Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. - Eleanor Roosevelt

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Let's start with constructive criticism and discomfort

My New Year's resolution, like every year, is to push myself into more social situations where I don't know the people in the room. What better way to do that than to join a group of people who all like to do the same things I do?

Being in Houston is actually the perfect place to do just that, so I sat down and googled writing groups in Houston, and voila! I found one that is meeting just under 20 miles away, and seems to hit the spot with its small number of attendees and promise of constructive criticism and feedback on all types of writing. I eventually have to go back to Denver, but I'll give a writing group a whirl while I'm here in Houston, so that once I'm back in Denver, I'll know what to expect at one of these meetings.

I'm looking forward to it and, of course, dreading it, but I'm bound and determined to make 2011 the year I really make this resolution a reality. Wish me luck!

An epiphany, which has led to a resolution for 2011, or at least a wish for 2011

I was maybe five when this was taken. I refused to smile, because I was so shy, so they sent me to the back of the line, until all the other kids had their pictures taken, and gave it one more try. I still didn't budge. Yeah, I'm shy and stubborn.
It seems I begin a lot of blog posts with "I haven't written in a while," and this post is one that I would begin with that statement, except I've circumvented doing that by using a back door method. But, really, there is a reason for why I didn't want to just begin this post with "I haven't written in a while." That reason is that I don't want to do the same thing anymore...

You see, I've had an epiphany this past week, which has rendered me acutely aware of how much I suck. The epiphany is nothing new to me. In fact, it's one of those things that I've known all my concious life, but have chosen to ignore and cover up with all kinds of excuses that now, with that epiphany I mentioned, are just plain garbage.

The epiphany I've had is simply that I am not a social butterfly. For some who are reading this, this might require a "duh" in response, for others it might be a new thing they're finding out about me. Whether you knew this about me or not, I consider this epiphany important at this particular point in time, because my birthday is coming up and I still don't know what I'm doing to celebrate it. Usually, my birthday is celebrated quietly. My best friend spends the day with me and takes me out to lunch or dinner. Then I go home to have cake with my family.

I buy an outfit ahead of time, get up early and get all prettied up for my special day, only to sit down and talk about my hopes and dreams for the coming year, when I'm officially a year older and hopefully wiser, then I go home to have cake, at which point I usually change into my sweats and watch the ball drop on television to mark the beginning of a new year.

Woopty doo, I just couldn't wait to come out into the world thirty-two years ago, less than an hour before 1979, just so I could spend the rest of my life as a non-party person with a party day for a birthdate.

All these years my quiet birthday celebrations have been satisfactory. Though admittedly not the greatest way to celebrate such a festive birthdate, I'm happy being surrounded by those I love. This year I'm spending my birthday in Houston, Texas, instead of in Denver, and my best friend isn't going to spend the day with me and my sister and mom and dad aren't going to have a cake ready for me to have a piece of while I watch the ball drop, in my sweats. Instead, my brother's going to be here, and...well...that's it. Seriously. For my birthday this coming Friday, I get to look forward to I don't know what with just my brother to share it with. As much fun as I have hanging out with my brother, it seems I've gotten used to at least four other people celebrating the fact that I was born, and having just one this time around makes my lack of sociality all that much more apparent and easy to brood over.

This all goes back to the fact that I have never been a party person, and I socialize only with those I want to be friends with, and not just acquaintances. When I was a kid, I was pretty much forced to socialize with other kids, and only a couple were ones I considered my friends by choice. The rest were kids I had to tolerate because their parents were friends with my parents. It felt like torture to have to feign having fun singing happy birthday to a kid I cared nothing about. I grew up, and I still had trouble socializing and making friends. But I did make friends on my own, eventually, thanks to settings like school and work, and the friends I made there stayed my friends for years, and some are still my friends to this day, but that's only because I wanted them to be my friends and felt comfortable with them.

Now, the nice thing about being an adult is that my parents can't force me to be friends with someone I don't want to be friends with, and I can choose how often, and if, I want to socialize with certain people. I choose my comfort zone, and I get into cruise control. Yeah, baby. The not so nice thing about being an adult with the same non-existent propensity for sociality as that of a five-year-old, is that when my birthday rolls around and I'm away from my usual circle of people and comfort zone, nobody's there for my birthday. When my parents forced me to socialize with kids I didn't want to socialize with, as much as I hated it, I knew that those kids would come to my birthday party, because their parents forced them to be friends with me too, and it just worked out great to have a system where it's "you scratch my back, I scratch yours, but I really can't stand you." Now, as adults, if we don't like each other, we don't go to each other's parties, period, and let's face it, there are two kinds of people in this world: Party People who go to a party just because it's a party, and Non-Party People who don't go to a party because it's a party. I belong to the latter group, and this makes me a dull New Year's Eve birthday girl. A harsh epiphany.

I know for my birthday I'll end up doing something fun and unforgettable, because that's how things I dread usually turn out, but this birthday will be unforgettable for a very prominent and not-so-pleasant reason: it is the birthday I became acutely aware of just how my lack of sociality has a negative effect on me, and offers no comfort for me in the long run.

I don't know what it is about social situations, like people gathering at a party for instance, that makes me want to run in the other direction, but I do. I want to run the moment I see more than two people I don't know in a room where I have to interact on a personal level. Social anxiety? Maybe. Shyness? Definitely. Just the way I am? Absolutely. To be fair, when I am in a small circle, with two people aside from myself, I find I can work my way around my shyness and anxiety to not only let my real personality lead the way (it's fun, my real personality), but also to gain friendships that have lasted years, sometimes a lifetime. But add one more person and I become a nervous wreck who has no idea what to do with herself, she's so anxious and out of sorts. Frankly, I'd rather sit at home and stare at the walls than be in such a situation. I find a lot more comfort in solitude than I do in large groups of people, so I choose solitude. Except solitude, like a credit card without accumulating airline miles, is kind of useless.

The problem is that although solitude is a lot more comfortable than going into that room full of people and just shedding the shy, anxious and built-in shell I carry on my back and shoulders, the comfort is short-lived. For 2011, I want long-lasting social comfort, which I know is going to take a lot of socializing discomfort to reach.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

When simple minds do complicated things.

I haven't written in a while, and that's because, as I mentioned in my last post, it's Ramadan, that blessed month when all Muslims focus on spirituality while they fight the pangs of hunger 'til the sun goes down. I've also been reading lots, not just the Holy Quran, but other things when I just feel like doing what I usually do.

In that time, I've gotten through my first Philippa Gregory book, "The Virgin's Lover," loved it, then started a book that has been infuriating me from its first few pages. "The Caliph's House," by Tahir Shah, is a book about this guy, Tahir Shah, who one day decides to leave his somewhat cushy life in England for a more exotic life in Morocco. He takes his pregnant wife and little daughter, and they move into a house they purchased on a whim in a shantytown in the well-known Moroccan city of Casablanca.

I admire anybody who leaves a cushy life anywhere for an exotic one anywhere. Except for Shah.

The problem with this book, and with Shah specifically, is that in the bit of the book I've managed, with difficulty, to get through (I'm on page 122), Shah has written himself out to be a narrow-minded westerner, who has no interest in really being a part of Moroccan culture, but rather treats the place as a sort of novelty to look at and study, preferring to stay within the palace-like house he is having renovated by a local architect and his motley crew, criticizing everything from Moroccan culture and norms to Moroccans themselves.

There are several ways that Shah infuriates me with his observations, which, to be fair, are his opinions, but his opinions are too arrogant, proving further that he's not interested in really living an exotic life, that he just wants to continue living his cushy life in an exotic place. Nowhere is this more evident than when one of the three men he refers to as "the guardians" who came packaged with the house comes to him with the bad news that the government would be tearing down the shantytown where the guardians as well as he are residents.
"Since moving to Casablanca, I had secretly hoped that the shantytown that surrounded the oasis of Dar Khalifa would be bulldozed, and that upmarket villas would replace them." (p.63)
More than arrogance, Shah emanates ignorance and insensitivity to sensitive subjects in the most uncouth way. Again, these are opinions, but they infuriate me all the same, making me dislike the book and its author for being so crass.
"As far as the guardians were concerned, Dar Khalifa's proximity to a mosque was more than fortuitous... To me, the raspy voice, amplifed through an old loudspeaker, was more of an irritation than a blessing." (p. 19)
Shah's irritation with such a staple presence in any Islamic society, as Morocco is, is the equivalent of someone being irritated by church bells at the Vatican. It just shows how he just doesn't get it, or much of anything about where he's decided to have an adventure, which clearly he's just not all that interested in having. He's more interested in owning something he couldn't possibly own with his means in England; a house with about twenty rooms, an endless garden, a tennis court and a large swimming pool among other things.

