Once upon a time I won a coffee mug from a blog challenge hosted by the writers’ club I’m involved in. It was an amazing experience getting to read and interact with other bloggers while blogging from A-Z, and now it’s time to try it again.
The 2014 A to Z challenge will begin Wednesday, September 10th and end Saturday, December 6th. Thirteen weeks, 2 posts per week equals 26 posts. Writers may choose any theme; but, each post must feature one letter of the alphabet in alphabetical order. There are two parts to the challenge:
Part 1 – Publish two blog posts a week, for thirteen weeks. Posting Wednesday and Saturday are suggested, but not required. (I will be posting on Wednesdays and Fridays to complete the challenge.) Part 2 – Visit at least five other participants’ blogs each week, leaving thoughtful comments and encouraging words.
I try to keep up with friends in between working and classes. However, I’ve noticed, as we have grown older, that we have been moving farther and farther apart, a few of these friends even leaving the country indefinitely.
“Oh, Fullerton?” A friend from Los Angeles would say. “That’s far.”
“Alright, I’ll come to you then.” And even when I used to live in LA County, the invisibly faint zone lines determined how often I would see someone.
Dating was another story. There have been times in the past that I would type an address in my Google Maps app and change my mind about a potential partner candidate. The zones determined area codes, friends, and lovers. Read the rest of this page »
The students sat down in their usual half circle in the classroom, leaving room for their professor to sit at the table in the front. There were only six of them, which certainly made the students feel as though they were closer to each other personally, than those they have met in other classes during their undergrad years. Some how the same seating arrangement that they had experienced in preschool came back around as a trend when they become graduate students.
One of the students, who wore her long blonde hair tied back in a ponytail, looked up from the papers laid out on the desk in front of her as I walked into the room. “Hey, so how was your Thanksgiving?” Read the rest of this page »
The Thing About These Recent Tuition and Fee Hikes For Education
The estimated costs of attending college in theUniversity Of California school system for undergraduates during the entire 2013-2014 academic school year was $36,078. With estimated costs for books and supplies at $1,500, living costs at $13,800, personal and transportation costs at $2,200, and health insurance fees at $1,700, the total average estimated cost for education can put you back $55,278 a year. As of today, approved to raise tuition as much as 28% by 2019 for at University of California schools.
For California State University Schools the price tag rings a little differently, but the costs for attending the institutions are continuing to rise as well. During the 1989-1990 academic school year, tuition fees were at $700. Today, according to the California State University website, undergraduate CSU students pay $5,472 and, on average, mandatory campus fees of $1,287 totaling their costs to $6,759.
The other day I was speaking with a friend, who also went to the same Cal State School, about registering for classes. She was nervous, as everyone else was, about getting the classes that she needs in order to graduate on time. Read the rest of this page »
The day before we left France was another cool and slightly gloomy day. It had poured and sprinkled off and on every day in Paris except for the first extremely hot day that we arrived. It didn’t really rain as we headed for the metro and onto a train to Versailles, however, it rained for a moment while we took shelter inside of a Parisian McDonalds.
After eating our beignets and macaroons from the French-ified restaurant, we walked down several blocks to visit Château de Versailles. It was slightly strange walking off the path of the suburban surroundings and onto the property, which once housed monarchs.
There the Palace of Versailles stood as a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy of the “Ancien Régime” in the middle of a country village, and it continued to sit beautifully dripping gold in the wealthy modern suburbs of Paris. Read the rest of this page »
The last day of our adventures in Spain was flooded with a heavy downpour of rain. The small group of travelers that I was with at the time wanted to make one last stop before hoping a bus to the airport in Barcelona, despite any of us being prepared for the weather that waited outside for us.
We had walked against the cool winds that tried to push us away from our destination. We had called in and tried putting our names down for a reservation to enter the architectural feat that is La Sagrada Família, and were to told that we could walk in with other groups around 10am. We checked the time when we arrived in front of the gates surrounding the basilica, and were told by the guards at the front that we had to wait outside for bit before they could let us in.
The day before had been so sunny and warm, but as we looked up toward the gray skies our faces were dampened with misty sprinkles. A moment later led to an immediate cloudburst of heavy rain, and all of us travelers without hoods or an umbrella huddled together underneath a small awning in line. Read the rest of this page »
I’ve noticed, after traveling Europe for a little bit, that there are often more railways than motorways. Compared to the U.S., the rail networks in Western and Central Europe are wonderfully developed and maintained, they cover more land area, and they just have their shit together.
