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Monthly Archives: May 2013

My New Life Plan: Doing Things I’m Not Good At

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My New Life Plan:  Doing Things I’m Not Good At

MY JUNE GOALS FOR LIFE FULFILLMENT   

1.  Draw something every day

2.  Learn about art

3.  Read blogs and learn how to promote my own blog

I’ve been writing this blog for nearly a year now, and I’ve decided it’s time to change the format a bit.  Read on to discover how and why…

In a little over a month I will turn thirty-two years old.  I am currently an unmarried, childless girl-woman living at home in Virginia with her mother and working part-time as an ESL tutor for Ukrainians…  Not exactly where I expected to be at this point in my life.

On the other hand, I do have some plans.  I’m getting ready to move to Seattle with my boyfriend.  Paul has gotten a position that requires him to work for one year in Seattle then one year in Minneapolis, and then look for another job.  I’ve decided to go along for the ride.  I don’t mind, since I have no real job and no real need to stick around in Richmond, Virginia.  I can do my part-time jobs from anywhere, and lest you think I’m a directionless bum, the part-time jobs allow me time for writing, which I’m hoping will morph into a paying career at some point.  (Not sure how, though.  By magic is the only logical way I see that happening.)

These plans of mine — to follow my boyfriend across the country while bumbling along with this “writing” stuff — would be fine if I were twenty-four,  but I’m really too old to be floating through my life saying things like, “one day I’m going to publish a book” and “one day I’m going to learn how to cook a chicken.” Not that cooking a chicken should be on the same level as publishing a book, but it is one of those things that, along with playing an intrument, reading the classics, and running a 5K, that I’m always saying I will do “one day,” and yet I never make the move towards actually doing them.

The other day I started planning out the future in my mind. Age 32: Seattle. Age 33: Minneapolis. Age 34: If I’m still with Paul, we’ll have been together three years by this point. Maybe this would be the point we’d settle down somewhere.  Maybe we’d make some sort of marriage-ish type commitment to each other, and maybe this would be the time I’d start trying to get pregnant.

And THEN, my life would change drastically. No more long, lazy hours in front of the computer. My writing would be done in stolen minutes between breast-feeding and diaper-changing. For the next few years at least I’d be pretty busy with motherhood.

So let’s go back to playing the guitar, cooking chicken, reading the classics, running a 5K. Why in the world am I not doing these things NOW, while I have the time?  The answer, I think, is two-fold.  One:  I always think I have more days ahead to do these things.  Two:  Many are things I’m not good at.

So wrote a list of things I’m always saying I want to do one day. Turns out, they are all things I could do in the next year if I put my mind to it.  Here is the list:

The Artistic Side:
-study poetry: read it, write it, and evaluate it
-draw everyday and learn about art
-learn to play an instrument (probably the guitar)

The Mind:
-watch and read classic books and movies like Dostoyevsky and The Godfather
-study German
-learn about wine

The Body:
-join a volleyball team and/or take a dance class
-train for and run a 5K
-get more serious about food and cooking: buy and use a crockpot, eat more organic foods, try new recipes, learn to cook a chicken

The Spirit:
-meditate everyday for a month to see how I like it
-volunteer
-strengthen relationships with friends and family: talk to my grandparents about their memories and call all my friends/family more often

Miscellaneous:
-grow a plant and/or plant a tree
-splurge on a nice item
–record a story for the Moth Podcast and research how to start my own podcast
-reach out to other writers and blogger; read blogs and figure out how to promote my blog

-when I’m about to say a negative thing, say a positive thing instead
-be loving, kind, and patient as much as possible to as many people as possible

There are three items in the first four categories, totaling one challenge a month for an entire year.  (The miscellaneous goals I can sprinkle throughout the year as needed.)  I will write about my progress and what I learn along the way.

So this is my newest plan for writing and general life improvement.  I am calling it the “My Life Starts…NOW” plan, or the “Doing Things I’m Not Good At” plan when I’m not feeling so optimistic.

June is Art Month.  I will draw something every day and read/learn about art.  I’ve decided that I can’t indulge in this “one day” crap anymore.  My life is going on right now, and I’m going to start making better use of it!

Related Pages and Posts:

Bucket List Publications

Life Starts…Now

Ways Drawing Can Improve Your Productivity

The Happiness Project

100 Things I Want to Do in My Life

I was really proud of myself on New Years Day when I went to an art museum and sketched this painting.  Let's do more of this art stuff!
I was really proud of myself on New Years Day when I went to an art museum and sketched this painting. Let’s do more of this art stuff!

Day 311: Making Babies Is Out for Now, but I Have a NEW LIFE PLAN!

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Day 311: Making Babies Is Out for Now, but I Have a NEW LIFE PLAN!

