Writing prompt – Blogiversary

NaBloPoMo writing prompt from March 10, 2014:
How has blogging changed your life? Tell us one thing that is different now than from before you started blogging.

On May 19, 1999 I started my first blog. (This was also the release date of “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.” Coincidence?) I can hardly believe it’s been fifteen years! To answer the question posed by this writing prompt – what’s NOT different now than it was back then? When I wrote my very first webpage post I was a twenty year old college student, attending summer classes at the University of Florida, with more free time than I knew what to do with. Even though my two classes were pretty intense, considering they each crammed a whole semester’s worth of information into just six weeks, I still had far fewer demands on my time without the rest of the college experience (my sorority, AIAA events, etc.) going on. University campuses are very quiet in the summer, and that was even more pronounced in an otherwise sleepy little town like Gainesville. There were things I liked about it (no crowds and plenty of parking), but I didn’t know what to do with myself in my time off. So I started writing. I’d kept a few paper diaries and journals when I was younger, but they were all short-lived and fairly satisfying. Scribbling away in a notebook that no one was ever going to read seemed like a futile pursuit to me. (But if I ever get ahold of those things again I’m sure I will bust a gut laughing.) Fortunately in the late 90’s the Internet came to my rescue! I’d been dabbling in simple webpage design since starting college, but when my best friend Käthe started an online diary to tell everyone about her exciting life, I had to follow suit (although my life wasn’t nearly as interesting). Publishing my ramblings on the web for anyone to read was exhilarating (although I could count my readers on one hand). I felt free to share my thoughts, uncensored, and let everyone know exactly how I felt about topics and situations I encountered. This is a familiar concept these days with the ever-present nature of Facebook and Twitter, but it was much less common back then. (Maybe I was ahead of my time? Why didn’t I invent a social network?) Fifteen years later, blogging is still my main form of self expression, and even thought I’ve taken breaks every now and then, I’ve really enjoyed it. I definitely won’t be stopping anytime soon.

“In the past I don’t think I have expressed my opinions as freely as I should have. Before now I have felt intimidated by opinionated people and rarely did I oppose them for that reason. Everyone should be able to say what they think, but in a way that does not degrade any particular person for their beliefs.”
5/19/99 diary entry

Writing prompt – Junk food

NaBloPoMo writing prompt from May 13, 2014:
How often do you eat foods that you know are bad for your body?

So I’m not going to answer this question with an exact number (mostly because the truth is scary), but I will say that I eat a little bit of junk food almost every day. (More than I’d like to admit, but that’s a story for another time.) “Everything in moderation” is pretty much the cornerstone of my dieting philosophy because I get cranky if I deprive myself of the food I crave for too long. I just try to minimize the amount of unhealthy things that I eat to make sure my body is properly fueled for running, and also to try and keep my weight in check. It hasn’t been working as well as I’d like, but it’s a work in progress. Unfortunately my Disneyland visit last night didn’t really help with this endeavor. Here’s what my dinner and dessert consisted of:

Chieftain Chicken Skewer (chicken in Polynesian sauce) from Bengal Barbecue
Safari Skewer (bacon wrapped asparagus) from Bengal Barbecue
Dole Whip Soft-Serve (pineapple frozen yogurt) from Tiki Juice Bar
Hot chocolate from Ghiradelli’s

All of this was so delicious! Especially the bacon wrapped asparagus. It was perfectly grilled, the bacon was crispy, and the asparagus was tender and slightly blackened. I could have eaten three of them, and I know I’ll be back for more on my next visit. The chicken skewer was tasty too, but not as remarkable. I will try one of the beef skewers next time. The Dole Whip was a new experience for me, which is hard to believe based on how many times I’ve been to the park since I got my annual pass. I admit the hot chocolate was too much after the Dole Whip (which I didn’t finish), but it was a bit chilly after the sun went down (I love Southern California!) and I wanted something warm. Plus I don’t have the willpower to walk by Ghiradelli’s without getting something bad for me. The hot chocolate really hit the spot, but I didn’t finish it either. At least I saved a few calories on the sweets!

Writing prompt – Cooking in 2014

NaBloPoMo writing prompt from December 31, 2013:
What do you want to do more of in 2014?

