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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Birthdays


I just had a birthday. And, in taking stock of my life as one is prone to do on that yearly day, I determined that one crucial thing is missing: writing. I just don’t make the time.

So, fixer that I am, I determined that I would start to rise early to write and to exercise my dog. If writing and exercise are relegated to my evening hours, they are quickly replaced with rerun episodes of Sex and the City. I love that show, don’t get me wrong, but I think I like writing more.

Per the tradition of making short-lived, sweeping changes that I’ve spent 27 years on this earth perfecting, I decided that heretofore I would break down my days thusly:

8 hours – sleep
8 hours – work
2 hours eating and cooking
1 hour writing
2 hours school
1 hour exercise
1 hour getting ready

And just like that, Poof!, the day is gone!

I was so excited to start my new life this morning. The coffee pot was set for six am, promises were made to the dog for long walks. I couldn’t wait.

Except, I finally rolled out of bed this morning at 7:02 and woke to cold coffee and rainy skies. When I make these promises to myself, I forget how hard it is to change 27 years of habits, like never exercising in the morning and always staying in bed until the last possible second.

Ah, well, at least I eeked out a few moments to write this while sipping my microwave-warmed coffee. It’s a start. A tiny little step in the right direction.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

It's not rocket science, but this is probably the best snack ever

I'm going to share my favorite, most mind-blowing snack or mini-meal with you all because I love you. It's super simple, but it's basically perfection in every bite. 

Are you ready?

Toast up a whole wheat English muffin until it's fantastically crisp but not burnt, slather on your favorite hummus, layer with the sharpest of the sharp cheddar cheese and top with a perfectly ripe avocado. Crack some fresh sea salt and black pepper on top. 

Savor if you can, devour if you must. 

I usually fall in the devour camp. I just can't help myself. 


What's your favorite snack or mini-meal?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

What a weekend


I am ever thankful for the blessed soul that invented the cheese board. And outdoor symphony concerts with fireworks finales.


And crazy boyfriends that unapologetically drink lots of wine, even when they're in the company of non-drinkers.


And my beautiful sister and brother-in-law that I love more than I can articulate.

It was a beautiful weekend and I feel so thankful for the life I'm living these days.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Photography

I don't pretend to know much about photography, but I sure do love it. I've been dreaming of a day that I could take photographs like the one above. Now that I purchased a used DSLR, I can't wait to teach myself a thing or two about capturing beautiful images. Let the learning commence!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Rap Music Monday

I used to write a blog called A Whole Lot of Life. Every Monday, I'd share my favorite rap video of the week as a throwback to the much-loved TRL tv show. I realized this weekend that I miss writing these posts and so I'm bringing them back to Michelle's a Writer.

Okay, I just have to say that I LOVE Nicki Minaj. Obsessed. I was supposed to go out with my friend Jennifer last Friday. While I was waiting for her to come pick me up, I got sucked into this video and missed four calls from Jennifer. I was so startled when she knocked on my door - I'd been in rap la-la land. 

I guess that means I kind of like this video. I hope you do too. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Reminder: read this quote often


I came across this quote in the comments section of an article yesterday and I wrote it down right away. This sentiment rings so true with me. Last year, I drastically downsized and gave away TONS of junk. I felt so free living with fewer possessions. It was glorious. Recently I've been piling them on again, especially on the biggest waste of money ever: clothes. I started a new job a few months ago and have been struggling with feeling like I'm a bit out of my league. To compensate, I've been buying gads of clothes. 

Crazy thing is, even with new threads I still feel out of place. 

Obviously, the new possessions aren't the answer. But, I am buying them to create an impression that won't last on people that I don't really care about. I'm happy to step back and be mindful that buying things is  never the way to create confidence. As cheesy and cliche as it is to say this, confidence really can't be bought. Even if the magazines and TV ads convince us that it can. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The hearts at Union Square

GAH! How freaking gorgeous is this city? I had a work meeting in San Francisco yesterday afternoon and sacrificed some sleep to take a little jaunt around Union Square before heading home that evening.



I tend to be so future-oriented that I have trouble just soaking in the moment. Yesterday was a moment I nearly missed because I was so wound up from my work meeting. I love seeking out the hearts at the entrance of Union Square, so when I saw the latest iteration I had to take a second to pause and photograph. I think it helped me chill out and stop being such a basket case.



Do you have trouble living in the moment? It's such a huge struggle for me!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Go about the business of being great

I've waffled all week about whether or not to share my struggles in this post below. I've decided that honest is the only way I know how to be with my writing and have made a commitment to sharing my truth in this space.I believe that one thing that ties us all together is the commonality of our struggles and fears; my hope is that by sharing my own I will inspire and encourage others to persevere against theirs as well.

Here goes...

This Monday I had what many would consider a routine medical check-up, but I was just a ball of nerves. I knew that the technician would be taking my weight, blood pressure and the like. The thought filled me with dread. For the past year and a half, I have been packing on weight. I knew this, but I was scared to hear the numbers nevertheless. I can't remember a doctor's visit in my life that hasn't left me defeated and in tears because of the numbers on the scale.

I can't remember a single one.

As predicted, the news wasn't good. Ever since, I've been in such a low, sad place. It's hard to describe that feeling of being completely worthless and unworthy. All I can say is that my inability to control my weight leaves me feeling hopeless and like a failure in every facet of my life. Every facet.

I don't want to go too deep into the details; they're hard for me to think on. What I want to remember is the fact that I was able to once again pull myself up and gather my strength to continue my journey.

Tonight I had this incredible moment of clarity in which I realized just how much I want to discover and develop my creative talents. I want to share my writing, my story, my photography with the world. I think I have something beautiful to tell, something gorgeous waiting to be grown inside of me and communicated to an audience.

To get to that space, I cannot be trapped in the one I'm currently in.

This obsession about my outer looks that have no bearing on what I am inside. I made a decision: I am willing to give one hour of my day to exercise and at least two meals every day to balanced nutrition. I will give my health that gift and I will let my weight fall where it may. I refuse to give the best parts of my mind to this struggle any more.

After all, I need and I must go about the business of being great. Life is too beautiful not to give it my best effort.