MY NEW LIFE PLAN will be revealed on Friday, May 31!

One afternoon a few weeks ago, my boyfriend, Paul, and I went for a walk in my mother’s quiet, woodsy neighborhood. My mother lives in a comfortable ranch house in Richmond, Virginia, and I am currently living with her.

It’s embarrassing. I’m thirty one years old with a Master’s Degree, and I’m living at home and working part-time. So many of my peers own their own homes by now. They have full-time jobs and husbands and children. My life seems ridiculous and childish in comparison.

But I wasn’t worrying about that at the moment. At the moment, I was worrying about inchworms. Richmond was currently infested with the tiny, neon green worms, and for the past week I’d been picking them out of my hair and off of my clothes.

“Shh,” I said as we walked past a grove of trees. “Listen.” In the woods we could hear a faint pattering, like a light rain falling. I’d been hearing this all week, thinking it was the sound of the worms chowing down on leaves. But yesterday, after researching the worms on the Internet, I’d learned it was actually the sound of their falling excrement.

“Ahh, the sound of poop,” I joked. “Did you know that inchworm poop is called “frass” by scientists?”

Paul took my hand. “I love how much you know about poop.”

We continued on our walk, batting away inchworms that dangled down from the trees and tried to swing into our faces.  Aside from the worms, it was a beautiful spring day. The sun was shining in a blue sky. Azalea bushes had burst open in pink and white flowers, and the tree leaves were still so fresh a green they hardly seemed real.  We were discussing a friend of mine who really wants to have a baby.

“Is she going to freeze her eggs?” Paul asked.

“I don’t know.”

“She probably should.  How old is she?  Thirty-one?”

“Yeah?  So?” My voice had an edge to it.

“I mean, have you thought about it?” Paul asked. “Freezing your eggs?”

“No.” I dropped his hand and started walking faster, right into a dangling inchworm.  “Blech!” I said, swinging my hand at it.  “I don’t need to do that. I’m only thirty-one, for god’s sake.”

But as I said it out loud – thirty-one – I felt startled. My god, was I really that old? Only a few months shy of my thirty-second birthday? By the time she was my age, my mother had had two children in elementary school. She and my father had their own business and owned several houses. And here I was, working part-time and living at home, sort-of trying to be a writer but mostly just drifting along. What had I been doing for the past ten years?

“I’m just saying, as a precautionary measure,” Paul said. “If you’re going to do it, you should do it as soon as possible. Like, now. Because, you know…”

“I know, I know,” I hissed. “My eggs are going bad as we speak.”

“Well, I didn’t say that, but…”

“I have plenty of time,” I said, but I knew I was already past my prime child-bearing years. I was entering the age group where getting pregnant becomes harder and having a baby becomes riskier

“But you don’t.  Not really.” Paul’s a scientist, and I knew he was just being logical, but the words stung me. I didn’t have plenty of time. I was getting old. My life was going by, and if I didn’t act soon I might not get to do something I’ve always wanted to do – have children.

“I’m not worried about it,” I lied. “If it doesn’t happen naturally I’ll just adopt or something.”

“I didn’t mean to upset you,” Paul said, taking my hand again. He looked at me earnestly. “But I might want to have kids with you one day, so maybe it’s something we should think about. Just in case.”

The truth was, I’d never considered freezing my eggs. In college I’d considered selling them for money, but the thought of freezing them for my own use had never crossed my mind. Maybe it was one of those “it’ll never happen to me” situations. I knew that women over thirty had more difficulty conceiving, but I’d always been much more worried that I would never find a decent man to father my children. I’d thought getting pregnant would be the easy part. But now I’d found Paul, and there was a new worry – that when we decided to go for it, I would be too old and dried-up to produce a baby. Paul’s words twisted in my gut – did I really have so little time?

“I don’t know. I don’t like this conversation.” My face was pinched into a terrible pout. I felt old and ugly. It seemed as if Paul was insinuating that my baby-making parts weren’t good enough. I felt like going off birth control and getting pregnant just to prove to him that I could.

“Aw, sweetheart.” He put his arm around me. “I’m sorry.”

“No, you’re right,” I said. “I’m almost thirty-two. I still feel like I’m in my twenties, but I’m not. It is something I should think about.”

We crested a hill and walked down the road with the sound of falling poop on both sides.  “If I can’t have my own kids,” I said after a moment, “I’d rather adopt a kid who’s already been born than spend tons of money trying to force my body to do something it doesn’t want to do.”

“That’s what you think now,” Paul said gently. “But you might feel differently in a few years.”

“True.”

“If my parents hadn’t done fertility treatments, I wouldn’t have been born,” he reminded me.