Now, as a Muslim myself, I suppose I could be biased when it comes to Shah finding the muezzin, the raspy voice calling people to prayer five times a day irritating, but regardless of that, Shah's view of the different set of beliefs, or beliefs period, are bordering on disrespectful. He does try to disguise his unflattering opinions and observations poorly as "An outrageously black comedy [written] with the straightest of poker faces," (Washington Post Book World), but in my rather humbled, perhaps biased opinion, he fails. I am a big fan of black comedy and dark humor, and I see no such thing in this book...Shah writes nothing more than his own arrogance.

Now, provided that the superstitions Moroccans have about Jinn, otherworldly creatures discussed in the Quran, are a little crazy even to me as a Muslim who believes in their existence, they are nonetheless beliefs that are shared by an entire culture, therefore, Shah should be a little less dismissive of the Moroccan sincere belief that they each have Jinn attached to them, who must be appeased with lavish dishes prepared with the best meat and other offerings in order to prevent their wrath and evil.

I am taking into account that I may be biased, but after reading several reviews, only a few of which are negative, I've found that the few who gave it less than five stars out of five are people who voice my own opinions and have made the same observations I have about the true spirit of Tahir Shah in making that big move to a land much too complicated for his simple mind.

Also, I don't understand why instead of pictures of Dar Khalifa and the shantytown in Casablanca, we are given shoddy sketches that mean nothing to the reader who would like to see the oasis Shah seems to prefer over all of Morocco.

I can only hope that in the next 200 pages Shah's attitude is adjusted and his arrogance dissipates to make way for a more wholesome and appreciative stance.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

This is when I detox my soul

A sunset is what we Muslims like to see during Ramadan, but there is so much more than just food that we crave.
Ramadan is here. Well, actually, it touched down yesterday, but I'm just now blogging about it.

What can I say about this sacred month that I haven't already? Each year, I begin with the hope that through the spirituality that comes attached to this month, I will detox my soul and begin afresh once the Eid celebrations are here. Each year I think I succeed in detoxing, but it's so easy to load back up on the toxifying things once Ramadan is over.

That is what I hope to change this year.

Not that I am doing evil and horrible things after Ramadan is over, but I am always hoping that I keep my mind free of negative thoughts, keep my mind open to all kinds of ideas, and never judge anything or anyone before knowing the facts, at which point the facts might eliminate the need to judge in the first place. Sometimes that can be a tall order, because no matter how much we, as human beings, tell ourselves to live and let live, sometimes, it's just impossible to do just that. Why? Because we're human, and when we see someone doing something that we perceive as wrong, we naturally and instinctively react.

I know I will never be a saint, but through the spirituality that comes as a gift with the month of Ramadan, I sometimes feel hopeful that the gap between me and a saint shrinks. I know that gap will never disappear or be hard to spot, but just like happiness is a path and not a place, so is being the best person one can be.

Welcome, Ramadan.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I stay up late...

Where I stay up late.

I stay up late, because that's when things wind down, and I am able to concentrate. I stay up late, because that's when I do most of my writing, uninterrupted. I stay up late, because the eerie silence of the suburban street I live on is like a soundtrack to my ideas. I stay up late, because I can, and I like it.

But, really, I stay up late, because I wake up late.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Rejection vs. Silence

There is something about rejection that scares most people beyond reason.

Writers, in particular, I think, are especially afraid of rejection. They are so afraid of it that they let the idea of a possible rejection gobble up thousands of possibilities for publication.

I should know, I've sabotaged my own opportunities for publication because of this very fear.

Up until recently, I never would've dreamed of sending in my work to any serious, paying publication. I pretty much stuck with the non-paying, virtually unknown ones that don't even bother with ink and stick with the Internet as their medium. It's good to start small, I thought.

I kept at these smaller publications, because I figured that my writing wasn't quite up to par with the big leagues, and I have no problem saying that it still isn't. But something has changed over the years. The difference these days is that I am sick and tired of the silence. I'm tired of sending my work into the great abyss where it disappears and I never hear from it again, and I can't even say that I sent it anywhere recognizable or memorable.

That is why a little more than three weeks ago, I went in for the big kill. I sent in a piece of mine to The Sun Magazine, knowing fully well that my chances were slim, but wanting to take that big step anyway. I wanted to get things moving and shaking; I wanted to give myself a violent shove into the fast lane.

In what is perhaps a record response time for the overloaded-with-submissions Sun, my SASE arrived in the mail with my rejection letter inside it. Today marks the first rejection letter I've received from a very well-known and respected publication.

Of course, at first, I felt a tiny bit disappointed, but I soon composed myself and thought of the positive in the situation. After all, that was my purpose when I decided to take that big leap in the first place: to stay positive in the face of a negative.

The fact that I am seeing the positive in this negative situation leads me to the realization that I am ready to go places, simply because rejection sounds better to my ears these days than silence. In this case, any news, and not no news, is good news.

Don't judge me!

When I went out yesterday, I didn't think I'd come home with a new cell phone in my purse, but there you have it: I have traded up from an ancient Motorola Razr to a Samsung Strive with a complete keyboard.

It's nothing too fancy that I've traded up to, but nevertheless, when Eddie at the AT&T store took my money and got me set up on my new phone, he closed the transaction by saying: "Welcome to 2010."

I laughed at Eddie's little jovial remark at the end there, but the more I think about it, the more I am bothered by the idea that I am considered "behind" simply because my phone is old.

Really, Eddie, and anyone else who would've seen a Motorola Razr glued to my ear, would immediately assume that I am one of those dinosaurs who still hunts and pecks at the keyboard in order to compose and send an e-mail through my TV. I'm telling you that nothing could be farther from the truth.

I type close to 90 words per minute, with few if any errors, using all my 10 fingers, while keeping my eyes on the screen. I own a pretty nice laptop with all the fix-ins anyone could've needed two years ago, yet still don't feel like I'm missing too much by not having a blu-ray disc drive. I am practically an expert on iTunes and iPods. My iPod is a 3rd generation iPod Touch with wi-fi, which I use regularly to upload pictures, send e-mails and use a slew of apps to simplify my life and entertain me.

I could go on and on listing the ways in which I need no welcoming to 2010, but I think I've made my point; I am simply pointing out that just like you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, you shouldn't judge a person's tech savviness by their cell phone. After all, it's just a phone in a world full of other, more impressive and unique gadgets.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Counting my blessings

Last night, I dined with a friend.

This friend has a son who recently graduated from college, and is working as a night auditor at a hotel in downtown Denver. He makes peanuts, but is nonetheless making payments on his student loans already, which are upwards of $100+ per month.

I almost spit out my drink when I heard the amount this kid owes in student loans: $80,000. Instead of spitting, though, I immediately asked: "What did he study?"

"Media relations," my friend said. "But he went out of state."

I told her how he could save himself a headache by deferring his payments for a time until he can make more than he is making currently. I also let her in on my experiences with my student loan, which is truly peanuts compared to what this kid ended up owing for his education.

All the while, I was thinking that this kid is going to be a slave to his student loans for life. I was feeling thankful for my situation. I was thankful that if I was making money I could pay off my student loan in a matter of months.

So, a bit of advice: Never forget to count your blessings and how lucky you are. And if you ever need a reminder, just talk to someone. I almost guarantee you'll see that your life is perfect just the way it is.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Feeling nostalgic while I anticipate ickiness

As Fall approaches, I can't help but feel a little down about my least-favorite season's inevitability. I also can't help but think back on last Fall, when I went on a trip to London and Paris, and was able to somewhat forget the icky feeling I get with the season.

I was only out there for a little under two weeks, but it really helped to be somewhere else to watch the leaves on big oak trees that are several hundred years old turn and fall, instead of juvenile trees held up with straps look even scrawnier than they already do. There were other things I saw in London and Paris that made the change of the seasons bearable for me, at least for the length of time I spent there.

Huge leaf on a sidewalk in London, Fall 2009.

Being that I am feeling a bit nostalgic about the fun I had on my trip, I also looked through my journal I sort of kept during that trip. I didn't keep up with it like I should have, because I was too busy enjoying the trip, but what I did write down brings back a flood of memories, filled with sights, sounds and smells. It makes me yearn for a repeat of last Fall.

