Monday, December 14, 2009

Day 117 - "She Used to Tie Her Hair Up in Ribbons and Bows"

I haven't blogged about the industry lately and really had no clue as to what to talk about. However, when one of my fellow writers at Suite101 posted a link to this blog post, I couldn't help but sharing.

Just for reference, I am not a man and I will not take on a male name in order to make money as a writer.

In response, I have come up with my own "Statement of Women Writer's Beliefs" that I think explains how I feel about the whole issue:

I, as a woman and practitioner of the literary arts, do hereby believe:
  1. I shall honor all those women before me who chose to claim the work produced by them, regardless of how discriminated against I shall be because of my gender.
  2. I shall remember that some of society's greatest works of literature were produced by women who were not afraid to use their given name.
  3. I shall continue to publish and promote any and all writing, by keyboard or by pen, created by me and my female name and by millions of other women around the world.
  4. I shall not "pass" as a member of the opposite sex to make an easier dollar, but will instead rejoice at the honest money I have made and will make in all professions because of my hard work.

There. I am woman, hear me roar!

Or, in this case, write my heart out and be proud that I am a woman who has enough guts and talent to share my writing with anyone who wants to read it.


Day 117 - "Sugar We're Goin' Down Swingin'"

I read this article about whether or not children should pay for college completely on their own or with assistance from parents.

So, my opinion is a little bit biased on this topic, especially because I'm one of the kids who were told, "sorry, you are going to college, but you'll have to pay for this one yourself. Go find some loans."

According to the article, a study conducted by Public Agenda reported that roughly 42% of students who receive no financial assistance from home actually finish college. My parents paid for books, which weren't all that expensive given that most of my books could be bought used for a nickle, but everything else was me. I almost didn't graduate because of a $996 balance for my last semester that I couldn't just cut a check for and still take care of everything else. Like clothes, food, supplies, and sorority dues to stay in good standing so that I could keep the scholarship they gave me.

In reality, though, financial aid is designed to account for parents chipping in a certain amount of educational expenses. Sure, if a student has decided to get an apartment off campus instead of living in a dorm, I feel that the student should pay for the extras, not the parents. But if, for a student, it comes down to paying tuition or dropping out of school to work three jobs in order to pay off all of the previous loans, then parents should be better educated on the financial aid process.

When anyone who is a dependent completes the FAFSA, they are told up front that the expected family contribution (EFC) is x amount of dollars based on the information provided. That can be in loans, cold hard cash, or other forms of payment that do not involve selling organs or humans on the black market.

In all honesty, things would have turned out a lot differently had I gotten help from my parents paying for college. You can say yes, I chose to go to a private school and stay to watch tuition go up over $5,000 over four years, but in order to get the education and the challenge I needed, that was where I had to go. Even from the beginning, declining all student loans and making monthly payments couldn't even have come close to paying off tuition out of pocket. I would have to work every single minute that I was not in class, and forget about sleep, food, or studying.

With the rising cost of college, isn't there some way to help college kids out? Seminars for parents and students on financial aid? Lower interest loans? Or, heaven forbid, cap or lower tuition at ALL schools, not just state ones?

We can always hope, so that when I tell my grandkids that I graduated with $70,000 in student loans and had to walk up hill both ways through the snow to pay them, they'll think I'm telling three exagerated stories instead of two lies and a truth.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Day 104 - (Cue "Rocky" Music)

I am officially done with National Novel Writing Month with a grand total of 50, 298 words. The official word counter added 33 words to my total, but here's the breakdown of how amazingness happened in the month of November:

Suite101 articles (36 total) = 21,665 words

"The Year Spent PC" posts (10 total) = 4,022 words

Creative nonfiction projects (7 total) = 14,212 words

Fiction piece (surprise!) = 10,399 words

All I can say is this:

Success - it's MINE!!!!

Day 104 - "On A Mission to Make Somethin' Happen"

I'm getting nervous about grad school.

Granted, I got an email only 16 days ago saying that the admissions committee had sent my application and other materials on to the program director, and that I should be hearing from that person in a couple of weeks regarding any possible interviews for an assistantship. But here's the thing, when I know that I want something, want it badly, and know that it is within reach, I get very impatient.

Whenever I think about it, all of these what ifs start running through my head. What if I'm not offered an interview for an assistantship? What if I bomb the interview and don't get one in the end? What if this? What if that?

Maybe I just need to calm down and remind myself that yes, this is it. Yes, I can do it. To get a little bit gangsta, I've got skillz, mad skillz.

Ouch, that kind of hurt me to type that. It felt appropriate, though.

The what if that scares me the most is the what if I don't get in. What am I going to do? By the time I find out, it would almost be too late to apply to other programs, to think about getting my MA in English first instead of later in life, and I would probably be so distraught at the idea of not getting in that I might just lose my mind and have to be committed - without having health insurance.

Well, I guess there is also going back to my alma mater to get my MFA in creative writing. In reality, though, I don't think I have enough life experiences to write another creative writing thesis. I've already done one, and while I can find a plethora of things to write about in my life, I don't feel like I'm ready to sit down and write another serious book yet. Books that I'm not taking seriously, maybe, but I need some time to regroup and get thoughts back together that are outside of the technical writing realm, which is something that I have been doing a lot of lately since the student loan bills are leaving me a couple of pennies richer than flat broke.

All I can do is hope for the best, right? Well, it's the only ethical thing I can do right now. The rest would not sit well in my mind.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Day 103 - "Why Put Off 'Til Tomorrow..."

