t feel like falling. I’d committed to relying on waitressing for money so I could focus on my writing for a while—a tremendous leap of faith that felt right.

Until the opposite instinct kicked in. The second day at Ender’s, I had to deliver my graduation presentation and reading. I woke up early that morning, hands shaking, nerves a wreck, knowing these were the final hurdles to jump before embarking on my “new life.” What am I doing? I thought. Am I fooling myself? Will I ever write again when this program is over? And you quit your job? What were you thinking?

I had to do something to calm myself down, so I grabbed my iPod and took a walk around the island. As I did, I began to feel lighter and freer. At one point, I stood on one of the stone steps and took in the view of the Sound. Though the step was about three feet high, I felt the urge to casually glide down to the ground. It’s not that far down, I thought. And then splat. I fell flat and hard on the stony ground—and it definitely felt like falling.

Luckily, I’d braced myself with my hands, but still, it hurt. A lot. I had a terrible gash on my toe (that probably should have been stitched) and some painful scrapes on my knees. But most startling was the awareness of how hurt I could have been, and how I’d careened from one extreme to the other that morning: from fear and doubt to a momentary and overly romantic abandon of reason, and as a result, I’d fallen. Hard. And I was lucky that it hadn’t been from higher, lucky it wasn’t my face or head that hit that rocky ground.

I literally laughed and cried as several kind people came over to help me. I felt banged awake. “Get real,” I suddenly thought.

Sure, it was a risk to quit my job and declare myself once and for all a writer. Yes, it was a leap of faith. And yes, I believe in the power of faith. But now that I’ve made this choice, taken this step, it’s up to me to meet my faith halfway.

Someone asked me later that week if I felt nervous for graduation. I didn’t; I felt I’d graduated when I hit that ground.

All of this is not to say I hope I fall again, any time soon. It’s just, I guess, to say—borrowing from one of my favorite poems, Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art”—that “it wasn’t a disaster.”

what do you want to be?

I’m really excited to have Holly be the next guest blogger. She and I have only started reading each other’s blogs in the past few months, but I’m so glad to have her in my reader. I highly recommend heading over to her blog just as soon as you’re done reading her post here.
“When I received Erin’s e-mail outlining what she was looking for in a “Defining Moments” post – a few possibilities jumped to mind. First, I thought I would write about the day I met my husband – but that’s not really a good story. (Our initial encounter involved a chin up and a “Hey, ‘Sup?” and that’s about it …) Then I thought maybe it would be better to write about the day I had my son – how with that first hello, my life was changed forever.
Those were life-altering events that certainly redefined who I am – but the moment I chose to write about is something much smaller. I chose to write about a simple conversation I had with a wise friend that changed the way I see myself and the people around me …
I remember it like it was yesterday, though it was a conversation that actually took place more than six years ago. After spending the morning walking on slush-covered sidewalks giving him a Grand Tour of the city he had moved to the week before, my toes were numb, my nose was red and dripping, and I could barely feel my fingers. When he suggested we stop for coffee I wanted to hug him! I was a tough girl who didn’t want admit she hadn’t dressed for the weather.
He ordered a cafe mocha, I ordered a hot chocolate. We sat at a table in the corner, our gloved hands wrapped around our cups.
I remember the awkward silence. We had only met four days before. He was the new intern pastor at our church; I was showing him around as a favour to one of the associate pastors. I remember thinking it was funny, how we had so much to say to each other when we were walking around the city for three hours, but absolutely nothing once we were sitting across from each other.
“So …”
“So …”
I remember the nervous chuckle … and then every student’s favourite question:
“So … what do you want to be when you grow up?”
I was in the final months of my undergraduate program as an Economics major/Business minor – so at that point, I thought I had it all figured out.
Or at least I hoped I did.
My answer was quick. Confident. Well-rehearsed.
“I want to work with the governments of poor countries and help them get out of debt.”
I remember the way he studied me over his coffee cup, his brown eyes not leaving mine.
“Hm.”
The lowering of the cup.
The Smile.
That Infuriating Smile — that I now know means I’ve played right into his hand. It means he’s about to say something that will make me Think. (He has this annoying habit of asking a question – a simple question – that – for me, at least – leads to weeks of introspection. A simple conversation – a simple question – but somehow I always end up rattled.)
“I didn’t ask you what you wanted to do when you grow up – I asked you what you wanted to be.”
I remember raising my eyebrows. “I want to be an economist, then.”
“Really? Do you really want to be an economist?”
By that point I was starting to realize he was getting at something else – something I wasn’t sure I could answer – so with a shrug, I turned the question on him.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I don’t think I’ll ever forget his answer.
It was quick. Confident. Not at all rehearsed …
“I want to be someone who loves,” he said.
Someone who loves.
He went on to elaborate: “I want to be someone who loves others. Who puts people first. People are more important than _______ – whatever. Fill in the blank.”
The conversation continued and eventually we moved on to other topics, but to be completely honest – after that introduction, I thought he was a little bit strange. He was so earnest, it was unsettling. I made a note to myself to keep my distance – but as the weeks passed, I found myself returning to that conversation. Mulling over the distinction between what we DO and what we ARE. WHO we are. WHOSE we are … And what responsibility that holds.
And I found the words “People are more important than _________” echoing in my head at the most inconvenient times. I’d be on my way to the university to write an exam and I’d see a girl who had dropped her notebook chasing loose papers all over the courtyard. I’d hesitate for a second – and then I’d hear that phrase, and I’d turn away from the door and join in the paper chase. Or I’d be driving home for the weekend and see someone with a flat tire on the side of the road – and I’d touch the brake ever so slightly, thinking “Should I? Someone else will stop …” – only to hear those words – and put my blinker on. Or I’d be finished shoveling the driveway in -30 (worse with windchill!) and be ready to go inside to have a hot shower and some hot chocolate to warm up – when I’d see my neighbour come outside with his shovel. “I already put my time in – I’m freezing, he’ll be fine!” I’d tell myself – but I’d hear “People are more important than ________” over and over and over in my head, so I’d walk the few steps to the neighbour’s driveway and start digging.
And those are just a few examples – I’ve lost track of all the times it’s happened over the past six years.
Today I am many things: a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, an equestrian, a medical secretary (a far, far cry from an economist, eh?) – and someone who loves.
Thanks to that one simple conversation.
I think that counts as a defining moment, don’t you?”

