Sunday, December 26, 2010

Could you imagine?

So Baby Sister is eleven months old.  And here's the shocker of the week - in this month's newsletter I get from some baby website with tips on development and "what to feed your baby at this stage" kind of content they started talking about having another one.  Are you kidding me?!? 

Another baby?  NOW?

I can barely keep my wits coping with my current baby who is becoming mobile!  We still have a hard time going out because of babysitting options not to mention that I just BARELY feel like my body is back to mine again.  Who in their right mind would dream about starting over and going back to being exhausted day and night, transitioning into being big as a whale and completely incapable of keeping up with a toddler, ending with bringing another one home to add to the chaos?


Add that I am weeks away from turning thirty-nine (yes, that's knocking on forty's door thank you very much) to the fact I don't think I have the energy or desire to add another child to our little family right now and you've got the worst combination.  The hardest part is that Hubby really longs for a boy.  A son to coach football and take fishing; another shot of testosterone to balance out the estrogen fest we currently have going on, not to mention carrying on his family name.  And while in some random moments of insanity I think it might be nice to have a son I quickly start thinking of all the realistic things that scream NO FUCKING WAY!  Perhaps if we hadn't waited so long to decide we wanted more than one kid we might have time and the energy to do this dance all over again.  But that's not how we did it.  There's way too much pressure to make a crazy snap judgment about another kid just because I'm getting older.  Lots of women have kids later in life, right?

My mind still boggles at the thought of people with kids two years apart (OR LESS!) - of which there are plenty around.  I have total respect for them but know there is no way I could do that myself.  Who knows, maybe when I'm 45 if we still think we want another one I'll hop on the "advanced maternal age" bandwagon again in a moment of insanity... but I seriously doubt it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas to ME - selfishness of the season

'Tis the season!  I am a very giving person (although I don't share well with others, just ask my sister) and typically am completely focused on others during the holiday season.  But this year the hubby and I did something big for ourselves for Christmas.  We joined a gym. Not just any gym either, the "Caesar's Palace of Gyms" as Hubby calls it.  Yes, I shopped for everyone on the list and then some and I know that this is the wrong time of year to be purchasing things for yourself - or so my Mom always told me - but they have treadmills that go downhill!  And to add on a child under 12 it only costs $6 a month for which you get two hours - TWO HOURS A DAY - every day of free daycare while you're working out.  Plus it is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week - something that "24 Hour Fitness" cannot even boast - which is important to Hubby who occasionally works the night shift and needs something to do while we are all sleeping but he's not working.  Then there's the amazing pools that are open for family swim time almost every day that Big Sister will love, a rock climbing wall she's already hooked on, and a monthly "parent's night out" where you drop your kids off for some fabulous activity and then YOU. GO. OUT!

Hubby has been begging and pleading and dropping hints and finagling and scheming for ways to convince me to join this club since it opened several years ago.  I always heard the amenities and assumed it was way out of our price league and dismissed it.  Now, however, I'm a full-blown runner who wants to run 3-5 days a week regardless of the weather who has been hampered by snow at least twice already and it isn't even officially winter yet.  So, I relented in going for a tour.  And of course it was amazing - the yoga classes are included - even the heated ones - and they have Pilate machines and did I mention the treadmills that go downhill too?!?  Of course they sweeten the deal in December by waiving fees and cutting others in half and we were suckers for the hard sell after the tour.  But, there has not been any buyer's remorse and we spent seven hours there last Saturday. 

Seven hours. 

Now before you call for a running intervention, let me break down those seven hours...  First we had the event "Breakfast with Santa" where you could bring non-member friends (Big Sister opted to bring the BFF of course!) After breakfast, the girls got to enjoy the bounce houses, see Santa, make ornaments for the tree, decorate cookies and even meet "Santa Paws" the dog.  We also took our neighbors in a shameless effort to convince them how crazy cool the club is so they would join too - not sure if that worked or not but we are hopeful...  After the event was over, we dropped the girls off at the Kid's Club (aka, daycare) for two hours while we met with our trainers for our first evaluation and orientation and then Hubby played basketball and I worked out.  Then we grabbed the girls, had some healthy lunch in the cafe and hit the pool for Family Swim.  Before we knew it three hours had passed in the pool with the two of them having fun while Hubby and I took turns tag-teaming between the kiddie pool and the lap pool/hot tub.  By the time we hit the showers and headed for home it had been seven hours of fabulousness and we were all exhausted.

What a lifestyle kind of place rather than just a place to go to work out and I know we will be super happy there.  Big Sister is counting the years (she has three left) until she can do spin class and yoga with Mom and asking if we can go to the gym to swim or climb the rock wall every day.  I'm apprehensive about my first experience at spin class coming up tonight and REALLY looking forward to a treadmill run that can actually mimic outdoor terrain and not just go UP hill!