"As we ascended into London, we had to break through a thick layer of puffy, pillow-like clouds. As London came into view, its old world, urban charm was immediately apparent. I was so very excited to get out of my seat and into London's humid air...

As we were walking to the kiosk to buy the bus passes, two good-looking guys in nicely-tailored suits approached us and one of them said: 'Excuse me, ladies. Can you tell me where the Olympia Theatre is?' I told him that we are tourists, which made him laugh a little...

The first thing we did was catch the bus from Warwick Road to Harrods at Knightsbridge...the sales people in the UK are still dressing nice in this day and age and maintaining professionalism along with excellent customer service...

We did a lot of walking. We visited Marble Arch, went into some popular clothing stores, like Next and Primark...

I fell asleep on the bus and was so glad to get back to the apartment so I can sleep after a very long and fun first day in London."

I can't wait to go somewhere new and have more experiences like this to get my mind off Fall.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

...and I'm an addict

I have an addictive personality. I wish that could be taken as me meaning that my personality itself is something that can get someone addicted to it, it's so wonderful and great, but that's not what I mean. I just mean that it's easy for me to get addicted to things.

My addictions are not related to drugs or alcohol or cigarettes or anything of the sort, no. Instead, I get addicted to people, ideas, works of literature, songs, movies, TV shows, sporting events, countries...anything that leaves an impression on me and inspires me to better myself and understanding can easily become an addiction for me.

Now, it's safe to say that my addictions are harmless and actually good for the soul and intellectual mind. Can you honestly hold it against me that I become obsessed with an author and spend months just reading through his or her entire catalog of works? I don't think you could, and in fact, I'd say that this addictive personality of mine has led me to become a curious and well-informed person in a lot of things I don't think I would know anything about if I didn't have this tendency to Google every little detail about something or someone.

Of course, nothing is all good, just as nothing is all bad. There is a pro in the face of every con, and vice versa. An addiction of mine has proven to be one of a bad kind.

You see, for close to four years now I've been very active on Facebook, going so far as to treat it as some kind of therapeutic place where I can update my status to get stuff off my chest, or just to put things into perspective. There's nothing wrong with that the way I'm putting it, and it's been going on for so long that it's hard to see the harm in it. But I spotted harm a few days ago and I can't help but feel like I need to have an intervention for myself.

The intervention has consisted of just me recognizing that I spend way too much time on Facebook and Twitter, checking my e-mail at an obsessive rate and generally being dependent on the Internet to provide me with entertainment. Realizing such a thing I decided to wean myself and get myself back into a healthy and balanced relationship with the Internet and what it offers, which is mostly good stuff, but only in moderation.

It's been two full days since I updated my status on Facebook. Twitter, I haven't even visited for those two days, and I only check my e-mail when I'm at the computer, rather than on my iPod every few minutes. I feel happier, more productive and generally less insane than I did when I was feeding into an obsession with something that eats away at a person's ability to just "be" without dependency on technology to make being worthwhile.

I may have an addictive personality, but I have also been blessed with a clear vision of my faults, as well as the strength to try to fix them.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What is fiction?

The question that is serving as a title for this post is pretty straightforward: what is fiction?

The answers to it can vary from a statement as simple as "It's the opposite of non-fiction," to as abstract as "It's the essence of life." However you identify fiction, one thing is for certain: it is a lie that's constructed in order to reveal a great truth.

Cervantes's Don Quixote, Hardy's Jude the Obscure, or even Meyer's Twilight saga...they are all made-up stories that entertain while they make a point about human behavior in the face of crisis.

I got to thinking about what fiction is after I had a conversation with my sister about an Arabic TV show. The hero of this TV show is hardly a hero. For one thing the show opens with him getting the cold treatment from his wife for an offense we're not privy to in detail right away, making us sympathize with him for having to put up with such abuse.

Our hero, being warm with his cold wife.

Yet as the show progresses, we realize that he is a repeat-offending cheater, and we know this because he begins to have an affair with one of his employees at his law firm and does it expertly, continuing to plead with his wife to warm up to him, all while getting warmth from someone else.

Our hero with his mistress, during after-hours.

The discussion got interesting, mainly because although this protagonist hardly ever does the right thing in any facet of his life, he does possess a certain charisma, and I would venture to say a romantic vulnerability that makes viewers sympathize with him, even though he doesn't deserve to be sympathized with. Aside from being a cheater, he also obstructs justice in order to win his cases defending far-from-innocent clients.

Our hero at work.

As someone who knows a little bit about the craft of storytelling, I knew that the ending would not be good for this character, that his wife would never warm up to him again, and that the woman he is having an affair with throughout the show is not going to stand for his dishonesty at work, or in the bedroom.

But the guy is just too freakin' likable, my sister and I agreed. And herein lies the greatness of fiction.

Although we wanted his wife to warm up to him, and we wanted him to get what he wants, knowing fully well that he doesn't deserve it, justice had to be served in the end. He had to lose the big case and lose the people he lied to and used.

I had an easier time with the outcome than my sister did, which I'm glad to report was one where justice was served and our hero was dealt the blows he needed to finally understand the repercussions of his actions.

Our charismatic hero, all alone.

My sister felt bad for him though and said that the show had ended in a very depressing way; she wished that he hadn't lost everything the way he did. I knew she was only saying this because the hero was likable, like I mentioned before, so I had to put things into perspective for her to accept that this sad ending was the only possible ending in what is ultimately what every piece of fiction and drama is: a made-up story about real life.

"If you heard about someone like him in real life, and didn't know what was going on in his mind," I began, "you just knew that he lied, cheated and schemed to get what he wants without any regard for anyone else's feelings along the way, wouldn't you want him to have an end like this one?"

"Yes," she said, "but still, he's so likable, I wanted him to have a better end than this."

"Well," I said, "that's the beauty of fiction and drama. It shows you the psychology of why someone does what they do, and makes you sympathize with the human condition, no matter how evil or horrible it is. It teaches you that not every evil act stems from the same place."

And with that, I suppose I added a new definition to fiction. Fiction is the dissection of human actions to help us understand, and, perhaps, treat each other with more compassion. Fiction teaches us to simply accept each other, for it proves we are all human, fighting the same fight. In the end, fiction is humanity.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Student loan, leave me alone

The issue of my student loan has come up, and now I am scrambling to fix an inadvertent slip-up on my part, all while having to navigate through endless phone mazes that only lead to insanity, way on the opposite end from a live human being who can actually help me.

I finally got a hold of a human being at a completely different phone number than the one that I've been given numerous times, and after speaking with the nice man on the other end, I can relax a little bit, although I feel more disturbed than I did before I spoke with someone.

This got me to thinking that I really hate the fact that after being so good about not borrowing any money that needed to be paid back during college, one semester the need arose for such a thing to happen, and here I am, nine years later, still dealing with a measly amount that just will not go away, no matter how hard I try. Education is important and worth every penny, but must we suffer for being good enough to go to school and finish, despite our financial difficulties during that time?

I'm disturbed, because I have to apply for a certain payment plan, and once I apply for it, if I continue with it for 20 years, the loan will be forgiven if I haven't been able to pay my balance off. Okay, that's disturbing, because even when someone files for bankruptcy, they are only in that category for seven years.

This also got me to thinking of a question I'd like to ask lenders...

People who are fiscally irresponsible in every facet of their financial lives declare themselves a legal label as a result, and only have to suffer for seven years? Yet people who go to school with good faith and will to ensure their futures are indebted to you for 20 years? Where is the fairness in that, oh dear lenders? In 20 years, I'll be over 50 and the school I graduated from may not even be around, who knows? But I still owe you until those 20 years are up, that is assuming I won't work something out to feed the hole that is you before then?

Pardon me for sounding crass, but that is absolute bologna, and I can only be thankful that my loan is relatively tiny to what other people owe. God help us all in the face of a greedy system that makes money off people like little ol' me!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A question

I have family and friends who live in other states or overseas, and seeing as how we're not always up to picking up the phone, I use instant messaging online to converse with these people. MSN's Windows  Live Messenger is what I use, and I love the ease with which one can keep in touch through typing text, through video calls or just plain voice calls for absolutely no money.

Windows Live, as with every other instant messaging service out there, allows me to go online and pick and choose who I want to talk to, whether it be by allowing me to block people without their knowledge, or to choose from a variety of statuses that can deter people from talking to me when I just can't, even though I can still be visibly online.

Having said all that, I am getting to the question that this post is centered around, and hope someone out there can answer it:

If WL, and all instant messaging services out there allow users to tell their "buddies" that even though they're online they are unable to talk because they are Busy, Out to Lunch, On the Phone, or whatever, or even to appear offline even when they are online and can still converse with whoever it is they choose from their list, why is it that some insist on appearing online and available when they really aren't?

