New Year, New Opportunity

Are you one of those people that puts everyone ahead of yourself? I am, but I’m finding that to be a blessing and a curse.

I’m one of those people that would give my last to make sure everyone I care about is taken care of, even if it’s to my detriment. I want the people I love to be happy, to have what they need, and to feel like they’re progressing. I always figured that I would take care of me when everyone else was covered.

Slowly, I’ve come to the realization that needs are constant. Everyone always needs SOMEthing. And that’s not a negative, per se. It’s truth. At some point, we have to prioritize these needs, and I had to admit (to myself) that I can’t help you if I’m not helping myself. I can’t provide for you and yours, and subsequently leave myself in a position where I’m not cared for.

More often than not, I’ve found that some of the outreached hands will take and just continue taking, but they never offer anything back. They never reach back to try to lift me up when I’m struggling, nor do they try to provide for me when I’m in need. And I’m not saying everyone is in the same position to give in the same way or to the same magnitude, but you can always give SOMEthing. When you can’t give financially or tangibly, give encouragement, give kindness, give acknowledgement. Give from your heart.

In a nutshell, give a shit about someone other than yourself and your interests.

This year, I’m moving forward with an understanding that I’m not anyone else’s priority, especially if I’m not my own. I need to make sure I’m taken care of BEFORE I try to help everyone else.

BEFORE I give my last, I need to make sure I have a contingency. I can’t save anything for future or for emergency if I give everything away. There’s no rainy day fund. There’s no savings, because I exhausted it trying to help.

I find a joy in cooking and feeding others, but cared little about doing that for myself. About carving out that “me time” or making sure that I was getting what I needed emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially, or intellectually.

This year is my opportunity to begin righting some of those wrongs. And it’s not about regrets, life is about learning and progress.

How will your priorities change in 2014?

Valentine, Schmalentine

I happen to be one of those people that love Valentine’s Day, regardless of my relationship status.

I’m not one of those “love to be in love, but only when I’m with someone” types, who post embittered “Happy Single Awareness Day” photos when I don’t have someone to see when I come home.

Single Awareness

In all honesty, I love any day that’s focused on love.  I don’t care if I’m single; I’m still loved.

So I had two opportunities not to spend this special day by my lonesome, but I chose to avoid both options.  You might call me crazy, but (at least at this point) I value my time too much to waste it with someone that I’m not feeling.  Feel free to tell me your thoughts when you read both scenarios, but I’m telling you, I’m better off cooking a meal, having a glass of wine, and enjoying the next episode of Scandal.

Scenario 1:

So I met this guy, and so far we’d only gone out for coffee.  There were so many things I found fault with that I thought maybe I was just being picky, but I eventually gave in and had to veto this option.  He was younger than me, and though I don’t typically have a problem with age, his age just showed.  He was needy; he constantly sought my approval about everything, fished for compliments like nobody’s business, but kept trying to assure me that he was mature for his age.  I wasn’t buying it, and I let him know that I didn’t feel he and I were on the same page.

Of course, he balked, so sure that the (several year) age difference couldn’t mean he didn’t know what “to do,” but how could he argue with how I felt?  In all honesty, to me, he didn’t come across like a man.  He came across like a kid.  We’d talk, and he’d go off on long tangents that had nothing to do with anything.  Sometimes, he’d text me random song lyrics he was hearing on the radio.  And his grammar made me cringe.  Ridiculous reason not to date someone, perhaps, but please don’t ever let your reaction start with “And so, I be like…”  Um, what IS that??

Youthful characteristics aside, something about his voice made him unattractive to me.  This sounds incredibly nit-picky, but before I even had the thought myself, he told me that he’d been asked before if he was gay because his voice is rather effeminate.  Um… was I supposed to think differently?  It just sort of highlighted the fact that there was no deep, manly, testosterone-dripping voice on the other end of the line.  As a result, there was just no way anything he said in a flirty manner was read as such.

When he asked if he could take me out for dinner and a movie on Valentine’s Day, I debated it for a while.  Although most of my friends, and even my parents, thought I should go for the free meal and movie (who can pass up Die Hard?), I just couldn’t do it.  The worst part about it was that I could have agreed to the movie if I could skip the dinner — that way we wouldn’t have to talk.  Terrible to say, but the honest truth.  In the end I told him that I thought he was really sweet (read into that what you want), but that I didn’t want to take advantage if I wasn’t really interested.

Scenario 2:

I met this guy a few weeks ago, who only randomly texts me.  Mind you, I’m really not holding out any hope for this guy — he doesn’t live in New Orleans — but he said he would be in town and wanted to see if I was available to go out.