Looking back on my life "before running" I can see that I'm a different person - one who thinks a big chunk of cash every month to belong to a health club is a valid use of financial resources; one who schedules time in the calendar to work out 5 days a week and sticks to it.  And most important, one who is healthier and fitter and a good example to my girls as they grow up.  So while, yes, the membership itself was a selfish gift bought at an inappropriate time, it is a gift that will keep on giving and I refuse to feel bad about it for a single minute.  Happy Holidays - we're celebrating Yule today - of whichever flavor you prefer!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Grief as a helpless bystander

Here's where my blog becomes an outlet for my own inner demons... if it's too heavy for you, I apologize.  But this entry is really for me.

I have a coworker who is 41 - basically my age - and fighting cancer.  She has a very rare, super fast growing type that no one even really knows the name of, which isn't even important.  Suffice it to say, it is THE BIG C.  When I was having Baby Sister, she was having her uterus removed because it was full of a huge tumor.  That was ten months ago.  She went through chemo and radiation and the tumor was gone and we were all very positive.

But then it came back...

And she did more radiation and more chemo and stayed positive and never let anyone really know how bad it was - or at least me, anyway.  And then, out of the blue last week we got an email stating that she wasn't coming back and that there wasn't anything else that they could do but manage her pain for the next couple of weeks.  I know enough about that little catch phrase to know it means she is not going to win her fight against this disease.  And that just plain sucks.

I am seriously at a loss.  Me, who always knows what to say and what to do or if I don't, doesn't care because I just breeze through life taking what comes in stride.  Except what do you say to someone when you know that whatever you have to say is trivial?  I think the hardest part for me is that we are co-workers, not friends.  I don't feel like I could tell her I love her and hug her and cry.  Others on the team have worked with her long enough that they are both and so they can.  I've never hugged her before now so I would feel like a fraud if I did it now.

Her significant other told us she was feeling up for visitors for a couple of days before they leave to head across country and spend her last days with her family.  And I couldn't bring myself to go.  I feel like I'm some kind of emotional failure because I can't.  I just know it would be me sitting there staring at her, crying, with nothing to say and taking time away from her and those that she would rather be spending her last days with.  But what does that say about me that I don't want to go and "say my goodbyes"?  It isn't like she is quitting her job and just not going to work with us anymore, she is dying. I feel just as sad as the rest that she won't get to grow old, to see her kids get married and have children of their own and everything else a person my age has to look forward to doing in their lifetime.  But I feel like an outsider who is reading about her in the paper because we don't have a close or deep relationship, even though I will miss her.

I feel a bit better today after talking to one of the people who did go to visit.  She told me when they were there that she was very out of it, sleeping mostly, surrounded by her family and that it was as if she had let them come for their sake instead of hers.  Imagine being in so much pain and suffering so much and still letting people come to say their goodbyes.  How emotionally draining for her when there are so many other things she is struggling with! 

I don't have emotional ties and I won't have regrets that I didn't go to see her before she died so I'm going to leave it at that and try to feel okay with everything instead of beating myself up for not going.  Although part of me feels like that makes me some kind of heartless bitch who is rationalizing myself out of an awkward situation to make it easier on myself.  One thing is for sure, I don't like being in this limbo area reserved for acquaintances - I think I'd rather be a close friend or a stranger when it comes to grief.  At least then there are clear-cut roles for you to step into based on tradition and culture.  Life is short - squeeze those you love and live every minute as if it were your last because there are no guarantees any of us will live to see old age...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Okay so maybe I'm not perfect

Notice I said maybe...

It is officially December 1st as of fifty three minutes ago.  NaNoWriMo is officially over for another year and I haven't written in more than a week - well, except for here on my blog.  I thought it might be therapeutic to reflect on what the month and my unsuccessful finish has taught me.  First and foremost, I realize I'm not perfect and, although I normally do exactly what I say I'm going to do when I say I'm going to do it, sometimes I just can't do everything I want.  That's what happened this year.

