You Are Who You Are

I didn’t make any resolutions for 2017 (other than my Year of Austerity project, which I’d say was about 85 percent successful and has already been extended into year two) but the one goal that is always in the back of my mind is to write more and potentially make something of myself as a creative writer someday. Like tens of thousands of other wannabe writers out there, I have a gut feeling that I could be a very successful writer, but I’m not putting in the effort required to make that happen. However, over the last few years, I have been increasing the amount of writing I do, and 2017 turned out to be a quite prolific year. Here are my writing accomplishments that I feel proud of.

  • If you’ve been following me from the beginning, you might have noticed how much more I blogged this year compared to other years, especially last year. I’ve been more conscious about considering my experiences from a blogging perspective and getting my thoughts typed out. If nothing else, someday this blog will be a fun record of my life to look back on.
  • I filled three pen and paper notebooks with exercises and travel notes and random ideas that popped into my head during the day. I’ve kept a notebook in my purse or backpack and made more time on my adventures to write everything down. Doing so has helped me blog more because it’s kind of unbelievable how fast what you think are strong, meaningful thoughts fly out of your head and are lost forever unless you took note of them somewhere. I’ve also been more intentional about making time to brainstorm story ideas, which is easier to do when you always have a notebook with you.
  • I joined a critique group that meets monthly. Having a regular deadline and not wanting to waste an opportunity to get feedback on my work are huge motivators for me. I’ve written a few short stories and flash fiction pieces, like the Danielle stories I posted last week. I’ve also sketched out ideas for dozens more short stories that I haven’t put any significant work into yet.
  • Meeting someone who is on the same writing wavelength as me has also got me writing much more frequently. Ironman and I write together a few times each week, doing prompts before we call each other and reading them out loud, using them to generate new ideas or pull little tidbits of unique phrasing for reuse elsewhere. And most days when we don’t write together, I still do a prompt on my own to keep up the habit.

So even though I haven’t published anything yet (after all, I can’t publish anything if I don’t submit and I haven’t done that either), I’m happy with the progress I’ve made and I’m feeling good heading into 2018 about achieving even more. But exactly what more will look like remains to be seen. A fair amount of the writing I’ve done this year has been journaling, essays, and other introspective work, which has led to some interesting revelations about myself and my life circumstances. I have had several moments this year in which I threw down my pen in astonishment and said out loud, “Oh my God, that’s what was happening!”

One of those, which doesn’t really rise to the “pen-throwing-in-astonishment” level, is that I’m a pattern seeker. Grammar has always been a strong suit of mine and I’m a strong editor (though not always of my own work and I make no apologies for that). I can talk for days about the grammar of foreign languages that I can’t speak two words of. I’ve been freelancing as a standardized assessment question specialist for over eight years because I’m good with rubrics and rules and following specific requirements.

But somehow, I’ve never put together that I’ve been this way since childhood and I’ve always come up short on uniqueness. I’ve been down on myself at times over the past few years for not being more creative, thinking that I used to be so imaginative and inventive as a child, but the truth is, I never was. I enjoyed crafts immensely, but only ones in which I was following a pattern. I spent many evenings and weekends doing paint-by-number, latch hook, Spirograph, perler bead kits, and bake it sun catcher kits. I also enjoyed many other solitary pursuits that involved patterns: jigsaw puzzles and word games, for example.

The times I got creative, I was generally copying something I had done in school. One time we built dioramas in shoe boxes in art class, and then I went on a diorama kick, making a dozen of them. Yes, I made all kinds of them, but ultimately, I was copying that original pattern. I engaged in this obsessive copying with all kinds of art projects we did. As an adult taking part in those trendy paint-and-sip classes, I found myself irked by the people who didn’t follow the template. I might change a color or two, but I always made the painting we were supposed to make and I was disgusted by the people who went completely off the rails. I took some art classes and excelled at assignments that involved taking an existing work and modifying it somehow. But to make something completely out of my head has always been an impossible task.

Which brings me back to my writing. It’s obvious now why I struggle so much with creativity and finding a unique angle. Some parts of who I am are immutable. But I won’t allow this understanding of myself to be a deterrent. The creative writing muscle needs to be exercised and needs regular practice. I have come up with a few short story ideas this year that I believe are unparalleled in the great corpus of American writing. I’m proud of them and will likely give them another hard edit in the coming year and then start shopping them around. I’ll keep working on more ideas as well, and I’m willing to bet that I’ll have some pen-dropping moments with my fiction this coming year.

A Brief, Half-Assed, Unsuccessful Attempt at Being Vegan

I love meat. Bacon, medium-rare steak, charcuterie platters, Buffalo style chicken wings, those little cubes of ham in a salad bar, a big greasy cheeseburger, and anything and everything that comes from the ocean. I’ve tried horse, dog, tongue, bone marrow, monkey brain, chili powder coated grasshoppers, and most recently, snapping turtle. So why would I try being a vegan?