I could quickly come up with a multitude of answers to this question, but the one that comes to mind today is cooking. I usually have a culinary New Year’s resolution of some sort, like in 2011 when I challenged myself to try a new recipe every week (and I more than succeeded!), but this year I haven’t settled on a particular goal. I’m definitely eating out too much these day so I’d like to start making more lunches and dinners at home. And how else am I going to be ready for the chili cook-off in October if I don’t practice? I’m mostly kidding, but that isn’t stopping me from making two batches of chili for a Super Bowl party tomorrow. I love making food for my friends and family, and just feeding myself is much less fun so I jumped at the chance to cook for the party. Can you believe that besides a batch of red velvet brownies for a co-worker’s birthday I haven’t cooked a single thing in 2014? Crazy, I know. I have been using good use of my new breakfast sandwich maker and blender to make some interesting things, but that’s a topic for another day. Let’s just say there seems to be a bit of a learning curve when it comes to making smoothies. But anyway, I can’t believe I didn’t use my kitchen to cook any meals in January. Fortunately that’s going to change in the morning when I fire up my Crockpots to cook the chili. I spent today baking two different kinds of cookies for the party, but not until after I went to the grocery store three separate times (not counting my shopping trip last night where I got the bulk of the chili ingredients). The first time was to get ground chicken at Whole Foods for the chili. It was the easiest trip to Whole Foods I’ve ever had, which should have been an indication that something was wrong. When I got home and started gathering all of the ingredients together I realized that I didn’t have any cumin in my spice cabinet so I ran over to Pavilions and picked some up. And then as I was halfway through mixing some cookie dough I discovered that my flour bin was nearly empty. One more trip to Pavilions and I finally had everything I needed. Phew! The chocolate chip shortbread and sugar cookie bars turned out very well so I hope the partygoers like them tomorrow. I also chopped all of the vegetables for the chili so I should be able to assemble everything for the chili and get it into the two Crockpots quickly in the morning. And it’s a good thing too because I’m planning to go to Disneyland before the party. Enjoy the Super Bowl, everyone!

Writing prompt – Favorite author

NaBloPoMo writing prompt from August 1, 2012:
Who is your favorite author?

To start with I am a big fan of the greats – Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Emily Bronte, Thomas Hardy, etc. I’ve read as many classics as I can get my hands on (mostly thanks to the Paperback Rack used book store in Tallahassee), and I count A Tale of Two Cities as one of my all-time favorite books, but I have to admit that I love YA (Young Adult) fiction. A few days ago I ran across a quote from one of my favorite YA authors, Cassandra Clare. It wasn’t a quote from one of her eight bestselling novels, although I’ve read them all (and I’m looking forward to the next one that’s coming out in March), but from her Live Journal back in the day. When I first discovered Cassie Clare she was writing Harry Potter fan fiction and working on her first book. I devoured every chapter of her Harry Potter fan fiction epic and I was really sad when it was over. (If you’re interested it’s called the Draco Trilogy and it’s archived all over the internet so it shouldn’t be too hard to find.) But besides her fictional creations, reading her blog was just as enjoyable. Especially when she reviewed a newly released Harry Potter book or movie. Her writing was like the text-based version of observational humor. Incredibly hilarious. Unfortunately I can’t find some of her older posts (her LJ account from back then no longer exists), which is a shame because she wrote a fantastic review of the “Goblet of Fire” movie. Luckily I copied a few of my favorites over the years and I still get a kick out of reading them now.

“I suspect the assumption with the filmmakers is that everyone who sees the movie has read the books. Even POA, which I think is the best of the films, left out crucial bits of exposition (‘Harry, your father was a stag Animagus’), leaving Harry to assume, I suppose, that he is magically protected by Merrill Lynch.”
Review of “Goblet of Fire” film

“The other great lesson I took away from this was that it is in fact impossible to get out of going to a wedding you have been invited to, even if you do not want to attend because you have to save the world instead.”
Review of Half-Blood Prince book

“There maybe were one or two too many back-and-forths where Harry suddenly pops into Voldemort’s head. I kept waiting for Harry to check in on Voldemort and discovering him going to the bathroom, or perhaps adding to his vast Beanie Baby collection in a local trinket store.”
Review of Deathly Hallows book

Writing prompt – Procrastination

NaBloPoMo writing prompt from January 3, 2014:
Do you have a tendency to procrastinate, or do you like checking things off your to-do list?

It’s after 10 PM and I’m just starting my webpage post, so what do you think? I’m a terrible procrastinator. Not that I don’t enjoy crossing items off my daily to-do list (yes, I write one everyday), but certain things tend to fall by the wayside. Like tonight I went to Target after work and then washed a sink full of dishes after I got home rather than sitting on the couch with my laptop. Some things just take priority. In my defense, I did spend about an hour looking for a prompt that I wanted to write about (after I finished washing the dishes, of course). By the time I found one it was too late to spend an adequate amount of time actually composing a decent post. It’s a terrible excuse, I know. As for today, I’d actually like to spend more time elaborating on the topic of procrastination, but it’s way past my bedtime and I’m really tired. I realize this writing experiment isn’t going well so far. Hopefully I can turn it around later this week. Good night!

