Sunday, March 25, 2012

And thus the whining commences...

I don't believe anyone is really reading my blog, so at this time I feel pretty liberated to complain and whine. Whoever said that 40-somethings had it all together were either not 40 yet and delusional about the future, or had some hindsight wisdom that I don't yet possess.

I long for the time when I was 17 years old and still had the world at my feet. Presently, I know who I am (which I admit, is a good feeling--but I had a pretty good sense of self as a teen too) but I'm at a crossroad. I know what I want to be when I grow up. It's a writer. I get to write in my current job, and I really enjoy what I do for a living, plus I love my co-workers. However, I do not get benefits because I'm considered a temp "project" employee, even though I will be celebrating my 3rd year anniversary in another 6 weeks. I'm in a much better position to get benefits than my husband (he is self-employed...so we pay nearly 16k a year just for health insurance that is catastrophic in nature because of the ridiculously high deductible).

I know what my skill set is and I know what I can offer to employers in order to gain benefits. Unfortunately, without a degree, my skill set is somewhat irrelevant. In order to get benefits, I am pretty much locked into secretarial work. Executive assistant & legal assistant is what I am the most qualified for, but also something I don't particularly enjoy (paralegal work--yes, but again, I have no formal education). I am about to send off my resume to a law firm that offers benefits. As long as I interview well, I'm probably a shoe-in, especially since I'm fluent in Spanish.

I don't want to leave a job where I actually write for a living and that I enjoy going to every day. It's been a boon to my ego--especially because I'm very good at it & have been commended for my work (not enough for benefits though, I must add...). If leaving a job you hate in exchange for poverty is a hard choice...leaving a job you love is an equally tough situation.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Adventures en La Isla del Encanto


San Juan
 We walked into this giant metal tube on the morning of Sunday, February 6th. It was in the low 20s, and Chicago had already received over two more inches of snow, on top of everything they received a few days before in the blizzard. At 9:30 in the morning, O'Hare was already running about 1/2 hour behind schedule. Like a tubular martini though, we were shaken slightly (not stirred) and deposited 4 1/2 hours later in a tropical paradise. BEST. MAGIC. EVER! It was 82 when we arrived, and a bus took us directly to Alamo Rentals, where we picked up our royal blue Carolla so we could explore as much of the island as possible for the next 4 days.

The food in Puerto Rico is excellent, but honestly...a lot of fried food, so probably more fattening than I should consume on any sort of regular basis. Fruit is plentiful, but vegetables surprisingly are not. Salads are not common and are expensive, because it's too hard to grow leafy vegetables on the island. Our favorite meal was our last night in San Juan at Atlantica. Fresh seafood-so delicious! I also got to try Puerto Rican tamales, which are not as picante as Mexican ones, but very similar. Made of pork, and a masa type flour & rolled in a plantain leaf. Mmmm! Speaking of plantains, I had tostones for the first time. My family is Cuban, so I'm familiar with plantains--but the sweet kind, because that's about all you can get here in Central Illinois. The green ones though-I'm in love with those! They are typically double fried--so you peel the plantain, and cut it into diagonal pieces. You fry it quickly, remove it from the oil & smash it. Then you fry it again & add salt & garlic. Soooooo yummy! I also had chicken empanadillas in the Yunque National Forest. I was eager to try the Puerto Rican version, and it was just as I imagined it would be--wonderful!

We spent a little bit of beach time in San Juan before we took off for the southern coast on our first full day. The Autopista is their version of Interstate highway, and other than being a toll road (very cheap though--our most expensive fare was $1), it was well-marked. In fact, you know how we have mile markers here in the States? On the Autopista, it was marked every tenth of a kilometer! Oh to have the rest of the roads in Puerto Rico be so well marked. Sadly, that was not the case, and we got lost several times!! Not only were the highways off of the Autopista poorly marked-to the point of no signage whatsoever for MILES and MILES, there were also hairpin turns on one-lane roads with opposing lanes of traffic fighting for space!
If you heard a semi honking, it was a matter of life or death to make sure you were NOT on a curve, and that you were pulled over to the side of the road as much as humanly possible. Another interesting tidbit, is that dogs, horses and roosters have free roaming rights...so, in addition to avoiding the semis and other cars coming toward you head-on, you also needed to navigate the animals!! The older dogs were placid and seemed to understand traffic patterns. The puppies--not so much. A couple narrowly escaped the wheels of our bright blue rental car!