This weekend is the last big hooray for National Novel Writing Month. Right now, not counting this blog post, I am sitting at 45,174 words for the month of November.

I can hear it now. "That's a lot of words!" Everyone is trying to figure out how I've done it, how I have avoided carpal tunnel, and why I'm worried.

I need to have 50,000 words by midnight on November 30. That's Monday, and today is Saturday. I told myself that after I spent almost all of Black Friday shopping and cranking out almost 3,300 words of a story that I thought was going to be a flop (and probably still do) that I was going to spend all day today writing so I can get to 50,000 or more words, have all of those combinations of letters varified, and then sit back and enjoy the rest of my extended weekend.

Ha. Haha. Hahaha.

I make myself laugh.

I have rediscovered the art of procrastination.

This morning, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. EST, with every intention of eating breakfast, taking a shower, getting dressed and writing for the day. Instead, I woke up and heard my phone buzzing as it scuttled across the lid of my closed laptop, which is purple, I might add. So, instead, I checked all 40-some of my Twitter updates that were beemed to my phone while I was asleep, and then went downstairs with the intention of getting breakfast.

You see, though, I got distracted because I was in one of those phases where I had no clue what I wanted to eat for breakfast, but I was hungry and knew I had to make a decision. However, dishes were piling up in the sink and my thirteen year old sister had gotten up by this time, so I procrastinated eating breakfast by corralling her into helping me load the dishwasher.

Then, I cut myself a piece of cherry pie left over from Thanksgiving dinner, mashed up the crust, and decided to have a makeshift serving of cherry cobbler for breakfast. Really healthy, I know.

After that, I still wasn't sure what exactly I wanted to write today. Articles? Creative nonfiction? Fiction? My will?

Just kidding about the last option.

So I sat down at my computer and decided that I would start the day off with an article or two, because that could be an easy 1,200 words that wouldn't take that long. And, potentially, could earn me some money to pay off the credit card balances I accumulated yesterday while Christmas shopping and buying things I really needed, such as shampoo and underwear.

Too much information!

I typed in the title of the first article around 8:15 a.m. EST, stared at the screen and Googled some information, and then stopped. I had no will to write anymore. November has sucked all of the words out of me and I am amazed that I have found this many to continue writing this blog.

Since then, I suddenly have had the urge to clean. In the hour and twenty minutes I have spent putting off this article, I have done chores that I normally would not do, and some that I just needed to get out of the way, such as:
  • opened up the shower drain because the drain stinks
  • cleaned the toilet
  • organized all of my toiletries
  • discovered that I have four bottles each of shampoo, conditioner, and smoothing milk and that I can stop stock piling hair products
  • color coded my closet
  • cleared empty coat hangers out of my closet

At least I've been productive in other ways, right?

But in all actuality, I need to quit this procrastinating thing and get to work. I don't have much longer to get all of those words in, and every second I waste are a couple of fewer words that I'll have to type faster and may not get in on time. The bad thing is that I proofread as I go, so even a spelling error will trip me up and make me go back to fix it.

I never used to be like this in college. What happened? I still have the crazy work ethic, but I have discovered the beauty of procrastination.

In addition, this blog post kind of worked, raking up 738 words.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Day 100 - "Let's Raise Our Glasses to A Toast"

The pies are going in the oven and my aunt is working on the turkey and the fixings. Except for me having to work tomorrow (see day 95's post) it's Thanksgiving!

Mind you, I'm not a big fan of turkey or stuffing myself until I'm on the verge of puking and buying new pants on Black Friday. But there are some things that I am thankful for.

Most of all, my friends, family, boyfriend, and sorority sisters. They're always there for me and hold me up when I fall down, both physically and emotionally. They're my rocks and I wouldn't be where I am today without them.

Then there are many other things: life, liberty, faith, food, peace, and the opportunity to speak my mind. Tomorrow is more than just the turkey, stuffing, and our family's annual cut throat Monopoly tournament.

Speaking of the holidays, I read an article on Yahoo News yesterday that I seemed to have lost the link to. It's about the large number of recent college graduates and college students - ages 18 to 24 - who are returning to previously empty nests because of financial reasons and the poor economy. Instead of traveling home for the holidays, many in my generation will be traveling from childhood bedrooms to the Thanksgiving table. I know I'll be one of them.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Day 99 - "Oh, I Should've Done This..."

I got to thinking today as yet another student loan bill arrived in the mail (to the tune of $800 a month I'm paying out to various institutions - when will it end?!?!) about what would have happened if I had stuck with the education major.

You see, I started college intending to earn a bachelor of science in education - integrated language arts 7-12 and a bachelor of arts in creative writing. Since I had an exceptionally high score on the old version of the ACT, I got to start my education classes right away. First college class? Introduction to Teaching as a Career. Also known as the class that weeds the wannabes out.

I was all set on thinking that I wanted to teach high school English. I planned on being like Robin Williams from the one scene in The Dead Poets Society, having students stand on chairs and yawping like Walt Whitman and I did in my American literature class in high school. I was going to inspire young minds and do all kinds of great things. Robin Williams meets Mr. Holland's Opus. Right?

Wrong. I got disenchanted. I grew up. Then I dropped the education major, picked up journalism and a whole bunch of minors and partial minors that I couldn't afford to finish and discovered that, hey, it is possible to graduate in four years.

So would I be better off now with an education degree than my super BA? Probably not. I probably still wouldn't be able to find a job that can let me move out and pay student loans because there are 123589071435698234765129387534092827 million English teachers out there.

