Friday, December 31, 2010

Review: Hush, Hush

While I didn't finish the 2010 Young Adult Challenge, I did manage to get one more read in before the end of 2010.

This is book 7/12 for the YA Reading Challenge.

Title:  Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Summary:  For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her...until Patch comes along.  

With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment, but after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is far more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.  

For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life. 

My Review:  This is one of those books where I'm torn between anger at myself for waiting so long to read this book and happiness that the next book in the series is already out and I don't have to wait. In case that leaves any room for interpretation, I completely loved everything about this book. I loved our lead character in Nora, who wasn't weak or stupid, but at the same time wasn't super-strong and confident. She's just a girl caught up in a series of events that were beyond her. I also loved all the other characters and how the story unfolded. 

The relationship between Nora and Patch was great. It wasn't perfect love. It wasn't made up of complete trust and devotion, so much as desire and possibility. And once you become aware of his true identity and how he came to know Nora, it just makes the whole relationship so much more intriguing. 

There is so much going on in this book from beginning until end and it was one of those can't-put-down reads, where I had to finish and know what happened next. I can't wait to read the next one and see what happens next.

Overall:  5 stars 

Three More Reading Challenges

I'm hoping to do much better this year with my reading.  The problem with falling into pits of despair is that even those things you love just seem tedious and hard.  Anyway, these three really sounded fun.

First up, is the 2011 YA Reading Challenge hosted by For the Love of YA.  Since I'm addicted to young adult books (research!  How can you write and sell YA if you don't read it?), I figure this is right up my alley.  And there look to be a lot of great YA books coming out this year, not to mention all the ones out that I haven't gotten to yet.  There are four levels to this challenge, going from 12 books to 50+ YA books to read.  As I'm still a newbie to reading challenges and such, I'm sticking with the The Mini YA Reading Challenge – Read 12 Young Adult novels.

Second on my list of challenges is the Harry Potter reading challenge from Daemon's Books.  The breakdown for this challenge is, as follows: 

1. January 1-31: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone in the UK)
2. February 1-28: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
3. March 1-31: Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban
4. April 1-30: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
5. May 1-31: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
6. June 1-30: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
7. July 1 – August 31: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

This wouldn't be my first time reading this series of books.  I've loved them for a long time, but after seeing Part One of the last HP movie, I had been thinking about re-reading the series and this gives me the chance to do it with others.

Last, but not least, is the Vampire Challenge 2011 from Parajunkee's View.  When I was younger, I was lured to the world of vampires by the likes of LJ Smith and movies like the Lost Boys.  It's stuck and over the years, gotten much worse.  It seems reasonable that I would read as much vampire fiction as I could get my hands on.  The goal is to read twenty vampire-based books over the course of the year.

Between these three and the Mini-Challenge I signed up for, I'm hoping this will keep me on track to read fifty books this year.  Not a lot for some, but a nice amount for me.

the end of 2010 and Reverb 10

I wish I could say that I was walking away from 2010 with a profound understanding of who I am and where I want to go, but I'm not quite there yet.  I think, if I had to sum this year up, it's been one of learning about the journey, slowly accepting that it's okay to be true to myself, that there are no expectations to live up to except my own, and that life is really what you make it.  It's been a year of admitting, out loud and to other people, all the pain I carried around for years, going to therapy to work on things, and realizing that the way I grew up was not healthy and it wasn't my fault.  So hard to even write still - it wasn't my fault.  My dad died when I was little and my mother was an alcoholic and there was no one to protect me.  It's not about pity or worrying how it makes other people feel to say these things - it's just a fact. 

And i feel sad for that little girl that I was because in that mess of a life, she stopped believing in the improbable and gave up on herself.  And that way only leads to misery - god, my mother is the perfect example of that - and I want more.

So, to quote Eminem, I'm cleaning out the closet. Making room for new adventures and experiences.  I'm ready.  And if I fall, well, I'll live and learn.


With the holidays and life, I kind of got off track with Reverb 10.  But let's end on a good note with it, so I don't feel like an abject failure (yeah, still working on those negative thoughts).

December 30 – Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year? (Author: Holly Root)  

My sister went to one of my therapy sessions at the beginning of December with me.  I know what it took for her to go.  We both grew up in the same house, surrounded by the same staunch Irish Catholic family that believed you just don't talk about things that go in your house and feelings are to be kept to a minimum.  And I know she was anxious about the whole idea of it, but she went for me and I found it to be quite helpful and sad.  I felt a little less crazy because she saw it too, how my mother was with me, but I also felt sad because I couldn't protect her from all of it.  I'm her big sister and it was drilled into my head from a very young age that it was my job to look out for her.  My dad would say it, my mom would say, teachers would say - Mare, you need to look out for your sister.  I've held onto that, even into our adulthood, and she let me off the hook.  She reminded me that she was a capable adult and I could focus on myself without feeling selfish or like I was letting her down.  Probably the best thing she could do for me, because I never could do it for myself.

December 31 – Core Story. What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world?

There was once this kid.  She liked to dance and laugh and think of all the things she could do.  Her dad would tell her that she could do whatever she wanted as long as she worked hard and believed it enough.  He protected her from monsters in her room - trees do eat people, look at Poltergeist - and took her to work with him. 