Monday, August 6, 2012

Thoughts on home


I don't think I remember what it feels like to look around me and think, "it feels so good to be home, here in this moment, exactly where I belong". I couldn't wait to break away from my tiny hometown  and then, at my first opportunity, I did just that. I've been bouncing around for the last ten years, always ignoring that ants-in-my-pants feeling beckoning me to pick up and move again in search of home. 

I do have one place, though, where I just need to live. Whenever I visit, I imagine living there. I wonder if I could hack it, think about what it'd be like to shop for groceries there and hop on the BART at that stop.That place is the Oakland/Berkeley area. I was fortunate to visit Sunday and grab lunch at Jupiter Cafe and pop into a coffee shop for an iced mocha before heading home. 

I snapped a photo of the poetry board while in line for the bathroom at the coffee shop and I just couldn't help but feel like "this is my home, this is where I belong" even though I live about a hundred miles away right now. A hundred miles is nothing at this point. 

What is home to you?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

If I were a hipster

The poor hipsters get a bad rap these days, but I just love their easy style. I've been smitten by oversized, dorky, tortoise-shell glasses for a hot minute and I finally bit the proverbial bullet and ordered my first pair online recently.
I can't wait to look back on pictures of myself in these things in a decade and wonder what the eff  I was thinking.
Thing is, I really do not know how to dress myself. I insist on buying everything at 80% off. As such, I'm at the mercy of the clearance rack. I'm constantly a season behind schedule and picking through everything the stylish girls left behind.

If I could shun my cheap ways and somehow find a bigger pocketbook, I'd totally cop these outfits:



1. Cutest scarf and top knot, right? 2. Again with the top knots + glasses! 3. HIPSTER, HIPSTER, HIPSTER! 4. I think the dog rocks the hipster glasses better than I do. 

Would you rock the hipster trend?



Monday, July 30, 2012

On jumping in

I made my way to a nearby Reservoir yesterday to partake in my first day on the water this summer. Glorious, I tell you, fantastically glorious. 

I spent the entire afternoon wading around the shore and watching other people swim. I debated for hours whether or not to submerge myself in the potentially cold water until I had a realization: I'm intentionally putting myself on the sidelines just because I'm afraid of being just a bit uncomfortable. 

I think it's easy to become this way - complacent. We all know what we want, but too often we are afraid to go for it for myriad of (often very logical!) reasons. 

We don't want to be cold, uncomfortable, scared, alone, wrong. Those feelings suck. They truly do. 

But, sweltering on the sidelines while other people make the jump sucks too, albeit in a different way. You end up missing out on the deep, exciting, beautiful complexities of life. 

I'm thankful I coached myself into the water yesterday. I swam for nearly an hour, wading out into water so deep I couldn't hold my breath long enough to touch the bottom. I floated lazily on my back, with my pool noodle, and sent up a little prayer of thanks that I had the courage to jump off the sidelines this time. 



And, I made a resolution to keep up my momentum of fearlessness. Every day.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

So many things

I have so many things I want to say, but I feel scared to share my true self. It's hard to admit publicly that I'm terrified to write in this blog and truly pursue my writing career (on my own terms) because the possibility of failure looms so large. I understand that it's still failure if I don't try, but it's not such an obvious sort of failure, I guess. The crazy thing is, I think about this blog every damn day. I brainstorm writing topics, I daydream, I fantasize. But, I just don't follow through. It's a theme that translates to virtually every corner of my life. I want to pay off my debt, but I remain stuck in the spending spirals I've been fighting since I first started earning money. I want to work out reguarly, but I start/fail/start/fail over and over again. I want to eat well and break free from the bonds of emotional eating that have plagued me since childhood. So many things, I want. But, for some reason I will not, cannot, have not, made them happen. I'm tempted to make the same proclamations that I always do: I WILL CHANGE. I WILL BE THE PERSON I WANT TO BE. I'm tempted to shout it from the rooftops. The problem is that I've heard those proclamations very loudly and clearly too many times to count. My ears hurt and my faith is thin. I'm not sure where to begin.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dear Self: Stop freaking the eff out!

I remembered while blow drying my hair this morning at 7:55 that I had an 8:30 appointment somewhere across town and the address of where I needed to be was at work...in the complete opposite direction. 

Crap. 

I wish I could say I handled the situation with grace, but I did the complete opposite. My boyfriend's innocuous question was met with a "WHAT!??" while I rushed out the door pissed that I was going to be late and endure an early morning without coffee. 

Kill me. 

The day went better after that. How could it not? Work is awesome. I still feel like I'm swimming and grasping and all of those other words synonymous with completely overwhelmed, but I do love the challenge. 

I was just sitting on the couch reading blogs and came across one that inspired me to write again. I never want to stay away too long because I love blogging and blogs so damn much. My brain is fried from a lot of late nights at the office lately, but my inspiration helped me find beauty in the most mundane things around me tonight. 

Example 1:

My little DIY jewelry box. It's not much, but it's beautiful and functional and makes my life a lot easier every single day. It's hanging by the light switch in the bathroom and I often look at it and give myself props for spending that two dollars at Goodwill and taking a day to paint it. 

Example 2:


This poem, Ubuntu, by a local author. It's beautiful and (I think!) creatively and cheaply framed. I'm in love with the message and the top graphic. 

Example 3:



I hope to get a dog in the very near future and often tease myself by visiting a Boxer adoption rescue site and looking at brindle Boxers. I can't wait to play not-fetch with a dog of my own someday.

When I was frantically driving to work this morning, holding back tears of frustration, I wish I could've had a window into the future. Maybe I would've simmered down a bit and let things roll off me had I known I'd read inspirational literature, make a triumphant return to blogging and watch a video of the world's cutest boxer cruising around the backyard.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Since I've been gone

I started a fancy new job a couple of weeks ago. I'm able to focus on social media full-time now and work with super smart people at a great company.

Understandably, I've been a little overwhelmed as I adjust to this new change (and chance!) in my life.

I've been having a lot of pinch-me moments lately, and I wanted to take a second to step back and remember just how amazing it feels to look forward to going to work every day. It makes all the difference in the world.

All the difference.