Would I be happier? Probably not. At some point, I need to take time out of my day and write and read for myself and no one else but me. Call it selfish, but I call it survival. It's been working since middle school, so why stop now? Being a teacher means dedicating a large portion of time in and out of the classroom to students, and at this point in my life I'm not sure if I could have made that decision four years ago.

I guess that's what graduate school is for. After all, my advisor told me that, for people in the arts, that a bachelor's degree is what you love, a master's is what you want to pay the bills, and a doctorate is what you want to do for the rest of your life.

I guess I have a ways to go still.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Day 98 - "She Works Hard for the Money"

Here come the bills.

Most of my loans have come out that blessed six month grace period that kicks in after you leave school. I owe this bank $80 a month, another one $100 a month, and have decided that I'm going to be paying off my BA until my children start college - and then I'll have to worry about their undergrad degrees.

However, there's one loan in particular that is making my skin crawl when that bill arrives every month with the $298 and change monthly bill to pay off a loan. Keep in mind, the principle on the loan was $6,000 and change. The interest capitalized for the two years since I had taken out the loan is one and a third times the principle.

Lesson learned? Unless it is an actual bank, with the FDIC logo and branches with people to talk to, don't take out a loan from a company that just lends out student loans, because you'll pay dearly.

Like me, to the tune of almost $300 a month. That's three-fifths of my biweekly paycheck.

With all of the talk about health care reform, how about we do a student loan reform? Down with all of these companies who loan to students with little to no credit! Down with the loan sharks who pray on students whose cosigners have bad credit! Down with interest rates on student loans that are higher than the interest rate on my Old Navy credit card!

Okay, the last one I exaggerated, but not by much. Not joking.

At this point, I'm almost glad that I took this year off between finishing my undergrad and starting graduate school. I mean, I could potentially have graduate school paid for, but this undergrad degree, the one that everyone claims is the key to success, is going to send me to the poor house. So much for all of those scholarships.

I guess I should have taken that free ride that I had gotten at another school. My parents probably would have been glad for the lack of loans that have to be paid back to private institutions. Just those Stafford loans.

Oh, loans...


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Day 94 - "Oops, I Did It Again"

Is it wrong of me to use old school Britney Spears to title a blog about Fox News.

According to this article from The Chicago Tribune's Washington bureau, Fox News accidently rolled the wrong footage when airing a report on Sarah Palin's book tour for her memoir Going Rogue.

The footage that was aired was from Palin's 2008 vice presidential campaign. Apparently there was a sudden change made in the newsroom and no one was informed of it until the footage had already aired.

Really, Fox?

We're not sure what exactly happened behind the scenes right before that footage rolled. It could be that someone told the unfortunate new guy that is going to get disciplined to switch out the footage because something happened. It could be that someone accidently slipped. Or, this is an awful long shot, some camera guy didn't do his job and grabbed a sandwich instead of going to watch Sarah Palin sign books.

Whatever it is, it's these kinds of slip ups that I think cause people to not trust the media. Footage of crowds is footage of crowds, but there is a big difference between a crowd at a political rally and a crowd at a book signing. Someone in the newsroom should have noticed the difference and said something. Heck, someone should have noticed that hey, the people in this reel don't have books in hand. What's going on here?

Hopefully, Fox and other media outlets learn from this mistake. While it is easy to make mistakes, the position that the media industry is in right now doesn't leave much room for mistakes. If we make too many mistakes and don't take action to correct them soon, we as media practitioners may lose our very livelihood and our entire industry, one mix up at a time.


Day 94 - "He Had It Comin'"

Yeah, Chicago.

Anyways, I feel the need to rant, and just so you know, this completely off topic. I'm not ranting about Chicago the musical, the movie musical (which is great, by the way,) or the band.

I want to rant about Twilight and New Moon.

I know I'm going to get a lot of flack about this, but I don't see what the big deal is about Twilight. My sister bought tickets for the midnight showing of the new movie and is driving halfway across Akron to see it! There is no way I'd risk life, limb, or my sleep to see this movie.

Here's my problem with it - Stephenie Meyer, you can listen to this. As a writer, the books stink. Sure, there's a story there, but where are the characters? Where's the depth? Where, for the love of God, is the beautifully crafted language that literature is supposed to embrace?!?! Where is the substance, the depth of human experience, the hidden knowledge of human (or vampire) existence?

Maybe I'm asking too much, but whenever I see someone reading Twilight I honestly want to barf. I can't say that I haven't read my fair share of poorly-written books, but there's just something about me that cannot come to love Edward Cullen or whatever his cohorts' names are.

Not to mention that I think Amelia Atwater-Rhodes does YA vampires much better.

So to sum this up, I would like to say a few things.

Dear Edward,

You are not as cute as millions of screaming young (and not so young) women think you are. In fact, I think you are terrible for convincing young, impressionable minds that Twilight is great literature. Please endorse something classic, something timeless, to show that reading is not all about the latest fad and that there are much greater things out there if children simply want to pay attention long enough to think. I would start with something easy.

However, I would like to thank you for getting children to read. At least it's a start.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day 92 - "Stuck in the Middle With You"

I feel like I'm stuck.

An example of my day: get up before the buttcrack of dawn, go to work. Work my butt off for decent pay given the job, but deal with more crap than I'm getting paid for. Go home. Write what's left of my butt off. Crash on the couch until I'm told that I might sleep better in my own bed.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

On the weekends, I basically write. Write, write, write, type, type, type. I feel like I'm getting nowhere with this, too. It's not the money; I never expected to make much money from writing right out of college. Heck, even some of the most famous writers in history were broke for most of their lives. Their works helped their children and grandchildren financially, while the writers themselves lived in their time's version of a cardboard box.

