March 30, 2017

Life Lately

I usually try to stay away from cliché, uninformative, no-one-cares-but-my-mom-and-even-she-sorta-doesn't type posts, but today I'm going rogue. Because I've spent the last six-ish months neck deep in the book I was writing, which was six-ish months of me holding the weight of a fictional character's fictional life in my hands. Which, let me tell you, is a lot more demanding than J.K. Rowling might lead you to believe.

Anyway, that's all to say that I deserve a break and some time for mindless word vomiting. Which is why we're here: what I've been up to lately, old school list style.

1. Wrote a book.
I think, maybe, I might've mentioned this before. Or, at least I slipped it in somewhere. Maybe it's under that dead horse?

Anyway, yes, most of what I've been doing for the last six-ish months has revolved around my book: writing the book, re-writing the book, agonizing over the book, hating the book, etc. And that's not even including the time I've spent trying to figure out the world of publishing. (Is death by query letter a thing? I'm assuming it is.)

But I won't talk about that anymore (at least for now), so I'm just going to move right along. That being said, because the book has been priority number one through 225 right now for me, I will continue with my list accordingly.

226. Booked a trip to Iceland.
For months (probably years), my friends and I have been saying that we should go on a trip. And then, one afternoon, we very quickly went from vaguely talking about it (the same way I vaguely talk about losing five pounds) to having bought the tickets. So quickly, in fact, that all three of us forgot we all have siblings graduating from college the same month as our trip, which led to $200 in flight change fees and me never wanting to look at my bank account again.

But the good news is that two of my friends and I are going to Iceland in May. So if you know any great things (and by things, I mean food) we need to try while we're there, let me know!

227. Took a trip to New York.
This actually happened a few months ago, but it's also the last time I used my (very expensive, as Derrick likes to remind me) DSLR camera. So I feel like I should bring it up so I can post these pictures.

And, since there's really no graceful way to segue at this point, here:

228. Developed a meaningful and pleasant relationship with my pet.
Just kidding.

Penelope's acceleration toward grumpy old woman is increasing at a pretty alarming rate. She mostly tolerates me but she will have nothing to do with anyone else who tries to touch (or be within ten feet of) her. And she still sometimes won't even have anything to do with me.

So, mothers of the blog world, I hear you. But, really, I don't think even angsty teenagers have anything on Miss P.

So that's my life in a nutshell. Let's hope I can find my camera battery charger before May so I'm prepared for my next update.

March 13, 2017

I Wrote a Book

I don't know about you, but I like to keep a running list of all the things I want to accomplish in life. You know, to whip out when I'm ready for a good bout of self-loathing. All the "shouldas" and even a couple "wouldas"—just for good measure.

Now, in the interest of time, I'm not going to bore you with every single item on my list. (And also in the interest of general interest.) But one thing I am going to talk about is something I recently did accomplish: I wrote a book. It's something I've been meaning to do for a while now.

Well, okay, what I wrote is technically not a book yet. It's more like 73,000-word story that oozed from my brain over the last two-ish years. Some people might call that a manuscript, but even that sounds way too formal for what it is. It's more of a bookling—sort of could be a book when it grows up, but not quite yet.

Anyway, as great as it feels to write that, there's a catch: by crossing this particular goal off my list, it seems that my list isn't one bit shorter. Because now that I've written the bookling, I've had to add a new goal to my list: getting that little baby bookling published into a real, live, hold-in-your-hands book.

Which should be the easy part, right? Like, now that I took all this time to write the bookling, I should be able to drop it off at the publisher's and start getting my copies churned out. That's the way it should work, don't you think?

Well, sadly, this does not appear to be the case.

I mean, I can self-publish my book, which would be pretty darn close to a "drop and churn" method. But now that I've spent all this time working on my bookling, I want to at least see if she's got what it takes to make it in the big leagues—to be published by a traditional publishing company.

And that, it turns out, is apparently even harder than writing the bookling itself. Go figure.

So that's where I'm at now. I have a vague idea of how one might go about getting a publishing deal (although I'm no more an expert on the subject than my bookling is an actual book). I've got big dreams for both of us, though. I'm hoping that by the time my beta readers finish reading my bookling, both the bookling and I will be that much closer to figuring this whole thing out.

