Growth in the Womb

Okay, so maybe that is a strange title for this post, and maybe I don’t have much to say about the topic. Babies have been in my life for years. I’m blessed to have friends and family members who had made lots of babies in the past decade. Right now, I have a handful of close pregnant friends. Three of them were even in my wedding party. It also seems that so many of my blogging friends are having babies or will soon have them, and this overjoys me as well. I’ve always been amazed with pregnancies, and just the very idea that a baby grows inside of a woman’s body.

I saw this video about growth in the womb today on Facebook. I’m pretty sure I’ve watched it before, but it has been a few years. One of my friends shared it to her pregnant sister’s page (the sister is also my friend!) I think this is absolutely breathtaking to watch. Well, to be honest, it’s a bit creepy too at some points, but overall, it’s so awesome.

Congratulations to all of my lovely and radiant pregnant friends. I wish you happy pregnancies and healthy babies!

Marital Status

The next installment in my Defining Moments Series is written by Kristen Costa. After you’re done reading her post here, you should head over to her blog Life By Kristen and follow her on twitter @kristencurator

Kristen Costa

I’ve always been a lover of surveys, questionnaires, etc. I don’t know why—maybe it’s because I’m opinionated and this allows me the opportunity to let me views on things like laundry detergent or frequency of grocery shopping to be known, but regardless of the reason, I am a member of more than a handful of online survey groups. My defining life moment came in September 2011 when filling out a survey about grocery shopping. And it all involved the checking of a box on the usual question of “marital status.” Let me explain.

In July 2011, after a mere year and two months of marriage, my ex-husband and I decided to end our marriage. Those fourteen months of marriage—preceded by a difficult two and a half years dating—were painfully difficult, and so much more than in the usual tough ways of the first year of “wedded bliss.” After half a year of individual therapy for each of us and couples’ counseling, it became clear that we were not made for forever together. While we decided to separate in July, it was not until we had ironed out the details between the two of us that we told our families, friends, and coworkers in August. It was not until September that he moved out of our house.

Telling people was difficult though so many people in my inner circle saw it coming. I sort of avoided telling the rest of the world—a lot of people noticed a change in relationship status on Facebook (21st century solution to awkward situations for the win!), others noticed a lacking of wedding photos anywhere online or in my house. Most people who were acquaintances learned when I was a guest blogger during the transition period. This lack of “announcement” by either me or my ex was intentional—we wanted to keep things private and only our families and closest friends knew what happened between us, but honestly I can say now—a year later—that I was afraid of the word “divorced.”

Being divorced was never something that ever entered into my atmosphere—sure I had lots of friends who parents were divorced and even members of my extended family, but in my mind, I came from a close immediate family—grandparents married over fifty years, parents over thirty, with similar numbers on my then husband’s side. We both thought we knew each other well enough that we would have years of success. I even pondered to myself each time a friend was married about who would be divorced first; with rates of marriages ending being on the rise, I figured my close circle of friends would also fall to the statistics. I was naïve enough to not even consider that the statistic might end up being me.

Deciding to get divorced was not easy by any means—but filling out that form and clicking the box “separated/divorced” on that grocery shopping survey was the first time I had to “publicly” proclaim the words. It seems like the smallest thing in comparison to having to tell me parents I had failed at my marriage, but to me it was the biggest. In that moment, in going from the ‘married’ box (and previously before that the ‘single’ box), I became totally redefined in the minds of the survey analyzers. I was a new demographic and in one that I felt held so much judgment—not by the survey takers, but by ME. The word divorced held so much weight to me and literally brought me down into a bit of a panic in thinking about checking off this new box. Knowing I had to end my marriage to be happy was one thing, going through with it and doing the paperwork was another—but this—this proclamation to the world and putting myself into a new category of life—was something so much bigger. I know that I gave all the weight and power to the word and what it meant and that being divorced is not the end of the world. Yes, my marriage failed and I broke a vow—two things I never imagined for myself, but deciding that I needed to end my marriage was me taking a stand for my life and choosing happiness over obligation. The defining moment was checking off that box; while I am not proud that I am divorced and it is something I do not wish on my worst enemy—I am proud that in that moment, I was able to realize that checking off that box was a small action, but a huge thing at the same time in accepting my life and the choices I made for myself.