I don't know why I'm feeling like this. I've always loved to write. I have composition book upon composition book upon flashdrive of all of my writings dating back to the fourth grade. That's when I was old enough to realize that I should start writing my stories down. That, and I think I read something about an author who had saved everything she had ever written, and I decided to do that too in case I became famous someday and my early writings would become priceless artifacts.

Who was I kidding? Well, no one yet, because I was only nine or ten at the time. I had no understanding of what it took to dedicate your life to the arts.

But at the same time, I love what I do. I love seeing my words realize themselves in front of someone's eyes, putting a world in various lenses and seeing what comes of it. I love the rush, the release, of what comes out of my pen and out of my fingers. It's amazing, because I don't remember when I figured out that I had this talent. I just started doing it one day.

And then I wrote a story about Santa Claus going on vacation with his last name spelled like the part of a sentence. Then, in sixth grade, I set the record for the dictation portion of the state's gifted and talented exam. Then, I decided to write one short story after another, until those turned into novellas, then novels, then the memoir that was my college creative writing thesis.

Maybe it's that I've been writing too much for money and not enough for me lately. This 30 articles in 30 days challenge has been killing my creative streak, or whatever streak is trying to wade through search engine optimization and keywords and subheadings. Maybe, after I finish this challenge, I just need to take time to myself to sit down and explore the world in my head. Or finish the fiction novel that's been sitting on my flashdrive since the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college.

I think I just needed to get that out. Is feeling trapped a part of adult life? In some ways, I feel like it is just a part of life in general. Knowing what you want, but having to wait for life to take its course and for just the right moment to occur when everything falls into place.

On the other hand, I think it's just me. I've always been the type that gets bored easily and needs something to keep me occupied. I think I just need a change of scenery, a change of pace, and once I'm done challenging how much paid material I can crank out, hopefully I can change the scene of my flashdrive.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Day 83 - "It's What I Love About Sunday"

I was right - my boyfriend did take me to the zoo yesterday!

I've always loved the zoo, but sometimes I get the feeling that people look at me strange when I say that. It's the look that subtly screams, "you're 22. The zoo is for kids and people with families. After all, they're animals. Go be twenty-something and hang out at the bar."


I've always liked animals. That's that and if you want to judge me, go right ahead. You can have a beer, I'll have a look at some wallabies.

In other news, NaNoWriMo (which is easier to type out than National Novel Writing Month) is going well at 13,470 words as of yesterday at midnight. Just have to keep typing away.

In other other news, my first student loan payments are due in one month and six days from today. The big old angry god-like voice is booming overhead, "You're an adult now. Pay back the Feds!" I just have to remember which payments I make online, which ones I have to mail in, and remember that some of my loans don't enter repayment until January, which is more than six months after I graduated. Oh well.

Now, I'm off to write some more to see if I can earn a fraction of a student loan payment. I never went into writing to be rich (okay, maybe famous) but it's more than I had, right?


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Day 78 - "Baby Get Ready, Get Set"

Yes, I did just use Billy Ray Cyrus lyrics as the title of this blog. So what.

National Novel Writing Month started on Sunday, and so far I'm doing well as far as numbers go. In terms of content, well.... Like I said on Facebook, this could be glorious or not so glorious, and I definitely know that I am not going to be producing any presentable creative work out of this endeavor. As far as articles, those have to be publishable, considering that's how I make money.

It's frustrating because I keep wanting to go back and make everything perfect for that stage in the process before I continue on, but I know that if I'm going to produce 50,000 words in 30 days I don't have much time for revision. Count that on top of a 30 articles in 30 days challenge for my writing job, and I have time to go to work, write my butt off, sleep, and wake up to do it all again the next day.

And if you were asking, hell yes I am double dipping.

However, I got my graduate assistantship application resubmitted. This time, I splurged and spent the $6.15 to send it certified post so that I know it gets there. I would like to know who thinks the post office isn't making any money. They can look at the reciept for mailing three pieces of paper 55 miles away and getting someone's signature.

Tomorrow's Wednesday, which means it's one day closer to the weekend, and I'm taking this weekend to relax with my boyfriend. I heard that the zoo may be on the agenda - yay!


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Day 68 - "Let's Get Ready to Rumble!"

A lot has gone on lately, which is why I haven't been posting, so I guess it's update time.

Two weekends ago was my alma mater's homecoming. I spent the day on campus hanging out with my sorority sisters and seeing a couple of friends. It was great to get away for a day and just have fun, laugh, and relive old shenanigans...while attempting to plan new ones that didn't end up working out.

Last night, one of my good friends from high school got married. It was cute, especially since she didn't really want a big celebration but kind of had one planned for her. The night was kind of startling, though, because even though a small number of people we went to high school with showed up, I realized just how many people I graduated with are already parents. Where'd time go?

I also found out last night that my best friend is filing for divorce. Yes, we're both only 22. However, she thankfully is using her head and getting out of what could be a bad situation before it gets started, especially when a child is involved. It's just mind boggling that, at our age, divorce is even in the picture. I mean, for a large portion of people our age group, we only think about marriage when someone asks about it.

On another note, I've decided to take up a challenge for next month. A bunch of writers who work for the same website I do were talking about National Novel Writing Month, which is coming up in November. Basically, it was started by a group of friends who decided that, as a joke, they were going to write a novel in a month. Now, the premise is to challenge ourselves to write 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30.

