25 March, 2015

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

How cool is this?

I was recently nominated by Janine from Reflections from a Redhead for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. 

I've been a bit quiet on this blog lately...busy at work, busy at play (I went to Stowe to ski last weekend!), and busy studying (for my board exams this Tuesday). So I needed an excuse to take a break and write.

Here are Janine's thought-provoking questions...
  • Why did you start blogging?
I first started blogging (on Xanga!) in 2003 when I was moving to Copenhagen. I thought it would be a good way to share my experiences with family and friends back home. I wrote a lot as a child and teenager - and I was probably pretty good, or at least better than most - but in college, I never really found my niche. I didn't think of myself as a journalist, so I didn't fall in with the student newspaper, but my fiction wasn't as abstract and "literary" as most of the English majors' seemed to be. As a first-year, I applied to an advanced writing workshop, using an excerpt of a novel I'd started in high school. I got accepted but I was too young to really jump in and give/take criticism. Later, when I joined the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, part of the membership process included giving a speech, debate or literary presentation (which had to "pass" the established members). I read a short story that I'd written during that workshop. What I remember most was how it split the Hall. Most literary presentations were underattended and passed easily; mine prompted more discussion and debate than I'd ever seen before. The members who traditionally stayed away from the "literary" aspects of the Society were strongly in favor of it passing: one got up to speak in support of it and said, "This is the first time I've listened to a literary presentation and understood what it was about." The members who were traditionally strongly involved in the literary side were opposed...with 15 years hindsight, mostly because it wasn't written in the dreamy style where much is reflected upon and little actually happens. (I'm not arguing it was a brilliant piece but it was good enough.) Think of Raymond Carver vs. Gabriel García Márquez, on a vastly less gifted scale. 

Anyway...that is where I was coming from when I first decided to give blogging a try. The full story about how I ended up writing this blog is posted here.
  • What do you love about getting older?
Pretty much everything. I'm still figuring out my purpose in life, but it feels more like an adventure now and less like an agonizing slog uphill in the mud. It gets easier to be self-aware and live in the present. I think this is probably true for a lot of people.

I really related to the speech Tina Fey gave at our alma mater (UVA!) where she was asked "what she wished she'd done sooner in her career" and she replied, "I wish I'd started waxing my eyebrows earlier." Not so much the specifics of eyebrows ;-) but I feel like the first twenty years of my life (1980s, 1990s, early 2000s) were a time of really bad fashion and style choices - Sun-In with dark brown hair, for instance, is a really bad idea. A couple of weeks ago, I cleaned out my closet and I tried one of my favorite shirts from 2002 - it was a black silk knit with an attached black leather and rhinestone collar. My sister took one look and was like, Oh God, no, throw that out. The nice thing about being an actual grown-up is that I don't try very hard anymore and yet the results are so much more attractive. I also finally - a perk of medical education - have the self-discipline to work out regularly. "Running" on an elliptical while trying to read for a class on "the sexual and the sacred in Islam" is not working out. 
  • If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
This is so hard. Do I have to work for a living? If so, probably a townhouse in Georgetown, Washington, D.C. or a farm with lots of land in the Blue Ridge Mountains outside Charlottesville. Or better yet, both. I'd love to live in Portland, Oregon, too, but it's far from my family. If I didn't have to work - supporting myself writing! - I think it gets even harder to decide. I'd love to change with the seasons - fall in Charlottesville, winter at a house in the mountains in Colorado with great skiing, spring in Oxford, summer on the Isle of Skye in Scotland (with some weekend trips to Edinburgh or London?) or maybe somewhere in the South Pacific (Cook Islands?). I want everything - to be able to walk out my back door and hike or ski (or swim or row) for miles without running into another person but also to be able to walk down the street to a farmers' market or an art gallery or a nice wine bar. I want oceans and rivers and mountains, sunshine and snow. It's impossible to choose. 
  • Kids or no kids? There is no right or wrong answer.
I have a three-year-old. He is hilarious now and just getting to the age where we can start to do some of the things I love together. I definitely plan on having more kids, but for now I want to enjoy the one I have. I work a lot and love my job, and so I feel like spacing out my children is the key to balancing it all. My great-grandmother famously advised my grandmother (my father's mother) that you should "have a baby and rock that baby until he gets too big to be rocked, and only then" have another one. But I admit, I sometimes feel the need to justify why I haven't had another one yet. 
  • Where do you want to take your blog in the future?
I really don't know. I would like to build my audience, but I know it's hard when I don't really have a focus or target audience (turns out that "people I know who think I'm smart and funny" is not actually a target audience). Right now, it serves the purpose of letting me flex the writing muscle and not get too rusty, until I have more time to write for traditional publication. It's also a way of thinking out loud. 
  • Are you a folder or a scruncher?
A "hanger"! Is that a word? I can't fold but I'm very neat - so almost everything except jeans and workout clothes gets hung up. Last summer, I moved back into the house I grew up in, and the first thing I did was install California Closets. When I travel, I roll my clothes, military-style. It fits so much better.
  • What are you most grateful for?
Writing my answers to the questions about favorite songs and guilty pleasures made me think of this story:

