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As I was writing my last blog post about my New Year’s Resolutions, a fifth resolution came to mind: Stop pretending I hate being “plugged in.”

This thought came about as I was walking across the train station parking lot while finishing up the blog entry on my phone. So I have a confession… I have a slight addiction to technology and I’m a sucker for social media.

I had no choice really. Just like Prince William, being born into the royal family with no option other than to one day be King. I was born at the beginning of what has since been titled the “Millennial” generation to a computer systems’ analyst with a hobby of collecting computer parts. I was the only kid typing my book reports in first grade and by fifth grade I had figured out way too much about the capabilities of the Internet, which at that point was serviced through Prodigy. (Yes, were talking pre-AOL days here.)

Remember this kids?

So really, I was born into it. A whole society on the brink of plugging their thumbs into an socket with my dad among the ringleaders. I had no choice.

Nowadays, I often comment about how much I dislike being “plugged in” all the time. I am washed over with a sense of peace and relaxation when I travel abroad or just outside of cell phone range. I even feel quite relieved when I forget my phone at home for the day, free from the expectation of instantaneous response.

On top of that, Facebook irritates the hell out of me. It causes arguments and resentment, adding aggravation to my already stressful lifestyle. Secrets cease to exist — even if you choose not to share yourself on this network of false pretenses, someone you know will share a piece of yourself for you. Imagine all the photos you are in that you have no idea are out there.

Seriously, I hate being plugged in!

But I love it at the same time! I am ready to admit that as much as I love to think that one day I will create my own ‘unplugged’ world, I will not. Especially now that my mobile communication capabilities have advanced to a whole new level by joining the iPhone cult.

I love being able to blog on my WordPress App (where I am writing this from at the moment), stay up-to-date on the array of food/dating/girlie/travel blogs listed in my MobileRSS App and Skype on with my long-distance ladies on-the-go.

Not to mention, as much as I roll my eyes at Facebook, the majority of my blog hits come through FB and Twitter postings (I have no grievances with Twitter and don’t think I ever will — the majority of the events, recipes and blogs I enjoy I’ve found through Twitter. It’s a gold mine of enjoyment with little fallout!) Additionally, the amount of help and support I get from my online network, with regards to career questions and inspiration, raising money for charity events and further connecting with people I’d have never have the opportunity to communicate with otherwise, is remarkable.

With that said, I am proud to be an Millennial.

I may be extremely — and I mean, extremely — impatient, speak in 140-character sentences filled with acronyms and have an ridiculously low threshold for boredom, but so do all my peers, so we’ll just continue to keep each other busy.

I vow to quit complaining about my use of technology and recognize it for the pluses its contributed to my life.

Wait, I’ll BRB… my email alert just ‘dinged,’ a push notification popped up, its my turn at Scrabble and I need to restart my playlist.

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I came across this “note” on the Facebook page for “Pets on Death Row” and it left me in tears. I never imagined the process so dreadful and terrifying for animals, but even if this describes the situation in only a handful of shelters (which I imagine it doesn’t!), it is too many!

(posted: 2010-12-17, 10:31PM EST)

You can’t keep your pet? Really?

BY A Shelter Director

I think our society needs a huge “Wake-up” call. As a shelter manager, I am going to share a little insight with you all…a view from the inside if you will.

First off, all of you people who have ever surrendered a pet to a shelter or humane society should be made to work in the “back” of an animal shelter for just one day. Maybe if you saw the life drain from a few sad, lost, confused eyes, you would stop flagging the ads on craigslist and help these animals find homes.

That puppy you just bought will most likely end up in my shelter when it’s not a cute little puppy anymore. Just so you know there’s a 90% chance that dog will never walk out of the shelter it’s dumped at? Purebred or not! About 25% of all of the dogs that are “owner surrenders” or “strays”, that come into a shelter are purebred dogs.

