Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year, New Beginnings

It's the eve of a new year, and everyone's talking about their New Year resolutions. Except, I kind of stopped making resolutions ages ago. I got kind of tired of making them just to break them a few months in. And I guess in general, I figure that each day should be a journey toward self-improvement and so what's the big deal about the new year?

If I'm honest though, new years ARE a big deal. For me, they've always felt like a new beginning. A chance to sort of clean the slate and start fresh. And seeing as 2010 has probably been one of the suckiest years of my life (2002 is either tied or a close second... senior year of high school was pretty miserable), I'm really excited for 2011. I figure it just can't get any worse, right?

So while I am still not exactly making New Year resolutions... I am looking forward to a few things, and have a few goals and stuff too. They are...
  • Starting student teaching: In 2009, I did an alternative teaching certification program and while I finished the classes, I never actually got my official certification. Well, starting January 6th, I should be in a 4th/5th grade classroom teaching English and by April I should be officially certified. Whether or not I will go on to teach full-time, only the year will tell. But it's an exciting possibility for 2011. So I'm stoked! 
  • Beginning my MFA: If I don't go into teaching full-time in 2011, it's because I got accepted into an MFA program and will be going for that instead. It's been my goal in life to be an author and spend my days working on stories and novels, and after this year began spiraling downward for me I decided to suck it up and seriously think about pursuing that goal. I know I don't need an MFA to become a published author, but I'd like one. That way I can also use the degree to teach in a school or within the community as well. I won't find out if I get into a program until March/April. Hopefully the waiting won't kill me. 
  • Write more: Even if I don't get into am MFA program. I want to write more. For me. It's something I hadn't done in a long time until I began applying for programs, and it felt sooooo good. So, don't ever want to let that go again. 
  • Learning to sew: I don't know how to sew on even a button. It's pathetic. And I've been dying to make a t-shirt quilt for the last two years. So, the plan is to get on it! A few friends have expressed interest in helping me, so... we'll see. 
  • Letting music overrun my life again: I used to play the piano. In fact, I own a piano. And I haven't played it in probably 6-8 months. I know that I am no where as good as I should be, or used to me. But I've decided to stop letting that feeling on inadequacy stop me from playing. Because I miss playing the piano. A lot. I also miss singing without abandon. I used to sing all the time... and while I'm a bit shy about performing for people, I miss doing that too. So, somehow this year, I'm going to sing more. And maybe (since I also own one) I'll learn how to play the guitar, too?
  • Be more green: This... well, this is more of a challenge I'm doing the first week of January. A friend of mine is the web editor at Yes! magazine, and they are doing a No Impact Week, which she convinced me to participate in. Now, while I am in no way anti-green, it just seems like A LOT of work. I mean, the guy who started this whole thing went a year without toilet paper!!! I don't know if I can be that hardcore! But, it should be interesting... and hopefully I'll learn some things that might change my life for the better (which is kind of the purpose of the whole experiment). I'll be blogging about my week, and I'll try to keep you updated on here, too. 
  • Take more pictures: I've been having a lot of fun with my SLR camera, since I got it in September. I have a lot to learn though. And I definitely plan to spend the year becoming more and more of a photographer
  • Being a better daughter, sister, aunt, and friend: No explanation needed here, I think. Just hold me accountable if you think I'm slacking, please! :)
  • Seek God more and more and more: Like I've mentioned before, this past year was tough. And I don't really expect 2011 to start out super easy or anything, but regardless of whatever happens I really want my every minute of 2011 to be committed to God. There are a lot of things I want to happen in 2011. It'd be nice to have a steady income again; it'd be nice to get into my first choice of graduate school; it'd be nice if my student teaching led to some really cool opportunities; it'd be nice if I was dating. But it'd only all be nice if it's in God's will. That's probably the most important thing to me for 2011--to seek God and live in God's will. His plan for me is so much greater than I could probably even imagine. So... 2011 is Yours, God. Do with it what You will.

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year's Eve! Here's to all of our new beginnings. 