Am I wallowing in self doubt and telling myself I'm not a "real" writer?  No 
Do I want to?  Yes
Will I? Only for a minute or two every now and again before I snap myself out of it

Instead I'm going to focus on the positives of the month: 
  1. This year I wrote more in November than I had in the six months previous combined 
  2. I have a kick ass start to the rewrite of what I hope to someday be a kick ass novel people can pick up off a shelf and read
  3. I'm inspired again to work on said novel I "shelved" six months ago which, without NaNoWriMo would still be languishing in the recesses of my mind
So, what the hell happened?  How can an entire month fly by so quickly that I don't even realize it's gone?  Probably the same way almost an entire year has passed since I had my baby who is now 10 months old, that's how!  She is almost walking, crawling everywhere and quite honestly I blame her almost solely for my lack of writing time this month.  I'm knocking on 39's door and I don't have enough energy to keep up with her, my job, my running and still have time to write.  It is what it is and I accept that I can't do everything but sometimes getting older really sucks.  Remember the days where you could stay up until the wee hours of the morning and still get up and function all day?  Now I actually need sleep... so irritating sometimes!  Although back then I lived with my parents and had little control over my own life so there is a trade off I guess.

There were times throughout this past month I had flashes of self loathing.  Times where I would think "what are you doing?  Why aren't you writing?" and berate myself for lack of will power and commitment.  But I realize that - although I know it is most likely a rationalization of some kind - it is okay to accept that things are sometime beyond my control with my life and it doesn't have to mean that I am a failure.

Tonight I thought about making a final stand and spending the three hours I had while big sister was at dance writing  - just to see how much I could get done by the end of the deadline.  But there was baby sister and how could I resist those big blue eyes and that skinny little diaper butt that beckoned me to follow while she crawled all over the house and pointed at the wind chimes she wanted me to activate for her listening pleasure.  And then there was the giggling when I tickled her and the cute way she has of flinging her little head back to tell me she wants to go upside down so she can come back up and laugh some more.  And shaking her head "no" at me when I tell her not to push the buttons on the TV or open the cabinets to investigate the treasures within.  Yes, I picked her and snuggling on the couch with big sister when she got home from dance instead of making a last stand for 2010's insanity of a writing goal.  I'm guessing even if that means it takes me another year to finish the novel it will still be worth it since I will never forget the everyday joys of the times like we had tonight.

So, there is always next year to try again.  This time more prepared and hopefully with a finished draft of my first novel already under my belt.  Here's to growing up almost as fast as I'm growing old...

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Unit

This month's book club selection was The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist.  It was a translation so parts of the language were a little flat but what a great read if you're looking for something to fire you up!  A fictional novel about a futuristic society where 50-year old childless women and 60-year old childless men with "unnecessary" jobs are deemed dispensable and required to check themselves into a Biological Reserve Unit where they are forced to donate blood and organs while participating in "humane" experiments until time for their final donation (aka euthanized) - all while living expense free and wanting for nothing.  While it is based on a futuristic society it mirrors our own in many ways, vaguely telling how the leaders of the society made small changes that spanned almost the lifetime of the main character - a woman raised by a forward-thinking mother who warned her against ever being trapped into being dependent on anyone besides herself. Next thing she knows, she's a writer who's always just gotten by, never found herself pregnant and now 50 and dispensable heading into the Unit for her final days.  The final days that ended with a twist and makes you think about what you would do in her shoes.

I can't lie - the feminist in me as well as the writer HATED this world and all it stood for and I found myself marking pages for quotes and scribbling three pages of notes as I read so I wouldn't forget a single topic for the book club discussion.  (The discussion was one of the most heated on record.)  This book is not about character development but is instead about very deep ethical and moral topics delivered in a thought provoking story.  I recommend it for anyone and everyone!  Regardless of your views you are bound to feel an emotional response to this fabulous little read! 

One word of caution to those more "sensitive" readers.  This book was originally published in Europe where sex is viewed and discussed in a much more plaintive way.  Many in my book club found that aspect to be superlative and at times even distasteful.  I've read smuttier so this in no way was trashy but may be a bit stark to those who have never experienced a more European outlook on the relations between men and women.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Katherine Howe

Great book club pick for October and anyone looking for an alternative take on the Salem Witch Trials.  Imagine if it wasn't moldy bread at work with those girls and their fits but actual witchcraft?  And then imagine if that witchcraft were written down in a book...  Oh, the possibilities!

A fun and light read refreshingly filled with sophisticated words - a nice change after so many YA novels of late.  Although the characters were a bit predictable at times with little depth, the story is one that holds your interest until the end.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Maybe a change of scenery would help?

We've passed the halfway mark of November and NaNoWriMo... which means I should have at least 25,000 words written of the requisite 50,0000 if I'm doing the slow and steady wins the race approach.  I've fully recovered from the half marathon insanity and am still running three times a week - much smaller distances now - and have switched my focus to writing.  So why do I only have 8300 words written?!?

