Share Your World – 2015 Week #2

Time for 2015’s second Share Your World!

Are you a hugger or a non-hugger?

I used to be a hugger, but I’ve really been leaning away from it in the past few years. Maybe because I haven’t been around many big huggers lately? Either way, I don’t mind the occasional hug, but I do like my personal space.

What’s your favorite ice-cream flavor?

I know it’s weird, but I love the strawberry soy ice cream from Trader Joe’s. Never would have thought those flavors would work together, but they do. Other than that, it’s Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy all the way.

Do you prefer exercising your mind or your body? How frequently do you do either?

Hm, now that I think of it, I guess I do both in a casual, everyday kind of way. I read all the time, and I’ve gotten through a lot of nonfiction lately. I walk all the time too, though slow-paced and not very far. I don’t have much of a preference, I enjoy both and could happily do either all day long.

20140411_140121

Are you more of a dog person or a cat person? Why?

Don’t laugh, but I remember my third grade friend group having a mini playground war between dog lovers and cat lovers. I was always firmly in Camp Kitty, and that stands no chance of changing now.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

So many big changes came my way last week! Not all great ones, but I’m confident that they’re going to work out for the best in the end, and I’m excited to see what the coming weeks and months will bring.

Share Your World – 2015 Week #1

I’m late for 2015’s first Share Your World, but I figured I might as well put it together anyway before Week 2 goes up tomorrow! I’m going to do my best to get as many of these as possible done this year.

How do you get rid of pesky phone calls from telemarketers?

Mostly, I just don’t answer. I started using Google Voice, though, which helps. It gives me a new phone number that redirects calls to my cell and email. It translates my voicemails to text and allows me to block numbers, which helps a lot in getting the telemarketers off my back.

What are you a “natural” at doing?

Spelling! (Watch me make a spelling error in this very post after saying that.) I read so much as a kid that I sort of absorbed the basics of the English language without trying. I’m no grammar expert, but I can usually figure out how to spell a word on my first attempt.

How often do you get a haircut?
20130603_115319 It’s been over two years now since I last went to an actual salon. Over there to the left is a picture of me in early 2013, not too long after my last haircut. At $40 a pop plus tip, the cost just got to be too much, especially considering that it’s rare for a hairstylist to understand how to work with my thick, wavy hair.

I trim it myself every three or four months now, and I think it works fine. I’m considering going short again though, which might merit another visit to the salon after all.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “fun”?

I was hoping to come up with a real insightful answer, but all I can think about is the song from Spongebob. I guess this is proof that what we learn in songs sticks with us better than anything else? I can still recite every South American capital city thanks to a song we listened to all the time in middle school, too.

Skipping the bonus question this round, will answer it tomorrow!

Off hiatus!

nano_14_ml_badge_300pxAfter an unannounced hiatus between late October and early January, I’m back!

Lots of changes came my way in the past few months, and I think it’s safe to say I’ll probably be on hiatus and mostly unavailable online during the NaNoWriMo season every year.

I can’t wait to get all caught up and start writing here again!

Share Your World, Week 40

It’s time for Cee’s Share Your World again! With luck, I’ll be able to keep up with this challenge each Monday even in the busy upcoming months.

You’re given $500,000 dollars tax free (any currency), what do you spend it on?

20131128_122449 Let’s say, just for fun, that I’m not allowed to save any of it.

I’d split the first $100k between my family and friends who need it most. Another $100k goes to home care and pet care — look at that sweetie to your left and tell me he doesn’t deserve a shiny new dog bed. For my part, I want a couple new cat trees and a ridiculous glitter floor.

The next $100k goes to my partner, partly to spend on the students at the special needs school where they work. Hopefully there’ll be enough to take a few kids (plus their parents and caretakers) on a vacation they’d otherwise never get to experience.

I’ll keep $100k for traveling, new clothes, a new computer, and a couple of tattoos. With the last $100k, I’d start a charity to support creativity in local communities. There are so many stories out there waiting to be told through art, so many voices that go unheard, and I have to admit, I constantly daydream about being able to help lift them up and show them to the world.

What’s the finest education?

I wish we were taught compassion in school. Right now, it’s something you learn only through life experience — through hurting others, or getting hurt. It wouldn’t translate perfectly to the classroom, but I can’t envision anything negative coming from education on accepting and understanding others’ perspectives and ways of life.

What kind of art is your favorite? Why?