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome Christmas, Christmas day
Welcome, welcome fahoo ramus
Welcome, welcome dahoo damus
Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome Christmas bring your cheer
Fahoo fores dahoo dores
Welcome all Whos far and near
Welcome Christmas, fahoo ramus
Welcome Christmas, dahoo damus
Christmas day will always be
Just so long as we have we

Merry Christmas, all! Hope everyone is having a blessed Christmas Day! And remember... Jesus is the reason for the season! 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

In case you were wondering...

... I quit the YMCA.

...  I did not take that job. It just wasn't the right fit for me.

... I did not successful complete NaNoWriMo. I didn't even get a quarter way through. (Although, personally, I am fine with it because I DID complete three short stories, which I can now use for my MFA applications.)

... and speaking of MFA applications, UT-Austin, Ohio State, Brown, Cornell and Wash-U officially have my complete application. Five down and seven to go (I've decided to apply to all 12 on my original list). Now that the writing samples are all done and in great shape, I might go ahead and submit them all before the end of the week. Although, that is a little contingent on if my bank account can handle it.

Somebody's Christmas

Todrick's CD is finally available for purchase on iTunes! Go buy it!

I've already listened to it three times and I love it! I'm so proud of this boy!


My favorite songs are "Rudolph" and his tribute to his grandmother, "Ethel's Song."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Out of My Hands

So, last night I had a mini panic attack. I was in the process of going through my checklist for UT-Austin and Ohio State University--you know, dotting my i's and crossing my t's--and checking to see if the application materials had to be received by December 15, or just postmarked (I was kind of hoping that maybe if I had one more day, I could include the new version of "Ruined," too).

UT stressed that it must be received by, and OSU said postmarked. Except, then I noticed that on their website, OSU had the deadline listed as December 1. My heart stopped. I was pretty positive that I saw December 15 on their website when I was first creating my list of schools, where had this December 1 date come from? I was 13 days late!

I didn't know if I should cry, scream, rip out my hair, put on ashes and sackcloth... . I had spent like $40 dollars requesting transcripts, $23 on a GRE score, pestered my recommenders to 'get on it!' AND just 4 days ago, on December 10, I submitted my application only and relinquished $40 doing that. That was A LOT of money and time going into a school I wouldn't even be considered for!

I kept repeating, "Shoot, Shoot, Shoot, Shoot, Shoot," and lost all drive to even work on any of the schools. I mean, really? How did I confuse December 1 with December 15?



Turns out the school had December 1, 2010 as the deadline, but on another page had December 15, 2008 as another. Somehow I focused on the '08 date. I took this as a sign that I am too big of an idiot to be trying to go back to school. And went to bed dejected.

This morning, however, I decided to give OSU a call and apparently tons of other applicants made the same mistake I did and they were making December 15 their deadline! I hadn't missed it!

So, today two large envelops were put in the mail. My applications to UT-Austin and Ohio State University are officially complete. And now I have to submit the other three online before midnight, and then begin focusing on the remaining seven.

And then, everything will all be completely out of my hands. I'll just have to sit around to March, twiddling my thumbs and waiting for a decision. In a way, I actually can't wait to reach that point. I'm not even half-way through and I'm exhausted.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Crunch Time

Today is December 13th. On December 15th, in two days, five of my 12 MFA applications are due. Three, thankfully, are entirely submittable online. I just have to hit "enter" before 11:59pm Wednesday night. The other two, I actually have submitted applications for already. But they require me to mail in my writing samples.

To some degree, this upsets me. It means I can't work until the last minute tweaking sentences, replacing verbs, etc. I actually have to get to the post office tomorrow, with two packets of writing I'm proud enough to let represent me. Tomorrow.

So far, I'm sufficiently happy with one story. It's a re-write of a story called "Laundry Day." It started out as a short vignette (which you can read here) and now has grown to be a 7-page story about a girl and her sisters preparing for the big move to Nigeria. It's the only one that I feel is in a good enough place to stop and say, "you can be submitted."

I've also been working on a re-write of "Her Blood," which is based on something that really happened in my family. But which I've fictionalized quite a bit (although I'm sure my sisters would still recognize themselves in the story if they read it. Same for "Laundry Day" actually. In fact, for that one, I used their names for the characters.)
"Her Blood," I think is almost there. There might be one or two more pass-throughs before I'm confident in what  it says about me and my writing capabilities.