Something about his request made me pause.  He was extremely attractive, definitely a man, a couple years older than me.  But still, I just didn’t feel right.  Something I noticed during all the texting (and absent conversation), was that he really never tried to get to know ANYthing about me.  I mean, really?  I know I don’t look brand new, folks, so he can’t possibly think I’m that gullible.  But he did.

When he mentioned wanting to get together, I told him I wanted to get to know him better first.  He agreed, so I asked him a question about himself.  He didn’t bother to answer the question.  Still hasn’t.  But yesterday, he sent me a text to ask if we were on for tonight.  Uh… what?  So I told him that he hadn’t even bothered to answer my question, and I felt that was indicative of his interest level.  I’m not doing Valentine’s Day or weekend trips if you don’t even want to know who you’re dealing with.  He said he’d been busy, but you know that’s BS when 6 days go by and he still has yet to answer one question.

I’m not the chick that has such little confidence or self-respect that I could go there.

* * *

Even with such terrible prospects, I don’t blame Valentine’s Day.  It’s a day, folks.  It’s what you make of it.  If you’re depressed because you’re single on Valentine’s Day, face it — you’re depressed EVERY day.  Love yourself.  Know that, if today were your last, YOU are enough.  If you don’t think so now, why should anyone else?

Love is out there, but don’t sacrifice who you are to try and find it — you’ll find something else completely.   I believe that to be true.  There’s no use in wallowing — your outlook affects what you attract.  You can enjoy Valentine’s Day whether you’re in a relationship or not, so opt for the one that can actually lift your spirits.

Cheers!

Roses

On Becoming a Writer

I’m a fan of Emily Giffin’s writing, and reading some of her answers to questions she is frequently asked increased my appreciation for her.  I can relate to this in several ways:  I went to law school, though I always wanted to be a writer.  I felt I had to have a “real job” first.  I was afraid (read: guilted by my mother) to take the leap into writing full time due to the possibility of rejection and/or failure.

My questions to you readers:  did you always want to be a writer?  What’s stopping you now?  What obstacles are you facing?

Hope you enjoy the interview!  I found it motivating.

 

Emily Giffin – On Becoming a Writer

“Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? 

Yes. For as long as I can remember. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve reading books and writing my own stories. Perhaps because we moved around a lot, characters in books became my constant companions, and keeping a journal provided me comfort. In high school, I was a member of the creative writing club and editor-in-chief of our school newspaper—and although my interests became much more diverse, I was always the happiest when reading and writing.

Then what made you go to law school? 

I’m not sure exactly what happened during college, as I never lost my desire to become a writer. But looking back, I think I had the sense that I had to get a “real” job first—that I couldn’t graduate and promptly sit down to write a novel. I took a lot of history and political science classes—so law school became a logical next stop. If I’m completely honest, I also think I went to school because it felt safer—a more certain path to measurable success. I think it always feels riskier and scarier to go after something you really love and want because the rejection and failure hurts more.

Do you regret going to law school and becoming an attorney? 

Never. For one, I don’t think you can ever regret an education—even one that comes with a heavy loan burden. I learned so much—skills and knowledge that I still apply today in a very practical sense. I also feel that I gained real world experience. I learned about office politics and was forced to develop a thick skin while working at a large law firm. Most important, I’m not sure I would have moved to New York City without the safety of my law degree and job offer—and living there was certainly one of the most enriching experiences of my life. And finally, I made so many close friends at law school and my firm, relationships I wouldn’t trade for anything.

What made you decide to quit and go for your dream of writing?

Although I enjoyed law school, I loathed the actual practice of law—at least the big firm culture. And I discovered that misery can be quite motivating. So very early on, I devised a plan to pay off my law school loans and then write full-time. Meanwhile, I began writing a young adult novel in my free time (and sometimes while at work!). Four years later, my loans were paid off and my book was completed. I was able to land an agent, but over the next several months, I received a dozen rejection letters from publishers. I seriously contemplated giving up and keeping my nose to the legal grindstone, but instead, I quit my job, moved to London and decided to try again. It was then and there that I began writing Something Borrowed.”

(Q&A from http://www.emilygiffin.com/faq_onbecomingwriter.php)

Resolve

2013.  The year we weren’t supposed to reach because the world was supposed to end.  So they say…

Looking back, I can confirm something that I hoped at this exact time last year — 2012 was a year of transition for me.  In the last 365 days, I moved 2,000 miles away from everything I knew, I turned 30, I started a new job, my dad retired, two of my best friends got married, I finally put another stamp in my passport, and I’ve been offered the opportunity to teach on a collegiate level — something that I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl.  I’m omitting that I found love, because I lost it too, but at least I got myself back to a place where I was open to love.