And then he got sick and she didn't quite understand it and the world fell into chaos, with people in-and-out the doors, random weirdness from strangers, odd pitiful looks.  Things she didn't get at the time, but that would play over and over again in her head throughout the years, like the joke you get twenty seconds too late.  Oh, I'm that girl.  The life she knew ceased to exist, except no one really prepared her for it, and she didn't know what she had done wrong, why this was happening. 

She put together a makeshift existence, random twigs and moments, but it was full of leaks.  It didn't quite work the way it used to.  Her mother couldn't feel the whole that losing her dad had created.  Her family was too caught up in their own lives or too blind to the fact that her mother pulled away from everything and forced the girl and her sister along.  The mother was sad and miserable and didn't understand the girl of daydreams at all, which was just fine because the girl felt the same way about this evil villain.   If only things were different, if only people noticed, if only.  Daydream girl was the queen of if-onlys.    There was no one there to see, to help her make sense of things, to protect her from those monsters and she hated the world for a really long time.  She hid away inside herself, just trying to get by.  And then the evil villain died suddenly and once again, the sandcastle life this girl had created for herself washed away with the tide.

Once again, she's rebuilding, foundation is a little worse-for-the-wear in places, but the funny thing is, she can visualize a much sturdier world now.  And it's okay. 

2011: Year of the Writer

At least I'm hoping that I can become more prolific with my writing.  I'm so glad that this past year I began blogging here and delving more into things that were bogging down my brain on a daily basis.  Things like the weekly intentions and wishcasting have helped me immeasurably and I plan to continue with those.  But I also want to get back to one of those passions of mine - writing.  I put it on the back shelf for almost two years while I grieved and mourned and tried to make sense of the universe and where I fit in.  The thing is - I'm a writer.  It's how I best communicate with the world, with myself, and I miss it.  And all this blogging this year, this unloading of fears/hopes/anger, it has all made me feel confident enough to say that 2011 is the year of my writing.  There is no reason to avoid something that makes me happy.

To better help me get back into a routine and to stick with it, I signed up for two different writing challenges I discovered through another site.

On January 3, 2011, the a Round of Words in 80 Days writing challenge begins and I signed up.  My goal is to write 250 words a day.  I'm usually able to do more once I get myself going, but I don't want to put too much pressure on myself as far as a number goes that I lose sight of the point of the exercise - to write every day.  

My Writing Goal:  250 words a day

I also signed up for author Kelly L. Stone's 80 Day Writing Challenge.  So between both challenges (250 words a day for 90 days), it works out to be a total of 22,500 words written.  Three months!  I can do this!  I've written more in less time when I put my mind to it. 

As for what I'm working on, I've got a current to-do list of pieces that need to be finished as well as a new young adult novel with a character that's been running amuck in my brain.  And I've been thinking about taking a screenplay I wrote awhile back and turning it into a novel instead.  So there are plenty of current projects that I need to work on and finish.  

My plan is to (hopefully) post updates on a weekly basis, more to keep myself accountable.  I'm also hoping that my own need to make things perfect can be contained.  I have this terrible habit of not allowing myself to get first drafts out without too much over-thinking and it's one of the reasons I get stuck.  So that's my not-so-measurable writing goal:  to leave editing for that portion of the process.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

books, books, books...

I just finished my last deadline story.  Well, almost.  It's in the hands of someone to read over one last time, but pretty much done.  Now I can read like crazy.  My vacation has begun and I don't have many plans this holiday season.  So I can curl up in front of my fireplace with a blanket, hot chocolate and lots of books. I've got a pile from the library I need to get through and a few books I purchased that I haven't gotten to yet.  And over the past two weeks, I've found out that I've won a few different books from various sites like Book Hounds, Bitten By Books, and My Overstuffed Bookshelf (I know I'm forgetting a site and I totally apologize!  My mind has ceased to work!). 

Is there anything better than books and getting lost in reading?  I love writing and creating my own worlds and characters, but there is something so perfect about a good book.


Today's Reverb 10 prompt:

December 23 – New Name. Let’s meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why? (Author: Becca Wilcott)

It's such a funny thing because for most of my young life into my late teens, I wished with all my might for a different name.  There were a lot of girls my age with my name and definitely not with the spelling I used.  My mother's explanation that both my sister and I were named after a Jane Austen characters (see was obsessed with Jane Austen, which is why I probably am too) didn't mean much to me.  After all, my sister's name was normal and there were plenty of those brushes-with-insert-name for her.  Not so much for me.  And that damn lady on Romper Room never saw me in her magic mirror.  Jens and Michelles and Amys, yeah, but never me. 

My name was the bane of my existence.  And then I don't know what happened.  It stopped being an issue.  I stopped wishing my name were different and came to love my name.  It's a part of who I am.  It's the first word I think of to describe myself.   Maybe I'm just a bi-polar name person, swinging from hate to love, but I wouldn't change my name.  I wouldn't want a different name for a day.  A different job?  A different perspective?  Sure, but I'm keeping my name.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Days 20-22: Reverb10 Catch-Up

I'm hoping the craziness will slow down.  I have one more work day before I start vacation and one more story to finish by tomorrow evening.  I'm hoping then I can just relax and enjoy my time.  I want to do some journaling and more of letters.  It's a form of therapy I've been doing.  I have such issues with saying aloud things I'm feeling.  I'm one of those people who constantly lives in fear of hurting anyone's feelings, maybe because I grew up feeling that way a lot, and I find that I can write these sorts of letters to the person.  Completely unleash and just let it rest in my journal.  Nothing I would ever mail.  I'm not that brave or masochistic.