When I was growing up, my parents had season tickets to our local symphony and other performances. When I was 11 or 12, they took us to see Kiss of the Spiderwoman, which is where I learned about political prisoners, torture and that sometimes men like men. Thanks, Mom and Dad! No, really...I am profoundly grateful that they were so willing to show us the world, as it is, in all its glory and despair, with hope and without judgment. They made me the person I am and they made me a vision for the person I'll always aspire to be. 
  • What are you most looking forward to in 2015?
Hmmm. I'm looking forward to being surprised - I hope there will be a lot of good surprises this year. I'm also looking forward to going to the Fogo Island Inn on vacation this summer and rowing a lot more, on Cazenovia Lake. 

Actually, at this bleak point in our very long and bitterly cold Northeastern winter, I am quite desperately awaiting spring. The first day I can wear a skirt or dress without tights and boots will be an ecstatic one. I love - need - four seasons, but I'm ready for the next one. Last weekend, I went skiing in Stowe, Vermont and those last good runs were the psychological end of winter for me.

Usually, I have a long list of books that I'm awaiting release but so far this year, my Amazon pre-order list is looking a little thin. Kazuo Ishiguro's The Buried Giant is out but I'm thinking about saving it for a holiday, so I can savor it. And while it's not always the most original, I've had a lot of fun reading Sarah J. Maas' Queen of Glass series, so I'm looking forward to the release of Queen of Shadows in September.
  • What’s your favourite song? Why not share the YouTube clip?
I have a lot of favorite songs, so how about a favorites playlist: 

(1) "On the Turning Away", Pink Floyd (my first and forever favorite)
(2) "Casimir Pulaski Day"Sufjan Stevens (inspired one of the novels I've been writing) 
(3) "Fields of Gold", the Eva Cassidy version 
(4) "Angels", The xx
(5) "Sigh No More", Mumford and Sons (I used to sing this to my son when he was a baby - "Love, it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you. It will set you free. Be more like the man you were made to be.")
(6) "Stubborn Love", The Lumineers
(7) "Youth Knows No Pain", Lykke Li
(8) "Rhiannon", Stevie Nicks (another old favorite - I picked this for my personal "theme song" when our group of summer orientation leaders in college decided we should have our own soundtrack)
(9) "Hurt", the Johnny Cash version
(10) "Stay Alive", José González
(11) "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead", Stars
(12) "Deep Red Bells", Neko Case

This week, I've been listening to George Ezra ("Breakaway" is my favorite on that album), Tigana Santana (good for studying!), and Ernesto Lecuona (apologies, I have to make a separate list for classical favorites...it would take me much longer to decide), and I've also, unfortunately, gotten that song from The Hunger Games ("Are You Coming to the Hanging Tree?") stuck in my head, so I keep humming it at awkward times. 

But this one is possibly my favorite YouTube video: "King and Lionheart", Of Monsters and Men
  • What is your guilty pleasure?
Hmmm (again). Singing Jesus Christ Superstar at the top of my lungs while driving to work? Something reminded me of musicals recently...as a child, this was my sister's and my favorite (the 1970s film version). I think we learned about 80% of our theology from Jesus Christ Superstar (and the rest in Catholic after-school religious education). We thought this was hilarious: "Always wanted to be an Apostle. Knew that I could make if I tried. Then, when we retire, we will write the Gospel, so they'll still talk about us when we've died..." I am, however, eternally grateful for my dad pointing out that "I Don't Know How to Love Him" was not a good choice for a high school musical audition (look up the lyrics). Other people did not get such good guidance.

The Rules
  1. Link to the person who nominated you.
  2. Add the award logo.
  3. Answer the questions your nominator has asked.
  4. Nominate 7 other blogs and let them know via comments.
  5. Ask your nominees 10 questions.
And the Nominees Are (if they choose to accept)…

(I promise - it's fun! Kind of like being interviewed.)

Channeling Hippocrates

Ms. Strained Consciousness

Diet Daze and Other Unimportant Musings

A Novel Review: Writing, Reading, and the Rest of My Military Life
...more to come soon...

The Questions
  1. Why did you start blogging?
  2. Do you have a favorite scar? Tell us its story.
  3. Are you sunrise, daylight, twilight or night?
  4. What's the best meal you've ever had?
  5. If you wrote a book, what would it be about? Write the inside front jacket.
  6. Tattoos - yea or nay?
  7. What do you wish you were better at?
  8. Which young-adult bestseller-turned-movie do you dislike the most? (Twilight, Divergent, etc.) Why?
  9. Public school or private school? (Interpret however you like...)
  10. What fashion decision do you most regret?