I mean, I understand that people are busy sometimes without realizing they are, but when it's an ongoing problem for you that you just can't find the time to talk to people who see you are online and available, then maybe it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the options available to you, so that you let people know you are alive, but too busy to talk at the moment. That's all I ask.

In the meantime, I have decided to not say hi to anyone unless they say hi to me first, because when I'm too busy to talk, I just don't sign on, period, and that is a courtesy I want reciprocated.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My current time capsule

If I were in a situation where I had to put together a time capsule that would define my life at this very moment, I see this time capsule's contents very clearly.

Here is a list of the things you might find in a time capsule prepared by me to define my life at this point in time:

1.) My iPod Touch, aka, all my music. Now, if you were to turn on my iPod and see what I'm mostly listening to at this point in time, most likely you will find that I am quite taken by Gorillaz's Pleastic Beach album.

2.) My laptop computer. Not only does it allow me to control the contents of my iPod, but it also carries a huge chunk of my writings. Of course, it also lets me write new things, therefore, giving me a form of release when I just can't keep things in order inside my head.

3.) A collection of short story collections. I have found that I am reading full novels, and trying to apply the same rules and pacing for my own short stories. Well, I haven't been too successful, so I've decided to start reading what I want to write before I venture into novels for the time being, which  are short stories. Not to say that I won't read anymore full novels, but short story collections are what I'm reading right now.

4.) My workout DVDs. Very important to me right now, as last winter brought with it a lot of extra pounds and flab. Exercise, of course, is a very simple thing. All one needs to do is move at a blood pumping pace to rev up their metabolism, but building muscle is a little more tricky than that. That's where my workout DVDs come in, which give me a series of strength and sculpting workouts to help me build muscle and burn more fat than without such tactics. Thanks to these DVDs, I have shed much of the poundage I put on in the winter, and hope to keep shedding more.

5.) Dresses and skirts. I spent years, or I should say wasted years wearing pants. Well, I made a vow to myself that at least in the warm months, I would always turn to dresses and skirts, keeping pants out of the picture for as much as I can. I'm happy to report that I have succeeded, and even made room for the more feminine options in the cold months.

Well, that's what you would find in my time capsule that covers this moment in my life. A good thing to keep in check, if not for entertainment purposes, then just to get to know yourself a little better.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Did you see that thing zipping by?

Well, I have no idea what happened with the first 22 days of July, but I know that they are long gone, blurred into the thousands of other long-gone days, never to come back, never to be repeated.

It sounds like I'm depressed, huh?

Well, I'm not depressed, as much as amazed how quickly time flies without realizing it has even passed. I remember when I was a kid in school, I would be sitting in class, listening to the teacher and concentrating one minute, and the next feeling like I just woke up from a long sleep to find myself somewhere I did not recognize, and wondering how everybody ended up 10 pages ahead of me in the textbook. I still don't know the cause of these (for lack of a better term) mental blackouts-- it could've been the ADD I suffer from today-- but they only happened on a small scale back when getting older sounded cool.

Nowadays, it's like my whole life is zipping by and no matter how hard I concentrate, no matter how well I listen, I am always disoriented and waking up to something I don't feel prepared to face. Not too long ago I read an article about the phenomenon of what I will informally call: the time warp. I wish I could find this article, because I don't remember the exact details of what it said, but the gist of it was that there is a scientific/psychological explanation for why when we are children, days seem longer than just 24 hours, while in adulthood, 24 hours is not enough to get anything done. When I was a kid, Summertime felt longer. When I was a kid four years seemed like a lifetime. Today, Summer is about two days long and four years is just one year.

And so life goes, right past me, and all I can do is try to keep up with it, enjoying it as best as I can. To do anything less is to fall behind, and that can only mean death.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Summer Effect

There is nobody who loves Summertime as much as I do. The hotter, the better it is, in my book. And being that I live in a state where Summer is gorgeous, albeit shortlived, I make a lot of effort to spend as much time as possible outdoors. Whether it be on the deck at home, out and about running errands I avoid like the plague in the cold months, or dining on the patio of a restaurant, I just love being outside, enjoying the warmth of the sun, and the drifting aromas of alive-and-kicking earth.

So, as it happened, my sister and I decided to take a snack at the park the other day, when we spotted a couple with their two children, strolling across the tiny strip of land that is labeled a park, but is really just a patch of grass with a big gazebo in the middle, surrounded by benches.

The couple were holding hands, their kids were skipping was the picture perfect family. It seemed like a normal enough scene at a park in the Summertime, but then something totally unexpected happened. The couple walked up the ramp into the gazebo and began to dance the waltz. They spun around the interior of the structure, their kids watching them, while they only had eyes for each other. This dance lasted less than a minute, but it made me and my sister look at each other and laugh.

"What was that all about?" I asked and laughed.

"I don't know," my sister replied and laughed herself.

It was really nothing more than two people perhaps being sweet in a silly way, but more than romance, it was just the summer effect.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 5 of the World Cup

Today was day five of the World Cup, and it was a good line-up, albeit somewhat disappointing with the results:

The first game of the day was one I did not care too much for, and so did not wake up at the crack of dawn to watch (5:30 a.m.); New Zealand vs. Slovakia. They ended up tying, with each scoring one goal. This is surprising, especially since I don't think I've ever seen New Zealand participate in the World Cup before, much less be good enough to score, but they did.

The next game I missed a big chunk of, but what I did see was good; Ivory Coast vs. Portugal. In 2006 I was really impressed by Portugal and rooted for them. For some reason, though, I wanted to support Ivory Coast more this time around. I'm not an expert, but what I did see was that IC players had much more organization than the Portuguese, despite their star player, Didier Drogba being out of the game until near the end, when he was playing with his arm in a cast. Neither team was able to score, and they ended with a nothing to nothing tie. Ronaldo hit one of his deadly penalty kicks, but the IC's goalkeeper was good enough to catch it. Still, IC was playing better than Portugal, who seemed to be disorganized and just sort of running around the pitch without any real teamwork.

The big game of the day was the one between Brazil and North Korea. It ended with Brazil having two beautiful goals, and North Korea scoring in just the last few minutes of the game, an equally beautiful and fluid goal that made my heart go out to their team, for they played really well. It took Brazil a long time to score their goals and they are a very strong team, not to be reckoned with. It was especially sweet to see that during the national anthem of North Korea, one of their players was so overcome with emotion that he just cried his heart out. I was with Brazil, but when North Korea scored that lovely goal, I was glad that they got one, because they truly deserved it. It'll be interesting to see how far they will go in this tournament. It was also sweet to see the small group of North Korea supporters, wearing red and waving flags in a sea of yellow and green. It was a very good-hearted game with major spirit and sportsmanship.

I was not able to document yesterday's games and scores on here, but I am continuing to update my status on Facebook and tweeting on Twitter. Just for the sake of keeping track, yesterday's games and scores were as follows:

Netherlands 2-0 Denmark
Netherlands, despite its reputation and expections of being one of those teams to fear struggled throughout the game to overcome Denmark's defense, and were finally able to score one goal on their own. The other goal was made by one of Denmark's own players. Doy.

Japan 1-0 Cameroon
Cameroon was disappointing. They are usually one of the best teams, known for their prowess on the pitch, but they truly disappointed in their face off with Japan.

Italy 1-1 Paraguay
Italy displayed major disorganization and shoddy playing, so much so that Paraguay scored a goal before the 2006 world champions. Paraguay was impressive, as they played with the same style demonstrated by the Germans, though nowhere near as sharp in their passes. Paraguay's goal was the result of a penalty kick awarded them, which Buffon, one of the best goalkeepers in the world at the moment completely missed... that ball went right by him. In the second half of the game, a new goalkeeper came out for Italy, presumably because Buffon was showing his years with the miss. Italy's goal had more umph than Paraguay's, thanks to it being a corner kick, something I haven't seen happen since the beginning of this event. It was a nice goal.

Tomorrow's games and my stances:

Chile vs. Honduras
Spain vs. Switzerland
South Africa vs. Uruguay

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Beautiful Game, a limited time documentation

Unless you live on some other planet, you know that the Fifa World Cup got underway in South Africa, and it kicked off on Friday, June 10.