I made writing goals for myself, I bought my domain name after solidifying a pen name — the name I originally intended to give my first daughter.  With the prospect of children being rather remote, at least right now, the name I selected was one of such importance that I just had to know it would be used.  Simone Marrise.

And now, to look forward, I think 2013 will be another year of transition.  This one may have more growing pains, but I think that I’ll be a little more fearless this year.  A little more willing to do for myself what I would always do for others.  More travel, and not just all of the work trips.  More outings and opportunities.  More chances to meet the goals I’ve always had for myself that I was starting to believe weren’t feasible.  I moved 2,000 miles to a place where I had no friends or roots.  It may sound unwise, but it was the best thing that I could have done for myself, because I proved that I can go anywhere from here.

2013.  I’ll turn 31 in two weeks, and my thirties are already infinitely more promising that my 20’s were.  My 20’s were so littered with loss that I couldn’t see any of my major accomplishments, like finishing college or graduating law school.  Great accomplishments, but there was too much going on for me really appreciate what was happening.  By this day next year, I’ll have at least one book published, hopefully I’ll have also published a scholarly article, I’ll be slated to teach another college-level course, and I’ll be settled in a state that is almost the exact opposite of my native California.  Maybe I’ll find love again in the next year, but I’m not rushing that, nor am I scouring the earth in search of it.  Maybe I’ll get another stamp or two in my passport this year.  Maybe I’ll get serious about the prospect of buying a home, but I think that’s still a few years off.  Hell, maybe I’ll win the power ball.  Whatever happens, happens.

Goals I didn’t think I could attain are so close now.  I’m gaining a confidence I thought I’d lost, and it feels so good to be at peace with the past and have a positive outlook on the future.  I don’t intend to force any of my goals to happen prematurely, but I’m going to do my damnedest to check a few more off of the list in 2013.

No waiting until June to realize that time is passing by so quickly and nothing’s been achieved.  Time to get started.  Planning and intentions are great, but there’s no substitute for actual effort.

Post-Hurricane Musings

So, I’ve officially moved to New Orleans, and (in less than a week’s time) I have experienced my first hurricane.  If you talk to the locals, this one was “only” a Category 1, but it was pretty bad.  More rain than Katrina, the flooding back then was more due to the levee system failing.  This time, a whole town in Mississippi had to be evacuated for fear that a nearby dam would give way due to all the rain.  Lake Pontchartrain (here in Louisiana) overflowed.  How does a lake overflow??  Some folks are calling Hurricane Isaac “Katrina’s Husband.”  Let me just say, I’ll take Isaac any day — I just don’t want his wife to come a-calling.

I can’t imagine experiencing something 4 categories stronger than Isaac, but the actual hurricane itself wasn’t that scary.  The wind howled, which we expected.  The power went out, and there were feet of rain (that’s right, feet — not inches).  Even with all of the wind and rain, it was stiflingly hot.  We watched the wind pull away the awning from all of the covered parking for my co-worker’s Metairie condo building.  Torn to shreds.

Even still, the hurricane didn’t last as long as I thought it would.  Maybe that’s the misnomer of learning about weather systems by watching the news.  All I knew of hurricanes had been learned by watching Katrina and her aftermath.  Isaac sat over us in New Orleans for a full day, but we felt the winds long before he arrived.  It was like he announced his visit.

Longer than the hurricane itself was the power outage.  We were without power for 4 days, but many of my neighbors are still without power (now going on 6 days).  Some folks lost power before the hurricane even officially arrived.  Huge complaints about the main energy utility here in New Orleans — Entergy.  Once the hurricane was over, they dispatched some 10,000 workers to restore power to over 170,000 homes.  By the next day, less than 10,000 homes had restored power (I believe it was actually less than 5,000, but my facts are based on what we could glean from radio reports and Entergy’s tweets).

The president of Jefferson Parish took the strong stance of complaint against Entergy, making blunt accusations that Entergy just wasn’t getting the job done.   We were all driving around, taking photos and notifying Entergy of downed power lines — some of which were still live.  We were doing our part.  But we were seeing crews of 6 or more trucks, just parked and waiting.  Either they were waiting because they hadn’t been given orders, or they were waiting because they just didn’t feel like getting to the job at hand.  By the third day without power, Entergy had raised the amount of workers to 16,000.

