Hiatus interrupted

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It has been several months since I logged in to my blog and my last post was almost a year ago. I realized that I needed to take a little bit of a break. I almost deleted my blog, but something kept me from doing that. I played around with the idea of starting a different blog and tested it out, but that lasted about week. Instead of starting completely over, I realized I just needed to add more of what I want to add to this existing blog.

I’m pretty sure I’ve written a few posts about being a journalist and how sometimes it is challenging for me to write all day for work and then come home and write for fun.

I forgot the key word in that sentence is fun. I like writing. It’s something I’m passionate about and have been for over a decade. No really, I can remember writing short stories as a young child on wide-lined paper used to teach children how to write alphabet letters.

I like being able to write down my thoughts, even if I’m the only one to see it. In fact, as I write this I have another story to write for work, but I wanted to write a post on here first.  I just needed to be reminded that yes, writing is something I do for work, but it’s also something I enjoy.

So, in the spirit of getting back in the writing game, I am going to attempt to write a post each week from here on out. I hope you’ll join me for the ride.

I suppose I’ll get back to that story for work now.

Until next time.

Nominations for The Sunshine Award

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I must admit, although I’ve been blogging for more than two years I’m new to this whole blogging award thing. So bear with me, folks.

I have been nominated for the Sunshine Award by Theresa J. Baker, who blogs fiction, poetry, character sketches and more. Beyond blogging she has been writing science fiction, literary novels and short stories for about 20 years. Read more about her awesomeness here.

The rules, from what I can gather are: 1.) post the image of the award on your blog post, 2.) write a post accepting the award, including a link back to the person who nominated you, a list of ten things about yourself and a list of ten nominations of bloggers “who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere” for the Sunshine Award. So here goes.

Ten things about myself

1.) I was named after the 1978 Pure Prarie League song, “Amie”

2.) I love reading magazines. I tend to buy them quicker than I can read them, which results in a  stack in my room.

3.) If I had to choose between dinner and dessert. dessert would win every time.

4.) I’m writing this while watching Pink perform on the 56th annual Grammy Awards and she is doing an incredible job.

5.) I have a championship ring from winning a state championship in softball.

6.) I wrote my first novel (which is not published) as a junior in high school.

7.) I recently watched the entire Breaking Bad series in two weeks. Try not to judge me too much, I was snowed in!

8.) I’m a big Indiana University basketball fan.

9.) One of my favorite vacation spots is Holden Beach, North Carolina.

10.) I’m a big music person. I am downloading/listening to it constantly. In fact, if I plan to go to the gym and find I forgot my iPod I usually don’t go.

Blogger nominations for the Sunshine Awards

1.) New York Cliché is a blog following an aspiring actress who moved to New York. The blogger shares hilarious stories about her adventures in the Big Apple.

2.) Twenty Something Condition follows four friends who have graduated college and are now sharing their twenty-something experiences under the Naughty Princess pseudonyms Cinderslut, Sleeping Booty, The Little Merskank and Snow-Whore.

3.) The Twenty-Something Plan includes post from a twenty-something copywriter. Her posts are focused on copy writing, marketing and public relations and the decisions and changes that go along with becoming a ‘grown up.’

4.) Shadow River features adventure photography from a blogger who has been taking photographs since high school. The photographs include everything from family and friends to wildlife and natural beauty.

5.) Bright Tuesday is a blog that includes sometimes humorous, sometimes serious posts about everything from thoughts about life, hobbies, God, family and more.

6.) Cookies and Sangria is from the perspective  two twenty-somethings who have known each other since high school. They write about award shows, celebrities, music and more.

7.) 31DaysofAwesome is all about reconnecting with yourself, living life and finding the awesome in every day. The project also is about dealing with the stress of life changes.

8.) The Art of Making Art is written by an actor living in New York City. The blogger, who is originally from the Midwest writes about being a twenty-something actor in the Big Apple.

9.) Thyme and Honey features blog posts with recipes, travel tips, pictures that will make your mouth water and more. The blog name is the author’s two favorite ingredients.

10.) Borderline Adults is a blog that explores life after graduation. The twenty-something bloggers write about their adventures as young professionals.

Thanks to all of you for blogging, inspiring others and being awesome.

Five things writers need in a snow storm

When the forecast calls for a winter storm, there are several reports about how to handle the severe weather. Stay home if possible. Make sure you have groceries, water and be prepared to lose power. Also keep an eye on space heaters, chimneys, fire places, wood stoves and make sure they have proper ventilation.

If traveling is necessary, keep a fully charged cell phone, full tank of fuel and place warm clothes, blankets, a shovel and an ice scraper in your vehicle. If you have car trouble, call authorities, make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of snow and stay in your car.

