Avoiding Crisis

Archive for March 2007

a writing exercise – my first

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I had some time this morning to do some writing.  So, of course, in typical me fashion, I procrastinated.  But, this time, in atypical me fashion, I procrasticated writing by writing.  Get that?  I didn’t write, but I wrote.  Confused? 

See, I was going to write an essay/commentary on the recent discussions of narciscissm, mindsets and praise, but that wasn’t going too well.  So, instead, I decided to try something else.  Something different. 

Not since high school have I written creatively – by that I mean, written something all made up.  Yeah, like fiction.  I don’t really know how to write fiction, with made up characters and dialogue and all that stuff.  I always seem to get the tenses messed up and screw up the narration voice.  But today, today, I thought, was a good day to try something new, even if it didn’t turn out so good.  So I found a writing prompt and completed a writing exercise.  Good practice, I felt.  At least it got me writing instead of just thinking about writing.  

I thought I’d share with you all what I came up with.  And criticism is strongly suggested…just don’t tell me it really sucks and is the worst sort of dribble you’ve ever read.  You might hurt my feelings.  okay? 

Prompt:  Write a scene in which a woman, under no threat of bodily harm, is forced to empty her purse*

Walking out of the store with her 5 year old son in tow, Martha quickly checks to make sure she has everything: a purse hanging securely on her shoulder, a bag of groceries in one hand and her son holding on to the other. She looks at her watch.

“Got everything I need and a bit of time to spare,” she congratulates herself.

Martha was feeling pretty good right about now. They made there way across the parking lot to the car. Skipping, they spoke about their plans for the rest of the day.

Carefully resting the groceries on the ground, Martha lets go of Billy’s hand and tells him to stay close to the car.

“Remember, we’re in a parking lot, Billy. You need to be very careful.”

The phone rings. It’s a friend. They chat. Knowing that she needs to get going, Martha shuffles through the contents of her purse. She cuts the conversation short and hangs up.

Billy waits impatiently, playing with the tire rims.  His hands are black with dirt. Martha shoots him a disapproving look. He stops and shoots her back a sheepish grin. He wipes his hands on his jeans. Martha shakes her head. She turns her attention back to her purse.

“I know I have them in here, somewhere”

She takes out a matchbox car and hands it to Billy.

“Here, play with this.”

“Mom?”

“No, Billy. Not now. Play with your car. Okay? Mommy’s busy.”

“But, mom?” Billy repeats in a nagging, whiny voice.

“Please Billy, Mommy’s looking for something very important. I just need you to sit down on the curb and wait. Can you do that for me?”

With his head down, sluggishly, shuffeling his feet along the ground as he walks, Billy does as his mother asks.

Billy plays with the toy car on the sidewalk. He makes an obstacle course out of rocks and trash he has found on the ground. He occasionally glances over at his mother, knowing that he really shouldn’t be playing with trash. She’s not paying attention.  He keeps playing with the trash.

With her back to Billy, Martha has one knee propped up against the trunk of her SUV and her bag is draped over her leg. Martha continues her search. This time with a bit more urgency and a hint of anxiety.

“God damn bag. It’s like a bottomless pit. Why did I buy this bag in the first place? I really need to get something smaller.” She mumbles to herself.

Unable to hold her balance any longer, he squats down and puts the purse on the ground.  She pulls the contents of her bag out – a wallet, day planner, cell phone, two MAC lipsticks, 3 lip glosses, 5 pens, a few crayons and a stack of receipts.  In a matter of seconds, also on the ground are tampons, hairclips and rubber bands, candy, mints, gum, a McDonald happy meal toy and two more matchbox cars, which she throws over in Billy’s direction. With barely anything left in the bag, she flips it inside out emptying the remaining contents on the asphalt. Pocket change and candy wrappers fall to the ground. She checks the pockets. Unzipping and zipping. Tugging, pulling, searching. Nothing. She sits, dejected.

“They’re not in here. Shit. Where could they be?”

She hastily shoves all the items back in her bag, throwing things around without any care.

“Mom?” Billy says, using his sweet-boy voice.

“I told you not now, Billy!” Martha shouts through a clenched jaw.

“But mommy, what are you looking for. Maybe I can help?”

“Oh sweetie, that’s very nice of you but I don’t think you will be able to help.” Martha responds, in a somewhat condescending, mother-knows-best tone. “We have to go back into the store.”

She takes out her cell phone to call her husband. Explaining that she’ll be late to Isabella’s soccer game, she reminds him that she has the juice and cookies for the after game snack. She hangs up. There is a tug on her arm. Snatching her arm away in anger and frustration she snaps at Billy for bothering her.

“But mom…” Billy says a bit fearful of the response.

“What is it Billy? I told you not to bother me right now.”