The most common excuses: “We are moving and we can’t take our dog (or cat).” Really? Where are you moving too that doesn’t allow pets? Or they say “The dog got bigger than we thought it would”. How big did you think a German Shepherd would get? “We don’t have time for her”. Really? I work a 10-12 hour day and still have time for my 6 dogs! “She’s tearing up our yard”. How about making her a part of your family? They always tell me “We just don’t want to have to stress about finding a place for her we know she’ll get adopted, she’s a good dog”.

Odds are your pet won’t get adopted & how stressful do you think being in a shelter is? Well, let me tell you, your pet has 72 hours to find a new family from the moment you drop it off. Sometimes a little longer if the shelter isn’t full and your dog manages to stay completely healthy. If it sniffles, it dies. Your pet will be confined to a small run/kennel in a room with other barking or crying animals. It will have to relieve itself where it eats and sleeps. It will be depressed and it will cry constantly for the family that abandoned it. If your pet is lucky, I will have enough volunteers in that day to take him/her for a walk. If I don’t, your pet won’t get any attention besides having a bowl of food slid under the kennel door and the waste sprayed out of its pen with a high-powered hose. If your dog is big, black or any of the “Bully” breeds (pit bull, rottie, mastiff, etc) it was pretty much dead when you walked it through the front door. Those dogs just don’t get adopted. It doesn’t matter how ‘sweet’ or ‘well behaved’ they are.

If your dog doesn’t get adopted within its 72 hours and the shelter is full, it will be destroyed. If the shelter isn’t full and your dog is good enough, and of a desirable enough breed it may get a stay of execution, but not for long . Most dogs get very kennel protective after about a week and are destroyed for showing aggression. Even the sweetest dogs will turn in this environment. If your pet makes it over all of those hurdles chances are it will get kennel cough or an upper respiratory infection and will be destroyed because the shelter gets paid a fee to euthanize each animal and making money is better than spending money to take this animal to the vet.

Here’s a little euthanasia 101 for those of you that have never witnessed a perfectly healthy, scared animal being “put-down”. First, your pet will be taken from its kennel on a leash. They always look like they think they are going for a walk happy, wagging their tails. Until they get to “The Room”, every one of them freaks out and puts on the brakes when we get to the door. It must smell like death or they can feel the sad souls that are left in there, it’s strange, but it happens with every one of them. Your dog or cat will be restrained, held down by 1 or 2 shelter workers depending on the size and how freaked out they are. Then a shelter worker who we call a euthanasia tech (not a vet) find a vein in the front leg and inject a lethal dose of the “pink stuff”. Hopefully your pet doesn’t panic from being restrained and jerk. I’ve seen the needles tear out of a leg and been covered with the resulting blood and been deafened by the yelps and screams. They all don’t just “go to sleep”, sometimes they spasm for a while, gasp for air and defecate on themselves. You see shelters are trying to make money to pay employee pay checks and don’t forget the board of directors needs to be paid too, so we don’t spend our funds to tranquilize the animal before injecting them with the lethal drug, we just put the burning lethal drug in the vein and let them suffer until dead. If it were not a “making money issue” and we had to have a licensed vet do this procedure, the animal would be sedated or tranquilized and then euthanized, but to do this procedure correctly would cost more money so we do not follow what is right for the animal, we just follow what is the fastest way we can make a dollar. Shelters do not have to have a vet perform their euthanasia’s so even if it takes our employee 50 pokes with a needle and 3 hours to get the vein that is what we do. Making money is the issue here not loosing money.

Then it all ends, your pets corpse will be stacked like firewood in a large freezer in the back with all of the other animals that were killed waiting to be picked up like garbage. What happens next? Cremated? Taken to the dump? Rendered into pet food? Or used for the schools to dissect and experiment on? You’ll never know and it probably won’t even cross your mind. It was just an animal and you can always buy another one, right!

I hope that those of you who still have a beating heart and have read this are bawling your eyes out and can’t get the pictures out of your head, I deal with this everyday. I hate my job, I hate that it exists & I hate that it will always be there unless you people make some changes and start educating the public. Do research, do your homework, and know exactly what you are getting into before getting a pet. These shelters and humane societies exist because people just do not care about animals anymore. Animals were not intended to be disposable but somehow that is what they are these days. Animal shelters are an easy way out when you get tired of your dog (or cat), and breeders are the ones blamed for this. Animal shelters and rescue organizations are making a hefty profit by keeping this misconception going.