Monday, April 9, 2012

a silly little poem




on rainy nights like this
gads of snails line the walkway to my door
I feel bad when I squish them

the big lie my generation told me

I attribute my late silence to growing pains. When I'm processing heavy stuff, my words seem to leave me. It's like I need all of my brain power to stew on my thoughts until I can come to some sort of conclusion.

Thankfully, I've finally reached it:

My generation lied to me.

Perhaps lie is too strong a word because it implies a willful act. It means that someone, somewhere premeditated an action and determined to kill the truth. Or at least hide it.

I'm going to remain positive and believe that my generation is just mistaken. Misinformed.

All I know for sure is that whoever equated living a meaningful life with doing work that lights a fire in your belly really missed the point. Woefully missed the point.

I've finally uncovered that the path to a meaningful life is a varied as a snowflake.

For some, that means putting in eight hours at a workplace so you can provide a safe home for your family. For others, that means the life of a nomad, living on the road. And, yes, for others that means making a living writing or freelancing or owning a small business.

I don't have all the answers, but I do know this:

For me, finding a meaningful life begins with finding contentment.

I started this blog in a very discontented place. I believed that my life had no value because I wasn't living off my passion. I had let others convince me that I was renting out my mind and settling for something I didn't want. I lost sleep worrying about how to make money off my passion. I cried on my lunch breaks. I put an incredible amount of pressure on myself, believing that I wasn't worth anything unless I wrote for a living. I read blogs and felt like I could never measure up.

I forced myself into believing that I would be happy if I could just ____.

That was my error.

That was the lie I believed. That something needed to happen before I could embrace happiness.

In reality, happiness was sitting there waiting for me to grab her. To claim her for my own whatever the circumstance. I realized that the universe gifted me with unique talents in the field I'm currently in. I understood that trying to convert my passion for writing into a paycheck diluted it into a chore. Instead of letting my words flow and writing about what suited my fancy, I hawked my words to publications that dictated word counts and deadlines and topics that didn't interest me. In the meantime, I let beautiful time go to waste at a job that matters to me, my work that impacts lives.

For weeks now, I've embraced my current moment.

I've woken up excited to go to work. I've fallen in love with a new form of exercise. I've relaxed in the evening watching Downton Abby. I've stopped grinding my teeth in my sleep. I've reveled in sleeping in on Sunday mornings instead of punishing myself logging miles to keep up with the running Jones'.

At the same time, I'm still striving, still looking forward, still excited about the future. The difference is: I'm also perfectly content just where I'm at.

And that's the truth.

Belie' dat homie.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

should I train for another half marathon?

Pretty much the moment I crossed the finish line for the half marathon a week and a half ago, I have been stressing over whether or not I want to start training for another one right away.

I am not sure why I can't be like a normal person and bask in the glory of running 13.1 miles without immediately thinking of how I'm going to one-up myself the next go-around.

The thing is, I honestly DO NOT want to go through the training again. It's murderous to spend your entire weekend dreading waking up Sunday morning and running for one, two, almost three hours. I hated walking around like a zombie on my beloved weekend. I hated the anticipation and worry leading up to the race.

The only thing I sort of liked was the running. And I mean it when I say I  sort of liked it.

Actually, there was one other thing I liked: losing weight. I don't weigh myself so I can't throw out a number, but I do know that I dropped a few pounds during the training. I felt good, strong, capable. I'm scared that if I don't keep pushing myself I'll gain it all back. I'm well on my way already without the motivation of the training plan.

I guess the answer is clear in reading through this post:

I'm not going to run the next race. My heart just isn't there. BUT, I am going to join the gym and continue running, taking Zumba classes and lifting weights.

Maybe I'll just give myself a training plan and some other motivating factor for finishing it. Because, really, how is a race any kind of reward for completing nine weeks of training?

You know what is, though?

A little shopping spree or, even better, a massage. Yeah, I could go for that.

Anyone care to join me?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Moving forward

I'm convinced that writing, for me, is a compulsion. My mind constantly swirls with ideas I want to form and spread with my world. Too often, those ideas evaporate before I even have an opportunity to connect them to paper. The one I write about below accompanied me on my trip to the grocery store this evening. I thought it so special, I scribbled it in one of the notes pages of my planner in the parking lot before I began my commute home. 


I think I ate the best six inch turkey on honey oat of my life today during lunch. My mind was full as I shoveled it in staring out the window, thinking and worrying about a call I had to make to the landlord as soon as I took that last, delicious bite.

I watched two girls walk over from the optometrist office next door and pause to take the final drags off their cigarettes, one precariously balancing her cooked lean cuisine sandwich and Diet Dr. Pepper on her hip before heading inside to continue their conversation two tables behind me.

I couldn't help myself from feeling those pricks of judgement in my stomach as Lean Cuisine dropped her cigarette on the ground without taking a moment to stomp it out. The nerve!

Not even thirty seconds later, a couple strode down the sidewalk. A little rough around the edges, battle wounds from life's hard knocks criss-crossing their faces. Without even pausing, she bent down for that cigarette and took a long pull before passing it off to her partner and continuing her conversation.

Moving forward.

Witnessing that small moment from the outside, I couldn't help but consider how interconnected we all are whether we acknowledge it or not.

The exchange of body fluids.
The relief of a few nicotine puffs.
Three lives brushing against each other, separated by one's excess and another's want.
Worlds apart, but moving forward.
Always moving forward.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Look ma, I finished something

I ran my first half marathon yesterday. Though I trained six days each week for the past couple of months, nothing prepared me for what went down on the streets of Sacramento yesterday. Nothing.

First, let me preface this by saying I've aspired to run a half marathon since early 2010. Around that time, I started reading blogs from the likes of Skinny Runner and Healthy Tipping Point. Somewhere along the line, I idealized the race as some sort of magical experience. Not sure why, but I thought it would be this empowering go me come-to-Jesus moment.

It was not.

It more closely resembled 13.1 miles of mental battles and death. Yes, death. It was hard. Not hard like those stupid motivational posters that say "pain is temporary, finishing is forever".

It was hard like losing track of what freaking mile it was after mile 8.




It was hard like I can barely walk today.