That’s a good question! I, much like you I suspect, have heard the spiels about animal abuse, environmental pollution, unsustainability, unsanitary food processing conditions, etc. over and over. They don’t convince me. That’s not the same as saying I don’t believe them. I do believe that most of what I hear about the negative consequences of our daily meat consumption is true, but those consequences simply aren’t enough to spur me into action. Continue reading →

That Time When…

…you spend an hour and half entering random search terms on the internet and posting on a half dozen What’s the Book? forums trying to find a book, whose title and author you have both forgotten, that you read somewhere between two and four years ago, and then suddenly you realize that you have this feature on your blog in which you track the books you’ve read and the missing book has been at your fingertips all along.

Love in the Thin Air

Last weekend, I spent three perfect days in Telluride for a close friend’s wedding at Schmid Ranch near Mount Wilson. The golden aspens stretching up to the wild and unpredictable sky, snow covered mountains surrounding the valley the ranch was nestled into, a dozen of my beautiful friends in attendance all so excited for the bride, and my handsome date, a wonderful man I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life for four months now.

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Summer Lovin’

It’s not technically the last day of summer, but it has been a long time since you last heard mention of my dating adventures. And as this entry posts to my blog, I’m somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean heading back from two and a half weeks in Europe, which means I’ll have lots to post about my travels in the coming weeks instead of about the men of Boulder. And, one more reason for the timing of this post, today is the six month anniversary of my first date since the big breakup earlier this year, and I have a thing for posting on artificially significant dates. So here goes!

The 3D and Graphic Designer: He’s really sweet and we had a great time together for almost two months, though we rarely saw each other more than once a week. But I knew pretty early on that I wasn’t going to want a relationship with him. Partly, because he’s not a reader. Books are so important in my life and after a five year relationship with another person who didn’t read much and then dating someone who read aloud to me (an unbelievably sexy experience), well, yeah, I just couldn’t. There are a few other reasons I didn’t want anything serious or long term with him, but I really like him as a person and I dated him long enough that I think it would be inappropriate to blab about him here. Continue reading →

Take a Penny, Take a Penny, Take a…

…at some point, you’re supposed to leave a penny, right? This principle applies to conversation as well. Conversation only works if you have at least two people answering and asking questions. Yet a surprising number of men on Bumble seem to be wholly unaware of this basic tenet of human interaction. About 25 percent of the time I message a new match, I get a one sentence reply that fails to demonstrate any interest in me and leaves me without anything worth following up on.

These range from depressing replies that tell me all I need to know about what a waste of time meeting this person in the real world would be… Continue reading →

But Is That Butts or Butts?

English has no shortage of homonyms that can easily cause confusion for someone trying to learn this language. But they can almost as easily cause confusion among native speakers as well.

On our way into mountains last Sunday to hike Grays and Torreys peaks, my two girlfriends and I saw a sign on I-70 just like this one.

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All three of us had the same thought – we need to bring the car from 75 mph to a complete stop in the middle of the highway and get out of the car right now to see what we are missing! Surely if CDOT felt the need to tell us (in such a cheeky way) that we should remain in the vehicle, something important and exciting must be happening along the roadside. And then 20 seconds later, we non-smokers realized we had all misunderstood which “butt” the sign meant. Continue reading →

The Real C Word

The real C word has eight letters, not four.

Children.

Children are the ultimate make or break point of any relationship. They aren’t something you can negotiate on. Or, at least, you really, really shouldn’t. Either you want them or you don’t, and giving in to a partner’s preference is asking for a lot of trouble.

I realize that in my dating age range (35-47 is my comfort zone), it’s difficult to find men who don’t have children and even more difficult to find mature, stable men who don’t have children. In most urban areas, it’s probably a little easier to find these unicorns but in Colorado cities, it’s probably a little harder because people who move here tend to be those attracted to the adventuresome life of rock climbing and backcountry skiing and spending an entire summer hiking peak-to-peak across the state. Those who remain unfettered by paternity tend to be afflicted by Peter Pan Syndrome, which I find most unattractive. So, when I started dating again, I had to ask myself if I could date someone with kids. Continue reading →

But…Puerto Rico?

I did a thing over the long Fourth of July weekend; I set foot in the only one of the 50 states I hadn’t yet. Idaho!

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When my company sent me to Portland, Oregon for a conference earlier this year, I realized that only Idaho remained and I needed to seize the opportunity. Aside from the bizarre pleasure of conquering some arbitrary political boundaries, I was further motivated to make the trip because I had just finished a year long freelance project helping the lovely Deb Glaser develop her online course for reading teachers (it’s really cool – check it out!). Deb lives in Boise and we had never met in all that time. I thought I should pop on up and say hi. Continue reading →

Happy Solstice!

My favorite day of the year has arrived. The sun is with us for a glorious 14 hours and 59 minutes today,  which is about 40 minutes fewer than it would be if those pesky mountains weren’t in the way. Or about 4 hours fewer than if I were in Homer, Alaska, as I was around this time 2 years ago. But it’s 2 hours longer than if I were in Managua, Nicaragua, as I was around this time 9 years ago. I think a lot about how much sunshine I can absorb in my lifetime.

In any case, I love this day. I celebrated by actually showing up at work before 9 AM. No, not really. Well, I did, and that was a miracle, but not the celebration. I spent this perfect morning in the park with my 60 pound lap dog.

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