All I saw was the big number - 50,000 - and it blew my mind. That's 1,700 words a day! However, since my hours seem to be winding down at the other job (which is a scary thought) I'm probably going to need something to do. Not only that, I have a couple of projects that need finished any way.

So, for the record and anyone else who wants to know, this is how I'm going to write 50,000 words in 30 days (hopefully):

20 Suite101 articles (average of 500 words per article) = 10,000 words
finishing a creative nonfiction piece in progress = 500 words
"The Year Spent PC" posts (500 words 4x per week) = 8,000 words
new creative nonfiction piece = 4,000 words
creative nonfiction collection in progress = 15,000 words
new creative nonfiction collection I want to start = 12, 500 words

Total: 50,000 words! I can do it!

Grad school update: I thought I had everything turned in, but my graduate assistantship / internship application and my resume got lost in the mail. I guess I'm going to have to resubmit those before the writing marathon starts!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Day 49 - "It's the Hard Knock Life For Us"

I was finishing up my four hour slacker shift at work today when I overheard that my sister's school was closed today because of a power outage. I get home to find Katie, in her pajamas, texting her friends. Keep in mind that it is 8:20 A.M., Eastern Time.

I let it go, because I know that sometimes I am not the best cell phone role model, between Twitter and friends who have drastically different sleeping schedules than I do.

The day wears on, I work on some articles, I make some phone calls, and Katie has moved from texting while sitting on the couch to texting in her bedroom. Around two in the afternoon, I'm proofreading an article and I notice that the kitchen sink has an awful lot of dirty dishes in it. Since Katie was just chilling out watching "Handy Manny" (which, I should add, is meant for 4-6 year olds - that's less than half of Katie's age) I peaked my head out and said something along the lines of how Mom would sure appreciate it if the dishes were loaded into the dishwasher.

Commence screaming. Not from me, but from my 13 year old sister. What the heck?

"You guys always ask me to do stuff when I want to do something else. I've been waiting for this show to come on for weeks and no one lets me watch it." And she keeps screaming at me, and then finally tells me that I should do the dishes because, despite doing something that I am under contract and getting paid for, whatever I'm doing isn't nearly as important as "Handy Manny's Family Reunion."

Just for reference, Katie found out about this special a week ago. She watched it last night. Katie doesn't get to watch the show because it's on during the school day; rightfully so, because it's meant for children who don't have to go to school during the day because they're five years old.

Maybe it's just me being older and wiser, but at age thirteen I believe that she should be able to do some kind of chores. After all, at thirteen I was required to rearrange my social schedule on the weekends in order to cook dinner on Saturday nights - hot dogs and mac and cheese were off limits, as was anything that came from a box. Try explaining to your friends when you're in seventh grade that you're not allowed to spend the night Saturday because you have to cook dinner. Not even kidding.

Maybe it's the fact that she's hitting puberty and is being all hormonal without her knowledge. Maybe it's my over independence that's kicking in. Maybe it's the generation gap, however slight it may be, between us. When I was thirteen, we didn't even dream of having a cell phone. We didn't know what texting was, and when we were at a friend's house and needed to contact our families - like Katie was last night - we actually picked up a land line phone, dialed a number (all 12 digits) and talked to our parents. Katie texted me last night with a message for Mom, which I proceeded to tell her was just flat out lazy and rude. She didn't speak to me for the rest of the night.

Whatever it is, maybe I need to be more understanding. Maybe this is why I didn't major in middle grades education. By the time one of my parents got home today, I was about ready to pull my hair out. Thirteen must be the new age of slacking, not your early twenties.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Day 46 - "A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down"

I haven't written much lately because I caught the cold from hell. Normally, I'm a pretty healthy person, but my dad got sick two weekends ago, and then my allergies started acting up. From there, it was a quick downward spiral into the hell of coughing so much I thought I'd develop a six-pack before getting better, a fever, stuffy nose, and body aches from all of the coughing.

I really have been trying to keep myself healthy since I graduated, mainly because I don't know about the state of my health insurance. Multiple calls have resulted in vague answers about how normally college graduates aren't covered on their parent's plans, but yada yada yada blah blah blah. Since health care is expensive and so are my student loans, I've been working on staying healthy so I suddenly don't have to worry about a couple hundred of dollar visit to the emergency room.

In this respect, I really hope that the people in Washington really get to work on the health care package. I read an article a couple of months ago about how there are millions of Americans that are my age doing the same thing I have been doing - trying their best to stay well because of a lack of health insurance. Not only do we have to worry about young children, parents, and the elderly not having the insurance needed to take care of themselves or their families, but we also need to worry about the young twenty-somethings. We're at the point in our lives where we have those first jobs, but we may or may not get the benefits package because of the economy. We're young, daring, and sometimes stupid and those decisions may lead to injury that could become a problem for the rest of our lives.

It's another reason for wanting to get to grad school fast. At least as a student, I'll have incidental health insurance in case my dad decides to spread another bug from hell. However, incidental insurance won't pay for a new pair of glasses that I seem to be getting close to needing.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day 38 - "I'm Just A Ramblin' Man"

Well, I'm not really a man, but I'm just kind of wandering around lately. I haven't really accomplished much - well, at least by my definition of accomplishment. I mailed my graduate assistant application for Baldwin-Wallace today, I've written two articles this week, spent some time with my boyfriend and played some rather interesting sand volleyball with some coworkers. And to think that a couple of posts ago I was calling myself a slacker.