I am a huge fan of soccer, in general, but I can't say I keep an eye on it all the time. The World Cup, however, is a different story. I watch every game, supporting my teams and just watching the others for sheer entertainment. I know some people, especially in the USA, don't really care for this event, and I have ignored this the last three days on Facebook, updating my status everytime a goal is scored, but I know that I am probably annoying a lot of people at this point.

So, what I am going to do is use this as a place to share at least my stances with each game and minimize the number of status updates on Facebook, because I am sure a lot of people have hidden me off their news feed pages. Sorry!

Today's games, my stances and the final scores were as follows:

Algeria 0-1 Slovenia
Ghana 1-0 Serbia
Australia 0-4 Germany

* Since the Algeria vs. Slovenia game was on at 5:30 a.m., I did not have the chance to watch it, but I hear that the only reason Slovenia scored was because of a slip by Algeria's goalkeeper, that was not too different from England's goalkeeper blunder. I hear Algeria put up a really good fight, though, and there will be other games for them to score, I suppose.

* Ghana played really well, as did Serbia. Unfortunately, boths sides' goalkeepers were really good, so it wasn't until Ghana was awarded a penalty kick that they were able to score, by way of #3 Gyan but it was still nice to see Ghana win that one.

* Germany killed Australia, and the first goal was scored in the eighth minute. By halftime, they'd already gotten two goals in, each more beautiful than the one before it; the first one by Podolski and the other by Klose.

The second half was when the two other goals were scored, one by Podolski and the other by Cacau. The Aussies had no chance, almost, because the Germans seem to really have the teamwork aspect down to a T. There was so much precision, so much order, that even when players were passing the ball behind them, without looking, there was a teammate right behind, ready to take on the ball and drive it toward the other team's goal. It was an amazing game, and the largest score so far.

I have a feeling that Germany will at least make it to the final if not take the cup home, because looking at their history, it seems that they have a cycle of winning that can be figured to show that every twenty years, they take home the cup. Their last win was in 1990, and if they continue to play the way they did in their opening game, they surely will make it. They would definitely deserve it, because I didn't see them doing any dives or stupid things to win. Professionalism was all I saw with Germany.

Tomorrow's games and my stances are as follows:

Denmark vs. Netherlands - Go Netherlands!
Cameroon vs. Japan - Go Cameroon!
Italy vs. Paraguay - Go Paraguay!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Flying Bread

I went out for a bit today. I went to my usual spots, with my usual peeps, and had a great time. I needed a simple outing of that nature just to refresh and enjoy myself.

The day didn't start out so well, though.

I woke up to crews working on our street, stripping the concrete and creating grooves at the foot of our driveway. It was incredibly loud and obnoxious and there was no chance of being able to just go back to sleep. That just set the mood for me today, until I got the chance to get out and just put all the annoyances behind me, but there is definitely something in the air, out to stop me from getting too comfortable.

After visiting the library, and some nearby stores, I joined my peeps for a snack at Panera Bread. As I sat there and enjoyed the classical music, the company and the cheese pastry I had ordered, I heard a thump behind me. When I turned to see what it was, I found that it was a piece of bread that had missed my head by mere inches.

The woman whose hand the flyaway piece of bread flew out of came and apologized profusely. We laughed it off, and joked that next time she should make it a yummy pastry. It was really no big deal, I know that, but life is just not letting me get too comfortable today, and that is just fine.

At the end of the day, despite how annoying my morning start was, I don't feel in the slightest bit annoyed about anything, and that piece of bread didn't hit me in the head.

Something has to be said for that, no?

Friday, June 4, 2010

An anecdote

On my last trip to the library, I came across a book my sister had said she wanted to read, so I checked it out for her. When I saw it on her nightstand a few days later, I wanted to see how far she'd gotten, so I opened it to the page where she'd placed a bookmark.

The bookmark she'd used was not one of those oblong skinny things sold at bookstores, but rather a nail file-- the kind you buy in a pack of twenty that costs less than a dollar. I shook my head, picturing her sitting with the book splayed open on her lap, her filing her nails while she reads.

A perfectly fine image, except I know that's not what my sister's really like. And yet the nail file being used as a bookmark made me feel something, something I could not explain.

After a brief session of making fun of my sister, I mused out loud about all the work that Ian McEwen did to publish this novel, "Solar," and all the work that every writer does to get any of his/her work published, period, and how people like her just don't understand a writer's plight toward publication.

"You can't even extend to him the courtesy of using an actual bookmark," I said to her with a laugh, only half kidding.

She rolled her eyes and said the same thing she always says when she's had it with my nagging about things that only I seem to care about: "Okay, what do you want from me?"

"I want you to use an actual bookmark."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The fledgling

Life is not an easy thing to get through. We start out by making our journey out of our mother's womb, then we must learn to breathe, rely on someone to nurture us, then we try to grow up, step by step.

All of this is hard enough, but throw all the obstacles that get in the way of our efforts to accomplish these tasks to make it to independence and adulthood, and life is near impossible.

I write this after having witnessed a tiny drama involving a little fledgling, a red robin if what my neighbor said is true, and my otherwise wonderful cat.

This fledgling, you see, was trying to fly out of its nest, to learn to fly so that it can be independent. It just so happened that my cat saw the fledgling as it took its first steps toward adulthood, and made a run for it. From what I could see after examining the bird, there were no injuries, but the mom was nowhere near, and ignorant people (me and family) had to figure out what to do.

I called a vet, who then told me to call a wildlife rehabilitator, who told me that it was best to just leave the fledgling to do what it needed to do, so long as I keep the cats away for a  couple of days, at which time the fledgling will be able to fly away and fend for itself. Keeping cats out of my yard? Well, that's near impossible, so I thought of the next best thing: I took it to my next door neighbor's yard and left it there so that its mom could come for it.

I rescued and tried my hardest to protect the bird from predators and other obstacles that might prevent it from thriving and living a long and healthy life, but even the best experts know that it's best to just let nature take its course. You do your best and hope it nets the best.

And that is life. It's hard, and some of us get through it, some not, but nobody gets out of it without scratches.

Goodbye, little fledgling. May you get through life with the smallest scratches life can deliver!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

An adult's gotta do what an adult's gotta do

Whenever I accomplish a lot during the day, I truly feel like I'm a step ahead, a level higher than the me who doesn't. As a procrastinator, I always get a high from finding myself getting up and doing the things I need to do, especially when I really don't feel like it.

There is something to be said about these moments when I feel as though a more productive soul has taken possession of my body and gotten me going on tasks I normally find so daunting, that I perpetually put them on the back burner, reaching a point where I just scrap the entire thing, whatever it is. There are more abandoned projects than completed ones in my project chest, and nothing makes me feel worse about myself than going through that chest and seeing just what a self sabotager I am, and have been throughout my life.

As a person who wants to be a writer, I obviously keep a filled-to-the-brim folder on my computer called "Writing." At first glance, one would think that I am a writing machine, I just write, write and write some more, completing one piece after the other, whether it be an opinion column, a review of something, or a piece of short or long fiction. But let me tell you that that is not the case. Nothing is further from the truth, actually. My writing folder may be full, but it's a testament to how little successful writing I actually do, and nothing offers a clearer view of how my Attention Deficit Disorder affects my potential with anything, not just writing, as this folder I speak of.

Regardless, I am pretty sure that what's taking place, this ability to just get up and do the things I really don't feel like doing is not a case of possession, no, but rather a case of maturity. When you're immature (or at least when I was immature) you have this crazy idea that you don't have to do anything you don't want to do, and although there is some truth to that, life, the real kind, doesn't care whether you want to do something or not, you have to do what you have to do. Period.

So, today I patted myself on the back for accomplishing the things I need to do in order to live a good life, and have a bright future as an adult, mature woman who works hard and gets what she wants. Nothing is quite as motivational as that.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The latest contemplation...

I have been toying with the idea of deactivating my Facebook account, at least for a while, if not indefinitely. Reason behind this desire is that I am simply not enhancing my life in any way, shape or form by wasting the endless hours I've spent doing nothing of true value since September 2007, when I joined the social networking site.

This comes, obviously, three years after I joined, and although I've gotten back in touch with many people I lost all communication with from as far back as 1989, I haven't gotten anything out of these reconnections. Not to say that I expect any tangible benefits from getting in touch with people, or even true friendship out of connecting with long-lost friends, but the problem is that I add these people to my friends list, we update each other briefly on what's been going on with us the last 20 or 10 years, and then we just forget about each other.