When the amount of workers was increased, the biggest question in my mind was why they didn’t start with 16,000?  If each of them is going to have to work to restore power to over 10,000 homes, why not start there?  Why start at 10,000 and make promises of restored power, only to have to come back and say that people would have several more days to wait in the heat?  Mind you, each day without power, the weather grew hotter and more humid.  And many of us had not heard whether our water was safe or contaminated.

One thing I learned (that I hadn’t even considered before) is that everyone fills their tubs with water before a hurricane comes.  The water is used to flush the toilets if the water stops, can be boiled and is safer to use if the water in the pipes does get contaminated, etc.  In our venture to stay cool, we would drive around with the a/c, practically refugees in the local Whole Foods (one of the only grocery stores with power, where we could buy coffee and a warm meal).  While we waited for news about our power and the water, we went without showers.  We finally heard that the water was safe late into our third day, and we were forced to take freezing cold showers because the water heater was electric.  Mind you, the cold showers felt wonderful since it was so hot out, but the extremes from hot to cold were a big shock to the system.  Imagine taking a freezing cold shower and then stepping out of the water into 90 degree heat with 98% humidity, immediately breaking a sweat all over again.  Needless to say, I now have a cold.

If you ever find yourself caught in a hurricane situation, some essentials you might need (that I did not have on hand since my belongings hadn’t even made it to town yet) include:

  • batteries
  • unscented candles and holders
  • matches
  • battery-operated phone charger (apparently they’re cheap at Radio Shack)
  • a sturdy ice chest with wheels and a drainage spout
  • ice
  • bread
  • peanut butter
  • jelly
  • fruit
  • crackers
  • tons of water
  • multiple flashlights
  • fans (old school, accordion looking fans that you have to operate yourself… yes, i know it seems like expelling energy to cool yourself would only make you warmer, but it’s actually quite nice)
  • plenty of reading material and/or a craft project
  • wine (worked wonders for us)
  • a sleep aid (for when the wind starts really howling, it can be tough to sleep when you can feel the house shaking and hear things banging around outside)
  • a generator to keep your refrigerator running (only if you live in a place where the generator can be kept outside in a well-ventilated area… you can’t have one in an apartment or garage — think carbon monoxide poison and fire hazards).
  • shorts
  • mosquito repellent
  • camping chairs (sometimes it’s more comfortable to sit outside hours before or after the hurricane — at least you can feel a breeze, and they’ll continue to be handy to sit outside if there’s a prolonged power outage)
  • extra phone or laptop batteries
  • DVDs if you have a portable system (you will get a little stir crazy)

Some things you may need to do before a hurricane comes:

  • empty your freezer (everything will melt and make its way to your floor… it’s gross, it smells, and it will suck for anyone living below you)
  • fill your tub(s) with water
  • close your blinds/drapes
  • pay close attention to the news, as a late evacuation is possible
  • fill up your gas tank, since you could still have to leave town
  • put some money aside if/when you can for this purpose (hotels are pricey and they’ll charge a big premium for pets, you’ll probably want to buy food/ice and supplies whenever one is coming, and who knows what will happen during the storm)
  • water your plants
  • move planters and other items from outside and bring them in/put them in the garage (they will break/blow away)
  • have a bag packed in case you need to leave, make sure you know where your important documents are

There’s literally no way I would have thought to do/buy most of these things — this is all hindsight.  Even now, knowing that we’re in “hurricane season,” I’m not mentally ready to prepare for another one if it’s coming our way.  The scariest part is that I checked the NHC’s website (National Hurricane Center), and there are already three other tropical storm systems being monitored.  Doesn’t mean they’re coming anywhere near here, but it’s stressful just to think that we could have another one so soon.  I’m not ready, Isaac took what little money I had left after the movers took the rest, and half of my neighbors still don’t have power as it is.

I literally started work last Monday, and three hours later we were rushing out to get supplies and get situated.  Flooding and outages have been so bad that they closed my office until after Labor Day (thankful for paid leave).  Downed trees and debris are still everywhere.

Certainly glad to say I’m a survivor of a hurricane, but I’m hopeful that the rest of this season is pretty quiet.

Barbecue and Elvis

Well, I’ve been away a while… did some soul searching, still experiencing butterflies, and (oh yeah) I moved to New Orleans.  Big change, but a good one, although if you move somewhere and then get a hurricane warning on day two, you might think otherwise.