I do have one more story I'm working on. A complete re-write of a non-fiction piece I wrote some years back. A complete re-write because besides the epiphany at the end, and the situation that led to said epiphany, the story is now completely fictional. I was hoping the story would be done today, and that maybe tonight or tomorrow morning I could do some more edits and include it in my submission packet.

So far that doesn't look like it's going to happen. And so while "Ruined" might make it into the writing sample for other application, "Laundry Day" and "Her Blood" are probably the only ones I'll end up sticking in envelopes and sending off in the mail tomorrow. And all I can think of is, will they be enough? Will they open the door for this opportunity I so desperately want?

I really don't know, and while I'm sure I'll be hyperventilating as I print them out, label the envelopes, drive to the post-office, pay for postage, and watch them go through the slot to be sorted and sent out... I ultimately just can't worry about it. Time's up. Whether I feel ready or not. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Walking down Memory Lane

I'm on the phone with my sister and she's reading me parts of her attempts at a memoir. Mostly it's just ramblings about her first memories. Of me (apparently she thought I was annoying), our sister and brother, our cousins, our friends, her birthdays.

While reading it out, she happened to mention my very first blog, which was on MySpace. (I also remember having an account with Open Diary. Anyone else have one of those? I think my username was African Aggie.)

At one point I wrote every day. Sometimes multiple times a day. And then one day, I deleted most of the blogs, and just kept a few random ones. (I did re-write most of the ones I deleted into a real journal.)

Taking a look back is kind of like opening up a time capsule. Simple things like: my relationship with my brothera time when I actually missed College Station (yeah, barely miss it now, haha), kisses from Khalil (who is now five! oh, how time flies!) This stuff dates back to like 2003!

The memories wash over you, and there's a sense of joy, accompanied by lots of laughter--even with the not so nice entries.  This is why I like writing, journaling, scrap-booking....

... there's forever that record of how blessed I've been in life.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NaNoWriMo Day 4


It's Day 4 and I have 971 words. Out of 50,000. I'm about 3 (maybe 4) days behind schedule. 

Unlike the dude in the cartoon, I have an idea of what to write about. But since I signed up on a whim, it's been a slow process. Especially since most of my free time is spent hanging out with family and friends. But it's coming along... and at least I'm writing!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

???

Should I take it that God is seriously smiling down on me and showing immense favor? Because I just got offered a job... following a pretty catastrophic interview experience.

Okay... maybe not entirely catastrophic, but it started out pretty roughly. And I was pretty certain that any chance I had at getting this job was shot to hell.

And yet, I got an offer.

However, now I'm unsure about accepting the offer. Does that make me ungrateful? Does that make me foolish since even getting the offer seemed like such a long shot?

Why is being an adult full of so many hard decisions?

I'm also a little bit unsure about doing my MFA. I have about a month to two months (depending on the schools) to get everything together for my applications. And I feel so... unprepared. That's a lot of money to invest if I'm not going to be able to put out my best.

But then again, maybe God will work His wonders and I'll get acceptance letters anyway. Even when I probably shouldn't have...

... just like this dang job offer.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

This Halloween is truly happy, because early this morning I became an aunt! What a thrilling moment (and maybe slightly scary new role) for me! So Halloween will now officially be one of my favorite times of year, cause I'll get to celebrate (and spoil) a nephew!

Overall, it's actually been a pretty fun Halloween. I normally don't do anything. Being a Christian, I'm not anti-Halloween, but I don't really celebrate it either. Also, having immigrants as parents meant the idea of buying costumes and having their children go door to door begging for treats from strangers was lost on my parents.

My first time to trick or treat, oddly enough, was in Nigeria. The missionary families would take their kids house to house in the Seminary and Baptist Medical Center, and then there would be a Halloween Bash at the Ellison's house. One year I was a figure skater (and spent the whole time in the van because I couldn't roller skate) and then there was my last year in Nigeria where Val and I dressed up as "CDs" (crazy dressers), and her dad was a Nigerian woman. Man... I wish I still had pictures.

Here in the States, anything Halloween-related was either charity, school, or church related. And this year was no different (except replace school with work).