All art is beautiful, but writing is my favorite. As an anxious child, I liked that you could follow a set of rules to produce competent writing. As I grew older, it helped that I could write without any special materials — I still remember how much the supplies for my painting classes cost. Writing just meshes with me in a way other art forms don’t, even with practice.

Is there something that you memorized long ago and still remember?

In my freshman year of high school, I played a fairy in our production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But I had a crush on the boy who played Lysander, and when I heard that the girl cast as Hermia was going through a family emergency, I memorized her lines overnight.

I became her understudy and stood in for her during almost every rehearsal. I’m still in awe of how quickly I managed to learn the part. Hermia’s actress showed up late to opening night. The director had a split second to decide whether she’d wait or send me in. She chose to wait.

I never did get my moment in the spotlight (or get to date Lysander), but I remember every line.

Take comfort: he no more shall see my face;
Lysander and myself will fly this place.

What even is an organizational skill?

20140905_195124_1 Ten minutes can count for a lot, if you know how to use them.

NaNoWriMo teaches this through the magic of word sprints, which have pulled countless writers across the finish line just in time.

Most sites intended to help you out of clutter and hoarding habits, like FlyLady and Stepping Out of Squalor, are based off a a similar principle. You may look around at your messy house and feel too overwhelmed to begin, so instead of tackling the problem as a whole, you set a timer for ten minutes (or five, or fifteen). Anyone can clean for that long. Build up a few small blocks of cleaning time, and you’re on your way to an uncluttered home.

For the longest time, I couldn’t accomplish anything even with the ten-minute method. I couldn’t even focus on something fun without feeling walled in, trapped, and desperate to do anything to relieve myself from the pressure of obligation and impending failure.

Now that things are changing for me, I’m discovering that I never developed the organizational skills that get most people through the day. I barely know how to look at the big picture, even though it doesn’t overwhelm me the way it used to. For goodness’ sake, at my last followup with my doctor, I told him that for the first time in my life, I feel capable of routinely choosing to get up when my alarm clock goes off. (And let me assure you, my past failures were not for lack of trying.)

As November draws nearer and my duties as an ML kick in, I find myself alternating between planning styles and states of mind. One day, I’ll feel fine checking off a few boxes on my to-do list and allotting the rest of my time to other tasks. The next day, I’ll be posting in the private ML forum in a panic, feeling like I’m weeks behind and have to get things done right this minute.

The truth is, I’m just no good at estimating how much time and effort a job will take.

I’ve moved mountains to get copious amounts of work done in no time at all, and I’ve ducked out of commitments just to get some of the pressure off, but I’ve never succeeded at pacing myself. I’ve tried my best to use ten-minute blocks of time productively, but I always either get distracted or let my ten minutes stretch into a frantic race against time.

So here’s my goal for the NaNoWriMo 2014 season: Realize that ten minutes means ten minutes. Break up my tasks into small steps, and schedule in downtime if I need to. I can do this! But the more I let myself stress over how much I have to do, the less I end up getting done.

Share Your World

It’s been a while since I last posted, so I thought I’d do Cee’s Share Your World this week.

Did you ever get lost?

Once. I must have been seven or eight years old. When my family moved to this part of Florida, we’d go to all the holiday celebrations in the area: the Fourth of July parade, the Christmas boat parade, and of course the annual Italian-American carnival.

This particular night, we were at an outdoor Mardi Gras party. It was tame enough for kids, but I was still awed by all the bright colors, loud music, and happy, noisy adults. (It didn’t occur to me that they were drunk.) I had handfuls of shiny plastic necklaces, and I was probably counting them and toying with them like a dragon with its hoard when I got separated from my family.

I looked at all the people whirling around me. I had a butt-eye-view, and there were no familiar rear ends in sight. Someone said, “Uh oh, lost kid.” Even though it was true, I remember getting so mad that someone would dare treat me like a child! (By age seven, I was convinced that I’d done about all the growing up anyone ever did.)

It didn’t take me long to track them down. They were just a few steps ahead, waiting for me to catch up. Score one for overprotective moms!

Who was your best friend in elementary school?

I met her at the orientation for my new school, right after the big move I mentioned above. We sat at the same table with our moms. We were both shy, but they got to talking, and after that it only seemed natural that we’d talk to each other during class too. I couldn’t tell you what we had in common at that point, but she was my only friend that year.

I made a few other friends eventually, but what’s most memorable about my best friend is that when I got sick, when I had to attend school only part-time and drop out of gym classes, she stuck by me. I think I would have spent my whole childhood as a loner without her.