I have to admit, I’m used to earthquakes.  Though there’s no warning, they happen so frequently that it has to be a huge one to make any real difference at all.  If it’s not above a 4.0, I may not feel it at all.  If it’s not above a 6.0, I won’t be concerned about aftershocks or any major damage.  But hurricanes, that’s different.  You may know days ahead of time, and some people may think a category 1 is nothing, but I’ve never experience one, nor have I been educated on them.  A category 1 and Katrina could be the same thing to me.

Obviously, I’ve been doing my research, since one is looming ahead before I’ve even been here a weekend.  I’m nervous, to say the least.  I’ve already been warned about my job’s hurricane procedures and policies, and I’ve been told there could be a mandatory evacuation by the city.  That may be the norm to locals, but it’s pretty unsettling to someone who’s never lived outside of California.  I’ll deal though.

Before I left Los Angeles, I joked with co-workers that if a hurricane was coming, they could find me in Memphis.  I figure it’s far enough north that the hurricane will have dissipated, and there’s some damn good barbecue.  Plus, there’s always the possible Elvis sighting, right?  Ironically, the first hurricane I might experience comes before my car has even arrived.  So much for Memphis.  Maybe I’ll just harness a gator and ride to Memphis.  Can beignets be used as water wings?  Crazy talk, I know, but it’s easier to make light of things you don’t completely understand (and are admittedly afraid of).  Mother Nature can be a beast.

I will say, in the short amount of time that I’ve lived in New Orleans, I’ve rekindled my writing motivation.  Something set a spark in me today to get out to a local coffee shop and write.  I got down a whole chapter in no time, and it felt so good to be back to getting words on a page.  Something about this city just breeds creativity; there’s an openness about the people here, and so much history.  It’s a beautiful thing (though if I could, I’d nix the bugs and this whole hurricane business).  I’m very excited to see what else is in store for me here.

Butterflies in Springtime

I’m not a sappy girl.  Not overly mushy, I don’t gush, but I still blush when I get embarrassed.  I wouldn’t say that I’m shy, but I’m very… aware.  But he gives me butterflies every time he calls or sends a text; every time I think about being near him.  All of the fluttering starts to build, and I’m so (internally) flustered.

As we get to know each other, it’s like peeling back layers of an onion.  With each layer, we reveal something new to each other.  Every time he tells me something new, the butterflies return to remind me of his effect on me.  When he reveals even the tiniest inkling of how he feels about me, the butterflies multiply, and he can hear my smile in the dark from thousands of miles away.

I love when people get closer and begin to find their rhythm, but I’m not ready to let go of my butterflies.  Not yet.

Far, Far Away

I try not to put too much weight on new situations too soon.  Especially something that’s long distance, where a lot of times you feel like you never really know what the other person expects or intends.  But then there are moments when you feel a flicker of something that makes you wonder what could be.

I’m not going to get all sappy on you, nor will I make some crazy declaration of love, but I will say that I have a strong like for a certain someone.  I know people are always saying something’s different about their significant other, and it always seems so corny, but something about this really does feel different.  Ugh, and I promise I won’t gush.

Since the moment I met him, there was something electric.  I haven’t wanted to take my eyes off of him.  What’s funny, is that when I rounded the corner to say hello and shake his hand, I think we were both taken aback by the sight of each other.  He seemed surprised by my appearance (but at the time I couldn’t tell if that was a good surprise or not).  We shook hands, and when I went back to sit down, he stayed back out of view.  Though he spoke to both me and my friend, he rarely looked at me, and I remember hoping he would sit next to me.  He didn’t.

That night and the next day, I saw him several more times.  We were both all smiles the entire time.  I was a little embarrassed at how much I stared, but there was just something about him that kept my attention.  I still don’t think I can articulate it completely.  It’s not simply a physical attraction.  Before we actually spoke, I felt like I knew him.  There’s this connection that we both feel.  But still, I don’t think he gets why I’m into him.

We didn’t really express anything until I’d come back home, but I think we both knew that SOMEthing was there.  I don’t think either of us could admitted it face to face.  Maybe the distance helped us work up the nerve, or maybe we just needed a moment to talk without anyone else around.  Either way, I just smile.

When I hear from him, even though he’s far away, I’m content enough to not even think about how far away we are from each other.  I just think about the next time I’ll see him.  I think we have great potential.

It’s weird, I know, but I’m hopeful.  I’m not going to be dramatic; I’ll just say that he was an unexpected, but welcomed, surprise.  I don’t know that anything will really happen, but I can say that there’s promise.

Stay tuned!