What Did I Do? A Writing Challenge.

Last night as I was doing my usual "dick around on my phone for fifteen minutes while in bed but not asleep" routine (that I need to stop), an ad for something called the "Flash Fiction Challenge" popped up. Since I was obviously in the mood to waste time and not sleep, I clicked on the link. Basically, for a fee, you are entered in this contest that requires you to write 1,000 word stories over the course of a few days that are then judged and awarded points (everyone is on a team of fifteen people). Before the round starts, you are given three words: a genre, a location, and an object, which then must be involved in the story. You submit what you have written, are given your points and actual feedback, and after the first two rounds if you score enough points you get to move on. 

Why this is bad:
- The first round is this weekend and I'm fairly busy
- I have a feeling paying for this sort of stuff is stupid, but I have never even looked at a writing competition before, so I have no clue
- I am incredibly rusty; the most writing I do right now is for social media posts and this blog
- 1,000 words is... nothing. I tend to lean on the wordy side, so trimming the fat will be hard (but probably good) 

Why this is good: 
- It will force me to write at least two short stories over the next few months, which I could maybe turn into something else at some point
- It will be interesting to get feedback on my writing, which is something I haven't really experienced in a long time
- I have done these sorts of creative writing assignments with my students and they are actually a lot of fun
- While it may have been a rookie mistake to pay, this will actually motivate me to follow through (it's how I've forced myself to run so much over the years)

Wish me luck! 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

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1. My mom and sister came down last weekend to watch Sawyer so we could go to a wedding and it was pretty great. It was fun to get dressed up, the venue was beautiful, the bar was open, the cupcakes were delicious, the (temporary) lack of 5:30 tiny wake-up call amazing, and it was nice to spend some time with my husband that didn't require me simultaneously doing ten other things while trying to have a conversation with him. The only sad part was the ferris wheel wasn't on, but still. 

2. I actually get to hang out with just my husband again on Saturday- we are going to The Broad and are going to try Perch for lunch. Once school starts it makes getting away for longer chunks more difficult, so I'm thankful we've had the childcare to do so.

3. I am almost scared to confess this, but I just can't get into Hamilton. If I was going to see a show, it wouldn't be that, and I tried listening to a few of the songs on iTunes and was compelled to download zero. I know, I'm sorry. 

4. I hear that to actually grow an avocado might take a decade, but the gimmicky nature behind the Avoseeder is sort of right up my alley. 


5. I need these booties from Nordstroms, but they are already backordered and they haven't opened the semi-annual sale up to non-cardholders like myself, so who knows if it will happen. I'm actually sort of pissed they're being so stingy with how long the early access is and will never get a store-card because of this. 

6. Gwen Stefani's new album was only $7.99 so I downloaded it and I almost feel uncomfortable listening to it, since it's obviously one long middle-finger-in-the-air sort message to Gavin Rossdale. I hugely believe that private matters should remain private and this is anything but. 

7. I finally downloaded the app for the bank I have my savings account at and have made myself swear to deposit $5 every time I get a drink at Starbucks. 

8. & 9. I feel like it's my responsibility to report my findings on junk food you should buy, so, without further ado:

10. Tomorrow I am giving up real Sawyer-free day to hang out at home and wait for the plumber to unclog a partially clogged drain that is only diverting our AC condensation to the secondary drip line some of the time. As the kids would say, "FML."

Three Recipes to Try

I like to read, but I also like to cook. And weekends mean meal planning and grocery shopping for the days to come, so food is one the brain. 

PSA: here are three recipes that I've tried over the past few weeks that were so good I had to share:

Berries 'n' Cream Icebox Cake- I ate 3/4 of this on my own it was so good (I'm not exaggerating). Honestly, the whole concept is magical; a cake that you don't have to cook. Don't skip the homemade whipped cream part- the almond extract sets it over the top. I think when I make it again I might try chocolate graham crackers and just strawberries, since I like chocolate and blueberries are just okay in my book. Whatever you do, though, it'll be great- it's pretty hard to screw up.

Fresh Peach and Gin Tonic- I hate making my own cocktails because so often you need many different ingredients, and not much of each, creating waste. I had these on hand (minus the tonic water) for something else (the next recipe, actually), so this was perfect. Make sure to eat the peaches- they absorb the carbonation of the tonic water and are delicious. And, because I'm a teacher and feel obligated, this is obviously only if you're 21.

Crispy Bacon Pasta Salad with Fresh Herbs- I made this as a meal, served cold, with garlic bread and I loved it. I did make some changes, though. First of all, I despise bacon buuuuuuuuuut I am okay with pancetta. I know, hardly a difference. But, pancetta is thinner, saltier, and so much less to cook. You really do need to have some fat to cook everything in though, or you won't have the same flavor, so skipping it wasn't an option. I also forgot to buy feta, so I used shredded mozzarella and I if I were to make it again I'd purposefully do the same thing. I know there are a ton of ingredients, but it's worth it. I promise. And it's one of those recipes that don't require precision, so if that's more your thing this is one to try (as opposed to baking). 

And a few to try soon:

Imagine Me Gone- An Accurate Portrayal of a Grieving Family

If I had to sum up Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett in one word it would be "personal." And since I'm already in an unexplained, uncharacteristic (at least for the summer version of me) less than stellar night I figured I'd go there, at least for a few minutes.