I spent a decent amount of time in Europe standing in the Firenze Santa Maria Novella Train Station. I bumped into young people wearing large backpacking packs on their way to the next country, locals heading out on day trips, and other students studying abroad who were, like me, using the weekend to explore all that the new foreign country had to offer. Read the rest of this page »
We hit the ground running after we traveled by bus from Beauvais-Tillé Airport in to the heart of Paris. We snapped our pictures under the sparkling Eiffel Tower that stood proudly against the starry sky, seen all that Disneyland Paris had to offer, saw Parisian guards in a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, walked through the paths at Place des Vosges and Palais du Luxembourg, and gazed up at the gargoyles and beautiful stain glass window in Notre Dame Cathedral.
Between all the running around the group that I was traveling with, we had went from being completely confused by the Parisian metro, to mastering the city that resided underneath the surface. We were submerged in a crash course lesson of everything French. I didn’t know the language before traveling to France, but after what were most likely hours spent riding the metro; we had listened to the voice overhead announcing the stops to the point where we memorized the order of some of the places, and were taught how to pronounce them perfectly. However, for a few of us (including myself), learning how to navigate our way through the metro didn’t translate as well to the above ground city of Paris. Read the rest of this page »
The last day that I was in Rome, Italy landed, appropriately, on a Sunday. I had been sick that weekend either from travel fatigue or from my fellow travelers suddenly falling ill to what seemed like the plague, and the rain that flooded the streets the night before wasn’t helping at all.
A friend of mine, who was also Catholic, had mentioned that she wanted to attend mass while she was in Rome. I wasn’t the most religious person, but I agreed to go along because it would be kind of cool to say to my other Catholic friends that I did. We both got up that morning in search for a church with a service that was held in English, but, we had missed many of those already and didn’t think it would be worth it to sit through mass in Italian. We ended up wandering around and meeting up with another friend at the hotel that we were staying at. “Did you guys want to see the Pope at the Vatican?”
The other day, as I curled up on the couch with some hot green tea after a late class, my sister asked me a strange question. “Hey, is it okay if someone borrows an egg?”
I removed the thermos full of tea from my lips and replied with a, “What? Just one egg?”
“Yeah, one of my friends who lives in the building just texted me and she’s coming over to borrow an egg, if that’s okay.”
“That’s totally fine. She can take an egg.”
Several minutes passed and there was a knock at the door. My sister answered it, inviting her two friends in and gave them the cooking ingredient that they asked for.
“Thank you!” The girls said as they moved toward the door.
“You guys just want the egg? You don’t want a cup of water or something?” My sister watched the girls shake their heads with a smile. “I just feel like I should be offering you guys something else.”Read the rest of this page »
It’s funny to look back now and think about the time when we were teenagers and we assumed that we thought we knew more about the world than what we actually did. It took a few years of traveling, going to college, working or other life changes that commonly come after attending high school to realize that we, maybe, we might not have has had such a great handle on the world as we thought we did.
I’m no completely embarrassed to say, but when I was a young teenager living in a small town and in my extremely closed-minded world, I felt as though I was accepting of all people, but I wrongly believed that bisexuality didn’t exist. I had shut myself off and closed my mind from any and all people who tried to tell me differently, and honestly believed that those in the bisexual community were either confused gay or lesbian individuals or attention seeking straight women. It took meeting new people and sitting down and speaking with individuals not of the small town mindset to persuade me into opening my mind and learning about those who were not like me.
I believe, from my experience in high school, that it takes exposure, education and conversation to open the minds of others. I believe that awareness is the key to acceptance, and that people should take the time to peacefully sit down with others and share their thoughts about things in a safe environment. Read the rest of this page »
On the final weekend of my month long stay in Italy I decided to take off by myself to Cinque Terre. There I would explore the five towns of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore along the coast of the Italian Riviera.
I signed up for the Florence For Fun programevent, which offered a day trip that included a round-trip transport from Florence where I was staying, a Cinque Terre National Park entrance ticket, a short boat ride between the fourth and fifth town, and tour guides. The trip details also promised amazing views that we would get to see on hikes through the hilly landscape, the ability to stop and eat local produce, focaccia, seafood and their famous pesto, and to hang out in the beautiful beaches in Vernazza and Monterosso.
That morning of the day trip I dressed in my outdoor hiking gear with my bathing suit underneath. I had heard from other travelers that the hike in between the last two towns would be excruciating and that I would want to immediately jump into the ocean afterward.