I've learned several things so far this year.  First, there is a huge difference between being six months pregnant and attempting to push through pregnancy exhaustion to stay up late so you can write a novel in a month and trying to find time to write with a 9 month old who is highly mobile and needs constant care.  Baby Sister also chose November to decide that by staying on her well-established daytime nap schedule meant staying up until after ten so Mommy can't write until way late every night; on top of no extra time while she is awake, of course.  It is what it is... and it's one reason I think coffee was invented!

Second, all novel ideas are not created equally.  I wasn't very focused on writing in the weeks leading up to November and didn't really have a "great" idea for this year's novel.  Last year my idea was amazing and I had several months to work out at least who my characters were and the basic idea of the story.  Not this year!  I conjured up a little nugget of something based on a "what if" kind of situation and tried to flesh out an entire novel from that nugget.  It took me down a path I knew little about so I decided to do some research and tapped into a friend's vast knowledge of genealogy to help make the story more believable and authentic.  She is a natural story teller and the next thing I knew my little nugget had morphed into her version of a story that had little resemblance to what I had first been inspired by - authentic and believable to boot.  Her enthusiasm was contagious and I was totally fired up to write THAT story... until a few days into trying to do it when the spark died.  The characters were blah, the story was blah and I was not feeling it... at all. And it showed in my dismal word count that didn't grow much that first week.

So I abandoned that fragment and decided to start writing something else.  Remember my first short story?  The one that sucked but was packed with tons of emotions?  I thought it would be cool to flesh that story out so I started to.  But I still didn't feel it after I wrote the initial opening scene.  *sigh*  Now what?

At that point I got a really great pep talk in email that somehow was written just for me.  Bottom line, NaNoWriMo is not about writing a polished novel and if it is a ton of tangents that you feel like writing and have only a flimsy relation to one another but still add up to 50,000 words then you still did it. Okay, so just keep writing!

What I ended up doing is pulling out the really great idea I've been working on for two years and instead of revising - the idea of which overwhelmed me - I decided to start over... again.  It began as a mere exercise in rationalization that, in my brain, went something like this:

I wonder if I could just rewrite the prologue... just to get me back on track... yeah, I think that's a great idea!

And several thousand words later I have a fabulous prologue where before there was only a shadow of it.  The action starts in a completely different place, the characters are much more believable, and most importantly, I'm inspired again.  I'm going to just keep going on the re-write instead of a revision of what I've already written.  I know what happens in each scene so just re-do them with a different eye this time around.  At this point I have to write something insane like 3000 words a day to finish on time but I'm willing to try!

So, although I did move my writing chair to a different spot for a change of scenery hoping to inspire, it is really just the inspiration of a great idea that I really needed.  Wish me luck!  If you need me, I'll be writing...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Half Marathon Recap

I DID IT!  I finished my first half marathon and lived to tell about it... which I will now attempt to do here - hopefully coherently.

I went into the event weekend totally stressed out about everything EXCEPT the actual run.  Since the race was about an hour from home and we had to report to the busing area to get to the starting line at an ungodly hour of the morning, we decided to spend the night with my cousin - ironically the very cousin who started me on the running path and turned me on to this particular race.  It was Halloween at school so I had to juggle attending festivities for Big Sister and working Friday; plus leaving early enough at the end of the day to get all our gear packed for the night; AND stop at a baby shower for a friend on the way - both hubby and the kids in tow.  (Yeah, I know!  Could I have had one more thing on THAT day?  I don't think so!)  I had gotten very little sleep all week with the craziness that is my life normally but had been properly hydrating for the days leading up to the morning of the race.

Before heading out, I packed one of every kind of running gear I own - short sleeves, long sleeves, etc - not knowing exactly what the weather was going to be like until that morning.  And since I wouldn't be at home, I wanted to keep my options open.  (No, this was not about fashion although I will admit to stressing about what I wear to get all sweaty in entirely too much!)  After we rendezvoused at my cousin's place and got the kids settled and into bed she and I started talking running and cold weather and what to wear.  By the time we got to bed, it was after eleven.  Ouch!  We had to be dressed and out the door by 6:00 am to make the last bus to the start.

I woke up excited and nervous - the same feeling I used to get on Christmas morning when I was a kid.  The weather was cold - about 45 degrees at the start at 6800 ft elevation.  BRRRR!  But, I'd be running so I had to dress appropriately - what a strategy that requires!  I decided to wear my long sleeve wicking "Halloween Half" official running shirt that came in my race packet, a long sleeve fleece and a running jacket plus gloves and an ear warmer since we would have to stay warm at the top for an hour after our bus ride before the race started.