Right now I am sporting 82 Facebook friends. I enjoyed watching that list grow to that number over the years, given that I've always been a rather shy introvert who can count all the friends they've ever had on all their fingers, and maybe half their toes. To say the least, I was under the false impression that Facebook would somehow enhance my social life and skills. But three years later I still have less than five people I consider friends, people I can rely on to wish me a happy birthday, a happy Ramadan and Eid, and that's fine, really.

Over the years I've found that the shy introvert is just who I am. It is not a character or personality flaw I need to change in order to be accepted, because the truth is that I am only shy and an introvert at first, and once someone starts the ball rolling, I become as social as anyone else.

Facebook isn't going to change my DNA, nor is it going to change my relationships with all the people I've come across throughout my life. I'm certainly not on Facebook to meet new people, so basically I am on Facebook to keep in touch with people I already know. Some are important to me to the point where the site is not needed for me to know what's up with them, some are people I lost touch with years ago and the more I watch their behavior patterns on FB, the more I realize that we lost touch for a reason, and others I scratch my head and wonder why I have them on FB in the first place, we're so far-removed from each other and on different wavelengths.

I've felt this way before, but I've just shrugged it off as me being overly sensitive when someone doesn't wish me a happy birthday, yet spends all day playing games on FB the day of my birthday, considering that no matter how close or unclose we are, I always wish people a happy birthday on their walls, just because it takes only a few seconds and it's so convenient. Yet this desire to disconnect myself from the great abyss that is Facebook is strong this time around.

Thanks to the latest privacy changes and issues nobody seems to quite get or understand how to overcome with Facebook, I am more inclined to disappear off my friends' lists in an attempt to protect my privacy, whatever's left of it. At the end of the day, I have to ask myself, why jeopardize my privacy in order to keep in touch with people who don't really want to keep in touch with me? It's such a waste of time, time I could be spending writing, reading and bettering myself for the real world, not some virtual world where your personal photo albums are displayed for the world to see.

In the meantime, I am still on Facebook, wishing everyone happy birthdays, congratulating them on their successes and sympathizing with them during hardships, no matter how far or close I am to them, all while keeping my expectations low and my private information as protected as I can keep it. Once again, I choose to keep Facebook for those times when I'm really really bored and need to waste time, because that's all Facebook is good for.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I'm lost in the world of "Lost"

Last Tuesday, after watching the Dancing with the Stars eliminations on ABC, I didn't change the channel. I just sat on the couch and occupied myself with my iPod Touch, not even sure what was on TV. When I finally looked up, I was sucked in by the historical fiction drama taking place on the screen.

I searched my mind for what this show might be, and soon found out that it was Lost, trying to fill in the gaps that the last five seasons have left open for viewers.

Well, I got sucked in and started watching attentively, having absolutely no clue what was going on and what the clues appearing at the bottom of the screen meant, because I had never watched even a single episode of the show before that night.

I became so intrigued, that I decided to watch Lost from the beginning, and remembered that it would be a piece of cake, since Netflix offers the first and second seasons instantly.

So, I started watching, intending only to watch the pilot because I was sure I would hate the show and abandon the desire to decipher the codes being thrown at me in one of the few episodes remaining of the show's lifespan.

Much to my surprise, however, I became even more hooked. I found that I couldn't wait another second without going on to the second episode. After the second episode, I found I couldn't wait another second for the third. I had to stop at the third episode, because I had stuff to do, but I went right on to the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh the following day.

I cannot say it enough: I am hooked on Lost.

I know my confession, that I haven't watched a single Lost episode until one of its last few ever is aired, is one that is sure to get a lot of eyes rolling and a lot of "DUHs" to be uttered. But in my defense, I almost never get swept away with trends, especially if it's a really big trend.

For example, I never got into the Harry Potter craze, and have yet to read a single book, or watch a single movie of that franchise. I know this is like blasphemy for a large chunk of the population all over the world, but I'm just not into popular things, at least while they are popular.

Call me a retro sort of person. I like resurrecting things that have been lying dormant, because it is only then you know how truly good something is. Good works transcend time, and the only way to be sure of a work's transcendentness is to let time pass, let it age.

Well, that's just how I like to discover things. I let things age before I pay serious attention to them, unaffected by marketing or popularity. The work then hooks me in by its own merit.

I was five years younger when this show aired for the first time. I remember all the marketing, all my friends who were so hooked that they would host parties to watch it weekly and decipher the clues, I even remember Evangeline Lilly appearing on the cover of almost every magazine and being worshipped as the "it" girl. I never paid attention, and in fact, found it all repellant because it was all over the place. I feel the winner now for having waited this long to give this show a look...

What makes me especially glad I waited this long to get hooked on a show built on mysteries and cliffhangers is that I don't have to wait an entire week to find out what happens next. Did I mention that I'm also really impatient?

Friday, April 30, 2010

In pursuit of perfection

Practice makes perfect. You hear that being said about every skill out there, whether it be playing a musical instrument or practicing an Olympic sport.

I don't have many talent-based skills beyond the written word. I guess I can knit, and can attest to the fact that without knitting different pieces with varying degrees of difficulty, I would still only be able to knit scarves and hats. I can also crochet, and without practicing that with varying shapes and difficulties, I'd just be making swatches of crochet stitches for all eternity.

Back to my written word talent-based skills: they are two-sided.

One side of my skills is the actual process of writing. This side is one I feel confident using as a commodity, not only because I studied a form of it in college, but because it is the only thing that qualifies as work that makes me happy. I enjoy it, it's a passion. I have days when it's more difficult than others to sit down and compose something of value, but there are days where it flows out of me like exhaled air, polluted with my thoughts and views, my feelings.

The other side of my skills with the written word is reading. I love to read the written word. I am the person who prefers to read NPR online, than to listen to it on the radio. I understand better, I visualize better what I am being told by the writer when I get to see it. I don't know why that is, but I just love looking at a printed page. I read fast, I comprehend and read between the lines, never missing a beat.

But it hasn't always been that way. It took many years of searching for a passion, reading things I didn't really want to read and feedback from people I respect to get me to the point where I'm at, where I feel like practicing actually will make perfect.

But as much as I practiced these skills, I realized that there was always room for growth, so I wrote more, read more. Eventually, it took maturity to realize that you never quite stop practicing, no matter how good you get, because practice is a never ending process. I also realized that perfection is an eternal destination, a mirage we see in the distance and are forever traveling toward, never reaching.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A thought to round out a sick day.

They're just four books, the one on top, the smallest, being the most scary, but they have so much power...

I'm feeling groggy, I'm having to squint to avoid feeling the strain that the computer screen is causing my eyes to feel, and I'm also feeling slightly feverish.

I'm sick, ladies and gentlemen.

My body feels drained, I've been drinking fluids like they're going out of style and finding things to keep my mind off the things I don't want to think about; such thoughts being brought on by being somewhat idle, considering how difficult it is to sit in front of the computer and produce anything of value.

This illness came at the worst possible time, motivationally speaking. You see, just before I fell into this uncomfortable abyss, I was feeling pumped, ready to get really serious about getting my writing out there, into the hands of publications that still print on paper and pay their contributors. I even went to the library and checked out tomes with contact information of every publication under the sun (within the United States, anyway) and was planning on spending a large chunk of my coming days looking through, getting pointers on how to be successful at such endeavors and finding my market. I planned on spending other chunks of those days working diligently toward filling those spaces I'm sure are just waiting for my writing to fill them.

Well, the motivation went down some, and it's probably just the fluids, or the Nyquil I took last night, or maybe just the fever, but I felt discouraged most of today. I even resorted to watching a movie during a time when I could've been doing the things I had set out to do just days ago. I felt completely defeated and helpless in the face of all those obstacles that have succeeded for years at keeping me from doing the things I've always known I needed to be doing.

It's days like this that make me look at all the information, the resources, the tools available to me to get my writing seriously going somewhere seriously good, and feel complete and absolute fear. The small pile of books I got from the library sits next to my bed, staring me down, daring me to crack them open and get any more overwhelmed than I already feel.

I've exhausted myself in this fight, so much so that I am going to call it a night. But despite the horrible feelings I had all day, I have succeeded in giving myself the strength to go to bed and know that tomorrow will be completely different: a lot more productive.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Who's that behind the bushes?

Can't you just taste this snow on your tongue?

Each spring, right when we Coloradans start to get comfortable with the 60 to 70-degree weather, we get hit by a snow storm, which although doesn't bring icy roads or cold temperatures, covers the green with white.

It's unsettling, and quite annoying to wake up and look out your window to find that what sounds like rain feeding the grass and tulips is actually really wet snow that's already covered everything with white. You think that Old Man Winter is still hiding somewhere, pointing at you, laughing at you like a kid who rang the doorbell and ran away before you opened the door.