So let's play catch-up on Reverb 10.

December 20 – Beyond Avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?) (Author: Jake Nickell)

I spent a lot of the year avoiding writing.  I slowly started back with using this blog, but even that.  I can't really explain it rationally, but a small part of my love of writing used to come from the fact that my mother just didn't get it.  It seemed to frustrate her - that I lived with my head in the clouds, determined that one day that would be my profession - and I loved to frustrate her.  And then she died and writing became this confusing thing.  I felt like I couldn't do it.  The one outlet I'd always had and I just couldn't get myself to sit down and do it.  I think I was afraid of what would come out.  Or what wouldn't.  I'm getting back into the habit, but I feel like I wasted so many months avoiding something I love.  Aside from writing, I think this has been the first year in my entire life where I haven't been avoiding most things.  I'm in therapy and working on my myriad of issues and trying to face life head-on instead of hiding in the bushes in hopes it doesn't see me.

December 21 – Future Self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?) (Author: Jenny Blake)

Hi Mare:

I hope you are enjoying your forties with grace and peace of mind.  I'm sure you're busy finishing up your masters and getting ready to publish your latest novel.  Things are great because you've been learning to let go of all that crap.  I want you to look back at 2010 and this time around it and remember, even in the darkest moments and hardest therapy sessions, it was all worth it.  You're a better person.  You're happy and not so hard on yourself, and you've found a way to let go of all the anger/hurt with your mother and remember the good times.  I want you to know that in 2011, it's supposed to be the "year of me" and it's okay to put yourself first.  Make your voice heard - to yourself and others - and you can conquer the world.  Just remember, you deserve everything you wish for those you love.  Work hard and believe in yourself.  It pays off.  Trust me on that.


Future Me

December 22 – Travel. How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year? (Author: Tara Hunt) 

Money has been super, super tight the past two years.  I work for a non-profit and with the state of the economy, we didn't get any raises last year.  It's never a lot - as it is a non-profit and it's part of the gig - but every bit helps.  And Murphy's Law was in full effect where every single thing happened at once and depleted lots of my funds.  So as far as travel, it's mostly been in my daydreams.  Sometimes I close my eyes and I'm back at the Cliffs of Moor in Ireland.  I think it is the most beautiful, perfect place I've ever visited.  I hope to go there again one day.

Wishcasting Wednesday: Carpe Diem!

I've had stories due and the holidays are a crazy time of year, so I keep finding myself falling behind on Reverb 10.  I'm trying not to sweat it and see it as some sort of mar to my character and accept it.  Life happens.  It's part of this whole trying not to be so negative about myself thing.  Anyway, I'm going to try to catch up, but I'm not going to push it or worry.  Or I'm trying not to. 

But it's Wishcasting Wednesday, which I love and adore!  Today Jamie asks us:

I hope that my winter is as big and beautiful as the lunar eclipse was this past Monday night.  I want to remember how life is energy and constant movement and that while it's okay to get tired and sit out a few rounds, it's all about what's going on in that second.  It's what we're guaranteed.  I want that feeling I had when I forced my sorry butt out of bed to go watch the eclipse because who knew if I'd ever have a chance like that again?  To do things, no matter how silly, difficult, random.

Rather than nest away this winter, I wish to experience it in all its happy, annoying, and downright depressing moments.

Master Post: Lazy Girl's Mini-Challenge - Completed

Lazy Girl Reads is hosting a Mini-Challenge.  It involves reading four books: 1) something old, 2) something new, 3) something borrowed and 4) something blue.

If you're interested, you can sign up here

This will be my master post for linking up to reviews of books for this challenge.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Day 18 & 19: Reverb 10 (Try & Heal)

I got back-logged on Reverb 10 the past four days.  I had a story deadline that had me anxious and life kept getting in the way and I would remember I needed to do my posts when i was nowhere near my computer.

So I'm just going to partake in yesterday and today's Reverb 10 prompts.

December 18 – Try. What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it? (Author: Kaileen Elise)

I want to try to put myself out there more with my writing.  I have this nasty habit of stopping midway through a piece because I look into the future in an evil sort of way where it ends horribly and only proves I'm failure.  So I stop.  The funny thing, one of the few areas in my life I'm truly confident is my ability to write, but I find so many ways to avoid to it.

I want to train for 5K because I've been so bored and lazy with my workouts.  I think having a goal to work toward outside of losing weight might help me.  Plus, I think it would be such a great achievement for me.  To go from the girl who once got winded walking up stairs to completing a 5K.

I think the big thing for me is that I just don't want to be so afraid to try things, to spend so much time analyzing and over-thinking every single thing that I miss out on fun and potential greatness.  2010 was a year where I've spent a lot of time evaluating and learning about myself and while I can't think of anything that I really wanted to try that I passed on...I think that's more because I was so oblivious to my own wants and needs.

December 19 – Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011? (Author: Leonie Allan)

For so many years, I had people telling me that I should probably talk to someone.  My doctor, who prescribed my medications for anxiety/depression, thought it would help me.  My friends, who knew about my mother's alcoholism often thought it would be good for me.  But I couldn't do it.  I was terrified of opening up about things.  I spent thirty years stuffing it all in and I still felt so very protective of my mother.  And a part of me was convinced the therapist would judge me because that's how I thought about everything.  Me being judged.  Pretty self-centered in a destructive way. 