an education in space and time

This is my first round two! Reuben wrote about an experience in jail for his first Defining Moments post. When I put out a call asking if anyone in my MFA program were interested in writing something, Reuben asked if he could contribute a second piece. “Hell Yeah,” was my answer.

My best friend’s name is Lesson. It’s his, as in he chose it; changed his driver’s license, amended his birth certificate. Freedictionary.com, then, defines him as “something to be learned.”

*          *          *

Three days ago, when the Texas temperature finally dropped below 100 degrees, we sat outside on the patio of the house I choose for us, the house I scoured Austin, with a real estate agent in tow, to find for us, and he tells me he’s making a road trip. His freckled, cherub-esque, perma-smile flattened and his eyes criss-crossed my face, picking up all my micro-expressions because we both know this is  trip I wasn’t taking with him.

For the nine years that we’ve known each other the open road has been some sort of component of our lives. When I was living in Atlanta with my family, one phone call, one text message was all it took for Lesson to pack up from Orlando and bolt out on the eight hour drive to come get me.

Three years ago we drove out to Texas together because we wanted to see something different. We drove for twenty hours straight through, not once turning on the radio. We’re the kind of best friends who can have conversations across whole time zones.

Lesson is always the driver, and I’m always the navigator. He can pull the car up mountains, eyes focused on the few hundred yards in front of him, and I can read the road signs, gauge the sun in the sky and tell us where we are, where we’re going.

*          *          *

Two days ago, I watch Lesson and his girlfriend pack. I ask questions like a bad actor in rehearsal, an amateur who turns into cardboard when they aren’t speaking lines.

“You’re going where first?” I over-emphasize.
“San Francisco.” Lesson says, “It’ll probably take a day or two. And then I’m thinking Denver, you remember Devin and Ben? They live there now.”
“I go to school with someone who lives in Denver.”
“And then Richmond, to visit Lani.” Lesson’s girlfriend hands him folded clothes and he packs them into his duffle bag. “She’s got this garage that I want to talk to her about converting, putting in A/C, bunking down.”
I deliver my line flat, “And then Orlando?”
“Yep yep! Cross country.”
“My birthday is in two weeks.”
“I know, I’m sorry, brother. We might not make it back in time.”

*          *          *

No one’s sad in these last few days. There’s no hurt feelings. Lesson and I joke, and I breathe in his amped anticipation like oxygen. In the spaces where conversation lulls and laughter peters out I notice we both breathe in and stare ahead of us. I realize we’re both prepping ourselves for the road ahead. Austin’s become a fork and we’re about to take different paths.

We call each other “brother,” not just to ourselves but to other people. At concerts when we lose track of each other I ask people, “have you seen my brother? He’s about this high, chubby, red-orangish hair? He’s white.” From him it’s, “my brother’s that Arab-looking guy, you know, with the curls.” We have friends from the bar scene who think we grew up together in foster care.

*          *          *

Yesterday, the he day he left, I ride shotgun through all his last-minute errands. New tires, inspections, oil changes. I have school work and a deadline for grad school but I don’t think to even touch my computer or pick up a book.

Randomly, we light cigarettes for each other and say, “I’m gonna miss you, man.” He’ll be gone two weeks, maybe three. Maybe a month. Lesson will be on the road for as long as he can take it. Parts of him will come back but I know enough: parts of him won’t. Parts of Lesson will change, grow without me. Parts of me will settle and emulsify, without him. A season will change, it will be Fall; I’ll be older when he gets back. And we’ll both know: our friendship isn’t going to die; it can’t because we are brothers. What it can do is bend, twist and turn, branch out like a maze. There’s always options, choices between two roads. And there will always be a driver and a navigator. One to propel, one to orient.

Today, I get phone call from Lesson.

 “I saw the Pacific.” He says.
“Is it beautiful?”
“Gorgeous! I miss you, Brother.”
“I miss you too.”
“Gotta go. I love you, Reuben.”
“I love you, Lesson.”

And that’s what I’ve learned.

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