Writing prompt – Resolution #3

NaBloPoMo writing prompt from January 23, 2012:
What have you recently started that you know you’ll finish?

New Year’s Resolution #3: Run a race

I’ll be you’re wondering what happened to Resolution #2, huh? Don’t worry, I’ll get back to that in a month or so when I get started on it. (For once I’m not procrastinating, I promise!) Until then I’ll elaborate on Resolution #3. I started running right after the Fourth of July last year and I think I’ve made a lot of progress. Back then I could only run about a quarter mile before I had to stop, and now I’m running 2.25 mile intervals (and hopefully increasing that before too long). Crazy, right? It’s unfortunate that I’m having so much trouble with my running shoes at the moment because I really need to keep improving. This is because on January 2nd I registered for the Seal Beach 10K. The race isn’t until April 5th so I have plenty of time to prepare, but my ultimate goal is to run two intervals of ~3 miles with a short walk in the middle. It’s not too ambitious so I’m fairly confident that I’ll be able to accomplish with more than two months left to train. But I need to find some good running shoes as soon as possible! No, I haven’t taken mine back yet, but I’m planning to tomorrow. But back to the race for a minute. Not only is 10K a good intermediate distance for me to tackle at this point in my running career, but the start line is just a couple of blocks from my front door! It’ll be great to wake up, walk to the race, run 6.2 miles, walk home, and get directly into a nice hot shower. Perfect. I admit that I’m already nervous about the race, but I’m excited too. No matter how it turns out, it’ll be interesting!

Writing prompt – Reading again

NaBloPoMo writing prompt from August 19, 2011:
Do you like paper books or e-readers?

This is quite a polarizing question for avid readers. Some people appreciate being able to carry their entire library with them in a thin Kindle or iPad, but others people swear that holding a hardback or paperback book in their hands and turning the pages is integral to the reading experience. From the arguments I’ve heard, no amount of convincing will cause anyone in either party to defect, but from what I can tell folks seem to find their way into the electronic age in time. Back when the original Kindle was introduced I was sure I’d never want one. Why would I? Holding a new book in my hands was such a magical experience, and surely downloading digital versions wouldn’t be nearly as exciting. But after I started traveling to the East Coast once month, I had to admit how convenient an e-reader would be. I even wrote about it.

“I’m beginning to think I might like one of those digital book readers. Does that make me an enemy of the printed word? I’ve just been on one too many trips with multiple books in my carry on.”
11/16/09 webpage post

So what did I unwrap on Christmas morning 2009? A Kindle! It was a 2nd generation Kindle – simple, elegant, and fantastic. I fell in love with my portable electronic library as soon as I started reading on it. I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread! (I had a similar experience when I got my first iPod – I didn’t think I’d ever really want one, but once I had one I didn’t know how I’d lived without it.) Over the years that Kindle went everywhere with me – from the car dealer (for use during long service appointments) to cross-country flights (mostly business trips, I admit). It was wonderful to be able to read whatever I was in the mood for at the moment. And despite warnings that electronic books were going to end up being more expensive than hardbacks or paperbacks, they remained the more cost-effective (and clutter-free) option. Unfortunately last month I noticed that the battery on my beloved Kindle was draining very quickly, even after I’d just finished charging it. I was resigned to replace it. After some debate my parents gave my an iPad Mini for Christmas that is not only perfect for reading (Kindle app, of course), but also for web browsing and Netflix watching. It’ll be great when I travel. I know this has been a long-winded explanation, but I hope it adequately expressed my preference for e-readers. I’ve been exclusively buying digital books for over four years (starting 12/26/09 – I checked!) and I have no plans to stop anytime soon. If that makes me an “enemy of the printed word,” so be it!

Writing prompt – 6/3/11

NaBloPoMo writing prompt from June 3, 2011:
Which author made you want to be a writer (or blogger)?