Leaving the groceries by the car, her day planner on the ground, bits of paper thrown about, she starts to walk briskly back to the store physically pulling Billy along.

They reach the entrance.  Billy stops.

“Come on Billy,” Martha yells. “I don’t have time for your games.”

Billy reaches into his pocket.

Holding out the car keys for his mother to see, he asks, “Is this what you’re looking for?”

 * this prompt was found on writersdigest.com and originanly comes from The Pocket Muse: Endless Inspiration (Writer’s Digest Books) by Monica Wood

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Written by nicolemarie

March 30, 2007 at 3:34 pm

Ah! Snarf! Ugh! Eh? Barf! Someone please tell me this is a joke!

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There are SO many things wrong with this article. 

Especially this: 

For Regina [a junior at Barnard], the priorities are clear: a relationship always wins out over school work. “I definitely choose guys over my academics. Absolutely,” she says. As a result, her once top-notch grades have noticeably suffered. Nonetheless, she believes the trade-off is reasonable. “Grades are important for getting a job. And since I would rather be married as a job than have a job, it makes sense to prioritize that,” she explains.

and this:

“Since the whole undergrad [boyfriend] didn’t work out, I figure I’ll do that [finance work] for two years, so I’ll get into a good business school. And that’s a really good place to meet husbands, because they’re like the right age,” she says.  “I guess that the women’s movement just made you have to wait a little bit longer.”

Please Mary mother of Jesus tell me how this could be coming out of a Barnard student’s mouth.   Have we time warped back to the 1950s?

Hold on while I go throw up, beat my head against a wall and let out a scream that is sure to send my children into shock or at least make them think that something horrible is happening to their mother. 

Okay, so after I calm down a bit I’ll come back to this and try to be rational.  If that’s even possible.

Stay tuned.

In the mean time, check out this article and tell me what YOU think.

Written by nicolemarie

March 30, 2007 at 1:43 pm

an interview with Anna Quindlen

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No. No. No.  It’s not what you think.  I  still haven’t been able to shake that nagging self doubt and actaully contact Ms. Quindlen.  But, I did just come across this interview. And seeing how I’ve long been a fan of Anna Quindlen – a fan of her writing and of her Barnard-ish-ness – I had to check it out. 

I thought, in case there are other aspiring writers that read this blog or happen to stumble upon it one day, I’d share it with you all.  ‘Cause, even if I feel alone in this journey of mine – I know, you don’t need to remind me, writing is one of the loneliest jobs there is – I’m pretty sure that there are others out there going through the same process.

The interview is short and interesting.  But if you don’t have time to check it out, here’s what Ms. Quindlen had to say when asked if she had any practical advice for writers. 

It all comes down to the Nike slogan. Just do it. So many people tell me, well, I’m thinking of writing a book. Does anyone say I’m thinking of performing surgery, or I’m thinking of designing a building? Writing seems to be the only profession people imagine you can do by thinking about doing it. No. Put your butt in a chair and write. And never mind feeling blocked. Everyone feels blocked all the time. Madeline L’Engle (A Wrinkle in Time) once said, “Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it.

Ah, so simple. And still, it’s just so darn hard to follow. 

So, for the rest of the evening, I’ll be finishing up some research and attempt to write another opinion/commentary piece to submit to blogcritics.com.  I’ll be sure to let you know what happens.

Written by nicolemarie

March 29, 2007 at 9:02 pm

what’s my real age?

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I was at the gym this afternoon, completing my thrice weekly tourture that consists of 40 minutes on the cross trainer, and I happen to be reading the current issue of Nick Jr. magazine.  It’s amazing how time flies when you read really mindless stuff. 

Anyhow, so after finishing up the “where are they now” section highlighting former Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards hosts like Tori Spelling and Brian Austin Green, I came across a blurb highlighting the website RealAge.com.  According to this blurb, the RealAge.com site has a “test that determines an adult’s ‘real age’ based on health, lifestyle and family history.”  Of course, I couldn’t resist. 

It’s official, I can stop all this self exploration crap  and shut down this blog.  My real age is 27.2!  And to think, I’ve spent the last few months contemplating what it means to be turning 30.  Looks like I have 3 more years to go. 

So what’s your real age

Written by nicolemarie

March 28, 2007 at 10:37 pm

Posted in aging, thirty

interesting reading

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In light of what I wrote yesterday, I found this to be rather interesting. 

Written by nicolemarie

March 28, 2007 at 10:00 pm

Posted in career, change, writing

i’m feeling a bit like a fraud these days

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Here’s the deal.  Back when I started this blog, a whole 2 1/2 months ago, I wrote this.  A few weeks after, I expanded on this and this was then published here.  It was easy to do, really.   I sat down at my computer found a topic that interested me and just wrote.  It didn’t take forever;it wasn’t painful.  To be honest,  it was kinda fun and exciting.  And you know what? It didn’t turn out so bad either.  People actually read the article and commented.  That was how it began.  And, apparently, ended.