My hometown is right in the middle of the winter storm with the potential to receiving 10 to 12 inches of snow before a drastic drop in temperature at the beginning of the week. Monday  is supposed to reach a high of negative 15 degrees. Wind chill of 40 degrees below zero and 25 mph wind is also expected. Tuesday is supposed to warm up very little with a high of negative 4 degrees.

Let’s just say I’m not looking forward to the arctic air expected. All of the warnings need to be taken seriously during a winter storm, but there are additional items writers need* during a storm.

1.) Coffee

Writing and coffee go together, right? Okay, maybe not for everyone, but I know coffee totally improves 98 % of moods (it’s a scientific fact).

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It helps to live with someone who can make coffee or food on a propane heater in the case power goes out.

2.) Laptop or tablet or notebook or type writer… you get the point 

Whatever you like to write in, If your snowed in, you most likely have that extra time to write. Maybe you’ll even find motivation in the cabin fever setting in.

3.) A book

Like number two, if you’re snowed in, you have lots of extra time. Although this could get boring, take advantage of that time and read a book you’ve been wanting to read but haven’t been able to or finish the book you haven’t been able to finish.

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4.) Four-wheel drive or friends with four-wheel drive   

You can only spend so much time inside. Once snow plows arrive and roads are clear, you can safely travel. However, you’ll still need a good vehicle. After a recent snow storm I tried to go to work and my car got stuck at the end of my driveway. Luckily some nice employees of the county highway department stopped to help me out. (I think they felt bad for me when they saw me attempting to dig out my car).

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                                         This is what being a single twenty something looks 

5.) Games

Yes, I’m talking about board games – Scrabble, Cards, Apples to Apples and whatever else you like to play. Obviously this works a lot better if you have roommates or live with someone. This will help you keep sane when the cold weather is keeping you inside.

Stay safe and warm out there, friends. xoxo

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*need is used loosely here – there are serious items needed with severe weather.

To have New Year’s resolutions, or not, that is the question

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This isn’t really a blog post about if people should or shouldn’t make New Year’s Resolutions. It’s a post about some observations I’ve made around the New Year. For some people, Jan. 1 is like catnip and causes a blissful hope to fill the air. For others, there is an annoyance surrounding the holiday.

For example, there is the “New Year, New Me” mindset where someone strives to make the year their best yet by meeting goals like losing weight, making or saving bank and making out with respectable people. This person is also likely to  mark off items on their bucket list: go on vacation…check….take a hot yoga class… eventually.

There is the “I’m making one resolution and that’s to not make resolutions” person. This person typically gets annoyed or even mad when people start making New Year’s Resolutions. This is usually served up with a side of ketchup and Facebook statuses that make fun of people with New Year’s resolutions. These people are simply not impressed with the hype.

There is also the “New Year, Same Me” person. This person tends to be very happy with who they are. Not in a bitter kind of way, just in a confident, nonchalant way. This person also tends be indifferent about the start of the New Year.

In the past I don’t remember making a New Year’s Resolution, but I don’ know if that’s because I didn’t make them or because I didn’t stick with them enough to remember them. This year, however, I did make a list of personal goals I hope to reach.

For example, I hope to spend less money, drink less cherry coke and write often. These are just a few items listed in my notebook. I’m currently participating in a 30-day squat challenge and a “no soda” January and would like to think I”m off to a good start.

Whatever your cup of tea is – maybe I should add not using this idiom to the list- I hope you have a wonderful year surrounded by loving friends and family.

Shine on, friends. xoxo

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What you need to know about writing (as told by my former professor)

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Although being a reporter on deadline can be stressful, sometimes newspaper reporters, photographers and editors get a break to be recognized for their hard work.

Saturday I attended the Hoosier State Press Association Foundation Better Newspaper Contest banquet. I didn’t personally snag an award this year but two of my coworkers did and our newspaper received third place for “Best Online Site/Webpage,” for a total of six awards.

Before the awards luncheon however, I was able to have a one-on-one coaching session with an editor as well as attend two workshops. One of the workshops was with a former professor and editor of mine.

I forgot how good she was as what she does. She commands attention, has humor and teaches something to everyone she speaks to.

Her workshop was called “5 things I learned about writing (After I thought I knew it all).” She makes the point that after college we all have that moment we think we know everything and then we find (usually abruptly) we don’t.

1.) It all starts with a great idea 

It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone and do something that comes easy to you. She noted that people will grow the most by “constantly do a story you believe is beyond you.”

She also noted when you finally do challenge yourself to do something bigger, the difficulties will frustrate you because you’re used to being the expert at what you do.

2.) Concrete words can transport reader into your story

Using concrete words will not only allow readers to easily follow the story, but it will also paint a picture. 

“Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific words or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent…” -George Orwell

Your not dumbing it down, your finding the right, short words, she said.