What made me start blogging? Well, in my case it wasn’t an author in the traditional sense – it was my dear friend, and future maid of honor Käthe. Back when we were in college and lived in different cities, I loved reading her many blog incarnations to find out what was going on in her life. This was back before the time of the ubiquitous cell phone (I didn’t have one until my third year of college) so the internet was the fastest and easiest way for us to keep in touch across the 150 miles between Gainesville and Tallahassee. We sent a lot of emails those days, but there was no better place than her blog to learn about her life, which seemed infinitely more exciting than mine. So in May 1999 I followed her lead and established my online diary. The first incarnation was called “Shrew’s News” and I pretty much wrote about anything that came into my head. It’s really embarrassing to go back and read some of the stuff I wrote then, but I’m still grateful to have an easily accessible compilation of all of these writings. After a few years the diary became more of a standard blog as I had less and less free time to spend typing my daily thoughts online, but my original goal of publishing whatever I was thinking about was still being fulfilled. So thanks to Käthe who’s been a great friend to me since we met in ninth grade, I’ve been blogging in one form or another for the past twelve years. And here’s how it all started…

“Let me start by saying that yes, I am a copycat. My best bud Käthe (with Käthe-dots) gave me the idea to post an internet diary with her “My So-Called Existence” (MSCE) and now I am following in her footsteps.”
Excerpt from my 5/19/99 diary entry

Writing prompt – 1/27/11

NaBloPoMo writing prompt from January 27, 2011:
Have you ever had a moment in your life feel like it was pointing toward your destiny, either at the time or when you looked at it in retrospect?

It was a little more than ten years ago – late May 2001. It was the first day of my second Boeing internship, but I was unable to start the job I was hired for because my security clearance hadn’t come through yet. I was originally hired for an internship on the Delta rocket program in Huntington Beach, but funding for that position fell through so I was placed on a program in Seal Beach instead. Unfortunately that meant that my clearance paperwork wasn’t submitted early enough for it to be ready when I arrived in California. So for the time being I was stuck in limbo, killing time in an unclassified area until I got cleared. Despite this difficulty, I was told that one of my new co-workers would be stopping by at some point during my first day to talk to me about my assignment for the next seven months. I didn’t know when he would arrive, so while I was waiting I started getting my computer account, password, paycheck direct deposit, etc. set up on the unclassified side. It was a painful process and I needed help from one of the office administrators. I went over to her desk to ask about something (I can’t for the life of me remember what anymore) and then I headed back to my temporary desk. I was oblivious to my surroundings so when turned a corner a little too quickly I ran smack into someone. He was tall with thick dark hair and a radiant smile. I don’t remember if I apologized for running into him, but I know I smiled back. I couldn’t help it. When I looked into his eyes I experienced that struck-by-lightning moment that every girl waits her whole life for. I was absolutely stunned. After standing there staring at each other for a few seconds the gorgeous man and I went our separate ways. I was overwhelmed with emotions as I started to walk away when suddenly the office administrator called me back to her desk. Mister tall, dark, and handsome was standing there which made my heart skip a few beats. Turns out that the guy I ran into was my new co-worker who had come by to introduce himself and his name was Dan Feller. I didn’t know it yet, but I had just met my future husband and it was love at first sight – for both of us.

Writing prompt – 2/1/11

NaBloPoMo writing prompt from February 1, 2011:
Who’s your favorite character from a book, play, film, or other work of art?

With all the trouble I’ve been having producing posts for my webpage lately you’d think I’d be leaning more heavily on the almost daily writing prompts from NaBloPoMo. Every once in a while I see the prompts scroll by in my Twitter feed, but I just don’t find them very inspirational. Not most of them anyway. My writing generally flows in a stream-of-consciousness sort of way rather than having any kind of enforced structure or schedule. Usually a topic, a sentence, or a memory just pops into my head and I write as much as I can about it. Not that I’m discounting the benefit of writing prompts. When I saw this one in my Twitter feed back in February it was 100% effective because it made me start compiling a list of my favorite literary characters. This was tough! I have so many that it was hard to figure out where to start! I was on a business trip at the time and I sat in my hotel room trying to picture my bookshelf at home so I wouldn’t leave any of them out, but it was an impossible task. When I got home I spent about ten minutes scouring the volumes I’ve accumulated over the years and making note of characters I’d forgotten. Unfortunately after that this post got lost in my draft folder for a long time. Yesterday as I was pulling a copy of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo that my Dad loaded me off my bookshelf I remembered this post and pulled it out of obscurity. The list below is by no means all-inclusive, but I think it’s a good representation of my favorite literary characters at this moment in time. No surprise that they are mostly strong female characters!

Lucy Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia
Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice
Rose Hathaway from Vampire Academy
Mia Thermopolis from Princess Diaries
Nita Callahan from Young Wizards
Jo March from Little Women
Princess Eilonwy from The Chronicles of Prydain
Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry from His Dark Materials
Meggie Folchart from Inkheart
Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games
Violet Baudelaire from A Series of Unfortunate Events
Hermione Granger from Harry Potter
Bobby Pendragon from The Pendragon Adventure
Clary Fray from The Mortal Instruments