We spent our second night in Ponce, which is on the southern coast. Although it was beautiful too, it was more of a cargo port, so there were not a lot of options for hotels. In fact, only one hotel that overlooked the coast...

The next day, we traveled west, and into the mountains. Our destination was Utuado, where my friend Sarah & her husband Paul live. They moved to PR about 2 1/2 years ago--leaving the corporate world behind to become full-time farmers and writers. Utuado is a town of about 35,000. The downtown area is quaint with little gift shops, taverns that are little more than an opening between storefronts and even some familiar signs of home---like the Burger King where we met Sarah. All throughout our drive, I saw DonQ signs EVERYWHERE. While waiting to hear back from Sarah, I tasted my first DonQ. I don't think I prefer it over Bacardi, but it was smooth and sweet. Once Sarah met us, we followed her to the supermarket and then to the mom & pop grocer nearer their home, for fresh eggs. The views from the mountains were AMAZING!

The visit with our friends was much too short, but we did enjoy some wine, food and good conversation together. Sarah & I made tostones and she prepared paella while Paul gave Rod a tour of the farm. They grow coffee, plantains, bananas, oranges, & strawberries right now. Paul is researching the possibility of growing some exotic fruits too. They have a total of 18 acres, 8 of which are fertile for growing fruit.
The view from their deck is AMAZING. It was wonderful to see Sarah again too, and to meet Paul. She and I have been internet friends for 12 years & we met once while on a business trip to Los Angeles--where they were living about 10 years ago. After we said our good-byes, we headed to Arecibo & tried to get in to see the Observatory. Unfortunately they were closed by the time we got there...and we were hopelessly lost trying to find our way back to the Autopista. The one thing I can say about Puerto Ricans, is that they are super friendly and willing to help out lost turistos!

Arecibo was the only place I had to ask someone to repeat what they said more slowly in Spanish. On that front, my Spanish was more easily understood & I understood their Spanish better than Mexican--or even Cuban Spanish! Rodney's Spanish is pretty limited, so he was disappointed that people were not bilingual throughout the island, like they were in San Juan. We went to PR to see if it was a place we could imagine living and working in...I think Rodney is no longer considering it as an option.

Once we found the Autopista again, we drove back to San Juan, where we spent the rest of our vacation.

We spent an entire day in Old San Juan, visiting Fort San Felipe del Morro where I became enchanted with "The Chest of the Three Keys" and all the history of the fort.

We ate lunch in Old San Juan and visited the shops, where I took photos for my friends as souvenirs--as opposed to bringing back trinkets. We packed very light, so we didn't have to contend with checked-in luggage, and because we had no idea how big an "economy" rental car would actually be on the island! My favorite store there--and the one I took the most pictures of, was The Poet's Passage where they hold weekly open mics and sell local artwork.

Our last day in San Juan was the business part of our adventure. We spent the morning in the business district of San Juan, and spoke to several legal firms, trying to figure out if San Juan was a market for our consulting business, Litigation Simulation Services. It is not a litigious society there by any means, which is a good thing in general. The only cases we could help with would be corporate ones involving breach of contract or environmental issues. So, I think discovering this weighs in on Rodney's decision to not pursue Puerto Rico any further as a possible place to relocate.

I could see me living there. Especially given the mild temperatures, the hospitality of the islanders, the food and most of all-the amazing beauty of the coasts and shorelines, and the mountains. There isn't an ugly inch of land on the entire island!

We picked a very good time to be away from the Midwest, as after the nearly two feet of snow dumped on us, it got bitterly cold. I was regularly getting email from my friends and co-workers while we were away, telling me how much I sucked because I didn't have to endure the sub-zero temperatures here! We came home to the lovely snow scene above, of our buried hedgerow. The good news is that the air is hinting of spring now, and some of the snow started to melt off yesterday. With highs reaching nearly 60 this week, we may actually see our grass again before May!

Viva Puerto Rico. Me encanta mucho.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Goals Revisited, Puerto Rico, Flylady & Writing!