Spending last week with my sorority sisters, alum and collegiate, got me caught up on a lot of things that apparently have been happening and I probably should have picked up on and that people hinted at, but I just never caught on. One broke off her engagement with her boyfriend of two years because he was, according to her story, way too clingy and she just wasn't sure if she wanted to live like that. I can't blame her; after listening to her story, he was way too possessive.

Another one of my sisters who transfered at the end of last semester is engaged and pregnant! This one made my jaw drop, simply because this, while happy, didn't seem to fit this sister's personality. Oh well, she's happy and everyone is excited!

Ah, life. Everything seems to be turning around, and that makes me feel so much better about everything.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Day 31 - "Keep Rollin' Rollin' Rollin' Out"

This one is short but definitely sweet:

My graduate school application for Baldwin-Wallace has a status of:


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day 30 - "Superman's in Pajamas on the Couch"

"The Year Spent PC" is officially a month old! Yay for gusto for sticking with it!

So I'm at home for the night because I have to work tomorrow morning before heading back to finish sorority recruitment. I showed up on campus Monday afternoon and I don't think I've been tackled so much in my life. I love hugs, I love my sisters, but sometimes when I see them, or anyone for that matter, running at me like they haven't seen me in years I begin to fear for my physical safety.

On the recruitment front, all is well. They started out with a huge number of women going through this year, and there are still more women who are going through recruitment after the second round than actually sign up for most years. It's been fun, especially considering I've never done recruitment as a chapter member, or in my case a psuedo chapter member, and there are a lot of cool women going through. Tonight, my sisters have a philanthropy event and I have a date with my bed.

This week, I've noticed how suddenly, my stamina is just not there at all. I could have normally handled being up until almost two in the morning after recruitment events and then waking up and going to class the next morning. Heaven knows I did it last year. This year, I am zonked. I feel like I'm getting too old for this. Haha, I'm only 22.

So, it's back to work tomorrow and then time to continue this college throwback week. It's felt good to be able to just sit with my sisters and relax, well sort of. The phone, text messages, and Facebook are nice and all, but there's something about being in a person's presence that sometimes makes life all the much richer. Too bad I can't bring them all home with me.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Day 27 - "And I'm Going Home..."

This past week has been crazy. I suddenly decided that I was going to get stuff done, and then I started making lists. When I make lists, it usually doesn't end well for my sanity.

So, I've written three articles, completely cleaned my room and my car (which desperately needed it,) got everything organized for this week, worked six days out of seven, ignored this project, ignored the emails I have to send out, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

On top of it, I got in a fight with my boyfriend. Plans were made and unmade, he got mad, I got mad, he blew up in his smoldering I-don't-want-to-start-a-fight kind of way, and then I...well, I blew up. I think today we need to cool off and let everyone take a deep breath because, even though I realize that fighting is part of a healthy relationship, I still don't like it.

More exciting news. This past week and this coming week are going to be dubbed my college throwback weeks. Last week, at probably the last possible minute, my sister decided that she was going to go through sorority recruitment. Yay! She got her bid (invitation to join) last night and is now a Sigma Sigma Sigma at Kent State University. Woohoo! I find it ironic, though, that neither of us wanted to join sororities, we both signed up at the last minute, and both of us have / had 16 members in our new member classes. Interesting...

This week, I'm going back to my alma mater to help with my sorority's recruitment. I've missed my sisters a lot since I've graduated. I think I need this week just to relax, but there's one kind of iffy thing about it - I've never been through this part of recruitment, so I guess we'll see how it goes!

Now, I need to email people asking them to give me recommendations for graduate school. I need to get going on this. I need to get there, and it needs to happen soon.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Day 20 - "There's A Moment You Know You're $%@#&*"

I'm standing at work today, rinsing out a dish and minding my own sweet business, when my boss comes around the corner and interrupts me spraying water into a dish because I get frustrated when people can't follow simple directions. "There you are!" she said.

"Yup, I'm still here," I replied cheerfully.

"These came in the mail for you and your sister today," my boss replied. She pulled two oddly familiar vacation pay forms out of a manilla envelope and, to my dismay, my form was covered in blue ink and pink highlighter. "Your vacation pay got denied."

WHAT THE *&%$^)*^)*(^&%^)*^&$^^%#$????

Okay, so I didn't really say that out loud, but I really wanted to. Apparently, I in the past year had a 31 day "lapse in service," so I basically have to start over with my vacation "rewards." I won't be eligible to get paid for the vacation I took the last full week of August until October 13th. As for the week of vacation that I'm taking, oh, next week?

Sorry, says my lovely employer, you're screwed. Since it hasn't been four years since that "lapse in service," they took away my second week of paid vacation that I rightfully should receive because I have been an employee for more than four years, which is what is needed to get two weeks of vacation.

Isn't this, oh I don't know, illegal? Unethical? Complete and utter bullshit?

Personally, this is ridiculous. The whole work environment since I've graduated has gone down the crapper, and whether it's me realizing that I'm a college graduate or the management (still) is off kilter or I just really don't like this job but there aren't any other options, I don't know. It's crappy that employers think they can treat employees like this. No wonder we can't keep good employees for any extended amount of time.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Day 18 - "Where Do I Go From Here?"

I've just realized this as I was sitting on my couch on a Saturday night and stuck watching my thirteen year old sister's favorite television shows again.

I am bored.

You would think, though, between working on this blog, writing for my freelance job, working another job, applying to graduate school, my boyfriend, and just trying to oh, I don't know, exist would be enough on my plate. Nope, I guess not.