Last week I went to the Halloween party for the Ronald McDonald House:







Southwest is a huge supporter of the RMDH

Emilie, the volunteer coordinator, with families from the house

How'd HE know I talk so much?!

Then my church had a community-wide Harvest Festival:









And finally I got to scare little kids at the YMCA as the "un-dead" in the playground-turned-graveyard. 






Here was my view from under the slides:



And here are some of the kids and my co-workers in their costumes: 






Hope everyone has a Happy Halloween! 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

NaNoWriMo

It's official.

I signed up for the National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo).


This means I have 30 days to write 50,000 words or more, successfully completing a novel.

I have no outline. No characters. No ideas. Okay... some ideas. But nothing really developed.

I kind of decided to do this on a whim. I've had a few friends take up the challenge in previous year, and have been tempted to join, but always had some excuse as to why I couldn't do it. Well, I was seeing a lot of promo for it and then a friend of mine said she was doing it and asked me to add her as a writing buddy. And that's when I took the plunge.

I've found a few tools to help me, too: Google's Writing Nook and Scrivener

And maybe along the way, I'll figure out what I'm sending as my writing sample(s) for my MFA applications!

Wish me luck for next month! (And feel free to keep me accountable.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Progress

I've started on my applications!!! Yay! 


Although, not so much on working on any of the bucket-load of writing I need to do. Especially since my list of schools has grown from twelve to twenty! No intention of applying to them all, but it does make this process a little bit harder as I try to make decisions, etc. Right now, my biggest struggle is the personal statement. Each school has different lengths... and ultimately I need to answer the questions, why do I write and who do I want to be as a writer. And that boils down to Anne of Green Gables and Chimamanda Adichie. Now to somehow articulate it in 350-800 words. 


Anyway, I also started my online class, A to Z Grant Writing, and so far... so good. It's been pretty basic information, but I can already tell that by the end of the six weeks I would have learned so much. Hopefully it'll land me a real job, too. 



Saturday, October 23, 2010

Radio Discoveries

This week, I impulsively decided to listen to NPR. Although people assume that I listen to this radio station all the time (must be the journalist thing or something), I actually have only tuned in when my dad is in the car (in his world, only the news, classical music, and the occasional hymn or sermon is worth listening to).

But this week, I was sick of listening to KLTY with their horrible commercials and over-the-top promotions, not to mention the same songs playing over and over and over again. And I thought, "why don't I listen to NPR?" Without a good reason, I promptly switched the station.

And I loved listening to the radio so much more this week. I'll be honest and say that sometimes the news and politics talk make me want to snooze, but for the most part the programming has engaged my mind during the generally mindless commute I make at various times during the day.

I think my favorite show is A Way With Words, a language show. The English language is fascinating, so an entire show about English grammar, the origin of words, linguistic disputes, and more. And past episodes are online! I learned about the expression "a tree full of owls" and discovered the logic behind saying "you've got another think coming" versus "you've got another thing coming."

Another favorite is The Story, which is basically a show about ordinary people. Ordinary people who's lives intersect with big things in news. Or just ordinary people with somewhat extraordinary lives. It was on The Story that I heard "Noah Z. Jones Goes to Hollywood," and was suddenly filled with hope that maybe I will be discovered out of no where and on my way to fame. (Jones is the creator of the new Disney Show "Fish Hooks" and got the job because of his website Almost Naked Animals.)

So, for now, NPR is my new favorite station. After just a week, I feel smarter already! :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Victim of Procrastination

So, I had the morning off with full plans to be extremely productive. And have I been? ... not so much.

First of all, I woke up with a bad stomachache, so I just laid around in bed for a while. I got a call in to work, and was a little grateful I had a legitimate reason not to come in.  I did however, choose not to go back to sleep and I guess I haven't been completely unproductive.

I officially enrolled in an online class with Brookhaven College. A to Z Grant Writing. Hopefully this class will give me an edge on applying to grant writing positions with non-profits. I think I'd enjoy working in that environment--it'd be meaningful and rewarding. Not sure if I want to do it full-time, but I have noticed that a lot of places look for contract/freelance grant writers, who I guess they hire as needed. I also think I could use my grant writing skills not just for money, but for charity. I have a few friends who are running or trying to start non-profits, and I wouldn't mind "donating" my expertise to help them out--it's something I've wanted to do, but without the proper know-how have not been able to. So, needless to say, I'm excited about this class!