When she died and I went to a really dark place, I finally forced myself to find a therapist.  It was the hardest and best thing I've done for myself.  This past year has been so emotionally draining and hard at times.  But I'm slowly stripping away at the defenses I built up and letting people know how I feel more.  I'm working through all the hurt I grew up with so I can put it behind me.  I've learned that it's okay to want to be happy and that I deserve it.  And I'm realizing my mother doesn't need me to protect anymore and that it was never really my job anyway.  She was supposed to protect me, not the other way around. 

In 2011, I hope to heal a bit more regarding the anger I carry around.  I have a ton of abandonment issues and grew up feeling like there was no one there for me.  No one to protect me, to mentor me, to have my back.  And there were people I expected to do that, I realize now, even though I never asked for help.  I want to forgive them and let it go.  I want to be free of these burdens of the past so that I can focus on my right now.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Review: Undone

So the chances are not looking to good that I will actually finish the 2010 Young Adult Challenge, but I'm still going to keep reading as many as I can.  There are still two weeks left to the month, right?

This is book 6/12 for the YA Reading Challenge.

Title: Undone by Brooke Taylor

Summary:  When Kori Kitlzer, the “dark angel” of the 8th grade, tells Serena Moore that they are more alike than she thinks, Serena is instantly intrigued. As their friendship solidifies and their lives entwine, Serena tries to become more like the fearless, outspoken, and ambitious Kori. Soon Serena doesn’t know where she begins and Kori ends. But when a twist of fate yanks Kori away from Serena, she will need to find a way to complete her best friend’s life left undone.

Undone is a striking debut novel about friendship, family, and the secrets we keep from the people to whom we are closest.

My Review:  This book had me hooked from page one. I loved the narrator provided to us in Serena. She was sarcastic and cynical, but still loving and hopeful. She wanted so much, but sometimes had trouble believing it was possible - such a typical emotion at that age, especially after she's dealt a terrible tragedy.

I enjoyed the dynamic she had with her friends and allowing us to see those relationships made all the harder when catastrophe came about.

Serena's grief and determination are what make this book so great. The author never backs away from showing the horrible moments, the just-can't-stand-to-go-on moments, and writes them with such an authentic voice.

The mystery wasn't so much a mystery as I think everyone pretty much figures it out early on, but it's all part of the journey that Serena has to take.

I recommend this book to everyone. It's a quick read because you just don't want to put it down (even if it took me over a week from when I finished to do the review).  I absolutely loved it and look forward to more books from this author in the future.

Overall: 5 stars

Two Very Cool Giveaways from Flying Giggles & Lollipops

As I've said in the past, while I have a great love of the awesome giveaways that so many bloggers sponsor, I tend not to promote most of them as that would be all I did.

That said, right now Flying Giggles & Lollipops has TWO great giveaways that end tonight.


The blog has joined forces with Sears to offer up a $ 500 gift card to Sears to be used as you deem fit.  You can here

The other big giveway is a KMart $ 500 gift card, again to be used as you deem fit.  You can enter here.

Remember:  this is the last day to enter as both of these giveways end tonight at 11:59 PST.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day 15: Reverb 10 (5 Minutes)

Today's Reverb 10 Prompt:

December 15 – 5 Minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. (Author: Patti Digh)

1) Hanging out with my friends on my sister's birthday, playing rock band and chatting.
2) Finding Katniss, the survival kitty, and knowing that she had survived and was healthy.
3) A few of my hard therapy sessions where I made some discoveries about the anger/grief I carry around and being able to admit to myself and say, "I had bad parents."
4) Getting told by another trainer at the gym that I was working hard, kicking butt, and she could tell that I had it in me to get fit.
5) Hanging out with some of my friends that I don't get to see very often for dinner and chatting.
6) The first time I was able to make it through an Advanced Bootcamp class, sweat pouring down my face, huffing and puffing, but able to do it all.
7)  Becoming a finalist in a writing contest and getting some good feedback on my young adult novel's direction.
8) My sister buying me a new computer for all that I've done to help her since my mother died.
9) My sister coming to a therapy session with me and learning I wasn't alone and that I managed to do my job and protect her from things.
10)  Seeing the new Harry Potter movie and loving every second of it.

Wishcast Wednesday - soaring

It's been another crazy day.  I'm feeling much better health wise.  I think my doctor had it right yesterday with the sleep and bed rest.  I guess I need to remember to disconnect more often.  And get back to watching my nutrition, especially when I don't/can't workout.

Dishes and laundry are done.  I'm showered, having used one of my lavender aromatherapy tablets to de-stress/calm down, and now I am ready to enjoy Wishcast Wednesday, even if I'm a bit late.

This week Jamie asks us:

I've slowly been working on getting unstuck in my life.  I have felt trapped in many ways - some of my own doing and some just life's little gifts - and it's taken me awhile to realize that I can get out of this rut.  That I have the power to do it.  Anything I dream is possible.  I used to believe that before it was beaten out of me by my mother.  But the thing is?  I can't remember a day that woman was happy in her life.  She wasn't sullen and miserable all the time, but truly happy?  I don't think so.  Especially after my dad died, she just shut down and made a decision (whether consciously or not) to not care anymore.  I think that's the most tragic thing about my mom's death.  And sometimes I feel sad and guilty that I wasn't in a mental place to notice such things.  I was just fighting to get through days with her and learned at a young age to just shut down.  There was no protector or advocate for me when I grew up.  It was me against my mom.  And she managed really well to stomp dreams out of my head, telling me that I had to grow up and stop living in such a fantasyland.

