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.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I got a virus...

... or my computer did anyway. And it makes getting online quite the adventure!

So, I may not be blogging for a few days! Sorry!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Job Update

I got the tutoring job!!! Yay!

I felt the interview on Friday went well, and thought I would get the job (or at least was very hopeful!). But then she mentioned that if I took a sample SAT or ACT and hit a certain score, I could also tutor the verbal section for test prep... and then I got nervous. While not hitting the required score wouldn't eliminate me from being able to tutor English in general, I kind of felt not being able to do so said something not so great about me.

Plus, being able to tutor test prep meant I would get paid more. And with barely $300 in my bank account, I needed the extra money!

So I had planned to spend the weekend studying for both tests (I got to pick which one I wanted to take). I didn't, and probably did a total of 15 practice questions. But I felt confident. I have a master's for goodness sake... if I can't ace a standardized test...

Well, I decided to take the ACT, which I sat for this morning... and I aced it. So you're looking at the new English and Verbal test prep tutor for Huntington Learning Center!

As far as the technical writing position, I finally was able to reach the lady and had a phone interview this morning. I learned more about the job, which sounds interesting and I hope I'm given the opportunity to be on board with it. It's a short-term project, lasting anywhere from 45-90 days.

That'd keep me going at least till December. And right now, that's all I'm focusing on... getting to December!

MFA Programs

I've finally gotten through the list of the Top 50 MFA programs in the U.S. I was discussing my pursuit with a friend and wondering if I being foolish to go for the top programs only. After all, those are a lot more competitive, and therefore my chances of acceptance are lower. And unlike when I applied for graduate school, I only plan to do this once. If I don't get in this year... I won't be applying again. Or at least not any time soon.

We both came to the consensus that if I'm not good enough to get into any of the top programs, maybe I shouldn't be going for my MFA in the first place. I want the best training I can get, so why not go for the best?

From the 50, I've narrowed down my choices based on location, program offerings, and the provision of full funding (I already owe a hefty sum from my undergraduate and graduate degree... no more loans for me!). All of the deadlines are between December 1st to January 15th, some require the GRE, and all require three letters of recommendations. I have to put together a Statement of Purpose, a Personal Statement, and a 30- to 50-page manuscript. 

There's a lot to do! And I still have to narrow down the ones I've picked out of the Top 50 list. Here are the ones I'm considering at the moment:
That's 12 universities, and I don't want to apply to more than five or six (although I read somewhere that if I can afford it I should apply to eight to 12). I also am sort of interested in Johns Hopkins University. The top five are the ones that have peaked my interested the most. But they are also some of the most selective programs. I wish I had a guide to help me navigate through all this. Anyone want to offer any insight or advice?

I'm also struggling with who to approach about writing recommendations for me. I've been very private about my writing--especially on the creative end--and so there is very few "professional" people who can speak to my writing style and ability. 

::sigh::

I will not let this process daunt me. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rainy on the Inside

I'm emotionally drained. Which makes me physically drained. Which is apparently quite obvious to those around me. I've gotten a lot of "Are you okay?" "Are you sure?" "What's wrong?" and other concerned remarks and questions within the last few weeks. 

My response is generally, "Yeah, yeah!" with an occasional, "just a little tired..."  

Some people buy this, and conversation moves on to other stuff. But a few feel propelled to give me a hug and to "feel better soon!" 

I guess in general, I'm a relatively bubbly and peppy person. I try to always keep a smile on my face. I laugh a lot. I'm goofy and quirky, and I might even venture to say I'm a little bit funny. But lately, I haven't been feeling any of that. I mean, I try to be me--but lately, I haven't felt peppy, bubbly, or funny on the inside.

And when you don't feel something inside, it's hard to project that on the outside. 

I just have never felt so tired. Waking up in the morning is such a struggle. My chest feels weighted down, and there are some moments I feel like I can barely breathe. I feel the bags dragging my eyes down. 

I take naps... lots of them. The other day, I could barely keep my eyes open while on the phone with my sister. It was 4pm. I fell asleep and didn't wake up until 8pm. And I still went to sleep easily later that night and then had to force myself out of bed the next morning. 

Each day feels like I'm just working to get to the next one. 

It's just so exhausting... in fact, I think it's time for me to take a nap. 


Meredith + Taylor

Tonight, my friend Meredith White became Meredith Clark.

It was a beautiful wedding, and I took lots of pictures to prove it!

It was a bit awkward at first, because I seemed to be the only one at the church who brought a camera with me. And during the reception people kept approaching me asking if I were a photographer (or one of the hired photographers). I wish I could have said, "Yes! I am!" 

However, while I'm not a professional photographer, I think I took some pictures worthy of professional status. Here are a few--the rest will be uploaded to my Flickr Photostream.



Shots of the invitation 
The cute and quirky reply card



Wedding Program
Mr. White with Meredith
The newlyweds




Cutest pose ever!
I love that I was able to capture the newlyweds still kissing,
while their parents looked at each other adoringly.
Groom's cake and Wedding cake

This was just a fun picture!





Gig 'em Aggies! WHOOP!

Farewell!


And in case you're wondering what I wore...

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