We got to the designated mall parking lot to meet our buses and head to the start and it hit me how HUGE this race was.  There were a ton of people.  I had heard numbers thrown around on all the Facebook posts and all my communication emails from the race staff and knew there were like 2500 runners registered.  Which, don't get me wrong, is a huge number but seeing that many actual people lined up to get on buses was seriously awesome.  Picture it:  a huge mall with a Costco in one corner of the massive parking lot.  15-20 buses lined up down the center of the parking lot and a line of people stretching down parallel to the line of buses and eventually curving back in around itself at the back of the lot.  (It looked like the line to get tickets for a Neil Diamond concert I stood in when wristbands were new in the 90's and I had to do insane things for my parents still!)  We met up with all the people I knew who were planning to start out together and got in line.

I hadn't had much sleep and I hadn't had time for any coffee since we slept in (and it isn't good to drink it on race day anyway!) and perhaps that explained why I went nuts when I saw what was happening with the bus loading logistics.  Regardless of the reason, the performance analyst in me started noticing this weird thing happening... they were only allowing people on the very first bus even though we were lined up going right past ALL the buses. Why are we not loading ALL the buses?!?  I have to walk past FIVE BUSES to get to the front of the line to get on the FIRST bus?  Clearly they did not have anyone with the proper skills overseeing this aspect of race logistics.  As it happened, I was in line with several others of the same mindset and we started feeding off of each other about how insane it was.  I know I got worked up enough that the "F-bomb" got dropped numerous times - it was COLD! - and still we stood right alongside empty buses unable to get on board.  Perhaps my loud-mouthed obnoxiousness will benefit racers for next year since we noticed that they had begun loading multiple buses as we were FINALLY getting on board the lead bus.  One can only hope!

The bus ride was slow because the bus in front of us was broken and could barely make it up the canyon but at least it was warm.  The approximately one hour wait in the tent they had erected at the top of the course was cold but passed quickly.  The line of 50 portable outhouses at the top was our first stop as we got off the bus on the way to the tent and - as hindsight will show - SHOULD have been my last stop on the way to the starting line half an hour later.

The course started at the top of a scenic side-road of Provo Canyon above the Sundance Resort - yes, THAT Sundance - and, after five miles of super steep 8% incline descent, joined up with a parkway trail that wound out of the canyon and along the river to the finish line.  I had done 10.7 miles the week before and seriously was not worried about adding another couple of miles.  My mindset was great; I knew my only goal was to finish and would most likely be in the back of the pack but it wouldn't matter.

The gun cracked and the mass of people slowly got underway... only to be hampered by a van parked in the middle of the narrow road before the first turn - left there by some dumb ass who clearly wasn't supposed to have left it there.  I ran down a little embankment of bushes hoping not to get mired in all the people backing up but not sure if it mattered much since everyone else around me had the same idea.  Once we all got around that obstacle and were really underway, I waved goodbye to all my running buddies as they passed me and settled in for the long run which I was hoping to finish in less than three and a half hours.

The first five miles were A-MAZ-ING!  I ran my fastest mile ever on the second mile and was even passing people.  But remember, I've been training for downhill and I LOVE downhill.  About mile two I was shedding my first layer of clothing... gloves and ear warmer into the jacket pockets and eventually the jacket tied around my waist.  About mile four I was shedding the second layer of fleece which also went around my waist.  Call me a cheapskate, but I am not at the stage where I'll just throw perfectly good running gear on the ground and run away never to see it again!  Plus, I could never bring myself to willfully litter like that!  *gasp*  At the bottom of the scenic and steep part, I had been averaging ten-minute miles and thinking a two and a half hour time might be within my grasp since I was still feeling super good and having a blast.

And then we got into the canyon proper section of the course... and it was NOT downhill!  And not only was it not downhill, it was a slight INCLINE uphill!  What?!  You're kidding, right?  Luckily it was time for an aid station with water and time to eat my Gu fuel - which for those unfamiliar is like squeezing a tube of icing into your mouth and washing it down with some water.  I couldn't find the chocolate flavored one that I like the best and had opted for mandarin orange flavor.  The important part is that I had a valid reason to be walking for a short distance while I refueled so I could kind of recover from the little bit of uphill before hitting the parkway, which I expected to return to the downhill I had been promised...

Only it wasn't downhill...