3.) “Direct quotes are seriously overrated” 

I struggle on this one. Sometimes I quote people too much. She reminded me that quoting isn’t great story telling and should be used to add to the story, not carry it.

4.) Nobody writes a great first draft 

She said writers have to lower their standards, get something on-screen and then they’ll have more time to polish it.

Many writers have said a different version of this. Hemingway is by far my fave saying, “The first draft of anything is shit.” 

5.) Your words have great impact 

Be accurate, fair, balanced and consider the impact of your words. You have an obligation to do the story justice.

She reminded us our words have an impact and before we publish something, we should think of that impact. If it passes that, it’s okay, she said.

A conversation with a philanthropist

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Stacie Eichinger got the idea to walk across America after reading a book about it in high school.

The Tucson, Ariz. native decided a few years ago if she was going to do it, it was now or never. When planning the trip out, she decided she also wanted to raise money for a good cause.

That’s when she decided she was going to raise money for Beads of Courage while walking across America. The organization, as described by Stacie, is a program where every procedure has a specific bead to represent each surgery. Children patients, through the program, receive a bead for each surgery they have.

“There are these 5- or 6-year-old kids who have three or four necklaces and each necklace holds 100 beads,” Stacie said. “the story is powerful and touching.”

She began her walk on May 8th of this year in Ocean Shores, Wash. and plans to continue 3,800 miles to Savannah, Ga. Her trip should continue through February.

At this point she has raised a little more than $19,000, and is at 51% of her goal. She wants to raise 38,000.

Prior to her trip, Stacie volunteered for Beads of Courage. Along the walk, she has carried beads with her. For every $10 donated, she will receive a carry a bead matching bead set, according to her website.

Her goal is to carry a bead for every mile she walks – 3,800 beads, which has the potential to raise $38,000. Every bead she carries will be given to a child in the Beads of Courage Program, she said.

At the end of her trip, money raised will be used to purchase beads for the program. To run the Beads of Courage in one hospital, the cost is $10,000 each year. Stacie has almost raised enough money to run the program in one hospital for two years.

In addition to walking countless miles and visiting people, cities and towns across America, Stacie has stopped in hospitals along the way to meet children in the program.

According to her blog, Stacie is currently in Cincinnati. Those interested in keeping up with her adventure or donating money can do so by visiting her website here.

Advice Stacie has for others wanting to tackle a bigger project is to go for it. It hasn’t been easy planning everything out, but Stacie said she is beyond happy something that started as a dream became a reality.

Here’s a look at some of the questions:

How many shoes have you gone through?
Five- I’m about to be on my sixth pair. Each pair lasts about 500 miles.

What keeps you going?
On days when it’s a little windy and might not be that warm, I think about the kids and it makes it worth it.

What has the best part of your trip been?
Meeting people along the way – people have stopped a lot to ask me what I’m doing. It’s been great to talk with them. Everyone has their own story. 

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*Photos were provided

Check out other conversations here.

A WordPress anniversary: two years later

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I logged in to my WordPress account to a “Happy Anniversary” notification. The announcement reminded me I started my blog two years ago.

In those two years a lot of things have changed, including my blog itself. I first started my blog under the name Hoosier Twenty Something.

The blog was purely experimental. I mentioned in my first post the fact I once said I would never blog and didn’t understand why it has become so popular. Of course I was a blogging rookie at that point.

Blogging is a platform to do, well, whatever you want to do. You can have a theme, talk about your thoughts about any subject. It’s a platform to express yourself in a way you can only do with a keyboard.

I started reading more blog posts – ranging from fashion to reviews to travel and a variety of other topics. I’ve found people are funny, insightful and talented. It’s always refreshing to  read something someone else writes and think “that’s so right” or “that’s exactly how I feel.”

Two years ago I was about to start my senior year of college and had a bucket list of items I wanted to complete (and I believe I did all but one or two). I went from college senior to college grad to missing college with a side of FOMO (failure of missing out) to writer trying to figure things out.

Most of my blogging has been centered around college-related subjects and that has changed. Since then I’ve worked four jobs and now my blog focuses on writing and people. I write, interview and talk with people daily for my job. I plan to continue expanding my writing and continue to document where my twenty somethings take me next. Thanks for the experience, WordPress, and here is to another two years.

A conversation with a national service volunteer

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After selling her computer and car, Samantha packed everything she could fit in to an AmeriCorps-issued bag and boarded a flight to California.

Samantha is a 23-year-old who went to Indiana University and is now doing a program for a national service, AmeriCorps NCCC FEMA Corps. She is a project specialist.

While trying to narrow down a choice of major, she decided to join AmeriCorps and jumped in to the decision without hesitation. She had thought a lot about joining the Peace Corps when she was in high school, but AmeriCorps was an option that had a shorter commitment and seemed more lax.