It was hard like seeing the 11 mile mark and wondering how on earth I was going to make through another 2.1 miles.

It was hard like holding back tears of anxiety before the starting horn and tears of relief after crossing the finish line.



For other people out there like me, slightly overweight and overzealous mixed with a touch idealism, please realize that training for half marathon will likely be one of the hardest things you've ever attempted. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.

But, if I can do it, you most certainly can too. It's completely within your reach if you fully commit and are willing to drastically rearrange your life and habits for a few months.

I think that's what I'm most proud of. For me, it's not really about crossing that finishing line. It's that I said I was going to do this amazing thing and I did. I wanted to quit so many times, even entertained the thought the night before the race.

But, I did it. I actually finished something, just for me. I think that made a training plan like this worth it.

I think.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

really, mcdonalds? when did water become a courtesy?

You know something that really makes my blood boil?

Corporations doing their very best to make and keep America fat. I'm not going to pretend that I'm any sort of authority on the topic on food politics, but I do have one personal experience that pisses me off even now.

Let me set the scene:

I had a rough day at work, and like any recovering emotional eater I had one thing on my mind. CHOCOLATE.

I spent a good two hours resisting that siren beckoning me to the McDonalds drive-through until I just couldn't take it anymore and gave in. Emotions won. I was on my way to get one dollar McDonalds hot fudge Sundae.

My mouth watered at the thought.

On the way there, my watering mouth reminded myself to get some H2O to go with my sundae because there's nothing worse than having no water to sate the post ice-cream thirst. You know what I mean?

I pull into the double drive-thru and a woman with a latin accent asks me if I want to try some dulce de apple thing and I reply with my kindest voice, "no, but thank you for the offer."

Totally jars me when a completely different, male voice pipes up on the intercom to get my order seconds later. Damn you, McDonalds! Your savvy marketing gets me every time!

Anyway, I proceed to order. "may I please have a hot fudge sundae and a large cup of water, please?"

"nuts with your sundae?" McDonalds man-boy.

"Yes, thank you for asking"

"We don't have large waters. We only have courtesy waters. You have to pay for large waters."

In my head, I'm thinking, since when did water become a courtesy? Isn't it free? But then I remember some places selling that bull crap story about the cost of the cup to justify charging for free tap water and I reply:

"oh, okay. Well, how much is a large water, then?" I figure I'll spring for the extra five cents for the big cup. It's one of my healthy habits. I try to always get a large water when I go out to eat to attempt to balance out all the processed junk I'm shoveling in, seeing as how water is so so important.

"The same cost as any large drink. Do you want that or the courtesy water" McDonalds man-boy.

This is the point where I get EXTREMELY pissed. WHY IN THE HELL ARE YOU CHARGING THE SAME PRICE AS A SODA FOR A CUP OF FREE WATER?

Oh yeah, because you know average Joe is probably just going to say  "give me a coke then" instead of taking your rinky dink water cup. Seriously, that thing is four ounces of liquid! Americans want more value for our dollar, even if it means ingesting a liquid that is a proven risk to our health.

"No thank you. I don't want any water at all" I replied.

I've never had a McDonalds sundae since and I do my best to avoid that place. I'm not usually one to get all up-in-arms about evil corporations, but I think that McDonalds "courtesy water" policy is complete bull crap.

I'd rather stick with Starbucks, where I can at least order a venti water to accompany my non-fat venti misto extra hot (and feel like a complete tool for using their lingo so fluidly).



At least they're getting something right in my book.

What do you think? Is McDonald's courtesy water as bad as I think it is?


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Breaking the habit

I'm ashamed to admit this to, in effect, the entire world, but I promised myself I would be authentic so here goes.

Sometimes when I spy a very obese woman on a social outing with my boyfriend, I quietly point her out and ask him if he'd still be with me if I looked like her.

It's not the first time I've done this, either. Every man I've dated seriously has endured this question multiple times from my very obviously insecure self.

Tonight it's just dawning on me how completed effed up it is on so many levels.

The first is the fact that I am objectifying the very personal struggle of a fellow woman, judging her completely on the basis of her looks and not, to quote MLK Jr, the content of her character. If I put myself in her shoes, I'd be crushed to overhear someone speaking of me like that. It's just downright mean and spiteful and I promise I'll never do it again.

Promise.

Secondly, this little game shows just how much I believe deep in my soul that I am only lovable or valuable when I fit a societal standard of beauty. In my 26 years, I've seen the scale peak at 197 and dip below 120. Crazy thing is, I've always felt like the same old me inside no matter my weight. Sure, I felt uncomfortable at my heaviest and received the most compliments in my 120s. But, internally? Completely the same.

I thought the same, laughed the same, cried the same, worried the same no matter how I looked.

I was just Michelle.

Emotional, angsty, encouraging, giving, type-A Michelle. But somehow, the smaller me was more popular, more accepted, more loved. The smaller me could breathe a little easier because, on some level, I believed that people would continue to love me because I was smaller.

Since yesterday, I've been struggling with a lot of body issues. For the past couple of months I've been hitting the gym pretty hard, avoiding sugar, eating better. I've lost some weight, but it's not enough. I see pictures of myself and feel pissed that I let that scale climb back up despite my promises that I wouldn't.

I'm basing my self-worth on the way I look and it's exhausting. Truly exhausting.

It creates this disturbing cycle of unhappiness and I'd like nothing more to break it but I wonder if it's even possible. Is it possible to reject the standard of beauty I've been fed childhood? Can I ever get to the point where I base my self-worth on the way I treat others, how hard I work, living a life of passion?

Of course, I want to say I can, but I honestly have no idea where to start. How does one go about unlearning a lifetime of thoughts and habits?

Can we all just pretend that didn't happen?

Every, freaking time I read the blog of a social media person they go on and on and on about the importance of finding and identifying a niche and sticking to it come hell or high water.

You guys know how much I want to have a this stellar, amazing blog and so finding a niche causes me a ridiculous amount of agony.

It's stupid, really, how much I worry that no one will want to read my blog unless I'm writing about fashion or healthy living or do-it-yourself projects.

That why I wrote this post (in a fit of emotion and stress) about the Finding my Passion project.