We’ve met twice since graduation. I tried to fall back into the patterns of our old friendship, to be honest and open with her, but I ended up just feeling confused and vulnerable. It isn’t her fault. I guess we’ve both changed.

I took this picture the last time I saw her, over sushi.

20140208_200921

She was the first person outside my family to read any fiction I wrote, and she loved it so much that she showed it to everyone who rode her bus. She introduced me to both people and hobbies that changed my life, for better or worse. I probably won’t see her again, but I could never forget her.

Since the news television season has started in the US, list three favorite TV shows.

I’m not much of a TV watcher these days. As a kid, come hell or high water, I’d be in front of the TV with popcorn for The X-Files and Are You Afraid of the Dark? even if a rerun was airing. Later on, I LOVED the MTV reality series Fear. My love for creepy shows backfired, though: I became convinced at one point that my TV was possessed, and I never turned it on again. (It’s still a creepy story, looking back. I’ll write about it here one day.)

After that, I only watched TV with friends. In high school we’d have overnight parties where we’d watch anime, and in college, a few of us got together for every new episode of True Blood. Other than that, I occasionally put Food Network on as background noise. My partner did finally convince me to watch Orphan Black, and we’re excited for season 3.

If you were a mouse in your house in the evening, what would you see your family doing?

This is a decent summary:

20140609_121054

That’s five cats, all sniffing around the living room carpet, which I sprinkle with catnip on days I plan to vacuum.

My partner comes home around five, and the cats surround us much as they’re doing in the photo while I serve dinner. After that, we have fairly simple evenings — if it was a stressful day, we’ll stay at the table and chat for a while, and maybe have a glass of wine. Eventually, we’ll go to our computers to unwind with some browsing or games.

The real interesting stuff comes in when we roleplay (more like this than like this). It might sound like a completely nerdy thing to do (because it is), but I bet you’d get pretty invested in the stories if you were a mouse hiding in the corner. If you can evade the cats, at least.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

I met a lot of new people and made more friends last week. Having a big social circle is all very new to me, and I’m still figuring out how to keep up with all of them, but I’m having a good time learning.

As for the coming week, the countdown to NaNoWriMo is about to begin!

“Here’s to those who wish us well…”

IMAG0286 “And those who don’t can go to hell!”

That’s our family toast. I don’t know if it originated from my grandfather or if it predates him, but we never miss saying it at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner in his honor, although he’s been gone for over fifteen years now.

There are only five of us — mom, dad, two brothers, and me — but we’re an interesting mix.

Among the lot of us, we’ve got nine cats and one dog. We’ve got an extended family of high school friends, unknown birth parents, estranged parents, adoptive parents, partners, exes. Together, we’re Catholic, Lutheran, nondenominational, atheist, uncertain. We’re second-generation Italian, Czech, Floridian, New Jerseyan, one thirty-second Spanish, rural Tennesseean mutt. We’re de-facto music lovers, video game players, and Miami Dolphins fans. My parents are short, my brothers are enormous, and I’m the petite one at 5’1″. Except for my blonde mom, we’ve got curly dark hair. We tan easily, and we prefer dark clothes. In group photos, we tend to resemble a Mafia family, and I’m pretty sure none of us are especially ashamed.

We don’t drink underage, but except for my straight-edge kid brother, we are drinkers. My parents are beer drinkers, I’m a gin drinker, and we all go for the occasional glass of red wine, as per Italian heritage law. We don’t shy away from strong words, hence the toast above.

We have weird holiday celebrations that are holdovers from customs and religions no one really remembers or understands: honey crosses on the forehead, strong sauerkraut soup, chickpeas tossed on the floor for the angels to pick up. (Or for the dog to eat. He’s basically a little angel, isn’t he?)

I don’t always understand my family, and they don’t always understand me. But at the end of the day, you can’t strip me of my family identity any more than I can manage to escape it.

(And, don’t tell them I said this, but I’m the only one who’s a half-decent cook.)

 And, okay, I’ll say it: I love them.

They can be hard to talk to, and hard to handle, but when I head over for a visit, it still feels like going home. It’s a place where I know the rules. I know where to find the snacks and drinks. I know when to sit down and shut up. I know I’m likely to hear a man’s voice burst into song, and I know it’ll sound damn good, because apparently in our family, the carry-a-tune gene is sexist.

So please, remind me of all this the next time I have to go see them. I’ll need all the help I can get.