Around the same time an old friend from college emailed me with some advice she passed along from her sister, who happens to be a successful writer – if you want to write, that’s terrific, but first you must decide what it is you want to write.  Okay, easy enough – non fiction essays, social commentary and opinion pieces.  What to write isn’t really the problem. The problem, has more to do with not knowing what to write about? 

I’ve been paralyzed over the last month and haven’t been able to motivate myself to write much more than this blog. Not to take anything away from this blog.  I feel like it’s been going quite well.  I put a lot of effort and energy into what I write here and unfortunately, when you factor in all the other things I have to do in a given day, it leaves little time on the side to do non-blog writing. 

So, what should I write?  What’s my niche? Who am I in the grander (writing) scheme of things? Where do it fit in? I’m not really sure what I am, but I can tell you what I’m not.  I’m not a fiction writer.  I’m not a hard news writer or a business writer.  I’m not an advice columnist.  I’m not an expert on any one topic.  I don’t write chick lit.  I’m not pretentious nor intellectual.  I’m not a wordsmith.  I’m not snarky.  Here’s what I think I am:  I’m average, typical and pretty darn predictable.  I write like I talk.  I use simple words and simple structure – all-in-all, I’m just a pretty simple gal. 

And, what should I write about? Write what you know, I’ve been told.  Here’s what I know.  I know about being a trailing spouse, about being an expat, about living overseas, about international moves, about culture shock, about finding yourself living in another country where you don’t speak the language, about learning what it means to be an American and simultaneously questioning what it means to be American.  I know about getting married young (by today’s standards), having children early in life, about giving up the idea of having a career, about losing yourself and about learning that it’s okay not to know what you want to do with your life.  I know about mental illness, I know about the pressure of perfection, about intense competition, about the fear of failure and even about the fear of taking risks. 

But really, what do I know?  What does a 29 year old trailing spouse mother of two really know?  With what authority do I speak?  And herein lies the problem.  It’s not about not knowing what to write, or even what to write about. It about confidence and self esteem.  It’s about taking chances and risks.  It’s about stepping outside the comfort zone and trying something new and different.  It’s about working at something and not expecting everything to come easy.  It’s about putting yourself out there for others to see.  It’s about being vulnerable.  And it’s about speaking with authority even though you don’t think you have any.  It’s about holding your head up high even when you’re terrified and want to hide.  It’s about going out and doing it and not just saying your going to do it. 

I guess it’s time to take that leap.  I just wish it wasn’t so damn hard.

Written by nicolemarie

March 27, 2007 at 10:22 pm

Posted in personal, writing

I smell pretty bad…

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to a mosquito, that is. 

It started about 2 weeks ago and continues with no end in sight.  A recent bought of hot weather and high humidity, aggravated by periodic rain that leaves pools of stagnant water everywhere, has resulted in a very serious mosquito problem here in Buenos Aires.  Okay, so problem may be a bit of an understatement.   It’s more like a plague.  No joke. I kid you not.   Even The Economist finds it important enough to include in this month’s city briefing

Is it ever going to end?  Seriously, it’s getting pretty freakin’ annoying. (Luckily we don’t live in an area where Malaria and/or West Nile Virus are a problem.)  My kids look like they have some weird disease that causes them to break out in big red bumps all over their arms and legs – and NO they do not have the chicken pox, measles or mumps, just something like 30 mosquito bites.  I, on the other hand, can’t complain one bit.  

You know how some people just seem to attract the attention of mosquitoes while others are able to remain bite free.  Yup, the latter, that’s me.  As my children get eaten up alive by the little buggers, I can’t count even one mosquito bite on my body.   And these aren’t your typical garden variety mosquito, these little blood suckers are aggressive and HUGE.  They bite everyone. Everyone that is, except me.  This is one time that I’m glad somebody (or something in this case) doesn’t like me. 

These mosquitoes even seem to be impervious to bug sprays like Off.  (Which, by the way, really isn’t an issue these days since we can’t even buy bug spray seeing that there isn’t any on the shelves to buy. Yes, it is that bad. Like people buying water and toilet paper before a hurricane.)  Maybe someone should just bottle up my smell.

And here’s my favorite part about having this mosquito problem – it has resulted in random acts of kindness throughout the city.  That is if you consider getting slapped upside the head an act of kindness – apparently so when it involves killing a mosquito.  And to think, next time my kids step out of line and need to be put back in their place, I can just blame the mosquitoes. [wink, wink]  Just brilliant! Absolutely brilliant!

Written by nicolemarie

March 26, 2007 at 7:20 pm