Earlier this month, I posted these goals & I've color coded the ones I've made, ones I've made progress on, and ones I haven't touched:

1. Lose 8 lbs (4 lbs as of last Tuesday); a. walk 50 miles (back has been out all month, so I've only been walking (SLOWLY) in 1/2 mile increments...5 1/2 miles); b. use low carb recipe plans & stick to them Need a better plan but I'm definitely eating more along these lines; c. yoga-at least 1 pose daily Not so much poses as using the yoga ball--most days; d. 3 aerobics videos Probably won't do any due to back issues.
2. Read/listen to 6 books 4 so far...very close to 5. I might make this one!; a. read 1 "real" book; b. load a book on MP3 player to listen to while on treadmill; c. listen to 5 CD sets checked out from library 4 of 5 complete!; d. return 5 CD sets on time so I don't get charged OOPS.
3. Write & get published; a. polish a short piece & submit to at least 1 place I have a very good shot of making this one because I'm working on a PAID article that will hopefully be done & submitted tomorrow!; b. revise 1 novel; c. write 12k words on a novel-in-progress; d. do at least 7 exercises from The Write Brain or similar book to keep limber -BOO! only did 1
4. Get organized; a. toss out 1000 things, b. send packages that need to go out, c. send funeral thank yous, d. clean out upstairs office
5. Create (not just writing), a. start Soul Collage decks-do 2 cards; b. draw 4 things; c. make 1 necklace
d. make 1 art journal page
6. Save money; a. don't buy booze-drink water from fridge instead-well this one I set up as a yes or no scenario...I went out twice with friends and drank, but at home, I was a good girl...; b. keep track of daily spending need to get better about writing stuff down; c. start organizing CDs to sell on Craigslist/eBay YAY! Will be ready to start selling my CDs once we get back from Puerto Rico!; d. re-initiate Dime at a Time baby steps program
7. Improve overall health; a. Make iPod sleep/guided meditation friendly, b. start using TCM book's Qi Gong exercises, c. drink 64 oz water daily again I made this a Y/N scenario...I was too pukey about 5 days this month to drink/keep water down, but most days I did very, very well!; d. go to bed before midnight every night HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

We will be in Puerto Rico in just one week!! Squee! I've never been there, so I'm way excited and will hopefully have some photos to share in a couple of weeks. We'll be there a total of 5 days, 4 nights. Hopefully all will go well weather-wise, as we're supposed to get dumped on by a winter storm mid-week. 12-24 inches, they say. =( Hubby is currently sick, so I'm hoping he'll be well by next weekend...and I have a sinus infection I need to get taken care of before I fly. Otherwise, SQUEE!

I joined Flylady again and will be receiving a daily digest of challenges, etc. With my back and head being the bane of my existence for the past year, the house has fallen into craptasticness. Not sure how much I'll be able to do, but I'm going to meet as many of the challenges as I can. I'm pretty okay except for things like cleaning the bathtub, or anything involving me on my hands and knees or awkward positions or lifting/carrying. So, maybe that eliminates 40%, but who's keeping metrics? I'll do what I can...

And yes, I do have a writing assignment that my good friend, Sarah, passed on to me because she is so busy freelancing! =) Sarah now lives in Puerto Rico, so I hope to visit her next week. You should visit her blog, Sarita Writes, because she is one cool chica! Anyway, Sarah & her husband Paul moved there a couple of years ago to become coffee bean farmers & give Sarah a chance to launch her full-time writing career.

Guess I better get writing...so I don't let Sarita down!! Have a fantastic week!!

Friday, January 28, 2011

SHINEonline & Passive Aggressive Advertising

I signed up for a blogging challenge hosted by @WritingSpirit on Twitter. It's called #SHINEonline, and is a challenge to set blogging goals--and keep them. I've been trying to figure out what I want to get out of blogging. Do I want to vent? Express myself with poetry or photography? Get a fan base started pre-Inner Gold's release? Marketing tool? Whatwhatwhatwhat?

Even though I don't know exactly what I want my blog to be, I do know now what I don't want it to be. Since starting the SHINEonline challenge, I've been reading a lot of different blogs I wouldn't ordinarily get a chance to read. Some I've really enjoyed. Some have irked me. The ones that irked me all have one thing in common: passive aggressive advertising. It's like reading an infomercial, not a blog. No redeeming content. Sometimes the hint of something redeeming, if you're willing to pay money to get to it. Not enough of a hook though, to keep my interest. Many were advertising a website, a book release, a business, a product or an unbending belief--political or religious.