The group of students studying abroad from all over the world piled themselves onto a bus with two Italian tour guides who spoke English and who picked up another bilingual local along the way. I sat next to an American female student who wore a sun hat and offered me sunscreen to use. We chatted nearly the whole way to our destination, except for the quick stop to use the restroom at an Italian rest station, until we were greeted with the most beautiful sights of the colorful buildings sitting in the hills above the sparkling blue sea. Read the rest of this page »
I was absolutely nervous before my 17-hour flight to Italy from LAX. Watching my parents and my sister wave goodbye to me (for what very could have been the last time) nearly forced the tears welling up in my tear ducts to fall out onto my face. I couldn’t stand flying. Flying meant making deals with the Universe and praying the rosary a million times all why attempting to get drunk enough to knock out in case the plane I was on crashed.
I managed to pass out for almost the full 17 hours, thanks to the lifeblood that is red wine, and woke up in an entirely new country. I grabbed my bags off of the carousel in the luggage claim and made my way toward the exit. I didn’t really know any of the other students that I was traveling with, but realizing the fact that, for one, I hadn’t died on the plane, and two, that I was about to embark on an adventure in an entirely new place, calmed my nerves. It was later, right in front of the Florence airport exit doors, that we were divided into the several groups containing our fellow roommates. The fact that the four other girls in my group seemed nice erased any remaining nerves that I had about studying abroad.
After everyone was split up into their groups, what seemed like a never-ending line of taxis, came and picked us up to take us to our apartments located around various parts of the city. Two or three students along with their luggage were piled in taxis driven by men and women who barely spoke any English. One of my roommates and I had grabbed a taxis driven by a really sweat old man with a lead foot.
We spent the next several minutes swishing through the city of Florence passing cars, dodging very lucky pedestrians, and speeding by the famous architectural feats of the city. I grabbed a hold of the car door’s inner handle, peered out of the window at the slightly blurry sights, and thought to myself, oh shit I’m in Italy. Read the rest of this page »
Loud noises consisting of people yelling in all different languages filled the Italian train station as I took cover from the excruciating heat. I had nothing but my ratty purse, well spent from traveling, and a backpack for my weekend trip to Barcelona, Spain. Written down on a piece of binder paper were walking directions from my Florence apartment to the train station, and from the train station in Bologna to the airport where I would meet up with a group of other traveling American students.
I was standing by myself with my backpack and purse held tight. I leaned up against the wall so that the zippers couldn’t be accessed without knocking me over. I was nervous and very concerned for my safety. Never in my life have I wandered off in a foreign country by myself, and I’m very sure it showed all over my face.
Then, from behind my overgrown side bangs, and out from the corner of my eye, I saw a young man approach me. He stood directly in my blind spot, and I started to quietly panic. Read the rest of this page »
A visitor drives in from over the Grapevine and into the thin layer of smog covering the lid of the Central Valley that has been collected from cites all over. The non-local knows only of what he has been told. For the strange new face, Bakersfield is this mystic town filled with locals riding horses on city streets in barren desert. However, he eventually changes his tune after his personal tour guide and former local resident takes him on a journey.
The stranger is taken onto the fertile land, where the majority of the nation’s produce is grown. The visitor realizes how close everything is to the city at the base of the valley. The mountains of Tehachapi, Lake Isabella, Los Angeles, the beaches along the coast, and the family owned farms and dairies, surround the growing city creating new and exciting events and ideas for vacations. Read the rest of this page »
The bright yellow mass is carried to the edge of the shore. Together, we drop the two-person kayak into the water and push it further into the bay. My sister and I guide the vessel past the small tides letting our bare feet leave the hot sand and follow it into the cold water. We manage to hop in our seats—me in the front, and my sister in the back. The long double-sided paddles that lay in the watercraft on each of its sides are picked up and held in our hands to steer us beyond the beach.
The sun continues to beam its bright and very hot waves down directly over our heads, but after several minutes of paddling hard against the oncoming current, we manage to meet up with the other kayak that held our friends. Read the rest of this page »
A loud crash of boxes startles me and my heart skips a beat. I notice that the alarming sound has come from the closet that I used while I was in high school. No really one goes into my old room unless I’m visiting my friends and family in Bakersfield, so I’m curious to see what has disturbed my untouched room.
I walk over to the door and slowly slide the rolling door of my closet open and peek inside. As suspected two boxes has crashed onto the floor. However, they are not just any boxes. These worn shoes boxes that have been decorated with brightly colored paper and wrapping were my memory boxes filled to the brim with small knick-knacks and trinkets that represented moments that have passed long ago. Read the rest of this page »
A towering inferno grows out from underneath the cubicles of the modern-style office. The blaze melts the computers on the desks and burns the stacks of pages lying around like a box of gasoline soaked matches.