The next two miles were uphill and reality hit me that I should NOT have been going so fast the first five miles because now I had little gas left especially for uphill.  But, I pushed on and ran most of the next two miles but walked on the steepest sections.  Because I was walking some my hips started hurting, and my feet were swelling and my mind was screaming 'you can't do this!' and then I would argue with myself that 'yes, you can damnit!  You ran eleven miles a week ago!"  About this same time, on top of everything else, I realized that I was going to need to pee before the finish line and started obsessing about how I was or wasn't going to accomplish this.  I passed a couple of outhouses but there were people already waiting and I was NOT going to stop to wait and increase my time that much.  So I ran on and then there was another aid station and I walked a bit to drink some water - since I had decided not to carry my own this time which I normally do - and then I had to stop to stretch because I was starting to cramp up in my calves.  Basically miles eight and nine are a blur of pain and needing to pee and forcing myself to keep running.  At some point in this stretch we ran through the most gorgeous section of trail covered with fall leaves and even though I was feeling okay still at this point and still mostly running I slowed down enough to take my phone out of my pocket and snap a picture.  It was THAT beautiful, don't you think?

Just before mile 10, the course flattened out and was fairly enjoyable and mostly downhill with only rolling hills.  I would have loved it if I hadn't been in so much pain and needing to pee SO BAD.  I finally spotted an inviting little path off to the side of the trail that went for a ways and then turned a corner and was densely wooded - you know where this is going, don't you!  Yes, I did the runner's dash into the bushes and relieved my poor bladder with only a minimum of wasted time.  I surprised a lady when I burst back onto the trail and I'm sure she was thinking "that girl is nuts!"  I didn't care because I felt so much better!  (Note to self:  always go before you start even if you don't think you need to... my Mom will be so proud that I have kept this lesson of childhood and found ways to still apply it!)

At this point I want to remind you that I had previously only ever run eleven miles - and much slower and not so steeply downhill.  Oh, the pain of miles 10 through 13!  My hip felt like it was going to slip out of alignment at every step (I sheepishly admit to slacking on my physical therapy which now I know will remain important forever and ever because of my hip issue...)  And my feet were so swollen that literally every step was agony.  About 10.5 miles in, I was doing more walking than running and just hoping to finish before the sag wagon came through picking up stragglers who would be marked as "Did Not Finish" because it had been 4 hours and they could no longer insure everyone's safety for the event.  I had an epiphany at the last aid station and remembered that I had more "shot blocks" in my pocket.  HELLO! I had been so focused on pushing through to the end I'd forgotten to fuel.  Well, that and I had never run long enough that I needed to fuel twice mid-run.  So, I chewed up my energy shots and almost immediately felt better.  Thinking that I could probably - just probably - finish.  I pushed myself to speed walk when I was walking and run in stints even though I didn't think I could run another step.

And then I got to what I refer to as the crying section around mile 11...  because don't you know running is for sissies!?  At first I was crying because of the pain.  Then I was crying because I didn't think I could make it.  And then I was crying because I was thinking that maybe I could make it.  In between all these instances of tearing up I was mentally smacking myself and telling myself to "suck it up you crazy bitch!" and other such inspiring personal pep talks.  (Anyone who doesn't think running is a mental sport clearly has never run a long distance race.)  I had my iPod in my ears and probably should apologize for all the profanity I was saying under my breath but was probably loud enough that everyone around me could hear it...

About halfway through mile 12 when I realized that I was, indeed, probably going to finish I started thinking about my cheering section waiting for me.  My hubby, my daughters, all my friends ... they would all be cheering me on - because certainly I was the last of them to finish for sure.  And then I was crying again at just the thought of how it would feel to see them and cross the finish line.  More slapping myself and trying to pull it together and forcing myself to run and wondering where the FUCK the end was...  yes, I was kind of delirious at this point. 

Here's a big note to self:  I don't care how far you've run before, adding another 2 miles to your longest distance is always going to be a big deal... dumb ass!

And then, just when I thought it would never come, I rounded the last corner and there was my family and friends and, even though I'd spent a half mile pulling myself together so I could pass them with dignity, I started crying like a big baby... again.  This time I didn't care and just ran and posed for pictures and continued on to the finish line to collect my hard earned medal.  Big Sister hugged me as I passed, Hubby relieved me of my extra jackets around my waits and my running partner said the one thing I needed to hear: "Keep going, the finish is right there!"  As I ran past a line of fellow runners waiting to get on the bus they fed off my personal cheering section and had their hands out for high-fives as I passed - including my neighbor who was the one person I hadn't seen at the start that morning. 

I crossed the finish line with an official time of 3 hours and 22 minutes... almost ten minutes faster than my average training pace and with plenty of room for improvement for next time (and 38 minutes before the sag wagon would start it's journey to collect the stragglers!)

Wait... did she just say NEXT time?