Between 9 and 11 MILLION animals die every year in shelters and only you can stop it. I just hope I maybe changed one persons mind about taking their dog to a shelter, a humane society, or buying a dog. For those of you that care— please repost this to at least one other craiglist in another city/state. Let’s see if we can get this all around the US and have an impact.

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Anything for Grandma!

Grandma and I hanging out with Max (the dog we fostered for 6 months) at the park.

This Saturday Grandma and I had our first Facebook lesson. Since it was the first time out, all we really covered was opening an account for her and showing her what it looks like. I’d been saying for a while now that I was going to do this — and even got an old eMac (with low resolution so the letters are big) specifically for her. However, each time I mentioned it she chuckled and shot me a look that said “Yeah riiiight, oooo-kay.” I think the look meant to imply both “When are you gonna get around this?” as well as “Me? Facebook? I don’t think so!”

So when she finished looking at photos of her new great-grandson on my account at the desktop and I turned my laptop around and exclaimed, “Check it out! I made you your own,” I half expected to be met with a dismissive handwave as she walked away.

Instead, she watched attentively. And when I explained the concept of having “friends,” she began asking questions, ‘What about this person; are they on here? Can I see this? Can I see that?’ She was tooooootally into it!

She rocks!

We added all the family members we could find, and even found four people from her high school ‘class of 192x.’ She didn’t remember any of them, but I think she liked seeing other people her age participating.

The next night we found the group my aunt made for her family, appropriately titled “Descendents of [grandma’s mom and dad].” My aunt put it together when my grandma’s sister passed away, making my grandma the last of her siblings. Grandma has had fun going through old photos and my aunt and her cousins are having fun trying to remember where the pictures are from.

Grandma had never seen the group in real-time, so we sat down and went through the 72 photos. She explained who was who, who had joined the army, where they had traveled to, how they ended up on the west coast, yada, yada. I felt ashamed at one point when I realized I couldn’t name all her sisters and brothers. Of course they were younger in the photo than I’d ever seen any of them, but still… what kind of granddaughter am I?

One photo in particular stood out. My great-uncle had moved to Cali after the war and got married there. The wedding photo posted is the only wedding photo anyone has ever seen of the event. Apparently something happened with the photographer and they never received the wedding photos. When one of his kids found this one photo and posted it, it was the first time my grandma had ever seen him and his bride in their wedding attire. “My parents never went to the wedding,” she told me. “They didn’t have the money.”

Wow! I thought about the reaction someone would have this day in age if their parents said they couldn’t afford to attend their wedding. Forget that, I’ve seen brides freak out on their girlfriends for not attending a destination bachelorette party that’s gonna run them $800 for three days. I mean, they have reality TV shows based on demanding, uncompromising brides. And here, my grandma had never even seen her brother and his bride on their big day. Wow!

Another cool thing was my grandma’s wedding dress. She bought it at Saks for $50 — which she notes, “was a lot back then!” She wore it and two of her sisters-in-law wore it. Her daughter would have also worn it, had not been slightly destroyed from a run through the washing machine. (Note: Don’t put satin in the washing machine!) And the veil my grandma wore? Her sister-in-law in Cali it to her (the one who’s wedding she couldn’t attend), and two more people wore it after her. Talk about getting use out of your wedding gear.

And here we are, worried about wearing the same dress to two different weddings, of people who don’t know each other, and we’re only guests.

I couldn’t help but wonder after that: What are we looking for when we shop? Does it make us happier?

Every story my grandma has is one of happiness. It was one that brought a smile to her face. And none of them were about shopping or buying things or any stuff she owned. The stories were about the people she loved and the things she did with them.

I’m an adult. (Or at least I like to think so.) Years ago, I thought that at this point in my life I’d be living it up in the city. And I guess I could be. But when I stop and think about it, I recognize all the time I’ll miss not being near Grandma.