There I stood in the middle of the chaotic scene with my tote bag in tow. I peered out from behind the flames and calmly announced the phrase, “I quit,” and nonchalantly walked out of the front door. Read the rest of this page »
There I was, sitting in the back of a room full of people with their eyes closed. The conference room was filled with people who had gathered from all over to hear the author of their favorite self-help book speak. I had my eyes open because I have this thing about closing my eyes in public. You know, people can totally come up and rob you or stab you in the neck with a knife.
Anywho, I stood in the back of the room and watched the group of people sit in a trance-like state as my boss at the time spoke softly and gave positive reaffirming commands for people to follow when they exited their trance. Deep breathes and soft music played in the background, and I continued to stand there awkwardly in a room full of hypnotized people. Read the rest of this page »
Everyone thinks they have an idea about what grad school is going to be like. They know that they will end up writing. A Lot. They know that there is a ton of research involved, and that they will be able to focus on the academic subject that they really care about. But what they don’t know is that their lives will forever be changed, not just because they are moving forward into the next step on the higher education ladder toward a deeper understanding of their field, but because they also will never look at things the same way again.
Easy Peasy Vegetarian Recipes: Quinoa Guacamole with Vegan Chicken
So, last week I realized that I had forgotten about a rogue avocado sitting next to my blender on the counter. I figured it was time, once again, to play my favorite kitchen game: “Let’s get rid of stuff that’s about to go bad and Google a recipe that includes these random ingredients.”
Serves 4 What You’ll Need
1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled, and diced
Juice of 1 1/2 limes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup of cooked brown rice
1 garlic clove, crushed with a press or minced and ground into a paste
1 Roma tomato, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
4 servings of Gardein Chik’nRead the rest of this page »
My cup of cappuccino cools as I type random words onto a blank Word document. The title definitely would have been “writer’s block,” but “writer’s block” doesn’t start with the letter “e.”
Tranquil music plays. I absent-mindedly hum along, not really aware if the sounds are too loud for my fellow coffee house patrons sitting at the adjacent tables. I realize as I continue to type that I’ve slowly become one of “those” writers who sit at coffee shops with their Mac laptops sipping their cups of cappuccino.
Somewhere between here and there I rolled down my manual car window on the driver’s side, and let the swift wind flow like a course river into my little Chevy Cobalt. I speed along passing the Oak trees on the side of some lonely freeway.
My foot slowly falls against the gas pedal throttling the vehicle forward, and I gaze on as the broken white line beside the car attempts to make sense of it all, and reconnect itself like a reel of film slides passing by to make a movie. Read the rest of this page »
There’s a countdown on my fridge written in dry erase marker on a magnetic board displaying the days left until our cat’s birthday. Everyone who has come over to the apartment has exclaimed his or her excitement for the event of the year.
“Hey, so are you going to the birthday party on the 28th?” my sister had asked a firefighter friend.
“Yes! I’m so down!”
“Yeah, were going to have hats, decorations and stick a candle in her food and everything.”
So, there is a Facebook trend going on right now that asks users to list the 10 most influential books in that have stayed with them in some way. Thousands of people have completed the task and have tagged others in their post to do the same. And although I have been tagged twice, I still haven’t gotten around to doing it.
So here are the 10 most influential books that have stayed with me. If you are reading this, then I challenge you to do the same. Read the rest of this page »
Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude. -Thomas Jefferson
A man wakes up as the piercing sunlight shines in through what seems like gaping holes in his window’s blinds. He slowly throws the covers off of himself and slides out of bed as if he were an inanimate blob of goo. Somewhere between his bedroom and the office he grabs a cup of coffee and he begins his long tedious day of work. At the end of the day, he heads home in a emotionless trance to eat dinner, watch a little TV, and slide back into his bed to complete the cycle all over again. Read the rest of this page »
Writers of Kern 2013 Fall Blog Challenge September 7, 2013Joan Raymond Beginning Wednesday, September 11, 2013. Ending Saturday, December 7, 2013. Thirteen weeks = 26 posts. The prompt: “A–Z”. Writers may choose their own theme, but must feature one letter of the alphabet each post. Rules are the same as the previous blog challenge: Participants must 1) blog twice a week (Wednesdays and Saturdays suggested); 2) Read five different blogs twice a week, a total of ten different blogs a week; 3) Leave thoughtful comments and encouraging words for bloggers you visit. Winners will be recognized at the Christmas Dinner on Friday, December 13, 2013.