What I don't want then, should I decide to use my blog for marketing, is to advertise passively-aggressively.

My favorite blogs have been the ones where people are writing for pure art and expression. The ones where they talk about their personal goals and beliefs. The funny ones, where they make everyday occurrences LOL moments. I want to keep my blog that way. Art, expression, poetry, and a mishmash of real-life events.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Proxemics: How Much Space Does This Writer Need?

I'd like to think that I'm a friendly person. I'm not a hug-o-phobe, I'll shake hands with anyone, and I'm a snuggler. But, I've realized lately, that I value my space. REALLY value it.

For instance, there is this very sweet woman at work, so I hate that she gives me the heebie-jeebies. But, she does. She doesn't understand proxemics. You know how there are certain bathroom stalls you peg as "yours" in your place of work? I generally like the far one near the wall on the left side of the bathroom. If it's occupied, or the one next to it is occupied, I go to the far one near the wall on the right side of the bathroom. Point being, we have 8 stalls in the women's room. I'm not going to choose a stall that's right next to one that's occupied--because I value your space too. However, I can be the only one in the bathroom, and Ms. Icky Toes (she wears sandals throughout the summer) will ALWAYS choose the stall that is right next to mine. She has 6 other stalls to choose from. Why the one right next to me? Better question: why does this bother me so much?

I grew up an only child in a lonely, gigantic house. You'd think I'd crave social contact and interaction, and I do sometimes. But, I crave solitude just as much.

At home, I don't get a lot of solitude. My husband craves social situations and attention-ALL the time. It's hard to steal away for a few hours to get quality writing time at home. I have a writers-cave in the basement, and I even have one upstairs. If it isn't my husband craving some attention, it's the furbabies. I can't even enjoy a quick spin on the treadmill without being interrupted!

I've learned to become an extrovert in social situations. It is exhausting for me, so I like to wind down with solitude, books, writing, art, etc. Do I need to become an extrovert in my home setting too? How do you balance your need for space with your need for social contact? How do you compromise on something so simple, and yet so complex as proxemics?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Editing & critiquing: Why I shouldn't complain

Whenever I have personal writing projects I want to attend to, it seems that my husband has legal talks he needs to give, and they take precedence over my stuff. He's a pretty careless writer, in that he mind-dumps ALL of his thoughts on paper as they occur to him...and it's my job to clean it up.

This has been a source of tension for many years, and I begrudgingly edit and re-write because it's important to him and his career, and he has much more earning potential with his writing than I will with mine-at least for now. Basically, the benefits are far-reaching for my family.

I shouldn't be so grumpy about doing this for him. Yes, it takes away from my creative process time, but...

1. Editing and revising someone else's work helps me identify the same mistakes I make in my own writing.

2. Distances me from my own projects so that I can jump back into them with fresh eyes.

3. Helps me to avoid mistakes in my work when I am in the creative process mode.

4. Gives me something to gripe and blog about. ;o)

Editing and critiquing someone else's work can only benefit and strengthen my own writing. It's a GOOD thing! I have joined an online critiquing site, www.critters.org, and plan to cheerfully critique and be critiqued in 2011. I signed up last year--but have not taken advantage of it yet. After "Identifying Your Jury Foreman" is submitted, I would like to find a critique partner, and continue with writing, editing & critiquing!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Leadership

"I am not a leader of men, cuz I prefer to follow..." ~Nickelback

This is the only Nickelback song I even pretend to like, but I love it for the simple fact that I am not a leader, so the lyrics seem to be meant for me. With the announcement of me leaving NaNoWriMo leadership in addition to leaving the group I founded, Wordsmiths by Night, I've been getting messages from past members. And, I can only say, I'm not a leader of writers. I am just a writer. A student. Nothing more.

I don't want to lead. I don't believe that I am a leader. All I ask is that my wishes be respected. I want to write. Hopefully be published. That's always been my mission. When I started Wordsmiths by Night 10 years ago, I was just hoping to meet like-minded individuals who also loved to write. When I took over the Peoria region for NaNoWriMo, I just thought it rolled in nicely with WSbN. I just wanted to make some friends, help those who needed it, and set some goals. Really, my initial intentions were just as innocent as that.

If you need camaraderie in your writing, I'm so there. Beside you. Every step of the way. Wanting and needing the same thing.