I can't say I wasn't warned. "Life slows down after college and blah blah blah." And here was what I was doing: smiling, nodding, and thinking "yeah, this is what they told me when I was graduating from high school - you'll want to slow down, college is much harder!"

It could also be that maybe, possibly, I've discovered this concept of relaxation. I've been able to read books that I want to read, do this thing called play on the computer instead of research, and my favorite new activity, lounge on the living room couch and watch cars and things go up and down the road.

Maybe I need to appreciate life slowing down for awhile. I mean, I've been running non-stop crazy chicken with its head cut off for 22 years now. Maybe it's time to take one year to slow down, relax, and smell the roses where they grow instead of picking them and smelling on the run.

It might actually be a good idea. Good job, Ashley, good job.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Day 14 - "Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to Work We Go"

Today was day 3 of going back to work, and this whole slowing down after summer is over really stinks. This week, I have a pretty decent number of hours, but there's nothing to do. There were a couple of times today where we stood around and stared at one another, praying that something to do would come along. Next week, I barely have 30 hours and I'm left wondering how I'm going to pay my student loans come the end of the year if my hours are all over the place like this.

Earlier this year, I wrote a column for my alma mater's newspaper about an initiative to forgive student loans in order to stimulate the economy. In my column, I decided that this may stimulate the economy, but this doesn't teach those who have student loans anything that loans teach us. There's no learning how to budget money, how to be responsible for personal finances, and above all, if loans are forgiven now, what's next?

While I'm not advocating the government forgiving all student loans and giving recent college graduates a bailout, I am an advocate for coming up with other ways to finance a college education. The average college student graduates with about $100,000 of student loan debt - that's not including about $3,000 in credit card debt and possibly a car payment or rent to pay. Thankfully, I graduated way below average with about $20 in credit card debt and a whopping $68,000 in student loans and I'm already flipping a switch every time my paycheck seems to get smaller, even with a recent pay raise. If a college education is supposed to be so necessary, then why does it keep getting more expensive?

By the way, if a student defaults on federal student loans, the student automatically becomes ineligible for any more federal loans until the loan payments are caught up. For me, the option to let it slide isn't possible. No loan payments means no more Stafford Loans, which means no more grad school, which could mean no more sane me.

On a brighter note, August was my best month for revenue from my writing gig. So far this week I've put out two articles and I have a couple of ideas for a third. Let's hope this productivity train doesn't kick me off because I could really use the money to put in the piggy bank.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Day 9 - "Here I Go Again"

My sister's all moved into her dorm, except for the fact that she came back after putting everything away. I kind of wish I'd have had that luxury in, wait, I don't. I barely had time to unpack, let alone put away anything.

I've been reading articles lately about how the analysts are saying that the economy is getting better. I have one question about that.

It is?

If the economy is getting better, then why is it that sales of newspapers are down by over 25%? If the economy is getting better, then why aren't the normal, everyday people seeing it? A recent ABC News report said that this year, more college students than ever can't pay their tuition bills. Personally, I recently went searching for scholarships and grants for students in graduate school and found seven. When I started my undergraduate degree, FastWeb had over 300 scholarships for me. Yikes.

For those of us who just graduated, it's insane trying to find any job out there. I'm thankful for even having my web writing job, despite me trying to transition from almost a lifetime of writing for print to writing for the web, content searching, and search engine optimization skills. Then the next day, I get up before the sun, go to work at my first job, come home to write for the second, and tick off the days until graduate school. Job searching is impossible when no one in your field is hiring. I got a tweet from Poynter today about a journalist who had been laid off twice by two different newspapers, and he was wondering if it was time to jump ship and get into the PR business. Lucky him; sometimes, I wish I had a ship to jump.

In other news, my vacation ends tomorrow and my return to the two job chaos starts Monday. It's been a somewhat productive vacation: three blog posts, an article, and another article either tonight or tomorrow sometime. Let's hope I don't burn out too soon.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day 7 - "Dies irae"

One week later, and I've realized that I am a slacker. I don't care what anyone else says that I balanced 92.5 credits in five semesters, or that I wrote a thesis over 225 pages long, I am going to maintain that I am (somewhat) of a slacker.

Yesterday I was working on grad school applications and holy cow! The one for my first choice school is relatively easy, which surprised me. Just a whole lot of personal information, summarizing my resume, and an essay.

Then we get to application number two, and here are my simplified directions:

1. Sell your soul to an outside company (not website) that hosts the application.
2. Stand on your head and proceed to spin around until you puke, then keep spinning.
3. Enter your Social Security number 18.73 times.
4. Sign off your first born child, your spouse, and paternal grandmother in order to get the appropriate number of references.
5. Want an assistantship? (My reply - yes, please) Well then, throw in your father, second born child, and your favorite cousin to be considered.

This grad school wants to own my soul. Let's hope I get my first choice.

Note on the title: In honor of the first Tuesday (yesterday) or Thursday in six years that I have not had choir rehearsal, I pulled out a little of Verdi's Requiem. I performed the whole thing (all 1.5 hours) my junior year of college - so much fun! Maybe I need to find a hobby.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Day 5 - "Proud Mary Keep On Burnin'"

It's been a couple of days since I last posted, but I've been busy. Two articles published, finishing up my last week of work before vacation, and my boyfriend coming home after 15 months in New Mexico sure have kept me on my toes.

In between everything that's been going on, I got a tweet from Romenesko, a journalism news service about the industry, about a Wall Street Journal article about the viability of the newspaper industry. In the past couple of weeks, stocks in newspaper publishers have significantly increased, but author Martin Peers argues that the cuts newspapers have had to undergo may not lead to long-term sustainability.