“My mom got pregnant with me on accident,” I countered. “I was a miracle birth that shouldn’t have happened.  I think if a person is meant to be born, they will be. Maybe. I don’t know. I’m just saying stuff.” I really didn’t know what I thought at this point.

“Promise me you’ll just think about it and ask your doctor about it,” Paul said. I promised him I would, but at this point I doubt I’ll freeze my eggs. It’s totally out of my price range, and the cocktail of hormones they’d pump me with is frightening. Besides, I really want  to believe that if it is meant to happen naturally, it will, and if it isn’t… well, I’ll come up with a new plan.

After that conversation with Paul, a part of me wanted to get started making a baby right away. If my eggs were in the process of turning rotten in the sunshine of my thirties, why not go for it now before it was too late? But I knew that was a terrible idea. Oh sure, we’d make it work somehow, but it would be stressful. I currently have the very cheapest and crappiest health insurance on the market, for one thing. And Paul and I are getting ready to move across the country to live in Seattle for a year, then Minneapolis for a year, then who-knows-where for the rest of our lives. Realistically, we should wait until I have comprehensive insurance and we are settled somewhere, preferably somewhere within driving distance of friends and relatives who will baby-sit for free.

So making babies is out for the next two years at least. But the conversation with Paul made me do a lot of thinking.

TIME, I thought dramatically, it goes by so quickly. I started wondering if I was making the most of my time. Was I doing all the things I wanted to do in my life?

The answer, I realized, was no.

So I came up with a plan….

MY NEW LIFE PLAN will be revealed on Friday, May 31!

eva san miguel

Day 309: Arrested Development & Lessons Learned on a Bad Day

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Day 309:  Arrested Development & Lessons Learned on a Bad Day

TODAY’S STATS:

# of pages written: 4

Yesterday was sunny and beautiful, and it should have been an amazing day. Paul and I woke up excited because it was the day the new Arrested Development series was on Netflix. Paul wanted to watch the first episode right then in bed, but I convinced him that we should spend the day outside and then binge-watch episodes that night.

I had to tutor Sergey at noon, but we figured we had time for a quick hike. We drove to the head of the nearby North Bank trail, which neither of us had ever explored before. The trail followed a canal parallel to the James River, going past Maymont Park and three cemeteries.  I wished we could keep walking all the way to downtown Richmond, but after an hour I knew we needed to turn around so we could get back in time for my lesson with Sergey.

We’d seen on the map that there was a second trail on the opposite side of the canal that seemed to loop back to the parking lot, so we took this one, crossing over the canal and the train tracks on a pedestrian bridge and then descending down into the lush, riverside forest.

“I’m so glad we’re going back a different way,” I said. Originally I’d thought we would have to double back on the same trail, and I was glad we were seeing new sights instead.

“I know,” Paul said. “And this trail is beautiful.”

“I know! Look at this rock!” I pranced onto a flat rock at the edge of the river. “I wish I didn’t have to tutor. Then we could lay in the sun on this rock for a while.”

“Maybe we can come back this afternoon,” Paul suggested.

“Yeah! What time is it, by the way?”

It was a few minutes past eleven, but I figured I’d be on time for tutoring if we picked up our pace.

“I hope this trail is going back to the parking lot,” I told Paul as we crossed under the Nickel Bridge. I was getting nervous. The path seemed to continue on along the river without any sign of of crossing over the canal. “I think we’ve gone too far,” I said, my stress coming out as anger in my voice.

We pushed our way through some brush and crossed the train tracks. There, across the canal, was the parking lot. The only way to get over the canal was a bridge that led directly into the pumping station about 100 feet away from the parking lot. The bridge distinctly said “No Trespassing.” Of course, so did the train tracks we were currently standing on.

“Come on,” Paul said, approaching the bridge.

“We won’t be able to get out through the pumping station,” I said savagely. “The gates are locked –see?”

But he’d already crossed the bridge to check it out.

Afraid of getting in trouble for trespassing, but desperate to not be late for tutoring, I followed him, hoping he’d find a magical way to get to the parking lot. We walked around the pumping station, which was also plastered with no trespassing signs, but it was surrounded on all sides by a high, chain-link fence with vicious barbed wire.

“What are we going to do?” I asked. My voice was climbing into a horrible whine. We were literally a hundred feet from the car but had   no way of getting to it.

We went back across the bridge to the train tracks and stared dejectedly at the parking lot, which was just a short canal-swim away. Paul pulled out his iphone to look at google maps, but technology was of little use.

“Let’s just walk down the train tracks,” he said finally, “and see if there’s a place where the canal narrows and we can cross.”

So we headed down the tracks in the fierce, noon-time sun, both of us feeling annoyed. I was anxious about being late for tutoring, and I felt bad for being so stressed-out and whiny. Paul felt bad, too – he felt like it was his fault that the trail hadn’t done what we thought it would — and the fact that he felt bad made me feel even worse.