I also discovered that I could get financial aid to take classes through the Workforce Commission. I went ahead and filled out an application to receive financial aid for a Technical Writing and Photoshop class. If they are approved, I can start both classes next month! I've applied to quite a few Technical Writing positions, and only got a call back from one, which I don't think I got since it's been about three weeks since that screening interview. So, taking that class could be beneficial to me. The Photoshop class is entirely for my interest in photography.

I guess that makes my morning productive enough--considering that I also applied to two book reviewer jobs, too. However, none of that was on the agenda today.

Today was supposed to be about working on my writing samples, my personal statement, and beginning my applications for MFA programs. And none of that has taken place.

It feels good, however, to know that I'm not alone.


Procrastination
Copyright, The New Yorker

Friday, October 15, 2010

'Don't Miss It, Don't Even Be Late'

Last week Thursday, I won tickets to see "Shrek: The Musical" through the Dallas Summer Musicals. With those tickets came free entry to The State Fair of Texas.

Can I just say I was beyond thrilled?! First of all, I've been wanting to see "Shrek," but couldn't justify paying to go see it--for one, I no longer have a full-time job and money is tight, but also, I've gone to see A LOT of shows throughout this last year and while $25-$40 for a ticket might not sound like a lot, it adds up. I mean, I had just gone to see "My Fair Lady" last month!

Also, I've really wanted to go to The State Fair. I went last year with my old co-workers and it was fun, but I didn't really do much or stay late or anything. And the only other time I remember going to the fair was in high school, which was years ago.

So my friend Nik and I headed down to Fair Park a little early and enjoyed the fair, eating lots of junk, watching pig races, and the grand parade (the band even played "Our State Fair is a great state fair, don't miss it don't even be late. It's dollars for donuts at our State Fair. It's the best state fair in our state!" which made me sooo happy!), before heading to the Music Hall to watch "Shrek." Awesome thing about the tickets I won... they put us in the second row! Right in front! I've NEVER been that close in a performance before! So awesome! If only I had won such seats during the "Wicked" run!

Honestly, "Shrek" isn't like the greatest musical out there and it's no surprise that it didn't win any awards or anything, but it was a fun show. I laughed a lot, and I though the set design, costumes and lyrics were all highly creative. Can't rank it up there with "Wicked" or "Aida" or anything like that, but it holds it own as a great family musical.

Overall, it was a pretty awesome day :)

We rode the train out the Fair Park

Funnel cake with apple topping

Texas Fried Frito Pie

Big Tex!



Pig Races! 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Shakespeare and Fairy Tales

From Shakespeare we get some of the most famous quotes and sayings. From fairy tales we get some of the most famous stories and plots. Both offer a wealth of inspiration for writers, including Sarah Strohmeyer, author of "Sweet Love," "The Cinderella Pact," and "The Sleeping Beauty Proposal."

In "Sweet Love," Julie Mueller, a divorced single mother of a teen who lives above her parents in a two-family home. She's a workaholic and seeks career advancement to make amends for everything else she finds lacking in her life. When Julie's mother signs her up for dessert classes, she's sure there's a catch. And there is: one of her classmates is none other than Julie's childhood (and although she refuses to admit it, adulthood) crush, Michael. Strohmeyer begins the novel with Shakespeare's Sonnet 56, which begins, "Sweet love, renew thy force...," and "Sweet Love" is truly a novel about renewed love. Readers follow Julie as she shifts through her feelings for Michael, for her mother, and even her career. Through the sweetness of desert, will Julie be able to erase the bitterness that's grown in her over the years?

There's a depth and maturity in "Sweet Love" that only seems fitting as it's inspiration is Shakespeare--in fact, a quote from one of his plays or sonnets appears at the beginning of each chapter and he's quoted by some of the characters as well.

The same, or perhaps the opposite, could be said about "The Cinderella Pact" and "The Sleeping Beauty Proposal." While I enjoyed both of these books just as much as I did "Sweet Love," they were fun and frivolous--just like a good fairytale.

