Wednesday, February 23, 2011

RTW: A ?4U

I don't have much time today and I haven't participated in YAHighway's RTW in a while and I really wanted to do it today. So I'm going to cheat a little and post a link to my YAtopia post from Tuesday as a precursor to this post. Today's RTW asks you to post a writing question for others to answer.

The question posed by me is: Are you a Plotter or a Pantser? Or somewhere in the middle. Either way, don't let anyone tell you you're wrong. Not even me.

Leave your answer (and/or link) in the comments!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Valentine's Day Doesn't Suck

I'm going to ignore the beleaguered and muddled history of Valentine's Day for a few minutes. Because what I'm talking about is the present, the Valentine's Day of the 21st Century. There's a sort of subculture I've been noticing pop up in February of the last few years: The "Intelligent Single Girl Hates V-Day" subculture. (BTW: If you feel like this post is coming at you a little early, that's because it is. Mainly because we're having a V-day party at my house today and I'm posting on YAtopia today about First Kisses for our Love & Lit celebration - so I've got V-Day on the brain.)

If you're a smart single woman these days, it's almost expected that you'll hate (or feel sad on) February 14th - and most will rant for as long as you'll listen about how Valentine's Day is a sham. Ignoring how this really only makes you sound bitter (especially when you publicly gushed about your romantic date the year before), I'm going to have to disagree with you.

Let's get this out of the way first: I'm single this year and have been about as often as I haven't when February rolls around. My first year of college, my boyfriend broke up with me two days before Valentine's Day (Don't cry for me; he came crawling back in a spectacular way). In short, my V-days haven't always been marked by roses and chocolates.

But Valentine's Day doesn't suck.

And I'd appreciate if you would stop being so hard on it. What is the meaning - the true spirit - of the modern Valentine's Day? It's the only secular (yes, it has some roots in Christianity, but just as many in paganism and the modern celebration has nothing to do with religion) day we have to celebrate love. It's an entire day devoted to letting those you love know how you feel. Why are you so desperate to stomp on that?!

I'll concede that the relatively recent commercialism of the holiday serves only to cheapen it. Not only do companies like Hallmark and Russel Stover make millions off the holiday every year, companies like Zales and Kay jewelers try to convince men that they should spend thousands to make their girl happy on February 14th.

I still argue that this isn't what Valentine's Day is about. I remember when I was a little girl, being sooo excited about the box of candy I knew my daddy would bring home for me that day. The Valentine's Day gift I remember most fondly was a simple balloon. On my first Valentine's Day in college (mentioned above), my friend Mike invited me to watch his intramural softball game and then we went for pizza and, though I was a little heartbroken, I was thrilled to officially introduce Mike to my lovely roommate, who had been crushing on him from afar for a while.

I think a lot of the reason there's so much hate for this day of love is the expectations surrounding it. We're all expecting this perfect day with a romantic dinner and a dozen red roses. With the level of perfection that's expected, it's no wonder things get complicated. But it doesn't have to be complicated. It can be so simple.

Did you know that the tradition of Valentine's Day started with people simply writing hand-written, original love notes to each other? Why don't you take a few minutes this week and try your hand at writing something like the original "valentines" for a person you care about? Even if your writing is sloppy, your poetry doesn't rhyme and it's written on a torn-out sheet of notebook paper, it will mean more to the receiver than a pretty commercially-printed card-stock valentine would.

If you're in a relationship this Valentine's Day, take a step back and make sure that you're focusing on what's really important: the love (or the spark of something that may grow into love) you share with that person.

If you're not in a relationship: remember, this day isn't meant to torture you. It's not meant to draw attention to your single status; in fact, nobody but you will even notice. So try to celebrate the love surrounding you this year: the love you have for your family and friends, the love your friends have for each other and their loved ones.

And, please, don't piss all over your friends' happiness by talking about how much February 14th sucks. Because Valentine's Day doesn't suck. When you really think about it, it's kinda awesome.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Paying It Forward

Shelli over at Market My Words is doing a "Pay It Forward Contest." if you write YA or MG and are looking for an agent, you might want to go check it out before 5pm EST today. Shelli has one of the coolest requirements I've seen in a blog contest: you must write your own "Pay it Forward" blog post talking about someone who has given back to you. I have so many people who have helped me out so I hope it's ok if I talk about more than one.

  • VeryMuchMeg is a blog/Twitter friend of mine. This winter she saw I was having a tough time and randomly sent me a care package full of books, socks, chocolate and random personalized things. I can never thank her enough for how I felt that day.

  • Nina is another blog/Twitter friend of mine who is so often there with an encouraging text or tweet that I can't pick out just one instance.

  • John-Michael is a good friend of mine from college. Late (and, remember, I studied engineering, so my definition of late is laaaaaaate) one night I was sitting at home by myself, very upset about something. As soon as I mentioned that I was crying, he dropped everything to come sit with me on my very uncomfortable futon and cheered me up with his goofy jokes and random singing.