“If I’m late, I’m late,” I said, trying to sound cheerful and calm. “It’s not a big deal. In the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t matter at all.” But those were just words, and their logic didn’t relieve the anxious feelings twisting inside my gut.  If anything, it made everything worse. I chastised myself for being so negative, which, instead of forcing me to be positive, only made me feel more negative.

We walked and walked, with no sign of the canal narrowing. Finally it became clear that we were going to have to walk all the way back to the pedestrian bridge, cross over the canal, and then retrace our steps all the way back along the Northbank Trail.

“Well,” I said grimly. “I guess this is the only choice.” We marched quickly through the woods, barely speaking.

“I guess we shouldn’t try to go do things in the morning if you have a commitment at noon,” Paul said eventually. “We were cutting it too close to begin with.”

“Well, we shouldn’t try new trails anyway,” I said. “Lesson learned. Don’t try new trails when we’re pressed for time.” It felt sort of good to attach a lesson to my frustration. Things were going badly now, but I had learned my lesson.

We walked across the pedestrian bridge and got to the flat part of the trail. “Do you want to run?” Paul asked.

I didn’t, but I said okay, and we jogged three quarters of a mile back to the parking lot.

I got back home at one o’clock – an hour late for tutoring. “I’m sorry,” I told Sergey, picking a tiny leaf from my hair. He seemed annoyed. “Paul and I were sort of lost in the woods.”

“OK,” he said shortly. He seemed annoyed. “So I can only do lesson for one hour now. Let’s begin.”

This is the canal we would have had to swim across to get to my car.

This is the canal we would have had to swim across to get to my car.

After tutoring, I scarfed down some food – I was starving – and then I started looking forward to the rest of the day. Paul and I could lay in the sun and read and relax. Put the whole stressful morning behind us.  I was imagining we could do our relaxing at the pool. It was nearby, and I was exhausted from our morning hike/run.  I wanted to go somewhere quick and easy that would put me in the relaxing sun immediately.

But Paul suggested we go back to the pretty riverside trail, to that sunny rock we’d seen, and lay there by the soothing sound of rushing water.

I was a little worried that the trail would be crowded. We’d seen a few sunbathers that morning, and there would probably be more in the afternoon. On the other hand, I thought how nice it would be to lay on a smooth, sun-warmed rock and be lulled by the sound of rushing water. The trail was long, anyway. Surely there would be a vacant rock somewhere along the river.

So we put on our bathing suits, packed our towels and books and water bottles, and headed back to the North Bank trail.   When we got to the parking lot, my mood immediately turned sour. The lot was full of cars, and the bike rack was jammed with about thirty bikes. Which could mean only one thing… Hipsters. Sure enough, the trail was packed with college-aged hipsters and trashy locals. Cigarette smoke wafted through the air, and on every piece of river front property (nice, flat rocks, and sandy little beaches) there sat a group of hipsters, wearing jean shorts and drinking tall boys of PBR.

“Why are there so many people?” My whiny voice was coming back, but even worse this time. Instead a high-pitched anxiety whine, this was the pouting, baby-faced, “why can’t I have what I want?” whine. Much more annoying.

“Maybe we should just go to the pool,” I mumbled/pouted as we passed a group of tattooed twenty-somethings sitting with their off-leash pit bulls. There was a note of accusation in my voice. I wanted to blame someone for the annoyance that was balling up in my chest, and Paul was the only scapegoat available.

“Well, we’re here,” Paul said. “Let’s try to find a way to enjoy it.”

Across a small creek was a little island, so I took off my shoes, and we forded across the water, thinking the island might be a quiet, secret spot. Instead, we found it overrun with rowdy dudes cracking beers and alternative chicks with hula hoops. We sat on a small in a shady corner trying to regroup while wet hipster dogs ran up to us, shaking their coats.

“What should we do?” Paul asked.

“I don’t know. You make the decision,” I said.  I said this in a quiet, dejected voice that carried the suggestion that I was so frustrated I didn’t even have the heart to shout about it.

“Well what do you want?”

“I just wanted to lay in the sun.” I was tired and upset. My legs were sore from our morning exertion, and now my feet were sore, too, from the sharp rocks I’d stepped on while fording the creek.  I’d been looking forward to relaxing on a rock in the sun, and now there seemed to be no place along all of the James River for me to do this.

“Let’s go back to the car,” Paul said finally. So we forded across the creek again and headed back along the trail.

“I had no idea it would be this crowded,” I said as we trudged along through plants that I hoped weren’t poison ivy.

“I guess we’ve learned our lesson,” Paul said. “Do our sunny activities in the morning.”