"The Sleeping Beauty Proposal" is about a girl who's boyfriend, after four years, finally pops the question. Except, he isn't asking her to marry him. And he's not asking her on national television. Instead of admitting to family, friends, and co-workers that she basically got dumped, Genie Michaels decides to "wake up" instead of waiting for Prince Charming's kiss to get her life started.  And let's face it--if you've grown up on fairytales, there's most likely a little (or perhaps huge) part of you that is asleep waiting for Prince Charming. So, Genie lets everyone believe her boyfriend Hugh did propose to her, and begins planning a whirlwind wedding. Although the deception weighs heavily on her conscience, this crazy decision helps Genie blossom into the woman she's always wanted to be. And she didn't need a man to accomplish any of it! "The Sleeping Beauty Proposal" is fun, crazy, and will have you laughing through each step of Genie's adventure. It's a modern day fairytale at its finest.

"The Cinderella Pact" is an equally fun, crazy, and full of laughs. BookPage described the book as "A big, cheery story with enough fairy tale and froth to let us escape the mundane, and with enough intelligence to make it worthwhile." I couldn't disagree even if I wanted to! Here lies the story of Nola Devlin, an overweight thirty-six year old woman with a secret identity. Her secret identity is that if Belinda Apple, a skinny, British ethics columnist who everyone in Nola's life seems to swear by. So much, in fact, that her two best friends decide that the three of them should follow Belinda's advice to "indulge their inner Cinderellas" and transform their lives for good--starting with losing the extra pounds they carry around. No way is Nola going to admit she doesn't take her own advice, so the Cinderella Pact is born and the three embark on a journey that takes them to places none of them could have ever imagined. As Nola struggles to balance her two identities, she finds herself stuck between two men and in a hairy situation at work. Covering up her lie with more lies just makes things more complicated, and Nola is left wondering if she'll ever truly get her Cinderella moment.

("The Cinderella Pact" is now a movie on Lifetime, although the name has been changed to "Lying to be Perfect.")

All three books are witty and engaging. For me, "Sweet Love" especially defied the conventions of average chick lit, making it my favorite of the trio. Currently I'm reading another Sarah Strohmeyer (I went all out at the library after Emily Giffin recommended her on Facebook), "The Penny Pinchers Club," which starts out with a housewife under arrest for digging through a dumpster.  Totally a sign that it'll be just as much fun!

... and we're back!

It took a week or so, but I finally am able to use my computer again! The virus is gone!

Granted I had to completely wipe my memory and am starting from scratch, more or less... but in a way, that's refreshing. It's a clean slate, and new beginning.

And that's where I am in my life in general. A misguided judgement led to things falling apart. And so, "let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start."

Over the last few weeks, I've begun to feel liberated in a way. And this past week without my computer has really given me time to actual live life and think about it in a new way versus trying to work out a system that had obviously collapsed around me.

For one, I've officially decided to go for my MFA next fall and with a renewed computer plan to right fervently and furiously until December 1st when the first deadline hits. I'm still trying to decide if I should go for 12 programs, or lower the list down a bit. But with my parents support, I can probably swing applying to at least eight programs. My whole family is on board with me applying and that just makes this so much better for me! (Not that I ever lacked their support, but I've just had doubts about if it's something I should honestly do, or if I'm just being self-indulgent and their encouragement has been wonderful.)

Secondly, I've decided to begin a 365 journey in photography. One picture for each day of the year. My year starting on October 1st. And while I feel off the wagon yesterday and didn't take a picture (I made up for it and took two different shots with different subjects today), I've actually be rather diligent about finding moments to capture... mostly around my home, but sometimes while I'm driving or while out with friends. And in general, I don't just take one picture... I take 4 or sometimes 20 (or many more if I'm somewhere particularly intriguing). But the goal is to take at least one--play around with framing, lighting, speed, etc.

And I guess those are the two big things, I suppose...

I'm also planning to take some classes online starting next week, which will hopefully open doors for more substantial means of making ends meet over the next few months.

Anyway... next few blogs will be updating you on the fun stuff I've done while my computer was out of commission: The State Fair, my 365, books I've read...

... but for now, it's bed time.
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