I feel like I'm in high school again, trying desperately to fit in with some "popular" crowd when all I actually want to do is write about whatever matters to me.

Because, I actually know my passion already.

It's writing. Duh.

And so, that's what I'm going to do. It's all I know how to do.

I'm going to write about my life, my struggles, the things I'm learning, how I'm growing. I'm just going to be myself and not try to constrain my voice to some self-imposed niche.

I hope that's cool with you.

Because it's a-okay with me.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

San Francisco, how I love thee


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Finding my passion project

I want to be a professional blogger more than anything. I think about how I'm going to make blogging my career almost every moment of every day. I dream of creating a website that affects people's lives in a big way; in the same way blogs have affected my life.

I turn to Healthy Tipping Point for motivation to lead a balanced life. To A Beautiful Mess for inspiration to find beauty every day. To Zen Habits for guidance on finding focus. To Fitnessista for exercise tips. To Dooce for humor and storytelling.

The list goes on.

I'm bothered by the fact that I have no real passion or purpose to my blogging. 

I write whatever inspires me that day. All too often, that seems to be the fact that I want to write for a living and I'm unhappy with my current job. To be honest, I'm even bored with writing about that topic.

Problem is, I don't know if I want to write about fitness or fashion or DIY or healthy living or relationships or personal development or decoration or travel.

I don't have a very obvious interest that would motivate and inform my blog. As a writer, I'm so used to someone telling me what I'm going to write about that I have trouble just picking something out of the blue to focus on.

So, I decided on a big undertaking:

I will "try on" different blogging styles to see what I love most.

Every couple of weeks, I will announce the new focus of this blog. I'll attack that topic with gusto for a bit and then summarize my thoughts.

Hopefully, by the end of my experiment I'll have a clear picture of my interests and make the commitment to a blogging focus for Michelle's a Writer.

I can't wait to get started! I'm creating a separate page for the Finding my Passion Project in the navigation. Please follow along with me on this exciting adventure.

Now, the question is...

What should I conquer first?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Quit making excuses!

I don't know about you, but I can find an excuse for anything. 


My latest centers around the need for a laptop. My justification for my inconsistent blogging is that I don't have a laptop. Never mind I have a perfectly acceptable albeit slow computer on the lovely desk in my bedroom. It's just that after sitting behind a desk all day at work, the last thing I want to do is neglect the boyfriend and spend my evenings at a different desk.

See? An excuse if I ever heard one.

Thing is, I'm tired of my own excuses. So, I took matters into my own hands:


Enter the most ghetto-fabulous writing station on this planet. I laugh just looking at this photo, but it works. I finished out the Women I love series from the comfort of my couch while Keith watched a movie. We were able to sit and talk while I did what I love most:

write. 

As humans, we're problem solvers. We see a need and we fill it. In our lazy culture, we look around for a new material possession when we have a need. In my experience, the possession is the crutch. If you have passion and intelligence, you have the tools to be successful. Period. 

Do I still want a laptop? You betcha. But, I want to write for a living more. Even if that means I write at my janky computer "desk" until the kingdom comes.  



Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Women I love - Part III

This post is part of my Women I Love series. Read more about it here


Beyonce


Successful women deserve celebration. I'm not talking about success in it's traditional, narrow definition. I'm talking about women that determine what they want out of life and put in the work to make that happen. This seems like the theme of my little Women I Love series. 

I often struggle with my box as a woman. Though I identify with many of the cultural stereotypes and expectations of my gender,my blood boils when I feel constrained by what I should be "focusing on" at this point in my life. I hate the questions about babies and boyfriends and mortgages. I feel frustrated that I don't move forward at work simply because of my female status. I want to hate fashion and baking because I think that I should spend more of my energy on things that matter, whatever that means. 

Women like Beyonce prove that I need not fret too much about how everything is going to come together. She seems to have spent her time and energy on whatever she most wanted in that moment. She gave her everything to Destiny's Child, her solo career, her marriage, taking over her management and, these days, motherhood. 

I know there are trade-offs to it all. I acknowledge that it's always going to be hard to find balance as a women in this culture, no matter what stage I find myself in. 

What I'm taking away from this little writing series on Women I love is that I find myself so afraid of having to make those difficult choices that I avoid making a choice at all. 

I'm scared to be funky and fearless and relentless in the pursuit of my dreams because I'm afraid to fail. I'm also afraid that it's not the right thing for me. That, somehow, I'll find myself on the path I've always wanted and then determine that I didn't really want that at all. I'll be looking around for the stable, boring desk job again and complaining about the frustrations of the life I've carved for myself. 

Here's the thing: I'm done with the worries. They just bring me down. 

I'm going to continue to go for my writing career and put my everything into building this blog. I see what I want for myself very clearly and I'm going to go for it. A la Nicki Minaj, I know what I want, so GET OUT THE WAY. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Women I love - Part II

This post is part of my Women I Love series. Read more about it here

Rihanna


I'm pretty sure most women of the world won't agree with me right now when I say I just love Ri-Ri.

I totally get it.

I'm as mad as you are about her recent collaborations with Chris Brown.As a woman that swam through the murky waters of domestic violence and is now, finally, drying in the sun, I hate to see her diving back in.

But, that can't stop me from loving her. Even though this probably makes me sound like a celebrity-obsessed loser, I can't help myself from saying that Rihanna is everything I wish I could be.

Which is:
  • Fearless
  • Unconcerned with what people think of her
  • Relentless in pursuing her dreams
  • A tad tacky
  • Funky
  • Real
So, I'm pretty sure Rihanna will be on my Women I love list for a bit. Please don't let it come between us. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Women I love - Part I

I have no interest in pretending to be worldly and cultured and high-minded.

I'm pretty messy. I oversleep most mornings. I procrastinate. I rarely cook. I love popular music. More specifically, I'm apologetically obsessed with rap and hip-hop and R&B.

It's no surprise, then, that the my current girl crushes happen to be musical powerhouses. Here's the first.

Note: I intended this to be a single post, but I had too much to say. It has now become a series. Why? Because this is my blog and I DO WHAT I WANT. 