How I Became An Academic

 I recently posted a call for new writers to join my Defining Moments Series. I was so pleased to have a great response and hope to bring you a new writer every week for the next few weeks. Ashley from Writing to Reach You was the first kind soul to contribute. See what she has to say about being an academic and then head over to her blog and subscribe. She won’t disappoint!

Ashley from Writing to Reach You

No one ever believes me when I say this, but I was not a smart child.  I  had a crazy imagination and I was very sensitive, but I wasn’t smart.  I knew the smart girls, because they were my friends, but I wasn’t one of them.  I showed potential, which a lot of my teachers recognized, but I wasn’t on the track to success in school.  Given the choice, as I often was, I would always rather go out and play than sit inside and read.

My friends were all very focused on school, which made me feel like the  aimless one.  I didn’t have big ambitions or think much about the  future, and none of this is all that weird for a kid, but it seems so  unlike the person I am now.  What strikes me as different about this  defining moment is that it was not inevitable. I can see myself  continuing down the path that I was on, and I have no idea where it  would have taken me, because what happened next completely changed the  shape of my life.

I had this really sweet elementary school existence.  My public school  was small enough that I knew everyone and had forever, and they kind of  accepted me as the weird kid that I was.  I had good friends who were so loyal that I didn’t know friends came any other way.  Then it came time for middle school, and my best friend moved to another state, another  close friend went to a different school, and the rest of us were  scattered across a large campus with no classes together.  It felt like  we had all been thrown into a completely different world.

I adjusted very well to this new world at first.  Either my aimlessness  or the butterfly clips I wore in my hair attracted one of the cool girls to me, and she was cool enough that being friends with her also meant  that you were friends with all of her friends.  In that crowd, I found a new best friend, and we grew close really quickly.  I knew I was kind  of out of my element.  These girls were not like the girls I’d been  friends with in elementary school, but they were nice enough and they  were cool.

Everything changed when my new best friend got a boyfriend and proceeded to forget I existed.  I honestly don’t know if she ignored me for a couple of  days or several weeks, but it really didn’t matter, because those girls  from elementary school had taught me to expect so much more from my  friends.  At some point, she apologized, but I didn’t forgive her.   Instead, I distanced myself from her and our entire group of friends.

In a very short period of time, I went from being friends with a large  group of cool kids to having almost no friends at all.  Sometimes I  still saw a few of the girls from elementary school, and I always had at least a couple of people to eat lunch with, but mostly I was alone.  I  went from aimless to completely lost.  I would not have been surprised  if a fork had literally fallen from the sky and blocked my way, because  choosing not to forgive my friend sent me on the path that I am still on today.

I can’t remember if I started focusing on school, because I had nothing  else to do, or if I fell in with the nerdy kids, because I was desperate for friends, but I quickly went from sitting in the back of the  classroom to the very front.  My new friends were not the lovable nerds  you’d expect if this were a movie, but some sense of competition between us pushed me to do better.  They didn’t seem to realize that I was just playing the role of the good student–that it wasn’t really me.

Middle school was the only time in my life where I didn’t have at least a  couple really close friends who understood me.  It was the only time in  my life where I have ever been lonely for an extended period of time.   It sucked for that reason, but I made the best of my solitude.  I  started reading for fun, which changed my life.  I started listening to  music I really liked instead of just what my friends liked.  Despite  being a mediocre student in elementary school, I had always been  recognized for my writing, but middle school was when writing became  important to me.  I created the person I would become.

I did well enough with what remained of sixth grade to earn all of the  Most Improved awards at the end of the year.  It was strange to me how  quickly I became one of the smart kids.  It would take me years and  years to come around to seeing myself that way, but I marveled at how  easy it was to become a completely different person in the eyes of other people.  I continued to earn good grades in seventh and eighth grade,  so when it was time to start high school, I chose to sign up for all of  the Honors and AP classes.

I can’t imagine it’s really all that surprising to anyone but me that I’m now working on a PhD.  I have been on this track since sixth grade.  But, for me, my identity is very much wrapped up in the person I was before sixth grade.  She feels like a  stranger and a friend.  And my defining moment is so complex to me,  because it wasn’t a moment of glory–it was a show of weakness.  I  should have forgiven my friend.  She went through some difficult things  in the years that followed and I’m sorry I wasn’t there for her.  But,  I’m grateful that instead of getting caught up in the current that was  pulling me into a different kind of life, I was forced to step back and  learn to be alone and think about who I wanted to be.