Yes, I said next time.  It's been a week now since the race... my muscles are barely sore anymore, my foot doesn't hurt too much for heels again, I don't wince walking up and down stairs, and I'm planning to resume my running on Sunday.  Sadly, my days of only downhill must come to an end, I need to increase my endurance and ability to run regardless of the terrain and start getting ready for the next big adventure:  Ragnar Wasatch Back Relay 2011, where I will run a total of 21 miles in the course of two days.  There's already another half marathon tentatively in the works for April.  One without all the crazy extreme downhill this time!  Stay tuned, what an adventure it is sure to be!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

10K, training and looming half... oh my!

I just realized in all my latest ranting and raving about insanity at work and how published authors got it ALL WRONG, I haven't updated on my running.  Last report had me mired in self doubt and thinking I should hang up my running shoes but feeling hopeful for the next 5K.  Since then, I've done another 5K and a 10K.  This time the 5K was part of a much larger event - a Boston Marathon qualifier - on pretty much flat terrain.  It was SO much better than that first stupid 5K which I would like to forever strike from the annals of my memory.  (Seriously, we should have delete buttons for memories that there is no way we will ever want to remember.  THAT run, would be the top of my list!) A couple of weeks later, I did my first 10K. 

I went into the 10K much more mentally focused and prepared with the mantra that I was NOT in it to compete but merely to complete.  At times I kept thinking about how it seemed that ALL the other 10K runners had passed me but then I remembered that I am a short chick with short legs and trying to go long distances, not sprint, and that it is my own personal best I'm ever trying to "beat".  There was a woman with a green shirt on just ahead of me that I kept thinking "if she doesn't pull away then I'm okay" to block out everything else.  She didn't... and halfway through the 10K route we met up with the 5K route where I got to start passing people left and right.  Then there was no way to know if anyone around me was a 10K'er or a 5K'er and thus could not be viewed as competition.  (At this point I admit I am a competitive monster and watch out when my body transforms into a COMPETITIVE runner and able to keep up with what my brain wants to do... oh boy!)  I finished the 10K with a time of 1:31 which was a tiny bit faster than my training time AND there were hills.  I didn't once feel like I couldn't go the distance and felt amazing afterward.  (AND I beat 8 other people as an added bonus for said competitive nature.)

Since the 10K, I've been increasing my training distances on my long runs in final preparation for the half marathon.  Two weeks ago two fellow Ragnar teammates and I ran down from the top of one of the local canyons to get a feel for how steep the marathon route will be.  You know what's more beautiful than my favorite canyon in the morning in the fall?  Running down it and hearing all the water as well as seeing all the scenery.  It was so much fun and I had my best 10K time and my fastest mile on that nine mile run.  (I LOVE downhill running!)  Two days ago I did an eleven mile run - yes, ELEVEN MILES - in the rain and felt fabulous.  Two and a half hours of straight running, in the rain.  I had SO MUCH FUN - crazy, I know.  Now I know exactly how to dress for cold weather - I needed something to keep my ears warm and some gloves - and am 100% certain I can do the half marathon distance this Saturday.  Because once you can do eleven miles, what's adding two more, right? 

What a journey it has been... My most ambitious goal I've ever shot for - train 12 weeks to run a half marathon as a brand spanking new runner - is in my sights.  I'm living proof that anything you put your mind to is possible.  Wish me luck on Saturday!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Two words.... HATED IT!  And because I did, I don't care if I spoil it for anyone else.  So, here's your fair warning that if you don't want it spoiled you should quit reading.

Like right now...

Seriously, I warned you...

I don't want any hate mail because you kept reading and will curse me when you hear how it all ended before you read it...

If you're still with me you've either already read it or have no interest in reading it, right?

Okay, let me start by saying that I hated this final installment of an otherwise fabulous trilogy on two levels - both as a reader and as a writer.  We'll begin with the writer factor.  The whole thing was written in first person which means you only get to know what happens because Katniss (the main character) sees it herself or thinks it in her head.  When she's in the Hunger Games arena and under major action sequences, this is simply brilliant and the author, Suzanne Collins, did it so well that I forever sing her praises...  Well, until now.  So what happened with the last book?  Katniss is practically a secondary character - a pawn in a larger game - for most of the book.  So you don't actually get to know anything substantial.  Sure, she does stuff and sees stuff but none of it actually matters.  Then, at the end, when the game actually gets revealed and you find out that what she (and thus, you as the reader) thought were true about the other characters are not as they seemed, she shoots the wrong president.  And I had to read the ONE SENTENCE that tells about it twice to actually catch that something significant happened.  Then she gets locked into a cell under solitary confinement for months while she is on trial - which you never get to hear about or learn about at all.  Seriously, if that's the story then why didn't Katniss play a role where we could actually see the story?  Or, I get that you want a twist at the end but if we never hear anything about what happened while she was locked away waiting to die for her crime, why when that doesn't happen doesn't she get told what DID happen so we know!?!?  UGH, I could scream!