Nicki Minaj

Why do I love Nicki? Let me count the ways:
  1. She's a BOSS and she owns it - She's a professional, hardworking lady that doesn't quibble with sharing her opinions about anything. She goes after what she wants with gusto and doesn't stop for anyone. Get on the train or GET OUT THE WAY. 
  2. She has a signature sound and look that is, uh, unconventional to say the least - She lets her freak flag fly and she stills sells records. My kinda girl.
  3. She pauses to say thanks - I wouldn't call myself a #barbie, but I do find her twitter exchanges with her fans hilarious. You can have your opinions as to whether or not this is just clever marketing or a true connection with her supporters. I, obviously, think she really cares about reppin' and empowerin' the average girl. 
  4. She doesn't need a man - I sorta love that she isn't constantly "rumored to be with so-and-so" all the time. She's working hard and not attaching herself to a man for additional publicity. I like that all of her success is attributed to her hard work. 
  5. She's part of Young Money - Okay, I should also disclose that I'm a die-hard Weezy fan. I love that he signed and promoted Nicki throughout her entire rise to the top. Out of all the rappers out there signing new talent, I feel like Weezy's done the most for his artists. 
Did I miss anything?


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Be Kind. All the time.

Dear people of the world,

I know you recently watched a movie with a line that tugged at your heartstrings. It went something like this:

You is kind
You is smart
You is important

I saw your eyes tear up in the theater. Those words resonated with you for some reason. Maybe you need someone to tell you more often that you are infinitely important. That your ideas are intelligent and worthwhile.

They are and you are. 

But, please don't gloss over the magic of those first words. 

You is kind.

Are you, actually, kind?

Do you give a heartfelt thank you to your partner or your assistant for the innumerable things they do for you on a daily basis?

Do you pause a moment to give a sincere compliment before providing feedback on an important work project?

Do you think about the way you speak to your child before responding to their questions?

Do you ooze love from your entire being?

My honest answer? 

Nope.

I just scanned through my recent outgoing emails and text messages and found very little kindness. I thought back to my recent interactions with the people I love most and didn't find a lot of true kindness. I considered a recent email from my boss with valid and necessary feedback on work I poured my heart and soul into. Her email stung because it wasn't enveloped in kindness. 

I know we can do better. 

Afterall, 

We are kind 
We are smart
We are important

and I think it's high time we started acting that way. 

This is my motto:



Will you join me in making it yours?

Michelle 


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Out She Goes

I put the finishing touches on an article for a local magazine tonight. I'm writing about a local poetry event and I'm proud of how it turned out.

I feel like I'm on the cusp of some huge life changes right now, giving everything I have to living the life of my dreams. 99 percent of the time, I want to pinch myself to make sure this is actually real. I'm scared to death, asking myself things like "what about insurance?" and "do you really think you're good enough for this?" more than I'd like to admit.

Then I remind  myself of how happy I feel to write an article without pay on a Saturday night. I think about how alive I feel when I'm putting words to paper and I know that this is worth every single risk.

I'm worth the risk.

Here are some images from that night. I'll post the link when the article goes live.





Friday, February 17, 2012

I'm choosing joy

Trust me, I hate the phrase "choose joy" as much as you do.

I've always been puzzled by it, really. I mean, if it's just a matter of choice, then why the hell is there such a thing as clinical depression?

Why do we go through the hullabaloo of sadness if there's some sort of magical switch we can find inside ourselves to flick on for 24/7 happiness?

Those were my questions.

Unfortunately I still don't have any answers. What I do know is this: it really sucks to duck out of your office at work to walk around the block and cry your eyes out. I also blows to see your boyfriend after work and have the poor guy scared to even talk to you.

I've written before about how I'm struggling with situational depression right now. Basically, I hate my job. I used to hate where I live, but I fixed that last weekend. I'm working on the job situation, but I'm going to be here until at least April 15th.

I was in crazy town yesterday afternoon because I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that April 15th is about sixty days away.  Sixty days seems like an awfully long time to spend alone in my  office.

On my way to work this morning, I decided that the next two months will be another life lesson for me in finding joy and contentment even when I'm not happy. It's no secret life is hard, but I want to package and bring happiness with me wherever I go. I want to be kind and loving and happy even when life isn't going the way I want. 

To do that, I need to find a way to shine my light. I know I have one buried under all my negativity of late. And so from here on out, I'm going to let that thing shine like a mo fo.

If you grew up in the church like I did, my light analogy might remind you of a little song that went something like:

this little light of mine
I'm going to let it shine
let it shine
let it shine
let it shine
let it shine

Look at me shine:



Thursday, February 16, 2012

My Why

After two months of inquiries and follow-up emails, we finally sat in the cold conference room directly across from each other. I felt nervous to be the focus of the conversation. 

I had gone above and beyond enough that I knew I didn't have to worry about losing my job, but a performance review wracks my nerves every time. It follows the same format for me:

"It's impressive that you did this and that. 

But,

*sucks in breath*

you need to stop caring so much about the work you do. 

Don't take it personally when people don't follow-up or care about your ideas. 

Try to separate yourself from the work so that you're not emotionally connected to the outcomes so much."

To the corporate and non-profit world, this is my failing:

I care too much about my work.

That's why I feel like a misfit. Like I'll never really be happy in a 9-5 because the why matters so much to me. It's the reason I tend to start strong and fizzle out when I have trouble putting my name in front of an organization because the work they do doesn't align with my personal ethics. 

Thankfully, I finally accept that I don't fit. 

Instead of forcing my round self into a square box, I'm creating my own template. I'm growing my freelancing and writing and starting a new website that focuses on healthy living. 

Why?

I believe that we're all capable of much more than we're doing for ourselves, but we have allowed others to strip us of our power. 

We're scared. 

We need a normal someone to show us by example that we're capable of great things. 

I want to use my words and my life to be that example. 

I care too much about it to waste my time doing anything else. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Boyfriend of the year

I think the true litmus test of a relationship is how well a couple copes with stress. In my previous [v. unhealthy] relationship, anything remotely stressful like taking an afternoon trip to a nearby village almost always involved a fight. 

This weekend, my man helped me move back to Modesto. I think it was the least stressful move in my personal history. We practically skipped into the UHaul office at 8am and finished the entire process (including the final deep cleaning of the old place) by 1pm Saturday. 