Are you interested in writing a post for the Defining Moments Series? If so, email me at reinventerin (at) gmail (dot) com

Defining Moments Series: An Invitation

Today I am grateful for all the great people who get involved when I ask for help. A while back, I started a blog series called Defining Moments. Since the blog is called Reinventing Erin, and I regularly write about moments in time that change me, I wanted to invite other people to join me. To do the same. I thought one, maybe two, people would be excited to guest post on my blog. I thought I’d have to pull teeth to get the rest of the writers to share something with my readers. But that didn’t happen. What did happen was a great group of interesting people from various walks of life asking me if they could participate. I was delighted. Bloggers and nonbloggers, ladies and men… You get my point. It was an awesome series.

I’ve been toying with resurrecting it for a while now, and when I noticed that Katherine was interested in writing every day, I asked her if she would consider writing something for the Defining Moments series…. and she agreed. I’m really excited to read her post (which will be going live sometime this month, keep your eyes peeled).

But getting back on the gratitude thing, I’m so appreciative of all the kind people who have already participated. You can go and read all their posts which are listed on my Defining Moments page. You’ll learn about rescuing dogs, being in jail, having two names, being independent, etc.

I also want to invite you all to participate in this series. Do you have something you want to share? Don’t think you need a dramatic life moment to take part in this. There are people who wrote about how a conversation they had with someone changed their perspective, another person wrote about falling down. You all have something interesting to say. You all have moments that changed you, even if they were small, tiny moments. They matter; share them!

If you are interested in this, feel free to leave a comment here or send me an email at reinventerin (at) gmail (dot) com

July Observations

July Highlights:

  • I graduated from the best MFA program in the universe.
  • My last residency was incredible. I loved meeting the incredible incoming class. I loved spending time with some of my mentors. I loved teaching my seminar and giving my reading. I loved it all.
  • I am very happy with my graduation speech. It went so smoothly and I think I did a good job of involving the whole class in my speech. I’ve been toying with posting it here, but I’m not sure if I should.
  • Wolverine’s birthday party was a blast. The weather held out all day, which meant no rain until the party was over! Our water slide also worked the entire time. Mr. O put a lot of hard work into patching the holes on the slide, and the kids loved playing on the slide.
  • Announcing Spry Literary Journal. (Ha, I didn’t quite announce it yet, but the big announcement should come tomorrow!)
  • I’m doing a great job keeping up with my 365 photo project. As of today, I am on day 179.

Stinky July Moments:

  • My dad had a heart attack while I was away at school which was very scary. Because of this he and my mother couldn’t come to my graduation. I’m very lucky to have a great boyfriend who videotaped the whole thing so that they could watch me graduate from the comfort of their living room!
  • Everything happened at once. Between school, work, the literary journal, another editing project I’m involved in and my personal life… everything happened this month. Oh, well. All good stuff.
  • Running into people I’d rather not see.

Other Mentionable Moments:

  • My fantastic friend gave birth to a healthy little baby girl. Welcome to the world Isabella.
  • Wolverine, my dad, Lauren, Kerri, Linsey and both of my grandparents all celebrated birthdays. Those same grandparents also celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.

I’m looking forward to____ in August:
August should be busy! Mr. O, Wolverine and I will be road-tripping down to DC and then heading to Virginia to visit some great friends and their new baby girl. We are also hoping to go camping this month. We’re going to a carnival and my brother’s annual cookout (which I’ve missed the past two years). August 15th will be the first day my literary journal will be accepting submissions.

Overall Thoughts:
July was incredible. I’m so happy and proud of the fact that I graduated from my MFA program. At the same time though, I will miss it terribly. I’m so grateful that my dad is okay and I hope his healing process is smooth. I’m glad that Wolverine loved his actual birthday and his birthday party. I’m tired, but happy.