Now I know that the best thing I can do for myself is not only daydream and plan, even the most outrageous, awesome things, because not only is it possible, but I deserve it.

I wish to soar in my writing and my personal relationships, especially the one I have with myself.  I wish to have faith that flying doesn't mean crash-and-burn.  I wish to soar without being paralyzed by fear.

What are you wishing for?

I'm going to try to get through as many posts tonight as possible, but in case I don't get to it tonight, to my fellow wishcasters:  as you wish for yourself, so I wish for you also with all my heart.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day 14: Reverb 10 (Appreciate)

Today I had one of the worst sinus headaches in a long while, add to it another medical issue, and I had to bite the bullet and go to the doctor.  On my continued weight loss/get healthy journey, I had a fallback and am being put back on the blood pressure water pill.  It's my own fault.  When I started focusing more on my mental health this past year, I've let a lot of my working out and focus on eating right fall to the wayside.  Current nemesis:  soda.  I had been off it for almost nine months - no soda at all - and one day I just started drinking diet soda again.  And the sodium and artificial sweeteners and caffeine are so not good for me.

Onto today's Reverb 10 Prompt before I take more Ibuprofen and pass out for the night, as I can't miss another day of work. 

December 14 – Appreciate. What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it? (Author: Victoria Klein)

Life.  It sounds so cliche, but it's something I've never really taken the time to truly appreciate just being and existing.  it's funny.  You'd think a girl who lost her dad when she was a kid to cancer would grow up truly appreciating life.  Of being someone who was more impulsive than so cautious about every single thing.  After all, I know firsthand that life and death just happen.  But it wasn't until my mother died that it really sunk in - I'm only guaranteed this moment. 

I talk about this a lot, I know, but it's because it's this huge realization I've been coming to terms with.  I've spent so much of my life focusing on ignoring or trying to stuff down the pain of my past or going on and on about the future (usually breaking down every dream and wish to its very worst possible ending)...I'm only realizing this year that I should just appreciate each day for what it is.  And while I can't control everything, I can control how I face the day.  I can choose to let people frustrate me.  I can choose to avoid the things I love because I don't think I deserve.  I can choose to worry and not appreciate the things I do have.

How I've started expressing gratitude for my life?  I try to write down something each day that I'm grateful for and it's funny how the smallest things really are great - like the car that lets you out onto the road in traffic.  And I've started telling the people I love how much I appreciate them more often.  At first, I know it freaked them out - I'm not a girl who really shared her feelings - but I'm pretty sure it made them feel good.  And definitely reminded me of all that I have.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 13: Reverb 10 (Action)

Today's Reverb 10 Prompt:

December 13 – Action. When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step? (Author: Scott Belsky)

I need to get back into a routine of getting up in the morning, working out, dealing with real life things such as work and family, and then carving out time for myself to write.  I'm always happier when I'm creating and writing, even when it's like pulling teeth or I'm feeling stuck or I'm just writing something that no one will ever see but me.  And while I will never be the girl who loves to work out - I pretty much dread every second of it - I do love how I feel when I'm able to surpass an old fitness level or break a new record or just that I showed up and took care of myself even when the voices in my head were telling me not to even bother.  Mostly, I love that I feel stronger and healthier and capable of anything.

It's just doing what I've already done, but not letting the bumps in the road completely undo me.

Weekly Intention: What Did You Say?

ABC Creativity provides a place to think about and write down an intention for the week.  Not a to-do list or goals to stress you out, a simple idea that you want to manifest throughout the week.

I'm a very gifted person as far as only hearing what I want to hear when people talk to me.  And by that, I mean I only hear the negative things or my mind perceives it as something it's not.  Because I'm not really listening to anything beyond how I'm sure I'm being judged by this person.

And it's not just in conversations.  While I'm slowly improving, I don't allow myself to listen to the universe or my intuition or even my body.  It's like I'm a child in the midst of a tantrum with her hands clamped down on her ears hollering in a sing-song voice, "I'm not listening, fa, la, la."

I want to listen more.  I hear plenty, but I don't listen.  Not nearly enough.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Day 12: Reverb 10

I finally sat down and wrote my story that was due today.  Yes, today.  And of course, being me, I wrote half a story that totally went in a completely different direction and fell outside the parameters I needed to meet.  And that's the story I like more, so far, but what can you do?  My sister is now donning her editor hat and going through the story for me and I figured I would take the pre-revision time to complete today's Reverb 10.

December 12 – Body Integration.  This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present? (Author: Patrick Reynolds)

Earlier in the year, before I managed to hurt my leg and got completely thrown off my routine, I think I had found a bit of integration as far as allowing myself to feel a bit more comfortable in my own skin.  Alas, it didn't last at the time and I'm slowly attempting to get back to that point.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Day 10 & 11: Reverb 10 (Wisdom & Things)

Yesterday was a lovely day and I didn't really spend any time online.  Part of that is because it's been freezing and it was nice to sit in front of the fireplace with a book or curl up under the blankets and watch a movie.  Part of it was just wanting to enjoy my day off without worrying about doing anything.  Just chill.