He even endured my new landlord's racist question of whether or not he was "The Help" with a dignity and grace I can only imagine. 

He was crazy enough to join me for a seven-mile long run Sunday afternoon with very little training. Having someone on the trail with me was nothing short of amazing. While running, I reached out to pinch his cute little booty, not realizing that my actions were witnessed by a little girl and her mother behind us.

 

I'm sure it wasn't the best thing for young eyes, but I just couldn't resist. Sometimes there's nothing else you can do when you're in the presence of boyfriend of the year. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Just Keep Running

Not long ago, I determined to make a third attempt at a half marathon. Like most things Michelle, I started out gung-ho, balls-to-the-wall, or whatever you want to call it. Training killed me the first couple of weeks, but I powered through even though I spent nearly every work day pinching myself to keep from falling asleep at my desk.

I'm finishing the fourth week now, officially at the half-way point.

Honestly, all I want to do is quit.

It takes a supreme act of will to change into my running garb and scoot out the door or into the gym six days every week. I've been convincing myself that I don't care about the race any more. That I don't like running at all. That I'm not meant to be a runner.

But, this sunset.


This sunset changed my mind.

If I hadn't committed myself to this training program and told everyone and their mother about my participation, I can guarantee that yesterday night would've found my ass firmly planted on the couch.

I'd be watching Bones or Law & Order: SVU or something equally terrifying, guaranteeing a difficult bedtime hours later. Or, I'd be reading beautiful blogs that make me feel like a waste of space on this planet. I might even be reading Rolling Stone while burning a healthy dinner.

I sure as shit wouldn't be outside, dragging my bones across the pavement. I wouldn't log 2 miles with excitement for the moment I finished my "out and back" and had the opportunity to turn around and actually run into the sunset.

I swear, every day teaches me something.

I'm losing focus on crossing the finish line, but I'm learning that the reward of actually completing something doesn't always come in the anticipated ways. Opening my eyes to actually see a beautiful sunset is an accomplishment in and of itself.

It's only a bonus that I happened to be running while my tired eyes feasted.



Monday, February 6, 2012

Not sure where this is going

I attended a webinar a few days ago that still has me thinking.

Thankfully, I realized that I have no interest in spending all of my time building a blog that helps people become a freelance writer. I thought I did.

I did have a huge epiphany, though.

An idea I brushed off a year ago as impossible isn't impossible at all.

I have an idea that will change the world.

So, I think I'm going to spend my time developing that instead of doing photo challenges or writing a blog about becoming a writer.

It doesn't necessarily mean I'll never write here anymore,

but it is certainly an about-face from the direction I was heading.

Finally, I'm starting to realize that doesn't mean failure at all. It's just another stop on this wild ride I call life.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Photo Challenge: Hands

After a few months dipping my toes into the minimalism movement, I've determined that I need balance.

I staunchly believe that we accumulate too much crap in our culture and find myself in a bit of a financial pickle due to my own poor choices. But, a life with a severely restricted wardrobe and no allowances for feminine pleasures like up-dos and fiery red fingernails?

That, my friends, is not the life for me.



This photo is part of the February Photo Challenge by @fatmumslim. Learn more about why I'm participating here.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Photo Challenge: words

Words give me life. Reading a book, writing a blog post, receiving a loving text message from my mom, endless hours with my google reader. I devour anything written.

Lately, I'm determined to derive my living through words. I'm overflowing with so many ideas, I often find myself coming home from work and furiously etching out businesses plans on the dry-erase board hanging in my kitchen. Below is yesterday's revelation.


The real challenge, though, is living by my word

That involves taking responsibility for making my carefully-laid plans a reality. 

It involves sticking with my ideas even when they're not popular. 

It involves huge risk, because underlying all of the plans is this promise:

I will live a meaningful life, on my own terms. 

This photo is part of the February Photo Challenge by @fatmumslim. Learn more about why I'm participating here

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Photo Challenge: My View

I considered finding an artsy angle to photograph or snapping a sunset picture on my run today for this initial photo in the challenge, but let's be real here.

This is my view for way too many hours every day:


I sit in my fishbowl a midst sounds of the shredder directly across from my door. I'm often confused as the office secretary and I rarely interact with a soul.

Such is the corporate life, I guess.

This photo is part of the February Photo Challenge by @fatmumslim. Learn more about why I'm participating here


Fear and being consistent

Last week, this blog welcomed its first readers. Positively Meesh goes down in my personal history as my first comment.

So, what does Michelle do when people actually start reading the words she writes?

Clam up, of course.

Damn you, fear! I started second-guessing everything I wanted to say in my typical fashion. Radio silence on the Michelle's a Writer interwebs for pert-near an entire week.

Thankfully, I had a bunch of inspiration last night and have a slew of posts in the works. This morning, I was thinking about how I'm going to overcome my fear and be a consistent blogger. I decided to create an editorial calendar and do some pre-writing to have my posts at the ready.

And then, I came across this:

Serendipity.

I've never done a photo challenge, but February seems like a perfect month to give it a go. I'm excited! See you later today with a picture of my view.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Coming out of my depression

On two separate occasions, my sisters approached me with the d word.

"It's not that you're showing the typical signs of depression," she said. "It's just that you have so many highs and lows. I noticed that especially when you lived with me. Obviously, you were going through a lot at that time, but I still worried."

"You know grandma struggled with depression her entire life," the other said. "It's not something to be ashamed of, but it's definitely something you should think about. We just want you to be happy."

Though I appeared receptive, my blood boiled inside. How can you ask me if I'm depressed and then leave me to go on with my lonely life day after day? How can I tell you that I am unhappy with my work and in the same breath hear you encourage me to stick it out because the economy is tough (while still asking me if I'm depressed)? How can I go through a devastating divorce at 24 and not experience highs and lows? Is that even possible?

I continued on with my life, sinking lower every day.

I'd go home on my lunch break and cry big alligator tears, asking myself


"what the hell is wrong with you? You have a good job, a great apartment, a [nice] new boyfriend. You've made a new life for yourself and yet you still can't find the resolve to be happy? You ungrateful wench."