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Want to know more about my experiences in 2012? Check out the previous months: January and February and March and April and May and June

February Observations

Can you believe February is over? I honestly cannot. I feel as if it was just New Year’s Day, but two whole months have passed. Last month I promised you that I would be recapping my months for all of 2012, so since I like to keep my promises, here is February…

February Highlights:

  • I got LASIK eye surgery, and everything went so smoothly. I can see! This experience has been incredible, and I feel so fortunate for my great vision.
  • Getting my first thesis packet back from Kim Dana Kupperman. She is an incredible mentor to work with, and I am so pumped for this semester.
  • I signed up for Statejoy’s Fierce Love Course. I know I barely have time to sleep, and this is another thing I will need to make a priority, but you know what? I think it is a great decision. It is about time I make myself a priority in life. Plus, the lovely San and I decided to be Fierce Love buddies and keep each other in check.
  • Mr. O and I ate lobsters again for Valentine’s Day, but this year we shared the meal with Wolverine and my parents.
  • I started my 365 pictures goal for my 101 in 1001 challenge.
  • My resolution for the month was to Purge! I kicked ass at that goal this month. I can’t wait to share all the pictures with you next month.

Stinky February Moments:

  • Mr. O’s car has been giving him a bit of a hard time.
  • This is my thesis semester. Boo. It is a lot of work. (I’m thinking this might be here every month).
  • I feel like I did quite a bit of laundry this month. It isn’t so much that laundry is a bad thing, the problem is that Mr. O has pointed out to me (quite fairly) that my ironing skills are so-so at best. Que sera, sera. I tried.

Other Mentionable Moments:

  • My grandmother turned 101 years old this month.
  • My wonderful friends Sarah, Monica, Jim, Jenn, my cousin Briget, Mr. O’s sister, and my best friend’s mom all celebrated their birthdays.
  • It is a Leap Year! I’m obviously unsure of what today will have in store for me, but I’m planning on making the best of it. I think Mr. O and I are going to write a note to us to be read the next leap year. That should be fun.

I’m looking forward to____ in March:

  • Mr. O, Wolverine and I will be taking a weekend away in New Hampshire.
  • Going to the Blog Better Boston Conference and meeting my lovely friend Kate (and new friends too!)
  • Kicking ass with the new writing I need to do this semester.
  • Putting effort into the Fierce Love Course.

Overall Thoughts:

February was an okay month. Everything seemed so busy. I have a lot of work and a lot of schoolwork to get done. Not sure how I am going to accomplish it all. Mr. O and I have been settling in quite well, and I love our routines and everyday life stuff. I’m worried about my friend whose husband, sister and niece are all extremely ill. I can’t wait until all my friends start having their babies! I’ve got one coming in March, one in April, another in May, one in July and one in September! I love infants. I can’t wait to hold one. Not much more to really say about February. It was a busy month. I felt a bit overwhelmed all month. It was a nice month though, not bad at all…just looking forward to March. I can’t wait until Spring is officially here.

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Want to know more about my year? Check out the previous months:
January

Fierce Love

If there is one thing I know all about, it is how to love deeply and strongly. When I first heard that Molly was starting up a Fierce Love course this month, I was intrigued. I read her blog posts, signed up for the emails and thought to myself, “Nah, this isn’t for me… I don’t have time right now to learn about to love and take care of myself.”

Yes, I actually thought that. I made the decision that I don’t have enough time to spend on myself, and then I forgot about the course and went on with my life.

Well, that isn’t true. I tried to forget about the course, but all these blog posts kept popping up in my reader. All these people talking about the ABC’s of Self Love. I was like “Cool it ladies! I’m trying to forget all about this self-love stuff.” I’ll tell you though, one of the greatest things about Molly’s ABC’s of Self Love Blog crawl was finding so many new and incredible (and inspirational!) blogs to read. I love a scavenger hunt, which is how I got hooked, but I’m really glad I put the effort in.

Why? Because I couldn’t get self-love out of my mind ALL MONTH!

Like I said in the beginning. I know ALLLLLLLLL about fierce love. I could write a book on it. I put it into practice every moment of every day. I love Mr. O with such an intensity that it would overwhelm an average human. I cherish his existence on this planet. I literally wake up and fall asleep every day thanking the Universe for allowing him to be in my life. And it isn’t just my significant other I love fiercely. I love his son (aka Wolverine), my family, friends, sometimes even strangers with an enormous intensity. I’ve written about my overwhelming love before. A lot of people don’t understand this Little Miss Sunshine mentality of mine, but I value that personality trait above all others.