“I couldn’t decide what I wanted out of life,” she said. “It was difficult for me to narrow down an area of interest for a major and I knew I didn’t want to work as a receptionist forever; service seemed like a viable option in the meantime, while I figured out what I wanted.”

Samantha said it has become clear what she wants and what she doesn’t want. Her goals are clear and she has decided on a major moving forward with her education.

Although she will be all over the United States for the next several months, Samantha is currently located in Queens, N.Y. She said a lot of what she is doing is paperwork.  She is doing paperwork to prepare the road system affected from hurricane Sandy. Even though it’s six months out from the disaster, there are a lot of things that need to be done.

“It’s hard to stay motivated sometimes, but this work still needs to be done,” she said.

Samantha said there have been mixed public views on what they are doing. She said a lot of people along the way to New York didn’t know how to take them.

“They would ask us what we’re doing and not really understand,” she said. “It’s been amazing because the second we got near the coast and mentioned we would be doing Sandy (hurricane) relief, people on street corners and Starbuck’s baristas would tell us thank you. They have been genuinely grateful.”

The best part of her job, she said, has been learning so much about herself. She said she didn’t expect it to be as hard as it has turned out to be.

“I’ve learned how I work with a team and how to define myself,” she said. “You’re in a situation when you’re in a uniform all day, everyday. You don’t define yourself by what you’re wearing or what you have.”

Along those lines, Samantha said the people she has met along the way have surprised her.

“You don’t have those defining characteristics, like an iPad or your Sperry’s, so you have to get to know people on a very basic level of being in the same program,” she said. “My best friend on my team was homeless for a period of time and I don’t think I would have been friends with him without this opportunity. The friendships I’ve made have been great.”

She described the hardest part has been being around the same group of people 24/7 saying, “The same four people share a room, beds, drive to work together, share a desk at work and do physical training together.”

She describes the scariest things she has ever done is volunteering for AmeriCorps.

“Volunteering for something and not really having any idea what it was going to be like was scary,” she said. “I had to leave all the comforts of home.  Even when I moved away from home before, I had a plan, freedom and my things. The not knowing of this program and jumping right in is scary.”

In her time off she has been writing, traveling. She said she has visited Central Park, the Museum of Natural History and more.

Best advice she has received while preparing AmeriCorps was from her father, who she described as her inspiration.

“Before I left, my dad told me ‘this is the time of your life. You’re going to make memories and meet friends you’ll keep the rest of your life,’” she said. “It’s true and I try to keep that in mind when I’m having a hard time.”

After Samantha finishes her time working for the service, she hopes to finish her degree and is thinking about focusing on pre-law, international studies or policy analysis. She said she started at Indiana University and would like to finish there, saying, ‘It has been fun to tell people I am from Indiana and went to IU, especially during basketball season.’

Advice Samantha has for those hesitant and scared to do something is not to overthink it.  She said it’s unnerving to take a leap of faith, but the feeling is liberating

“I went to somewhat of an extreme, gave up my job, apartment, relationships and sold my car, all to join a program I knew very little about,” she said. “I had hesitations and was scared but more than anything I felt relieved. Don’t overthink it, just jump.”

Advice she would give twenty somethings following their dreams is to go for it.

“What’s the worst that could happen? You could fail. Good. Fail. Fail hard, be miserable. Then get up, wipe your tears and do it again,” she said. “What’s the best that could happen? You could succeed and get everything you ever wanted. How will you know if you don’t do what you want to do and follow that dream? It’s worth it.”

Samantha also said people should be decisive and direct about what they want. She said making your own decisions and being as open and clear about things you want out of life will eliminate all the other clutter.

“How will anyone – a friend, your parents, your boyfriend, your coworkers, how will they know what you want if you don’t tell them?” she said. “People will recognize you know what you want and you go out and get it.”

A look in to a few of questions:
1.) Where do you get your inspiration? My dad. He’s always proud of me and works so hard. He is a great father who gives great advice. He is my mentor, friend and greatest inspiration.”

2.) Do you feel like a badass? (after laughing) I kind of do. A lot of what I’m actually doing is paperwork. It’s six months out of the disaster. These are a lot of the things that need to be done. I’m doing paperwork to repair the road system.

3.) What do you wish you had more time for?  It might be selfish, but I wish I had time to myself. I would like to have time to read a book, paint my nails, and take a little bit longer shower. I also hope to read a book I just ordered, “Frozen in Time,” a non-fiction book about WWII.

4.) What is your dream job or what are you interested in doing? I am very interested in law and policy analysis.

5.What is your proudest accomplishment? It will be finishing school. It’s something I’m passionate and thrilled I will be able to do. I’m dedicated, driven and looking forward to that moment. 

Check out other conversations in the series here.