In the meantime, though, I'm open to any information/advice/warnings, if you've got 'em. And if you don't, I'm open to good jokes too. Apparently, the publishing business can be a mean, cutthroaty kinda place—so God knows I'll need 'em.

December 05, 2016

Six Christmas Things All Catholic School Kids Will Understand

Thursday night, Derrick and I picked up our second annual live Christmas tree, which is no small feat for two people living in Florida. (It's a strange sensation picking out a tree while simultaneously being devoured by mosquitos.)

Also not a small feat: two very strong-willed people coming together to decorate a live Christmas tree.

Now, not only are Derrick and I two very strong-willed people, we're also two very strong-willed people with very different views on proper tree decorating. Let's just say that Derrick was not pleased when he turned his back and found my hedgehog ornament on top of the tree where the star apparently belongs. ("This is where I draw the line, Nicole.")

But despite our obvious differences in opinion on proper tree etiquette, we did have a good time hanging the bulbs and tying the ties with Justin Bieber's holiday mix in the background.

The best part of the evening, though, was Derrick's face when I told him that we should get ourselves an Advent calendar.

Now, I attended a Catholic school from kindergarten through my senior year of high school, so to me, an Advent calendar is about the same as eggnog in terms of familiarity. To Derrick, however, the idea was as foreign as... well, a hedgehog atop our tree.

I tried to explain the tradition of the Advent calendar, but I think the only thing he really got out of it was little holiday-themed chocolates. (Which, I guess to be fair, is often the most important part of any story that involves little holiday-themed chocolates.)

But once I got going on Advent calendars, I couldn't stop. What other seemingly run-of-the-mill Christmas traditions did Derrick not know about? I mean, the man lived in a world without Advent calendars and Christmas pickles before I came along—who knew what else he was missing out on.

Which leads me to this: 6 Christmas things all Catholic school kids will definitely understand.

1. Advent calendars. As discussed above. If you went to a Catholic school, you know the joy of opening that little cardboard door every December morning. Who cares if the chocolate inside tasted a little bit like glue? Each little gluey chocolate was one gluey chocolate closer to the big day.

2. Advent wreaths. No one is as pumped about lighting a candle as a kid who went to a Catholic school. And especially the pink one—the signal to kids across the world that we're sliding into the home stretch.

3. Homemade nativity scenes. Because all Catholic kids know that there is no more proper way to welcome the birth of Jesus than with a toilet paper roll replica of the scene.

4. Nativity plays. Similar to homemade replicas of the nativity scene, Christmas is just not Christmas until your elementary school-aged self has reenacted Jesus's birth. I personally never landed the coveted role of Mary, but one year in second grade I did wow the masses with my performance as the Christmas martian.

5. Christmas socks. Out-of-uniform days are not so much a rare treat to a Catholic school kid as they are a spectacle of sorts. It's the red carpet of elementary school, the three or four days a year when you have the chance to prove just how trendy you and your glitter jeans actually are. And while you might not always get an out-of-uniform day for Christmas, you will certainly get at least a Christmas sock day. And never is your sock game more critical than on this day.

6. Midnight masses. When I told Derrick about this one, he was positive I was playing games with his head. But, seriously, if you're going to do Christmas Eve as a Catholic, you're going to do it hard. 

Happy Monday, everyone!
It's the most wonderful time of the year, after all.

November 28, 2016

The Gift Guide for Those Who'd Rather Not

It's officially that time of year again. The season we love, the season we sorta hate, the season we spend between childlike giddiness and all-out panic.

Oh, the holidays.

For those with large families, it may mean trying to bargain off creepy uncle Sal as your Secret Santa recipient. For those with small families, it may mean you and your husband getting your stories straight for your Annual Christmas Dinner Interrogation. For the festive ones, it means cookie swaps and ABC Family marathons and hidden pickles. For the not-so-festive ones, it means wine and Netflix and all your condiments in plain sight. 

And for bloggers?

It means gift guide on gift guide on gift guide.