  • Eamonn went to my high school. We weren't really friends; we didn't belong to the same social circles, you might say (me = nerd, him = not). A few months before we graduated, a good friend of mine took his own life in his home a half-dozen houses from mine. God, I was heartbroken. My best friend had a soccer game that day and I accompanied her. I still remember how at least half the girls on the field were crying, the gray drizzle falling on us all amplifying the mood. On the sidelines, I tried to hold back the tears but I couldn't find the strength. Eamonn went to all the girls' soccer games. He saw me crying and just kinda put his arms out in the universal gesture for "you look like you need a hug." He hugged me while I cried a sobbing, angry kind of cry. It was such a small gesture - and we still weren't really friends after that - but, ten years later, it still sticks out in my mind when I think about that day.

  • When I was laid off and struggling to find work, two of my sorority sisters offered to lend me money. I didn't need it, but it meant a lot just the same. I'm not going to name them here, out of respect, but they know who they are.

  • I had been at UF for three weeks when I turned 18. I hardly knew anyone but my roommate Lola threw a party for me, inviting all her friends because I didn't really have any yet. That weekend my neighbors (Akshay, Brandon and Blake) took me out to dinner, a movie (Zoolander) and my first ever Coldstone experience! I expected it to be terrible, but they made it awesome.

  • Lori & Maurice - who I knew from a writing group - adopted me (and Jasper!) for Thanksgiving in 2008 when I was stuck working in New York. It was my first Thanksgiving away from my family, but it was lovely.

  • I met Chris Novak once in college. It was my freshman year and I think he was a senior. When I found out I'd be moving to St. Louis five years later, I found out he lead the Gator Club there. I contacted him through facebook and (thought he didn't really remember me) he welcomed me into his circle of friends and even helped me move a few months later.

  • Reiko, Kathy & Suzanne helped me so much even though I don't think they were quite prepared to receive that email that said, "Hey, I have a dozen girls and we want to start a chapter of your Sorority 700 miles from the closest chapter."

  • I know I've said it before, but all the wonderful women at RWA 2010 were so nice to me and welcomed me with open arms that I was kind of overwhelmed by it. Especially Leigh, Constance, Shay, and Janice, who put up with my fan-girl-ing :-)

  • Kelley Vitollo gave me the opportunity to become involved with YAtopia, which so far has been a great experience with great people. With every post and tweet I realize how lucky I am to share this blog with DJ, Sharon, Leigh, Kelley, Chanelle and Wendy. I keep thinking they'll realize their mistake and kick me out, but it hasn't happened yet! ;-)

  • My Egyptian friend James who gave me the last of his awesome (maybe magical?) flu herbs even though you can't buy them in the US.

  • My freshman year I asked my neighbor/friend to help me move a Foosball table from my car to my apartment. His roommate (who I didn't really know) also volunteered to help and ended up staying to assemble the thing (twice - but that's another story) for me. Nate and I ended up dating for a long time after that day.

  • Kelly, Emily, Kris, Mike, David, Kayla, Ashish, and Paddy took me in and really made St. Louis feel like 'home' in such a short time. Some of them even helped me move within days of meeting me!

And I really could keep going for a looooooong time, but I think you'd get bored with me eventually - if you're still hanging around now, that is. I really am thankful for everyone who has helped me in my life - even if you're not listed above. If you would stick with me for a few more minutes, I'd like to mention two more things:

  1. The Bloggess is one of my favorite internet people. Her blog is usually hilarious, but a few weeks ago she shared this blog post that I'd like to share with you. If you're struggling, please don't be too proud or embarrassed to ask for help.

  2. I've been reading a lot about Zainab Salib since watching her TED video last month and ... well, talk about paying it forward in a big way! She's amazing and I'd love for all of you to read more about Women for Women International and Join Me on the Bridge on March 8th for International Women's Day.

So what about you? Do you have someone who has given back to you? Made your life a little better, a little easier? Leave your stories or - even better - blog links in the comments!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Twenty Minutes Can Change You

I thoroughly enjoyed TED month and I'll (again) encourage you to check TED out if you haven't already.

I've watched some good videos, some not so good videos - and then there are the other ones. The ones that claw deep into your gut and perform a hostile transformation. You see the description and you think, "Yeah, OK. That could maybe be interesting." Next thing you know, you're fighting back the sting of tears and your heart is aching with a physicality that shouldn't be possible. The words of the speaker pierce the soul you weren't entirely sure you had.

There's a good chance you think I'm being over-dramatic. How could a fifteen to twenty minute video on the internet possibly have that kind of effect in a world where nothing is off limits to the television programmers? But I dare you to watch Zainab Salbi talk about the women on the "backlines" of war, and tell me you're the same person you were before you started the video. (I'm entirely serious about this one. If you only watch ONE of these videos, make this the one.)

[caption id="attachment_360" align="aligncenter" width="295" caption=""How casually we treat casualties""][/caption]

And if you're heart isn't broken enough, take a look at the images of the nearly-decimated Lakota tribe captured by Aaron Huey in his presentation: America's Native Prisoners of War. For a different kind of experience, watch some of the most amazing African wildlife footage taken by Beverly and Dereck Joubert, who have lived fascinating lives. (And during the elephant scene: Trust me, it's worth it to watch it through to the end.)

I've been watching these videos all month. I've blogged about some and tweeted about some, but I wanted to put them all in one place - both because I want to share them with you and because I want to be able to have them in one easily accessible location for myself. :-)

♥ = my favorites

Let me know if you watch/watched any of these and what you think!