Once you get over the initial shock, which is really just being annoyed, you stand out on the porch in your light clothes and feel the mild cold, the moisture, and most wonderfully, you hear birds singing. That's when your mind is assured that Old Man Winter is gone for good... until next winter.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Writer Self

I’ve finally found my writing groove, which entails that...

I don’t beat myself up so much anymore about not writing daily, or even well. I kind of trust the flow of my creative juices to carry me where I need to be carried in order to be productive, and if that means going nowhere for the time being, then that’s that. No sense in forcing or even expecting profundity, I say.

Of course, that doesn’t make for a very prosperous writer, I imagine, but until the day when I am writing under a less personalized deadline, and a more survival-based one, I will continue to utilize this writing freedom I have. It’s nice to understand and accept this part of my writer self, because I could use all that saved energy to write, and maybe beat myself up about the other facets of writing.

Happy Earth Day!

Anatomy of a storm cloud...  on Twitpic
There is beauty everywhere, just waiting to be captured.

This is a storm cloud that gathered in front of my house to produce rain and hail... just enough to turn earth into my definition of heaven.

How walls are built

I was reading through the document I mentioned in my last post, which is my journal, where I write the things I don't feel comfortable sharing with the world, when I came across this entry, which albeit, is a bit sappy, is a piece I feel comfortable sharing.

December 25, 2009

The hardest thing about meeting people is that even though you really like them and feel a connection with them, they might not feel it on the same level. You have great conversation, you laugh, you get butterflies from their words, then you begin to depend on them to make you smile everyday, to give you a reason to be happy, even if you already were before they came into your life. The chemistry between you begins to act like glue, it makes you stick to them so that you talk daily. It’s great. Then something happens, and you drift apart. You feel like you’re still in the same spot while the sea of life sweeps these people away, making them drift far on a strong tide. You then have to get used to life without those who left an impression on your heart, a life which suddenly feels broken and scattered.

And that is how walls are built around hearts.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A publishable random thought...

Some days, I have nothing to write. Other days I want to write my thoughts or frustrations down somewhere, sometimes I specifically want to blog, but can find nothing to merit a blog post for everyone's eyes to see. That's when I resort to writing nonsense in a Word document journal I started over the winter.

What I write in there is mostly just a stream of conciousness that makes me cringe when I read it later for its drama and lack of purpose, it's such crap. I use this journal because I don't feel particularly good about my writing altogether, or just because I don't want to let everybody into my brain. And although this document rarely ever makes me feel good when I read it, it is good that I have it, if for nothing else, than for it helping me do my own little part in keeping the Internet free of worthless writing.

This brings me to an actual thought, worthy of a blog post, even.

Before blogs, or Twitter, or Facebook, or even the Internet, you could itch to write, you could want to tell the world about your problem, or whatever it is you've got to say, but there was no chance for you to inundate the world with pure crap. Before the Internet made everybody a published writer, the publishing world could keep a lid on the crappy writing that is now circulating like poisonous gas, infecting those who breathe it with horrible ideas that just because you can tell an entertaining story then you must be a Tolstoy or Vidal.

This probably should've just gone in my Word document journal, but everybody is publishing everything nowadays, so I'm just going with the flow, just for today. That's my publishable (in my humble opinion) thought for the day.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Give me a spine to break, or give me death!

Ever since I got my iPod Touch, a little over three months ago, my habits have changed.

I'm not sure if the new habits are good or bad, but I am definitely missing books; actual books with spines to break and covers to judge. I am still trudging through an e-book I started at the beginning of March, and I must say that e-books take away entirely too much from the reading experience.

I know that not all e-reading devices are created equal, but what I experienced of e-books through the iPod Touch has been less than thrilling.

The e-book I downloaded from Apple's app store doesn't provide page numbers for me to measure how much I've read in one sitting. It also just scrolls down the page, sometimes on its own if I just tilt the device a teeny bit by accident. If you double tap the glass one thing happens, while if you just single tap the glass something else happens... I can't even remember what does what, but I know that I can never keep it straight, and end up either losing my place, or have what look like toolbars appear at the top and bottom parts of the screen. It is all so very frustrating and repellant.

I have really missed actual books in the process, and have started reading a new book, complete with a spine to break and cover to judge. Reading is fun again!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Why did I do that?

"We promise according to our hopes, and perform according to our fears." ~Francois duc de la Rochefoucauld

I am not feeling so good today. Not because I’m physically sick, but because I broke a promise to myself.

People promise themselves they’ll eat better, they’ll work out more, or they’ll make more of an effort to keep in touch. Such promises are dubbed resolutions sometimes, I think for nothing else than to block out the word that gives the whole thing a tone of seriousness; promises.

There are also promises more serious, more significant to a person’s happiness and well-being. A person must keep these in order to live well with themselves. I made myself a promise of that nature a little over a month ago, and now I feel pretty crummy for acting like someone I would hate.

What makes it worse is that minus the promise, just doing what I did brings with it oodles of icky feelings that make me feel down on their own. Add letting yourself down to the mix and it is sheer agony.

Weird, how the mind works against us sometimes. In the meantime, I know there is nothing I can do about my failure, other than to get back on the horse and renew the promise in the hopes that I don’t break it a second time. I need to keep it so I can be happy with every aspect of me, toward me.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I'm featured again! I like this!

All right, so, after watching Julie and Julia and feeling irritated and down about how my writing isn't getting me anywhere, yet, it was a nice surprise to check my E-mail and find that the last piece I published at Intrepid Media's gallery was picked up as a feature.

It is the same piece I blogged about on Saturday, called Their is two much bad spelling four me too bare.

If you want to see it all nice and pretty on the home page, it is best to click on the link I've provided above before Friday. If you can't make it before Friday, do not despair, for it will just move down the list a notch. And if you really don't have the time until your next vacation, also do not despair, because there are archives.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Self loathing and how it alters the pattern

It's funny how humans act sometimes, and I feel that no one is as funny as me when it comes to dealing with my shortcomings.

Well, I see them as my shortcomings, but who knows how anyone outside my head and body would view what I am talking about-- they could see them as just the many facets of what makes me a crazy person. But let's just assume that they are just simple shortcomings for the sake of this blog post.

I think my biggest shortcoming of all is that I have a tendency to act like a person who is jaded and tired of the daily grind, almost bitter. It's not an everyday behavior pattern, but if my life were like one of those line graphs, and the majority of my days kept the line straight and static, signifying my overall satisfaction with my life, there would be sharp drops to the bottom of the graph every bit of distance where I am just fed up with it all, and self loathing takes place. There are also sharp spikes that drive me to the top of the graph, and although those are few and far between, when they happen, it is oh so sweet.

I am being especially reflective about this, perhaps in a cliche sort of way, because I watched the movie Julie & Julia today, and when it was over, I felt a mix of emotions that brought on the behavior I mentioned, the jadedness, the tiredness. Although I liked the movie, I found things wrong with it, none of which are a reflection of the quality of the movie itself, but rather the characteristics of a character.

I have absolutely no complaints about the Julia Child part of the story. In fact, thanks to Meryl Streep's impeccable portrayal of the culinary personality, I think I would love to meet Julia Child and have a talk with her-- and I don't even have any interest in cooking, whatsoever. So, that part's copasetic.

What irritated me, and I can't find any other way to describe the bad part of the mixture of emotions I felt as the credits rolled, was the character of Julie Powell. Julie Powell is a negative person, a writer, who dreams of becoming a writer, and who beats herself up about not being her idea of a writer.

Julie Powell is just like about 95% of the population, especially the population of those who dream of legitimately calling themselves writers, without having to explain why they call themselves writers. How much easier life would be for me if I could just say "I'm a writer," and talk about my job at a magazine where I actually write, or talk about my book that has just been bought by a big publishing house.

Instead, I am a grain of sand in a vast ocean of writers, all floating along. Some making headway toward land, some drowning. And some basking in the sun as they float close to the shore, sipping their beverages with the little tiny umbrellas, without a single care in the world, because they've already been on land and gotten their fill of land, and they now have the luxury to float for leisure rather than for a destination.

Julie Powell especially got on my nerves after she expressed her dislike of living in a run-down apartment with plenty of room, over a pizzeria in Queens, New York. Then she went on to express her dislike of close to everything about her life. Her job, her apartment, Queens... she complained about everything she could complain about.