For those unfamiliar with the book, it's basically about a family who must deal with the aftermath of their father's suicide, a result of suffering from depression. The novel examines the lead up to the death and then how it impacts the lives of his widow and three younger children as they become adults. 

For those unfamiliar with my life, congratulations. Just kidding. I've wrote about it a few times here and there before on this blog, but for those who haven't read, when I was in ninth grade my father, who was truly biploar (not just moody), took his own life. He left behind my mom, who he was sort of separated from (long, story that is not my own to tell), myself, my two younger sisters, and my younger brother (and bills, a mortgage, a messy garage, itty-bitty life insurance policy, etc...). 

But really got me about this book was how well Haslett did when showing how mental illness sort of interweaves itself into the fibers of the family, so well that you're not sure what would have been there if things hadn't gone they way they had or not. As an adult, is a person the way they are because their parent died or would they have been that way anyway? What exactly does living with someone with a mental illness catalyze, biologically and environmentally? It's complicated and I think his treatment of the three siblings was very well-done. And I can seen this within my own family; we've all dealt with things differently. Personally, I can see my desire for financial stability, clarity regarding the future, and emotional transparency in others as a result of my upbringing. While I am fortunate to not have inherited my dad's bipolar disease, I am prone to touches of anxiety and depression that I've worked hard to control through strategies like exercise and keeping busy (but who's to say that this has anything to do with my dad? Millions of people with no family illness deal with anxiety and depression... classic nature vs nurture situation).  It's so different when your parent dies from suicide, than say, cancer. You can get a bumper sticker for cancer and participate in a charity walk; but when you live with someone who is afflicted with mental illness and is very... difficult... to be around, the situation is possibly more complex.

Haslett's representation of the wife also pleased me. I think when you hear the word "widow" you assume that the person is overcome with grief and walks around in black for several months. And while this is true, sometimes, I think women who are left with struggling households and multiple children have to put this grief aside and focus on survival. Plus, let's not forget the anger- when someone succumbs to a more physical illness it's easier to forgive, but when someone takes their own life I think things become a little more complex. 

The degrees of coping that the family does as time passes also stood out to me. Some people move on quickly, some not so much. And, like with everything else in this story, none of it shown as the wrong was to handle such an event; their actions are conveyed honestly, but there doesn't seem to be any condescension on the author's part.

While it did take me a few pages longer than I would have liked to get into the book, once things started rolling I really sort of bonded with it. It's an important read; it can give insight to those with little experience and be a sort of comfort for those who do.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[we were right on the other side of the glass from this baby tiger]

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1. So, the #blacklivesmatter movement is interesting to me on so different levels, but I think on a sort of linguistic, semantic, rhetorical level it has me baffled. This is where emotion peaks; I've been trying to think of a way to explain it to people that seem to think we have to go the #alllivesmatter route, and this is what I've come up with: say you're driving down the street and you see one of the famous "Save the Tatas" bumper stickers. 95% of people are going to say "Yes! Breast cancer sucks! Let's cure this disease! Save the boobies!" They are far less likely going to say "Everyone can get sick! There are other illnesses like colds and ear infections that should get equal attention too!" Ya get me? The equity and equality discussion are relevant. 

2. Today Sawyer and I met up with a friend from my softball and early high school days to go the Safari Park near San Diego and he got his face painted for the first time. He sat very patiently and then seemed pretty nonplussed once he saw the monkey on the side of his face. But once he took a bath tonight and I washed it off he was so confused and sad about where it went. He just walked around and pointed to his face and made monkey noises.

3. I've held out on Snapchat, but I gave into Pokemon Go in like a day. Everyone was doing it and in my mind it's something that sort of coincides with my Fitbit obsession and desire to be competitive. I don't really get it. I don't understand what these little creature are really for and why I'm sending them to a professor and why I'd want to fight them. They look so sweet, why am I training them to fight? Is that what I am supposed to do? But it's still fun and some of them are cute.

4. I got a book in the mail today from the publisher that sends me stuff that I didn't ask for. It's never happened before and I felt sort of conflicted. I was sent the email about it and ignored it, but now that I have the book I almost feel obligated to read it. 

5. Somehow I forgot to mention that I purchased tickets to see Jonathan Safran Foer in September. I am SO EXCITED. He is one of my favorites and when he was in my area last I had a tiny little newborn and had to skip it. The man is a God. 

6. I am currently reading The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth Church and am really liking it so far (I'm about 50 pages in). This is my fifth book of July and I am starting to get a bruise on my back from all the patting I've been doing... I've been trying to read about 100 pages a day, which leads to a book about every three days. 

7. You know how some women really like shoes? And buying more? I have a wedding to go to this weekend to go to and need some to go with my new favorite dress and the thought of wandering through the mall fills me with so much rage.

8. I took Sawyer to the dentist the other day and he didn't cry. I had really prepared myself for the worst, so I was pleasantly surprised.

9. Another Prime Day, another bust. I did get a toaster for $20 and Sawyer a cheap pair of tennis shoes, but I really thought books should have been half off or something like that.

10. I have high hopes for the weekend; Saturday I get to catch up with a friend in the morning, go to my friend's daughter's first birthday with Scott and Sawyer (they are having a churro man, so, seriously, this is already awesome), and then my mom, sister, and brother come in that night from up north. Sunday Scott and I are driving to Malibu for a wedding and staying the night while Sawyer is back home in good hands. Then, on Monday we're coming home and taking my family to dinner. Busy, but good.