So yeah, maybe I should just own that I'm a every other day Reverb 10 girl, but I'm trying not to put any negativity/failure vibes out into the universe if I can avoid it.

December 10 – Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out? (Author: Susannah Conway)

The wisest decision I made was continue with therapy.  My original therapist ended up having to leave her practice due to a family emergency and a part of me thought that I was off the hook (because, being me, I never would've stopped therapy without an excuse out of my irrational fears of others judging me). I had a moment where I knew it was probably wrong to give up, but the idea of stopping was alluring.  I wouldn't have to keep drudging stuff up (stupid feelings) and could just fall back into oblivion under the guise that it wasn't meant to be.  But while I do believe in fate, that would have been a total cop out on my part.  I was scared to start over with someone new - what if we didn't mesh?  what if s/he judged me?  what if, what if, what if? - but I did it.  I don't love therapy.  It's hard and draining, but I love my therapist and I think I have an even better rapport with her than I did my original psychologist.  And I've made huge strides this year.  Help is not a bad thing, talking about hurt feelings (even if they are irrational) is not a bad thing, and I'm finally getting that.

December 11 – 11 Things. What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life? (Author: Sam Davidson)

1.  Drama
2.  Judgement
3.  Negativity
4.  Self-sabotage
5.  lack of faith
6.  anger
7.  suffering from what if syndrome
8.  bad nutrition
9.  procrastination
10.  too much worry
11.  not feeling good enough

Pretty much one through ten fit into the final answer - not feeling good enough.  I've found ways, throughout the years, to make myself feel horrible.  I keep people in my life who create unncessary drama, I don't seek out great opportunities because I'm not sure I deserve it, I hold onto anger and hurt and everything else, stuffing it down until I can't anymore.  All of this is because I just don't think I deserve better.

How will I eliminate it?  Being conscious in each moment.  Journaling, especially on the rough days.  Continuing with therapy and delving into all my issues and letting go.  I need to stop protecting my mother and father, who are both dead and gone, out of fear of how others will think of them, of me, and allow myself to feel anger and sadness and whatever else I need to experience.  It won't be easy, but it's all about me acknowledging feelings in the moment and noticing when I fall back into the never-good-enough mindset.

But I do and in 2011 I want it to be year about me, where I am able to see myself with a nicer pair of lenses and a time to cull out all the things that hold me back.  If I can eliminate these things, there will be nothing in my way.  Or I won't be in my way, at the very least, and there will be so much weight lifted off my shoulders. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day 8 & 9: Reverb 10 (Beautifully Different & Party)

The past two days have been crazy, both at work and at home - errands and issues and life oh my.  I am really trying to be good about Reverb10, but some days it's near impossible to eek out the time to ponder and answer.  Hence the reason I'm once again, at the very last moments of the day, attempting to get two days entries done.

I'm excited though.  Tomorrow I have off.  I want to go see a movie alone and then I'll spend the afternoon writing and reading.  I need some quality me time.

Back to Reverb10.

December 8th:  Beautifully Different.  Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.

Interesting question that comes up in the period between my therapy sessions where I was assigned "homework" to notice when people are paying me compliments and attempt to let them sink in.  I'm supposed to show up with at least one compliment that was paid to me.  To further prove my own obliviousness and belief in my own lacking, I don't think there were any compliments.  And I think a lot of this comes from my inability to compliment myself, from growing up being told that I was never good enough and living up to this false prophecy for so long. 

As part of shedding that unwanted skin, I'm working on loving myself.  It's really hard.  It sounds so easy in theory, but it's such a difficult idea for me to wrap my brain around. 

When I think about it though, I'm a good friend.  I listen and make people laugh and always offer a smile.  I try to help others whenever I can and I'm compassionate.  For a long time, I thought things like this were just a given.  That everyone would drop everything to help a friend or to save kitten's life, but apparently, it's one of my good qualities.  Maybe I'm beautiful after all.

December 9 – Party Prompt: Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans. (Author: Shauna Reid)

I had two of my friends in from Pittsburgh for a fangirl weekend.  I admit I was a bit worried as my life was in chaos, money was tight, and I was feeling utterly insecure that I couldn't be a good hostess for an entire weekend.  But I'm so glad that I overcame my anxiety and that my friends came to visit.  We hung out, chatted about random things, watched movies and got each other addicted to different television shows.  It was just a happy time.  No stress, no worries, just friends and laughter and sharing our love of great entertainment.  

I even lived on the wild side while Jen and Chris were visiting.  I had a chocolate milkshake - something I hadn't imbided in over a year.  Yes, some people have alcohol, but all I need is chocolate ice cream.

It was just a reminder to myself that despite all my social anxiety, my friends love me (and I love them) and we have fun together.  I need to allow myself to not only savor these moments but create more of them.

Review: By Nightfall

Title:  By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham

Summary:  Peter and Rebecca Harris: mid-forties denizens of Manhattan’s SoHo, nearing the apogee of committed careers in the arts—he a dealer, she an editor. With a spacious loft, a college-age daughter in Boston, and lively friends, they are admirable, enviable contemporary urbanites with every reason, it seems, to be happy. Then Rebecca’s much younger look-alike brother, Ethan (known in thefamily as Mizzy, “the mistake”), shows up for a visit. A beautiful, beguiling twenty-three-year-old with a history of drug problems, Mizzy is wayward, at loose ends, looking for direction. And in his presence, Peter finds himself questioning his artists, their work, his career—the entire world he has so carefully constructed.