Saturday breakfasts on the patio where I ramble all my blog ideas to her and she confirms that they are awesome. (She’s an amazing confidence booster!) Her rants about the Mets blowing it in the last inning. (She’s been watching them for decades and she still seems surprised when they do that!) Sunday night dinners when she decides to stray from her usual cheese and crackers diet and whips up a meatloaf. And weekend mornings when I plead for help at Wordscraper on Facebook because my friend is always 200 points ahead of me. (Ever play a game with her? She doesn’t know the meaning of losing! Always get her on your team!) Or how cute she is when she asks ME for help on a crossword puzzle. She knows I’m crap at them so when she asks I know she’s really desperate.

Hanging at home with her reminded me of what I’d miss. And what I do miss when I’m running around like a lunatic trying to tame life.

But she says that our running around is what keeps her young. So if I’m her fountain of youth, I guess I’ll keep running around like a lunatic.

Anything for grandma!

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The majority of people who I mentioned my Bacon Peanut Butter Cupcakes were like, “Bacon?” To which I agreed, “I know  it sounds weird, but it works!” I figured it would as there are too many cupcake recipes that include bacon it for it taste disgusting.

This morning I stumbled on an NPR Article about the Denver Cupcake Truck (and its use of Facebook). And go figure, what does it include a recipe for? Maple Bacon Cupcakes!

I’m with ya on the bacon-infused baked goods Cupcake Truck, but I’m gonna pass on this one!! If I eat anymore bacon, or peanut butter for that matter, I may have to embark on another cleanse.

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NaNoWriMo? Check.

“I snuck out of the vine covered walkways and was greeted with 180 degree ocean views below the steep, rocky cliffs of…”

was about where I ended. Mid-sentence, mid-topic, on a roll to a pivotal point in what I hope turns into some sort of coherent story, was exactly where I was when I submitted my 50,666 words to NaNoWriMo.org for verification.

50,000 words on paper? Check. Complete story? Negative.

Before I began I thought nothing of the, what turned out to be, 84 pages of .doc text. When my friends would react with astonishment at the challenge I was voluntarily embarking on, my brain thought, “What’s the big deal? It’s not that much writing.”

Well, it was that much writing—at times. There were some days I opened my laptop on the train and just stared at it with fearful wide eyes like my grandmother does when I sit down with her to show her emails and photos online. At other times I was so engulfed in my story that the train conductor actually had to give a little “ahem” for me to notice I was the last one sitting on the train. But just one more sentence so I don’t forget my thought.

Throughout the process I picked up lots of tips and advice from other NaNoWriMo participants, friends who do and don’t write regularly, and the constant stream of pep talks famous writers send out to keep our motivation going—my favorite of these was one from week one where the author said something along the lines of, ‘you’ve started, you’ve got about 5,000 words on the page, and now you are trying to decide if you should sack it off while you still can and start over.’ I thought, “OMG! Yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking.”

They are all, like, super psychic or something.

Yet through all this, the best advice I received was from the Français fille. She stumbled across a quote from Hemingway that she though I would appreciate. After a stubbornly difficult day of train-typing, I opened my email to read: “I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day.”

It dawned on me, ‘hey, he’s on to something.’ My easiest days of writing were those in which I was welcomed by a half-developed idea because I had been forced to stop writing mid-thought during my last session.

We are so trained in society to finish things: Finish dinner, finish a TV show, finish one project before moving on to another. Stopping mid-task is considered “a lack of discipline.”

I now see it as a little mind game I play with myself.

Stopping mid-way became the key to continuing on: Even when I had five minutes left to write on the train, if I knew I was getting to the end of a scene, I would stop—I will finish later when I have time to dive into a new scene.

Easy as that.

As I finished up on my last day, November 29th, I thought, ‘This wasn’t so hard. What made me think this was hard?’ I had come full circle. But I think that’s what I was meant to do.

The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to challenge oneself; to set a goal for something you have always desired to do, and to just do it. Without the deadline, pep talks and comrades, many of us would never even attempt the feat.