I LOVE. I have the capacity to love deeply and love purely and love strongly. How lucky am I?

So why has Molly and her Fierce Love class been bothering me so much? I hate to admit it, but I don’t ever love myself the way that I love others.

Sad, huh?

I don’t. I care about myself, sure. I think I’m pretty fancy, oh yes. I know I’m smart and a good person, but when it comes to love?  I’m lacking. I don’t treat myself even close to how I treat the people in my life. And that is just so sad. I love my life. I appreciate my life, but yet, I won’t get any further in life until I learn how to love myself and honor myself better than I am doing right now. So you know what I did this morning? I signed up. I owe it to myself.

Don’t we all need to treat ourselves better?

Anyway, I challenge you to give Molly and her Fierce Love Course a shot. I doubt you’ll regret it.

two years

Two years ago, Michael C. White sent me an email. It came to me via Blackberry, and upon reading the words on the miniature 2 inch screen, I  threw my phone at my boss; jumped around in the air, yet didn’t answer any of my coworkers’ questions as to why I was jumping; drove home quickly, though safely; and then hit my brother’s car while parallel parking.

He was writing to let me know that I had gotten into Fairfield University, which was the leader of my top three MFA programs.

An hour later, I got accepted to another graduate school. In the next two weeks I was accepted to all of the five other schools I applied to. I’m sure I mentioned this previously on the blog, but the first time I applied to graduate school I got denied by all five colleges. I was an undergraduate at the time, and I threw a bunch of recently written fiction together and applied to some of the most prestigious writing programs. The completed application was half-assed. I just didn’t expect to not get in to graduate school. I don’t write about all my acceptances to boast or brag (but I must admit, I consider getting into every grad school I applied to as one of my greatest accomplishments); I write about it to showcase that if you fall down, you need to brush yourself off and try again. I waited longer than I should have to reapply (out of fear), and I applied in nonfiction (after only writing two nonfiction “essays” in my entire life), but I did apply. I did my research and put in a lot of time, stress, tears and effort into my graduate school search.

I highly doubt Michael White knew just how much of a gift he gave me. I’m sure he knows that an applicant will be thrilled to learn of his or her acceptance. I certainly was. It is just that the past two years of my life have been the best two years of my life. My experience in Fairfield’s MFA has challenged me, changed me and pushed me to be not only a better writer, but a better person.

Thank you for taking a chance on me, Michael White. I won’t let you down.

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.

sight

So… today is the day.

I’ve been thinking all week about what I would write in this post. My thoughts have been very preoccupied.

I got my first pair of glasses–ones I desperately wanted–  in seventh grade. They were gold frames. The eye pieces were lined in a teal green, and the end pieces were pink (I’ll take a photo and post on here, because I think I still have them). I thought I was special because I needed glasses. This was about 15 years ago.

I’ve spend the last 15 years of my life alternating between contacts and glasses. I’ve had frames of all different shapes and sizes. I like glasses sometimes, especially fun ones like the Drew Carey frames, etc.

I like them as an accessory. I don’t like them as a necessity.

I don’t like having to wake up and put them on before I can see the time on my clock which is just a few feet away from me in the morning. I don’t like laying down and tryign to watch the television, but needing to adjust my glasses every time I move. I don’t like the fact that I absolutely 100% rely on glasses to drive. I don’t like not being able to see in the shower or while I’m swimming. I especially don’t like the fact that I can’t wear sunglasses when I have my glasses on.

I did well with contacts for a while. I just hate having to take them out and put them in every single day. Plus, even with them, there are still times I can’t see, like I mentioned in the previous paragraph. I can’t wear them to bed, and therefore I can’t see when I first wake up. I can’t wear them in the shower. I can’t wear them when I swim. I seem to lose contacts quite frequently. Sometimes I lose them when putting them in or taking them out. Sometimes I simply can’t find the case.

It’s been 15 years since I first got- and desperately wanted- glasses. 15 years and who knows how much money spent toward my vision. 15 years being completely reliant on something to help me do the most basic things in my life.

Today that will (hopefully) all change. Today I am getting LASIK eye surgery. Today I will hopefully be able to see on my own.