Now, I've been a "blogger" for several years but I've always felt like I—a girl who hasn't owned lip gloss since fourth grade—had no business participating in this trend. After all, one search through Pinterest and you'll see most gift guides have the same things: makeup palettes, bath bombs, those weird antler things that belong on your gallery wall.

In other words, things I know nothing about.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think those things are cute, just like everyone else. But I also feel like I'm not quite Susie McBlogger enough to actually put them on my site. I mean, sure, I could try to be a little more trendy, maybe use some makeup other than Maybelline mascara... but I'd rather not.

This year, though, I've done it. I've found the perfect solution. This year, I've put together one of those coveted gift guides—filled with coffee mugs and throw pillows and silver bangles—but I've mixed it together with a dash of "nope." The trendiest of trendy guides, for those who'd rather not.

Susie McBlogger will be so proud.

"Owner is shady. Dogs are cool." mat. For the person who doesn't like people-people, but can tolerate dog-people. Sometimes.

Milkshake anxiety tank. It's a rare occasion when the word "milkshake" and "anxiety" can be used in the same sentence. This is one of them.

"I Hate Everyone" bracelet. It looks so sweet, but that's just because people can't see what's going on inside. Sort of like you.

Fox mug. The pun is only the second best part of this mug.

"Nope" sweatshirt. For the one who doesn't necessarily wear her heart on her sleeve, but doesn't mind it on her chest.

"Because cats" pillow. Some days, you don't need anyone else in your life. Because, cats.

The face blanket. For the one who just can't on an entirely different level.

Happy Holidays everyone!
Let the madness begin.

November 10, 2016

Happiness Is a State of Mind

Since graduating from college, I've called "home" to a respectable variety of places. My favorite by far, though, has been the cities.

First, there was Chicago, where every Sunday I'd pick up quarters to use in the community washing machine and walk two city blocks to get groceries from Trader Joe's. And then there was Washington, DC, where I'd get lunch from the food trucks in Farragut Square and eat it across the street from the picketers at the White House.

Now, I live in southwest Florida, where no one pickets and I have my own washing machine.

But while you'd think these things would've made this move easy, the transition to southwest Florida may have been the hardest one yet.

You see, since college, I've decided that I'm a "city person." As in, I like living in downtown apartments with four bars within half a mile. I like taking the subway to work and watching St. Patrick's Day parades from my apartment window. I like having brunch joints and used bookstores and yoga studios all on my street.

I loved Chicago and DC because they were rarely ever predictable and definitely never boring.

But a city is the exact opposite of where I live now. Where I live now, there's a 6 PM rush at Carrabba's before everyone heads home to turn in. Public transportation consists of two Uber drivers and their minivans, and the only thing I can see from my window is hole 9 of the community golf course. My neighbors are retirees from up north, who come down every winter to congregate in driveways and gossip at the community pool. Every day is predictable because that's the way people here want it.

It's a much, much slower, quieter way of life in southwest Florida, one that I still don't think I'm used to.

But to be honest, I've never given southwest Florida much of a chance. Instead, I've spent most of my mental energy comparing it to Chicago and DC, a match-up I had determined Florida would lose from the start. I mean, I am a city person in a very un-city place. How could I possibly be happy with my living situation when I'm a zebra squished in a fish tank?

And the answer to that question is that I couldn't—it was just not possible for me to be happy.

But it's not because of what was around me—it's because of what was in my own head.

You see, it's like Dale Carnegie (and every fortune cookie writer ever) has said: It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.

Basically, I can decide my situation is great or it is horrible, that I am happy or I am not. Either way, I'll be right.

So recently, I've been working on changing my state of mind. I've been focusing on noticing—and enjoying—the great things about southwest Florida instead of what it lacks. I'm focusing on the fact that I live in a place that is warm and colorful, even in November.

And sure, there are a lot of old people here—but where there are old people, farmer's markets are sure to follow. And where there are farmer's markets, there are fresh vegetables, homemade sweet tea, and pineapples just waiting to be photographed.

And if a blogger can't appreciate a place like that, well, is she really even a blogger at all?