“I just can’t believe we’re back at the scene of our morning fiasco,” I said, trying to both sound and feel lighthearted.

“I know.  We should never come to this trail again,” Paul said.

His words made me sad.  It was such a pretty trail, and we’d loved it the first time we’d seen it.  “Don’t return to the scene of your previous stress,” I said, again trying to sound cheerful, although not with much success.   ‘We’re learning so many lessons today.”

“Oh no! Oh shit!” Suddenly Paul dug his hands into the bag he’d been carrying with all of our stuff in it. “Why is everything wet?”

It was because of my water bottle – it had leaked all over everything. We pulled out my Kindle and cell phone, both of which were damp. Paul’s expensive, hard-cover physics book was now soaking wet, the pages warping as we spoke.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I never should have put my water bottle in there. That was stupid of me.”

Another lesson learned.

In the hot car, we decided to drive to the duck pond, which was on the way home. We could lay in the grass there. Unfortunately, Paul had forgotten to bring his towel, so we both had to share mine. As I lay on my tiny strip of towel, listening to honking geese and screaming children, I tried to smile. Here I was, laying in the sun at last.

But I couldn’t smile. Not for real, anyway. I still felt horrible. There was a lump of frustration and awful-yuckiness sitting inside my chest that I just couldn’t make go away. Don’t cry, Eva, I told myself. Really. How childish are you? In the grand scheme of life, the fact that you didn’t get to lay on a rock by the river is inconsequential.  It’s ridiculous and self-indulgent of you to still be upset, and you should stop being upset right now.  

And yet, logic wouldn’t make the negative feelings go away. So I dissolved them the only way I knew how: I cried. Just a little. Just a few tears behind my sunglasses. And a few sniffles.

“Are you crying?” Paul asked, rubbing my back.

“Just a little,” I said. “But I feel better now.”

It was true. Crying had released the ball of negative energy inside my chest, and now I really did feel like I could relax. It was something I’d learned long ago but I always seem to forget: sometimes the best way to let go of bad feelings is to cry.

“We’ve learned another important lesson today,” I said a while later as Paul and I struggled to get comfortable on our towel.

“What’s that?”

“Two adults should never try to share one towel.” I smiled at him. It was a real smile this time. “Sorry for being such a grouch earlier,” I said. “Do you want to get sushi for dinner?”

He did.

 *  *  *

We picked up some sushi on the way home and ate it on the deck in the fading sunlight.  Afterwards, we settled onto the couch for a night of Arrested Development.

“Ahh,” I said, snuggling up next to Paul. “This is what we should have done all along.”  The day had been a series of frustrations, but now we could just veg out and watch TV.  Nothing could go wrong now.

So we watched the first episode. And then the second. “It’s not very good,” Paul said.

“No, it’s really not,” I said. “It’s lost it’s rhythm.

“It’s not very funny.”

“It’s almost boring.”

We were both disappointed. We’d been looking forward to this series for years.

“Well, that’s today for you,” I said, laughing. “Of course it sucks. Nothing is going our way.” I felt like the biggest lesson I’d learned today was not to whine about my frustrations, but not to pretend they don’t exist either. Instead, to acknowledge my frustration, but  remember that it will go away in time.

“We just can’t catch a break,” Paul said, sighing.

“I know. Nothing is going right for us today.”

“Should we watch one more episode? Just to see?”

“Sure.” I rested my head on his shoulder and looked back at the computer screen.  It felt nice to sit on the couch with Paul and know that even on bad days, there were still some things that  felt good.

james

Day 307: Words of Wisdom from a Ukrainian CEO

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Day 307:  Words of Wisdom from a Ukrainian CEO

YESTERDAY’S STATS:

# of pages written: 21

Every day I get on Skype and ESL tutor a middle-aged Ukrainian man named Sergey. We read together (the news, biographies, children’s books, etc.) We practice grammar and pronunciation (he still has trouble with “v” and “w”). And we discuss our lives, the world, and everything else in between. Sometimes he is the only person I talk to all day long.

I’ve been tutoring Sergey for an hour and a half every day since August, so needless to say, I’ve gotten to know him pretty well. It’s funny; I never would have imagined that I’d become friends with the CEO of an eastern European alcohol company. Sergey’s company, Global Spirits, has the number one vodka in the Ukraine and the number three vodka in Russia, and they have recently expanded to the U.S. market. They will be introducing their products in New York, Miami, and L.A. this fall.

Sergey is an incredible guy. He’s extremely hard-working, positive, and energetic, and he demands that the people around him act the same way. He has a good sense of humor as well as a strong moral compass. He loves cartoons, Forest Gump, soccer, and New York City, where he now makes his home. He’s a family man with a wife and two adorable children, but he also travels internationally and works tirelessly to manage his large, successful company.