Like his legendary, Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, The Hours, Michael Cunningham’s masterly new novel is a heartbreaking look at the way we live now. Full of shocks and aftershocks, it makes us think and feel deeply about the uses and meaning of beauty and the place of love in our lives.

My Review:  In many ways this is the typical Michael Cunningham novel.  Characters with potential, beautiful writing, but no discerning plot until the book is nearly finished.  He is one of the few writers, at least for me, that can pull this type of writing off and it's because, as I said, he is an amazing writer.  He strings words together like no one's business and I want to sit there and imprint the writing into my brain, some form of reader's osmosis.

I found the 3rd person perspective of just Peter's voice interesting, someone who is realize he's just getting by in what he's always perceived an amazing life, but the catlyst of the book is never something that really hits home.  It's slightly disturbing and probably necessary for the character, but not a big moment per se.

This lack of huge plot and reveal never bothered me because the writing is so superb. If there was ever an example of current author, who knows how to create scenes and emotions and write beautifully in contemporary literature, it's Michael Cunningham.

If you love words, read his books. If you want to be a writer, read his books. If you want a great plot, I'd take a pass on his books.

And seriously, I would like to be able to construct a sentence the way this man does.

Overall: 4 stars

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day 7: Community

Today's Reverb 10 Prompt:

December 7 – Community Prompt: Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? (Author: Cali Harris)

Back in early 2001, I became aware of a community called Livejournal, where you could blog and share your life with friends.   Some of my friends from various boards and email lists were signing up, so I had to check it out.  This was back before Livejournal's many incarnations - before invites to join, change of ownership and the various dramas that have existed within that world. It started out as something I thought that I might use on occasion.  I didn't have a very good record with any of the various blog/diary sites out there.  All good intentions and very little follow through.

I managed to use livejournal though.  In the beginning, I tried really hard to always be witty and offer up stories of my life in amusing ways.  I mimicked my favorite bloggers of the time and told myself, "Who wants to read about the day-in-day-out grind of real life?"

Over time, I found my own voice.  I discovered various communities that appealed to interests that I had and livejournal became about the bonds that I formed through its site.  Many of those people that I became "friends" with randomly online have become such important real life friends who have supported me through some very rough times as well as great triumphs, sharing laughs and squeals of delight and everything in between.

This year, I am very lucky to have discovered Jamie Ridler's wishcasting community as it's been a great outlet for me - both to share my own hopes and to encourage/hope for others to achieve their wishes.

In 2011, I want to take a minute to step back, and when my O.C.D. starts to get out of hand and I find myself spending my free time on something like tagging my I-Tunes library, I want to remember that sense of community and friendship I've found.  It's a bundle of peace and happiness and hope.

Monday, December 6, 2010

weekly intention: push the positivity

This weekend and especially today I've been struggling with my mood. A lot of great things have been happening for my friends and I'm truly happy for them and wish nothing but the best, but it further highlights how stuck I feel.  This feeling of being bogged down by my own lacking has been webbing out into everything I do and I'm falling back on those negative thoughts of "not good enough" and "never amount to anything."  Nothing good comes of this behavior.

I'm proud of myself for noticing it more - it's a step in the right direction.  But this week, my intention is to stop focusing so much on the negative things and be grateful for the now and what I do have and am capable of.  I'm always so focused on the future and where I want to be/should be,  I lose sight of the moment I'm in, the only one I'm guaranteed.  So universe and subconscious, I'm going to work on the energy I put out there.

Day 5 & 6: Reverb 10 (Let Go & Make)

Once again, I totally forgot about Reverb 10 yesterday.  I'm not going to beat myself up about it as I think that defeats the purpose of the whole exercise, but where is my memory going?

December 5th: Let Go.  What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley)

I've been on an continuing journey to let go of all the baggage I've been carrying around for thirty-some years, so afraid to stop protecting my mother from the emotional pain she inflicted on me and the ways I shut down because of it.  It's been painful, enlightening, and I'm not sure I've ever cried so much in my life.  I'm still a long way from completely free, but I'm slowly letting go of the anger and disappointment with her, myself, and my life and focus on the present.  The now.

December 6th:  Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin)

I haven't made anything with my hands in a very long time.  I want to do it.  I want to learn and explore, but I'm so scared because I fear imperfection and I'm such a far cry from that when it comes to making things.  Logically, I know it's silly, but it's like a brick wall.  I've always limited my creativity to writing because I tend to excel in that area, and even that has been stifled lately.

I need to clear my own issues about perfection and simply do it, without judgment.  No one has to see it but me.  I need to think of it as an outlet rather than some supposed-to-be masterpiece.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Day 4: Reverb 10 (Wonder)

Today with Reverb 10 the subject turned to wonder.

December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

 baby Katniss playing

The discovery of Katniss has been and continues to be the greatest sense of wonder that I've experienced this year.  It was late June and there had been a huge rain storm, and my sister was out in the sun room on our house.  There are two kitties that kinda live in our yard and we are used to seeing them.  Apparently, the one cat kept looking from my sister to this black little ball and back again, until my sister took notice and saw something, not moving from her vantage point, in the yard.  She hollered to me that she thought there was a dead kitten in the yard.