I'm sure you know this, but self-deprecation only propels the spiral of depression. Soon, you're trapped in the bottom of that tunnel. Surrounded by four walls that don't let an ounce of light in.

Escapism Saved Me


I'd sit behind my desk and couple an hour of intense productivity with an hour of blissful escapism into the blog world. Their stories showed me examples of people living their passion, proving to me that it is possible to dearly love the work you put into this world. Blogs encouraged me to live off my passion, to value travel above material possessions, to pursue my dreams even if they seemed crazy.

They encouraged me to do something every day to make my dreams a reality. Never wait for the right time to make a move. To contact editors even when I was almost sure of rejection. To start another blog.

They gave me hope.

Hope gave me action.

Action gave me a way out.

I'm not sure what my future will bring, but I know without a doubt that I am moving resolutely in the direction of my dreams.

And, thankfully, I'm not taking that depression with me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Improving my interviews - a basic, common sense approach

Thankfully, the days of mini cassette recorders died with the advent of the iPhone. Returning to field of journalism doesn't mean fumbling with rewind and keeping track of itty bitty tapes anymore. Thank God.

So happy I don't have to worry about you anymore

Recording my recent interviews via iPhone revealed one unavoidable truth: I probably make my interview subjects feel  very uncomfortable.

There


were


so


many


awkward


pauses

as I attempted to write down every single word of the interview I was already recording anyway. I left my interviews with pages and pages of sloppy, handwritten notes. If I'm going to make a serious go of this whole writing thing, I figure I need to step up my interview game in a big way.

Why? I want my interviewees to feel comfortable sharing their truth with me. I hope to build long lasting relationships as a result of my interviews. I need to get stellar quotes and killer content that distinguishes me as a fabulous writer.

Here's my game plan going forward:

  1. Do a soundcheck to make sure I can clearly hear my interviewee on the recorder before starting the conversation
  2. Create a detailed list of questions on my notepad and check them off as I ask them
  3. Take one word notes during the interview of memorable quotes to guide the writing/editing process afterwards
  4. Upload interviews to soundcloud, external hard drive or similar service after interview just in case anything happens to my phone before I submit my article (heaven forbid)
  5. In the car immediately after the interview, try to outline the important parts of the conversation (procrastinator I am, I doubt this will happen)
  6. Continue to listen to all transcripts and find ways to make my interviews feel more like a conversation
This seemed like a great idea for a blog post initially. Now that I'm reading it, it seems pretty basic but I'm still going to keep it. Surely I can't be the only one that has a long way to go in my interview process. 

Do you have any tricks of the trade to share? Do tell! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It's good to be a little overwhelmed

In college, I always bit off more than I could chew. My days flew by in a flurry of meetings and commitments and late-night cramming sessions. I volunteered, I interned, I worked, I worked out and I still managed to write.

At my first job, I worked for a software company in Africa and worked hard. I'm talking an early night ended at 7pm. I'm talking landing and launching multi-million dollar government projects.

Even though it seems like it, I'm not trying to brag. I'm just trying to remind myself that I'm capable of a lot.

You see, I've fallen into a complacency over the last year that is just not like me at all.

I go to work at 8am and I go home at 5pm. Sometimes I work out. Occasionally I cook a healthy meal. Often, I pop way too many Bud Lights and complain about my life situation. I'm not proud of it, but it's the truth.

I sit at home and feel unhappy about my career, weight and financial situation. I make half-hearted attempts to improve myself only to abandon them before I even start them.

This January ushered in a new era. It just happened to coincide with the New Year. I promise I didn't plan it that way.For the first time ever I didn't set a SINGLE resolution related to my weight or my career.

The only thing I promised myself was that I would pay off my 29.99 annual-percentage-rate $5,000 credit card.

Then, I decided to join a running group to train for a half marathon, training six days every week.

Then, my niece challenged me to a sugar fast.

I happened to get great assignments for my freelance magazine gig and then landed a monthly feature in another newspaper.

To top it off, I decided to move to a (cheaper) apartment one town over.

I'm a little overwhelmed. And tired, cranky and wishing I had a Pepsi like a mofo.

Yet, I feel like I'm finding myself again. I have this feeling that I'm on my way to something big, but I just have to stay the course.

I just have to show up and do the work of today without any regard for how I"m going to face tomorrow.

And somehow, miraculously, it's all going to come together.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Imagine that

My life and my emotions are like a giant wave, easily cascading from giant swells to the murkiest bottoms in an instant. One day, I can be bawling my eyes out over the misery of my not-at-all miserable life. The next, I can be praying aloud while driving down the highway, thanking Jesus for beautiful life he's given me.

I don't really understand it. Believe me, I've tried. I've had my hormones checked out. I've been to therapy. I've posted motivational notes around my apartment to remind me to count my blessings. Nothing really works, unfortunately.

I'm finally realizing that it may be situational. I'm a creative, emotional, perfectionist, loving kind of person. While I don't need glitter and rainbows all the time, the fact that I dislike my job (where I spend the majority of my time) wears me down. It makes me irritable and miserable and though I'm looking like a fiend, I have had trouble believing that I'll be able to escape.

Until this week.

It's a great story...

I started freelancing a few months ago for a local magazine. During my interview, I was told that my work may be able to expand someday because the publisher is starting a group of related magazines in the nearby communities.

Yeah, right, I thought. I realize that makes me sound like the world's biggest pessimist, but whatever. I didn't believe her.

Until this week.

She calls me to give me my upcoming assignments and tells me that she's looking to hire a fulltime staff writer in the next year.

Wha????


Can you say ecstatic?

I'm cautiously optimistic about the opportunity. I understand that ish happens and it might not work out. Then, again, it just might.

I might be able to write fulltime for a living. Never mind that I'll probably have to get a job as a waitress or barista to make the ends meet. I don't care at all.

I can't imagine living off my writing. I can't imagine all the doors it will open up for me to pursue other writing opportunities, expand my  blog, become a Zumba fitness instructor. I can't imagine taking my laptop to Starbucks on my own damn time and working on my writing. I can't imagine being able to work late into the night on something that actually matters to me.

It gives me chills just to think about it.

It makes me happy. 

Imagine that.