Sergey and I have gotten into deep discussions on a variety of occasions, and I often find myself quoting him to other people. “Sergey is so wise,” is a common thing for me to say, exceeded only by the phrase, “Sergey is so funny.”  Yesterday I told him that he should write a book with his words of wisdom.  Until that happens, here are…

SOME OF SERGEY’S WORDS OF WISDOM:

On Raising Children:

We have to nurture our kids with respect to their nature.

Parents should be fair and strong but first of all they should really love the kid. To care about child, about its future and about its soul, its spirit. Children feel it very deeply and they pay back with respect and love to parents who do it.

On Work, Success, & Creativity:

Talent of course is very important for success but I think the diligence is more important. So we have to find our talents and grow them up very tidy and gently.

Money, achievements and other will come only if people do their jobs with pleasure. So we should live and do everything we do for fun and pleasure, all other (money, titles etc.) will come as a side of fun.

Don’t be afraid that you are not to much original in your work. Of course you have to find your own style, your own sound or something else but the main thing is continue doing your job if you love it.

To me I think we have only achievement when we die. Until then we always have more to do and more to improve!

On Beauty:  

Women should be beautiful.  Men should be little better than monkey.

On Religion:

I think that in the modern world the religious person is not who regularly goes to the church but who does godly things all the time just in usual life.

On Education:

When we try to teach somebody, first thing that we have to check is if this person wants to study. And if it’s not, stop do it. You will lose your time. People will study only if they like to study.

You can’t help grow up plants or children. You just have to create good environment for the growing – good temperature, ample humid, enough books and ways to learn, and good environment to want to learn.

On Life:

If you want to do something, you will find a way to do it. If you don’t want to do something, you will find a way not to do it.

Aimless life is very boring.

I don’t like to exaggerate any problem. To solve it in the best way it’s much better to look at it as calm as you can. Everything can be figured out.

We never know exactly what is flaw and what is advantage in our lives.

Don’t eat immature fruits because they are not tasty.

Any decision is the right one.  Any decision is better than no decision.

Never give up in trying to do the world better.

And here are some of Sergey’s favorite Russian Quotes:

1. Everything in every person must be gorgeous: clothes, soul and thoughts. It said famous Russian author Anton Chehov
2. You can teach animal or human something only using good and caress. It sad one of the characters of book “Master and Margarita” which was wrote by famous Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov
3. Who will come with weapon here will be killed by this weapon. It said one famous historical Russian officer Alexandr Nevskiy
4. Do what you have to do and let things happen as they have to happen. It said one famous TV anchorman.

Ukrainian Egg

Ukrainian Egg

 

Day 305: Writing Exercises Inspired by a Water Bottle and The Vagina Monologues

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Day 305:  Writing Exercises Inspired by a Water Bottle and The Vagina Monologues

YESTERDAY’S STATS:

# of pages written: 12.5

Today I opened the freezer at my mom’s house to get some frozen yogurt and spotted a plastic water bottle full of a yellowy frozen liquid. Written with sharpie on the front of the bottle was “The Vagina Monologues.” I knew if I picked up the bottle and turned it around, it would say “Melody” on the other side.

As funny as it is to open the freezer and immediately see the word “vagina,” it’s equally amusing to think about how old this water bottle is and where it came from.

The water bottle is at least eleven years old and used to belong to my sophomore year of college apartment-mate, Melody, who had been in a production of The Vagina Monologues at William and Mary.

I’d almost sort of forgotten about Melody. She was a tall, pretty girl  who was into theater arts and her all-girl a capella singing group. I never really got to know her, but she certainly was dramatic. Once she saw a bug in the bathtub, so she put a frying pan facedown over top of it and placed a note on top of the pan that said, “WARNING! There is a bug under here!!!”

Later, when I found the note, I picked up the pan, quickly squashed the bug with a wad of toilet paper, and threw the toilet paper in the trash. “I killed the bug in the bathroom,” I reported to her later. “Oh, thanks,” she said. She’d apparently gone to take a shower at a friend’s house.

That was probably one of the most pleasant interactions we ever had. For some reason, we passive-aggressively hated each other. I think it had something to do with me inviting my friend Allison to live in our living room so we could split rent three ways (Melody disapproved), and the fact that I didn’t try very hard to be friends with Melody because I was constantly on the phone, in the throes of relationship drama with my out-of-town boyfriend. I think she thought I was socially awkward, money-grubbing, and rude. I thought she was stuck-up. We mostly ignored each other.

I did go to see her in The Vagina Monologues, though. She was the woman who slithers around on stage, demonstrating different types of pleasurable moans. (The machine gun moan, the doggie moan, the diva moan, the college moan, for example.) She was actually really good, but I was sitting next to her parents for the performance, and the awkwardness made it nearly impossible to enjoy the show.

