The Friday Four: Three Books and a Shameless Plug

1. Shameless plug for community colleges! I was reading something online about their value, and it made me remember that I got a very good education at the community college I attended, and the professors and students were much more friendly and helpful than those at my university. Also, community college is by far less expensive, and I believe that was one of the reasons I obtained my BA debt-free. Seriously, people. Community colleges are the way to go. Let’s erase the stigma.

2. In the Red – Elena Mauli Shapiro. I like these kinds of good-girl-gone-bad stories but only when the good girl has a really good reason to go bad. I don’t buy the “she was naïve and didn’t know any better” rationale, especially not when the story takes place in America in modern times. However, the writing style was lovely and the story itself was a more quiet, introspective, character-driven read, which I enjoy.

3. Life by Committee – Corey Ann Haydu. Because I write YA, I have a good excuse to read YA now and then. This was one of those YA novels (and there are a lot of them now) that had a compelling premise but weak character development and unsympathetic characters. The only thing wrong with the premise is that it completely relied on the Internet to be realistic, and with the speed of change in online trends, the entire story could be rendered obsolete and irrelevant in a few years. So, little chance of this being a classic.

4. Me & Emma – Elizabeth Flock. There were two reasons I picked up this book: it takes place in North Carolina, and it’s a story about domestic/home life situations. The narrator is an 8-year-old girl, and the character’s voice was spot on, especially when describing the dynamic between her mother and stepfather. The book has a twist ending that I totally didn’t see coming and when it came, I wanted to read the whole thing again. This was my favorite out of the books that I’ve read recently.

Have you read anything good lately?

Last Year’s NaNo

After getting very far behind yesterday and the day before that (and getting so far behind I didn’t even write in this blog yesterday), I managed to catch up. So I’m right where I should be in terms of the word count for NaNo. Validation started today, so if you have validated and won already, congratulations!

I am finally getting somewhere with worldbuilding and answering more of the questions I had asked myself about my series later in the year. As I was doing that, I ended up reviewing the story that I wrote for last year’s NaNo, JO(H)N, which was about a minor character in another story and how she became corrupted and somewhat villainous. To me, villains have much more interesting backstories than protagonists.

But because I initially wrote about a minor character, what was the main story in JO(H)N will have to become the side story when I get around to rewriting it. I sort of shoved the main story off to the side, so I could write about this minor character who really fascinated me then (and still does).

It was still well worth it to write about her, not only because I had fun, but also because I understand her better, and the better I understand the characters, the more realistic and detailed they become.

Because I’m Happy

I hate the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams because it’s going to be the default song for happiness for probably the rest of eternity, and it’s a horrible earworm, but that’s not really what spawned this post.

Happiness generally has nothing to do with how wealthy you are or how many material things you have or what kind of car you drive or what kind of house you live in or any of that. It doesn’t even have much to do with whether you’re good-looking or have a “superior” job.

You create your own happiness. You decide to be happy. But even though it’s pretty obvious that happiness is a conscious decision that we have to make every day, it’s still somehow very difficult for us to be happy.

Living in the moment is hard–at least, for me it is. My mind constantly oscillates between regrets of the past and worries about the future, leaving no time to enjoy the fleeting moments and what is going on right then and there. That’s why meditation and prayer can help to make you happier–they force you to live in the moment and stay away from the negativity that creeps in from looking into the past or the future.

This is an overused quote, but I think it fits pretty well:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” –Viktor Frankl

If a stimulus occurs that ordinarily makes a person anything other than happy, that person should try to look into that space before the response and choose the option that will make them the happiest. Or if there is blank, empty space in our minds that is prone to being filled with angry, depressive thoughts, a person ought to choose to fill it with happiness and awareness of the present moment. This is a good lifelong challenge.

Poetry Time: Sky

January 12, 2009

Coming to a halt–
a spider holding on,
hanging from its thread.
All its strength
coiled within.

The sky hangs over,
threatening,
as it had in a dream
of weakness,
drizzling rain.

Something
I can’t touch
I can’t name–
blood, broken toy,
dead branches.

Another enemy
crouches inside,
taking root,
holding me back…
let it go.

The sky pours rain,
the clouds let go.
All their strength
pouring over my head
as it had in a dream.

The Friday Four: The Value of a Citizen

1. Here’s a funny article about the value of a GOOD proofreader and an amusing blog post about “howling ambiguities.”

2. I posted once before about living at home with your parents when you’re 20-something, but this CNN article brought it back to my attention. Frankly, I think it’s sad that the woman who wrote the article feels that she has to defend her choice, when it is a choice that both she and her parents are 100% happy with. Her choice affects NOBODY else, especially when she works and is a “productive member of society” (and I put that in quotes for a reason). In general, if you make a personal choice, it is YOUR choice. Never mind the haters or the dissenters. No one is forcing them to make the same choice you made.

3. Speaking of the whole “productive member of society” thing, it bothers me that in American culture, our value as people seems to be based on what we can do for or provide to others. If you become unemployed unexpectedly, you are suddenly less valuable and less of a person because you are not contributing. If you are old and in a nursing home, you have no value to society because you take more from society than you can give back. Same if you’re in prison. This may be the unpopular opinion, or naive, or stupid, or whatever, but I believe that all people are intrinsically valuable because they are the children of God.

4. I’ve been posting a lot of wall-o’-text entries lately, so here’s a picture! These are some of my journals from the past few years. Every time I find a sticker, no matter how childish, weird, or random it is, it goes on the cover of whatever journal I happen to be writing in at the time.

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Happy Friday to all!