I’m very positive about this, but I’m also very anxious. What if something goes wrong? What if something goes horribly, horribly wrong? How will I write in my blog? How will I write for school? How will I work? How will I drive? How will I live my life? Is today the last day I’ll ever see Mr. O and Wolverine’s faces? Will I never see my friends and family again?

In 2008, I went to Dialogue in the Dark in Atlanta, GA. It was one of the most incredible experiences in my life. I was blinded and led through an obstacle-like course of similar life experiences so that I could see what it was like to be blind. It was amazing. I can’t articulate my experience, but it was truly incredible, and I know that no matter what, if anything happened to me, I would be absolutely fine.

It’s just…well….

I’m just scared.

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!

an offer has been made

For the record: I failed NaNoWriMo before I even started. I have not written one word towards NaNo this month. I know I kind of already posted about this, and how maybe I’d try to do it again next month, etc, but you know… just wanted to clear things up for the record. Also, on the same subject– and this I have yet to publicly acknowledge, even though I’m sure you’ve figured it out already– I failed NaBloPoMo as well. I did nine days straight (without even scheduling posts!!) but bailed on day 10. I didn’t even realize it. I was all ready to type up a post on day 11, and then I realized it. Dang. Failure all around. Oh, well. I will try again on both another day.

There is something I am dying to tell you about. I’ve gone back and forth in my mind about whether or not I would mention it on here. I don’t want to jinx anything, and at the same time, I don’t want to admit defeat if it falls through. But, in truth, I don’t keep much off my blog. When I started Reinventing Erin, I promised myself I would remain true to myself, and be honest and genuine about what is happening in my life. I mean, I want to make a career out of nonfiction writing. I’ve got to get used to sharing. So, basically. I don’t feel right keeping this a secret.

Mr. O and I put an offer in on a house.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Insert excited freakout here)

How exciting is that? This just happened a few hours ago (right before I went to sleep, seeing as how I just woke up), so there are a few more things we need to do. Technically it was a verbal offer, so today my realtor is going to bring us the forms to sign at work and then get those forms to the listing agent. Then the waiting begins. Will they accept our offer? Who knows. I hope so. I hope they just immediately accept it and we don’t have to go back and forth. There is a lot that needs to be done on the house (A LOT), so I’d rather spend my time trying to get that all sorted out then negotiate with the seller, but I’m resigned to the understanding that once those forms are signed everything is out of my control until I hear back from the listing agent. I really hope it is soon because I am a pretty obsessive person.

I’m just going to practice what I preach: think positive, live with intention and visualize what I want to create in my life. So that means, in my heart I will believe that THIS is our house. That we WILL get our offer accepted and that we WILL be able to fix everything that needs to be completed, and that things WILL go successfully. I believe this is absolutely the right decision. We’ve been waiting for this house to be ours, and now we have a chance that it will be…. Let me rephrase: it will be our house.

If things don’t work out the way I hope they will, then I understand that everything is meant to happen as it will happen. I am sure this will be a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. I understand that is a type of home ownership initiation. I’m just excited. I feel really, really positive and good about this. I have great ESP or intuition or whatever you want to call it, and my intuition says this is the right decision.

Now we’ve just got to sit down, relax and wait to hear back from the sellers.
Send positive thoughts our way!

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.

my anniversary

Yesterday was a very special day. A day that is all my own. Yes, I still texted two of my closest friends to say “Wake up, Wake up, Wake up… it’s the first of the month.” It is our tradition. And yes, Mr. O did wake me up by singing it too. I’m a very lucky little lady.

Anyway, November 1st is the day I quit smoking four whole years ago. Did I ever think I’d make it to year four without one drag of a cigarette? Nope. My last cigarette ended at 10:41am on Thursday, November 1, 2011. I remember that moment very clearly. I gave my boss my lighters (I wanted to keep my cigarettes, and I did. They’re still packed away in a memory box. Weird, why haven’t I gotten rid of them yet?) and I went outside to sit in my car and smoke my last cigarette. It was raining. And that, my friends, was that. No more smoking.

Have I missed it? Yes, I have. But fortunately, the past two-three years have been relatively easy. Smoking bothers me now. I don’t like it. I don’t like to be around it. I still love cigarettes in a weird and twisted way, but I’m glad it is no longer part of my life.

So, cheers to me. I’m very proud of myself.

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?”