At the end of the school year, Melody moved out of the apartment, and she left her Vagina Monologues bottle behind. “Do you want this?” my mom asked me as she helped me move out at the end of the summer. “Nah, it was Melody’s,” I said. “We can just toss it.”

But my mom doesn’t like to throw things away.  She took the bottle home with her. And even though I never really liked Melody, even though I never really knew her or gave her a chance to get to know me, there’s still a little part of her, filled with suspicious yellow liquid, in the back of my mom’s freezer.

Thinking about all of this makes me realize that so many objects in our lives connect to larger stories and characters. I got all of those Melody Memories out of one little glimpse at an old water bottle. In fact, Melody and the Vagina Monologues have helped me come up with two writing exercises for when I (or you) need a little jump-start to encourage finger-to-the-keyboard-action.

#1 Water Bottle Exercise: Choose a few objects in your house/apartment (a lamp, piece of furniture, decoration, etc.) and ask yourself questions about it:  When did I get that? From where? Who gave it to me? Who was with me when I bought it? How would I describe the object? Write down the answers in narrative form. You may end up telling a story or creating a character study.

#2 Different Types of Moans Exercise: Choose a broad topic and list different subcategories. In The Vagina Monologues it’s “different types of moans,” but you could do “types of people shopping late-night at Wal-Mart” or “types of books you’ll find on my Aunt Frannie’s bookshelf.” Describe the items in your list.  It can be a humorous list or an informative one. Don’t be afraid to make stuff up. If you like your list well enough, you might consider submitting it to McSweeney’s Internet Tendency for their “Lists” column.

For the record, I think it's frozen lemon juice.

For the record, I think it’s frozen lemon juice.

Day 303: Where Kurt Used to Do Heroin, or, Will the Wrong Seattle Apartment Stifle My Creativity?

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Day 303:  Where Kurt Used to Do Heroin, or, Will the Wrong Seattle Apartment Stifle My Creativity?

YESTERDAY’S STATS:

# of pages written: 0

I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Seattle. My boyfriend, Paul, and I are moving there in July, and we wanted to secure an apartment before the big, cross-country drive. Plus, neither of us had ever been to Seattle, and we we thought perhaps we should check it out.

I spent the month before our trip researching neighborhoods and obsessively combing through the rentals section of craiglist. Luckily, I have a few friends in Seattle who were able to give me some advice. “Freemont is full of hippies and weirdness,” my friend Lish said, “but if you like naked solstice parades, that’s your place.” My friend Erin (who happens to live in the Freemont area) was a bit more objective. She sent me a “briefing packet” about Southeast Seattle, put together by her graduate school “Community Economic Development” class…  Both helpful in their own ways.

The week before we left, I set up appointments in neighborhoods all over town. “Maybe we’ll find a place today,” I told Erin on Friday morning – we were staying at her apartment– “and then we can just hang out the rest of the weekend!”

But our first day of apartment-hunting did not go well. First there was the condo across from the fire department in an area of town that can only be reached by one perpetually-traffic-jammed bridge. Next, an apartment that had been advertised as first floor but was actually a damp basement with warped floors. When Paul asked the landlord if there had been any problems with flooding, she got a funny look on her face and eventually answered, “not really.”

Later we saw a place that claimed to be close to Green Lake but was, in fact, nearly two miles from the lake, in a sketchy area of town filled with prostitutes and drug addicts. “This is where Kurt Kobain used to come to do heroin,” Erin told us. As much as I love Nirvana, the vacant, trash-strewn lot and boarded-up hub cap shop across from the apartment building were not exactly what I was looking for in a neighborhood, so we crossed that one off our list.

Finding our dream apartment was turning out to be more difficult than we expected. Of course, Paul and I had slightly different dreams. He dreamed of a “grownup” apartment in a safe neighborhood that was close to the grocery store, his new job, and, ideally, a Pho place. I dreamed of a quirky apartment with big windows over-looking pretty things in a fun neighborhood with lots of parks.

It was really important to me that we find the right apartment because, as a writer working from home, I was going to be spending a lot of time in it. I didn’t want to spend my day in a basement, or a tiny sterile box, or in a place where I couldn’t get up from my computer and go for a pleasant walk around the neighborhood.

 ***

On Saturday we found a place that Paul liked… But I didn’t. It was in a new apartment building on a busy street. It was one of these places with “amenities” like a roof-top deck, a fitness room, and secure garage parking (which, of course, costs extra). Not that there’s anything wrong with big, fancy apartment complexes, but they just aren’t my style.

The leasing agent showed us the model apartment, but he couldn’t show us the unit we’d actually be living in.