To someone who lives in a suburb of Denver, Colorado, the idea of someone hating their life in an urban, lively place like Queens, is like telling me someone hates how chocolate sticks to the roof of their mouth, so that they end up having to spend extra time tasting the chocolate in their mouth. In short, it's infuriating.

Julie Powell got me in her corner for a little while, when at a lunch with her circle of friends, who all seem to be much more successful in their work lives and clueless about how to be real, she showed her inability to fit in with such a group. I saw myself in Julie Powell at that point, and felt comfortable knowing that I'm not the only one who doesn't always feel like they fit in with their circle of friends who seem to be on a completely different wavelength than myself. That was cool.

I even saw myself in Julie when she sat in bed with her husband and gave all the no-good excuses one can muster to stave expectation or possibility of failure. Who hasn't done that... especially those who write? Julie mentions her inability to finish anything she starts and her ADD as excuses to not create and maintain the blog that in the end got her a book contract, and obviously, a movie deal.

Then Julie Powell really got on my nerves.

She created the blog, maintained it regularly, made delicious food, and, over time, began to get comments on her entries, regular followers and even gifts from readers. It wasn't long before Julie's blog was ranked in the top 5 of

I was rooting for Julie as things came together for her, I really was. Because I saw myself in Julie, I also saw the possibility of succeeding like her. Problem was that in the midst of all of this, she forgot everything else, and sometimes forgot just how far she'd come. She began to neglect her marriage, and all the good things that were going for her.

When dishes didn't come out right, or burned, she would sit and sulk and cry and whine to her ever-supportive husband, who encouraged her to begin the blog in the first place. At one point in the movie, I wanted to slap Julie, because when an important personality can't make it to dinner one night, her husband looks on the bright side, which is that they have more beef bovignon for themselves. Instead of just shrugging it off and remembering that it's an honor just to have such a chance, one that all bloggers and writers would kill for, Julie asks her husband, a magazine writer himself, to "stop looking at the bright side."

For someone who has a blog, and has gotten a total of maybe 10 comments since starting it in 2007, it's infuriating to see someone like Julie Powell who continues to wallow in unnecessary self pity. It's good to not be satisfied with just anything, but sometimes you are just pushing the limits, and Julie Powell does just that, especially with my nerves.

Perhaps I am just jealous, and I suppose I am. This relative nobody just decided to do something as simple as cook each recipe in a tome of a cookbook over the course of a year, and write about it. As a result, she ended up with a book and an Oscar-nominated movie with Meryl Streep in the lead. It doesn't get any better than that for any writer, I don't think.

As an aspiring writer watching this movie, it makes me wonder if my writing needs to be more narrowed down to one subject, whether I am living in the wrong environment, or if I am just destined to be in writing limbo, floating and searching for a place to land and become someone, preferably a writer.

Until that day comes when I can feel like I've sated my writing hunger, I will forever be annoyed with the likes of Julie Powell. Those who are never satisfied, no matter how many people read them, or respond to their words.

Out of all this negativity I feel toward the success of a writer who had the same doubts and hesitation I feel on a daily basis with my writing, there is a positive, believe it or not. I know that just being read as a writer by people who have no stake in your success are the best reward any writer can have, book and movie deal or not.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A new offering at the gallery

Well, it's nothing too special, but I wrote a piece and have it up on Intrepid Media's gallery.

Their is two much bad spelling four me too bare is the name of the column, and it's a little bit of a rant that is a little bit disjointed and a little all over the place, but it gets my point across: spelling continues to get worse. I even included a timeline that demonstrates how far we've come to effortlessly improve spelling, to no avail.

Hop on over there and take a look, if you have the time, you just might learn something new. In the meantime, thanks for reading.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I want a Roman Gladiator, but that doesn't mean my story's heroine does.

I am writing a story, which keeps growing in size, and I don't know what it will end up being; whether it will be one of those long short stories, or a novella, or a book, who knows?

I just have a habit of starting stories, working on them a while, putting them away, then forgetting about them, then picking up right where I left off for another round of good writing life. This seems like a cycle that is still in its adolescence, because I have yet to finish a story written in this fashion.

It may take years to write a good story with all kinds of stops along the way like that, but I guess it's better that way, because more often than not, the time I've spent away from a piece has turned out to be good for the piece, so I'm not worried.

But I wanted to talk about this particular story I'm working on at the moment. It is one with characters that could be written a number of different ways to make each of them more or less unique literary figures, depending on what route I decide to take.

There is one particular character, the male hero of the story, who I have written as a successful chef, with a popular TV show. So far, I've made him out to be in his thirties, living with his mother, who is bed-ridden, and whom he takes care of, and someone who is shy, almost to the point of being afraid of women. Now, at first glance, in real life, such a character would not exactly be your ideal male figure in a story where there is a romantic relationship developing between him and a strong-willed woman--a doctor, no less-- but I think that could be what makes the story all that more interesting and challenging to write.

In no way am I saying that there aren't stories with these types of characters in them mixed together out there already, but in my case, up until now, I've always written men in such a way that makes them fit to be fighting lions at the colliseum in Rome, instead of handy with a whisk. I do that mostly because I like to escape with writing, and what better escape than the kind you create yourself by writing a man the way you want him to be?

But really, writing my idea of a fantasy man isn't going to create anything but cliche-filled reading material that interests no one with a hunger for something deeper than a character profile of a romance novel hero. Alongside my sword-wielding-ready men, I also like to write women who are strong-willed, stubborn and not afraid of anything except heights. That is something I don't feel like changing just yet, but my male characters are getting an overhaul.

On top of him being a TV chef, I am enjoying making this one a house-slipper-wearing, soft-spoken and laid back individual, who does laundry and lets it dry on a clothesline to make sure the fabric stays like new. Did I also mention that he keeps a walkie-talkie handy so his mother can always get a hold of him when she needs him? That's aside from his cellphone, which he answers even if he's on the air, all for his mom. He may sound like a wuss, but behind every such man is a great woman who makes him a true man.

I don't know how fun this will end up being for a read, but I'm sure having fun writing it!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Boo. Not the Casper kind.

Most days, life treats me nice. I live in a beautiful place, surrounded by people I love, who love me right back, and are there for me no matter what. I can't complain too much about the hand I've been dealt, because my life is pretty much a bowl of cherries.

But, as with everything, there are rains that ruin my parade. Most of my parades are only interrupted by tiny showers that only last long enough to wet the concrete and end with that amazing after-rain smell, but every once in a while, it'll pour. It'll pour so much that I end up hydroplaning, veering totally off course from my generally happy existence.

I know I am being melodramatic, but there is no rain worse than that of getting a ticket. Or, perhaps I should say, getting a ticket for something that seems like a ridiculous offense, because in your mind, you haven't committed an offense that offensive.

The situation was this: I was driving home past 10:30 at night, and turned right at the light on Mainstreet (which was red), the same turn I have made for a decade now. All of a sudden, after I had driven a bit of a distance, a police car was flashing its lights behind me. I stopped and cooperated with the officer, who stopped me for not coming to a complete stop at a red light, he said.

Now, I understand that a red light is a red light, but again, in my mind such a minor thing is absolutely ridiculous to award with a $68 ticket and two points on my license.

What makes it even more ridiculous is the fact that we are talking about past 10:30 at night, in the suburbs, on a Monday night. There were no cars, practically, except apparently for that one cop who happened to be bored enough to notice that I didn't come to a complete and full stop.

To add insult to injury, the way the officer marked this offense on the little summons form makes it sound like I maliciously ran a true red light, like I had just gone across an intersection, risking my life and the life of other drivers. Ridiculous, I tell you!

So, it's ridiculous, over-priced, and a total rain on my parade, this late night ticket. Boo.

Monday, March 8, 2010

For some moments in life, there are no words.

Nonetheless, they say that a picture is worth a thousand.

I am simply at a loss for something to say that would describe the beauty that has been brought into my life and made me an aunt. All I can do is stare and marvel at my niece, hoping that one day soon I will be able to write something that isn't redundant. In the meantime, a picture will have to explain the beauty I have the pleasure of seeing and experiencing everyday.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I am now Auntie Reem!

If you follow me on Twitter, or are my friend on Facebook, you probably already know the big news that I am now an aunt to a beautiful niece, who I have already nicknamed Awesomesauce. Awesomesauce's real name, which has a slight chance of changing before she leaves the hospital, is Zubaida.

Zubaida was born at 8:12 A.M. on Sunday, March 7, in Denver, Colorado. She weighed 6 lbs. 7 oz., and measured at 19 inches.

Congratulations to my brother and his wife for bringing such a beautiful addition to the family.