Yet in the end, I think it’s more of a personal journey than the one you put on paper. Many of us will never ever look at that story again, while others—like I intend to—will finish, re-write, re-write again, edit, change names, flourish the details, add in some fictional excitement, edit, proof, and eventually begin the hunt for a publisher.

But no matter what comes of our stories, we can all take note in our end-of-2009 reflection, that we did it. We wrote a 50,000 book/part of a book/random story/a series of incomplete random stories/a journal/or whatever else took the writer’s fancy.

In the end, we are all the shiz-nit!, right Caitlin?

And with that said, I have to go. We’re in the LIRR tunnel and I don’t want to get yelled at by the conductor again.

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So this NaNoWriMo thing is more difficult than I expected.

Yet, at the same time, easier to get the hang of than it seemed a week ago.

As I predicted, the difficulty stems from the “no-editing” guideline. In order to reach the seemingly more-exorbitant-by-day 50,000 word count, there is no time for rewording, thesaurus searching, or even rereading. I was forewarned about this and intended on leaving my ‘editor’s cap’ behind for this adventure, but as always, easier said than done.

The first week I spent writing and writing and writing: Ooo, a spelling mistake. Wait! Does that make sense? No, I shouldn’t mention that yet, it was make it more suspenseful if I waited until I outlined the other scenario… blah blah.

My word count was suffering.

While in journalism it is beneficial to refine as you write, saving you time down the road, this technique is proving less fruitful for book writing.

Five days in, I received a week one pep talk from Jasper Fforde:
And this is why 30 days and 50,000 words is so important. Don’t look at this early stage for every sentence to be perfect—that will come. Don’t expect every description to be spot-on. That will come too. This is an opportunity to experiment. It’s your giant blotter. An empty slate, ready to be filled. It’s an opportunity to try out dialogue, to create situations, to describe a summer’s evening. You’ll read it back to yourself and you’ll see what works, you’ll see what doesn’t. But this is a building site, and it’s not meant to be pretty, tidy, or even safe. Building sites rarely are. But every great building began as one.

I spent Saturday trying to block out the desire to perfect. Eh, did over 2,000 words; not as much as I know is possible for a four-hour stint at the pub. I mean, if nachos, beer and free wi-fi can’t inspire me…

Then on my Monday commute, I thought back to Augusten’s words: I have a horrible memory. I have to just sit down and go back to that place. I don’t know what I’m writing; I just relive it and get it down. (or something to that affect)

I took out my laptop opened up my manuscript and went back to the place I had been last discussing. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I only stopped writing because I was the last one sitting on the train car in Penn Station.

I got back on the train to go home that night, and once again whipped out my pristine white Apple and continued where I left off. I wrote and wrote and wrote. And again on Tuesday morning, I repeated this routine.

When getting to work on Tuesday, I uploaded my wordcount: More than 3,000 words over the course of two hours and 15 minutes of train rides.

I think I nailed it.

Since then I have added up near an additional 3,000 words in less than three hours time. Not bad, not bad at all. I haven’t a clue how it sounds as I have not re-read more than a sentence or two to determine what I was talking about when I dive back in. And I do not plan on rereading it until I have it all on paper, and that’s not just the 50,000 NaNoWriMo words, but the entirety of what I might want it to say, because the more I go on, the more potential I see for multiple stories.

I took this on to jumpstart my 2009 goal of writing a book—which has been redefined to “first draft of book” now that I am familiarizing myself with the process. But in ten short days I have begun to understand the  intensity—and emotional upheaval—of memoir writing.

But like they say, “you can’t edit a blank page.” And while I can’t wait to start sorting through a decade of thoughts, experiences and anecdotes, for now I’m enjoying reliving, processing and documenting them.

Now, with 33,611 words to go, the only challenge is maintaining the momentum.

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Some interesting stats about blogging:
(seemed appropriate to share on my blog, ha ha ha.)

State of the Blogosphere 2009 Introduction by Jennifer McLean on the technorati.com website.

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