It's a scary thought that someday, because the price of newsprint is through the roof and advertising revenue is at the same level it was when my parents were transitioning from elementary school to junior high, I might not walk across the street and get the newspaper out of the box every morning. The newspaper is something that has always been a fixture in my house; there hasn't been a day in my life where the news hasn't intentionally not been in the green or orange plastic box on the other side of the road. It's as much of an essential as my mom's chocolate chip cookies with chopped walnuts in them.

Ever since I found out I could write, I kept telling myself that I was eventually going to write for a big newspaper in a big city and have people notice my name every time I signed for something. I was going to be the next celebrity journalist, and I set out to do that from the time I walked into my middle school for the first day of fifth grade and joined the newspaper staff. I went from reporter to news editor to editor-in-chief, then joined the high school paper and went through the same cycle. I thought I was getting where I needed to go, then went off to college to another newspaper staff and had a ball writing for a great paper with some of the greatest journalists I've met in my short life.

Let's hope, for old time's sake, that Peers's prediction is wrong. In my mind, it's 2065, I'm 78 years old, and I'm still pushing my walker down the driveway to pick up a newspaper every morning. Maybe I'll find an article of mine, and that adrenaline rush I get every time I see my words in print and touching the actualization of my words, thoughts, and work between my fingers and seeing the ink rub off on my fingers is still there. That's my wish.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

What Is She Doing?

For some reason, this idea came to me while I was sitting on the couch, wishing I had air conditioning. My friends were heading off to graduate school, returning to college, getting married or raising infants while I was sitting here, recovering from two jobs and staring into oblivion.

Then it hit me: "The Year Spent PC."

Not politically correct, because heaven knows that I'm not always the most correct and I can be slightly too political. Not PC as in personal computers, because heaven also knows that I prefer to work on the family computer instead of the laptop I took a rider out on my student loans to purchase. It's PC as in Post College, this year that I'm spending in limbo between college and graduate school trying to accomplish goals that seem to change just as often as the weather in Northeast Ohio.

Maybe it's time for a rewind. I'm 22 years old, a May 2009 college graduate with a degree in creative writing and journalism with minors in political science and English literature, complete with the obnoxious sticker on my forehead labeling me as an overachiever. I did everything that I was supposed to while I was a student: had an internship, para-professional activities, polished the resume, got good grades and networked. I was a part of twelve campus organizations, put together my portfolio, and had continued the overachiever tradition I had started since 3:05 A.M. on January 21 of the year I was born. I bought the black cap and gown, the cords and regalia, shook the president's hand and put the degree in the shiny frame that was supposed to hang on the wall in an office, but instead is sitting in a $3 plate holder from WalMart on the top shelf of the desk I got as a graduation present (also purchased at WalMart.)

I work as an online journalist by afternoon and at the same job I've had since my junior year of high school by God-awful early morning. It's not the glamorous post college, sorority girl alumna life that the movies and the career services center imagined, but it pays the bills and keeps me busy. And I can still do some of the things I want to do, like read books bought on sale at Border's. I can still enjoy the rain, write the way I want to write, and wear t shirts and jeans to "work" when I want to. It's not that I didn't try to find a job as a certified professional print journalist. Unfortunately, my senior year was witness to the global economy and the newspaper industry slowly biting the dust, and while it kills me every time I hear about another newspaper swaying on the edge of bankruptcy, I realized that my status as "non-student" is only going to last a year. Hopefully.

Sometimes it's great, sometimes it's not, but that's life and that's how it just might play out for now.

Back to the project. The first question I asked myself was why. Why and what am I doing? I have always been a writer at heart; I wrote my first stories in second grade as part of an ongoing class project; we wrote stories during our language arts period and made them into books during art class. I've always had an addiction for putting words on pages and capturing life in ways that no other medium can focus and preserve. In college I discovered creative nonfiction and feature writing were my specialties. I'm beginning to think of this project as a feature article - one very long feature article with no focus, no angle, and no word limit. The deadline? Who knows. It's an ongoing project archiving the life of a post college twenty-something for a year after graduation to see just what happens. After all, the big guys can take six months or longer to write one feature article. They're getting paid for it, too, and I'm just pounding away at the keys to see what becomes of it. Maybe this will someday be my best seller. Only time will tell.

Why am I starting this today, August 20, 2009? Two simple reasons. For one, I only thought of the project on Monday and needed the time to actually sit down and set up a blog years after some of my peers had mastered this art and moved on. For two, today would be the day that, had I not overloaded my class schedule for five semesters in a row because I had the illusion of graduating in four years, I would be moving back into my dorm. My nineteen year old sister moves into hers a week from today at state university fifteen minutes from home as a brand spankin' new transfer student. All of my sorority sisters and Panhellenic friends are moving in today to start retreats, my newspaper colleagues have already been on campus for ten days editing the orientation issue, and those who aren't involved in activities requiring an early move-in are at home continuing to pack in preparation for another school year.

I can't promise what's going to happen for the next year. I know what I'll be trying to do: applying to graduate school in a field nowhere near what my degree is in (master's in higher ed administration, here I come,) writing my heart out for money and anyone who will read it, and enjoying the life that is thrown at me - one day at a time. It's all I can do without the glamorous office, pencil skirt and golden name plate on the door that I never wanted anyway. I don't like pencil skirts anyway. And I need a job with people and movement. I don't like boredom.

In closing, there's one last thing to say - who's with me?