I really wasn't thinking in that moment.  I simply sprung into action.  I immediately thought to go look and try to figure out what to do.  I remember my sister questioning me and I'm not even sure what I thought I would do if there as, in fact, a dead cat.  I can't even watch the animal welfare commercials without getting upset - how would I handle this?

There was definitely a kitten, covered in bugs and drenched from the storm.  I'm starting to get that achy, weepy feeling when I see her move every-so-slightly.  She's somehow still alive and I just jumped into action.  We got some water to clear away all the bugs and picked her up with a little oven mit and dish towel and went to the shelter.  I just wanted to make sure she wasn't suffering and in pain, and if so, have them deal with it because I couldn't just leave this little baby out there after a storm to die slowly with evil bugs.  The shelter wouldn't take her, and I guess we could've forced the matter, but once they said she might be okay, I knew she would be coming home with us.

This picture was taken not long after that, I believe.  It wasn't a smooth road, but she has always been a tough cookie, since the first moment I met her.  She had issues where the bugs had laid eggs in her eyes and she might lose her vision (our vet says she might have issues later in life, but not now).  She had issues where there was a chance she wouldn't recover from her cold-the-whole-ordeal, but this kitten just had such will (she still does).  She is tough and a survivor and, sometimes I sit in wonder, thinking back on that moment, that such a little thing withstood so much.  And I had a small hand in helping her to see six months old and to get to witness her crazy personality.  She loves Josh Groban, waterboarding her toy mice (I'm not sure what that's about), and playing.

I know there is always so much of a deal made about human perseverance, but I think it applies to all creatures, and that we can learn something from anything in the universe.  And this little cat, named Katniss after one of my favorite strong female characters, sort of reminded me that if she could survive something so huge, I could get through a bad day at work or deal with the issues I've been so afraid to face.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Day 3: Reverb 10 (Moment)

 And now today's Reverb 10 prompt

December 3rd:  Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

The sweat was pouring down my face as I did the steps from memory.  I was suddenly the dancer I was always meant to be, someone out of A Chorus Line auditioning for a chance to show strut my stuff and be a star.  I was confident and, while red in the cheeks and breathing hard, it was a healthy, fluid type.  I felt good.  I felt in shape.  I felt like I could do this weight loss journey, including the fitness because it allowed me to do forty-five minutes of hardcore dancing in a way I hadn't in so long.

The chords of the music start again as I line up to begin the number just one more time.  Committed to memory.  I'm flying and dancing.

It was a good night.  Simple and full of all that I am capable of.

Day 2: Reverb 10 (Writing)

Day late.  I kept thinking about my entry for Reverb 10 while I was at work and then I got home, had time and totally forgot.  Just whoosh.  Right out of my mind.  So I'm doing two entries today.  I'm wild and crazy (and forgetful) like that.

December 2nd:  What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

Procrastinate.  I know that is so big and all-encompassing, but I'm not sure how else to explain it.  My procrastination isn't at normal levels.  It's epic proportions, egged on by my random OCD tendencies.  So I'll say to myself, "Self, just take ten minutes and read your journal."  Next thing I know I'm retagging entries or going through my ITunes library to make sure every song is properly accounted for with information.  I know it's my own form of self sabotage before the fact.  I look so far into the future and surely, the writing will be terrible, so why even bother?  It's illogical and untrue.

While I'm not sure I can completely eliminate those feelings, I can definitely work on recognizing it more often and working on the why, in that moment, I'm doing it.  And maybe that will help me.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day 1: Reverb 10 (One Word)

The first prompt:  Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?

illustration by Hugh MacLeod

To sum up 2010: learning

For 2011, I would love the word to be growth.  I want all of this learning about myself and life and where I fit in said life that I've been doing throughout this year - in good and bad moments - to lead me further on my journey.  I'm striving toward happiness and understanding and I need to allow myself to grow and go wherever that takes me.

If you're interested, Reverb 10 is an annual event and online initiative to reflect on your year and manifest what’s next. The end of the year is an opportunity to reflect on what's happened, and to send out reverberations for the year ahead.  Sign up here.

stop, remember, relax...

It's World AIDS day, a time to remember those that we've lost to this disease, those that fought to make others more aware of it and the prejudice that faced many dealing with it, and a chance to continue to hope and fight for a cure.


I've had a lovely day off.  I slept in, went to see Burlesque (which was so enjoyable and better than I expected and full of great music), and just hung out.  I put no pressure on myself to accomplish things and it has been refreshing.

And it's Wishcasting Wednesday, a chance to put your wishes out into the universe, to share them with others, and to share in the dreams of others.  I love it.

This week Jamie asks:

Where do you wish to go slow?

I think this is the perfect question for this time of year, where a lot of us tend to move at such fast paces, going from obligation to obligation, without taking time for ourselves and to truly enjoy the moments with friends and family. 

I want to slow down and take a breath during this month.  Take stock and be happy in those moments with my friends and sister.  And to simply not worry so much about things that really don't matter and focus on those things I can do for others and myself.

I wish to slow down this month, like I've managed to do today, without putting any rules on myself to live up to some unattainable standard that leaves no one happy.