“The most important thing to me is the view,” I said. “The unit we would be living in, what exactly is the view out the windows?” I already knew the answer. I’d figured it out while we were on the roof-top deck. “Is it of the wall of the building next door?”

“Well, yes,” the leasing agent said.

I looked around the small living room, trying to imagine where I’d put my writing desk. Where I’d put my framed poster of Edward Gorey’s Gashleycrumb Tinies. It was a nice apartment, I guess, but I was having trouble picturing myself there.

Bhy Kracke Park (say it out loud) in Queen Anne, Seattle.

Bhy Kracke Park (say it out loud) in Queen Anne, Seattle.

Paul thought that apartment complex might be our best option, and it was starting to seem like he was right. So I tried to be open-minded. It would be nice to have new appliances and “luxury” finishes. My god, the master bath had two sinks! As for the crappy view, I could put a bunch of potted trees and plants on the balcony, and I noticed on google maps that there was a park within walking distance.

Still, I just couldn’t picture myself writing in that apartment. I knew it was silly, but I felt like the wrong apartment might stifle my creativity.

But there was still one more appointment. Sunday morning. At a small, stucco apartment building in Queen Anne with a weird, random statue out front. We got there early so we could walk around the neighborhood first. We started walking uphill and suddenly found ourselves in a beautiful, winding park called, hilariously, “Bhy Kracke Park.” At the top of the top of the hill we stopped, huffing and puffing a bit, to admire the amazing views. We could see the Seattle skyline, and even the Space Needle.

“Could you be happy walking in this park?” Paul asked me.

“Yes, I could be very happy.  Plus my butt will get a good workout.” And there was another, even bigger park I’d noticed on google maps. This seemed like my ideal neighborhood: pretty parks and interesting architecture, a library nearby. And history! Queen Anne was one of the oldest Seattle neighborhoods.

Back at the front of apartment building, we noticed a web draped across the handrail with hundreds of adorable baby spiders clinging to it. “It’s like Charlotte’s Web!” Erin said.

“Maybe this is a good sign,” Paul said.

A crow cawed at us from the roof of the building. Seeing as how I love sassy crows, I took this as a good sign, too.

The manager, a laid-back, gray-haired hipster with black-rim glasses, showed us around the apartment. It wasn’t in the greatest condition, due to the frat boys who are currently living there, but the manager told us it would be totally remolded before we moved in – the kitchen and both bathrooms, plus new carpeting!  He showed us another unit so we could get an idea of the upgrades, and it was definitely a “grownup” apartment.

The view wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped – a first floor apartment with the windows looking out at the back alley, but I could see some trees out the window, and there was a deck where I could grow potted trees to block out parked cars. Plus, the place was quirky: an asymmetrically-shaped living room, some funky closets, and a gas fireplace!

Most importantly, I could imagine myself there in a way I couldn’t in the other apartment. I could picture where I would put my writing desk, and how I would go for walks around the neighborhood when I was trying to jump-start my creative juices. It was reasonably priced, really close to Paul’s work, and within walking distance from a grocery store, a Pho place, and several parks.  I could write here.  Paul and I could be happy here.

“We’ll take it,” we said.

We’re still waiting for our application to be approved.

View from Bhy Kracke park.

View from Bhy Kracke park.

Good Movies Based on Short Stories

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Good Movies Based on Short Stories

In honor of May being National Short Story Month, here are some good…

MOVIES BASED ON SHORT STORIES

Secretary – I can’t believe I forgot to mention Mary Gaitskill’s sophisticated and disturbing short story collection, Bad Behavior, in my list of Short Stories That Stick with You. “Secretary” is one of the stories in this book, and certainly a memorable one. The movie version with Maggie Gyllenhaal adds a lot of new material (it has to because the original story is quite short) and changes a few things, but it is still an interesting film that maintains the bizarre and haunting quality of the original story.

Brokeback Mountain – The short story by Annie Proulx is masterfully written in sparse but poignant prose. The screenwriters took her story as sturdy bones and fleshed it out into a movie with great strength and a thumping heart. I cried.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow – The Tim Burton movie version (with Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane) takes some major liberties with the original story, but it’s a fun, creepy movie to watch around Halloween time.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – Technically, the movie based on the short story of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald, but pretty much nothing that happens in the story happens in the movie.  The only similarity between the two is that Benjamin Button ages backwards in both accounts. He’s born an old man and dies a baby. Personally, I have no attachment to the original story, so I enjoyed the bizarre and beautiful film. Plus, the movie is based in New Orleans, one of my favorite cities in the world.

All Fairy Tale Movies – What’s your favorite fairy tale movie? I’m thinking mine might be Disney’s The Little Mermaid, based on the much darker Hans Christian Anderson tale.

P.S. I will mention Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Shop Girl, but they are technically based on novellas, not short stories.

secretary