Which then brings us to the story itself that I hated from the reader level.  I never thought her and Peeta should be together.  I really liked Gail and wanted them to end up together.  And when Peeta came back brainwashed thinking she was the bad guy after he gets rescued from his captors and tries repeatedly to kill her, I was convinced she would end up with Gail.  So what the FUCK?  It was completely anti-climactic how Peeta gets "cured" of the brainwashing and then Gail may or may not have been responsible for the bomb that killed Katniss' sister which also never gets resolved.  AND, we never get to find out for sure what happens to Gail - if he didn't get to be with Katniss who he loved, at least tell us that he is happy elsewhere.  Is that too much to ask?  And after everything is said and done, this amazing girl who was partly responsible for a revolution and bringing down an oppressive government.... votes to keep perpetuating the violence she fought against?  Really?  And becomes, in the end, an emotional vegetable who lets life happen around her?  WITH PEETA?  UGH...

Seriously I hated the way it ended and wish I had never read past the initial book which stood alone quite well, thank you very much.  Without the second book we wouldn't have seen her and Gail's relationship and really there was no need to take it past the first Hunger Games that she survived.  Who needs a revolution... just go home and tell the tale you lived to tell.  It probably was initially written as a single book and some agent somewhere told her "hey, this would be great if we expanded the story line and did a trilogy"...   Wouldn't that be a bite in the ass if somehow it was the author revolting herself against such a suggestion?  If you haven't read any of them, just read the first and call it quits.  Nothing works out in the end and you'll just be mad...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Time for another rant...

It has been quite some time since I had a rant and rave session... something necessary on a daily basis before I switched cubicles to one NOT on the aisle and therefore subject to all the crazies and their hallway meetings.  I'm in a really good area of the cube farm now... nestled between my supervisor who is off in meetings more than he's at his desk and the technical team lead who just works all day.  I realized after moving that the incessant chatter that drove me crazy and made my lack of a concealed weapon permit a good thing for those around me is not what the real problem is - it is when that chatter is NOT work related that I get crazed.  Since my move, I hear probably more chatter but because it is primarily work related, it doesn't bug me!

There are two people within earshot of my new cube who are in the bottom third of the productivity scale on my team... Today one of them had a group of two other slackers gathered and were discussing - wait for it - the eating habits of their dogs and why, when they feed their dogs and cats half of their food, they just can't understand how they don't lose weight.  At one point, I heard one of them proclaim that she'd found not eating an entire bag of potato chips at night had led to her dropping a few pounds.  Are you kidding me?  An ENTIRE BAG of potato chips by yourself?  My arteries closed up a bit and my stomach rolled at the thought of it!  Another one said she makes an extra grilled cheese just to feed to her greyhound.  Well, that might be why your diet of "feed the dogs what I eat" (yes, that's what she referred to HER diet as) isn't working since you are still consuming the same food but making extras to give to the dogs.  The conversation devolved into the dynamics of sharing a bed with multiple cats who demand their own pillows and I entertained thoughts of a .22 bullet.  I can only assume that these people are single women because I don't know a man who would put up with that kind of shit.  Although, clearly, I just might not know the right kind of people. 

One of these days, the insanity of how LITTLE work is actually performed at my work place by people expecting a paycheck every couple of weeks that they've done very little to earn will be exposed and something done about it.  In the meantime, I will quietly scream "SHUT THE FUCK UP" under my breath multiple times a week and rant and rave on the blog when that doesn't cut it. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My First Blog Award!

It's official... what I have suspected all along is true:  there ARE more than three of you out there who are reading this blog.  On second thought, since the award came from one of you I actually know about, maybe I'm wrong.  At any rate, I have been awarded my first blog award.  I'm gushing inside and all a-twitter like a school girl!

I'd like to thank my fellow writing pal Christauna at Art n'Writin for bestowing upon me the first honors earned by my little blog.  I hope the tea cup and roses somehow fits into the whole space here since I'm going to post it proudly.  I've never been so happy to see cutesy girlie stuff which is not really my style.   

So, there are rules to getting this award and here they are:

Accept your award and post it on your blog along with a link to the person who has sent it to you. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you have newly discovered. You must contact the person to let them know that you have chosen them to receive the award.

Okay, enough with the fine print.  Here's where you get to learn the ugly crazy truth about me. I blog... a lot I think... but I don't actually read that many other blogs.  Let's face it, I am insanely busy.  I mean, seriously! Full time job, two kids, running 20 miles a week training for a half-marathon (16 days and counting by the way!), playing fantasy football obsessed with beating my nephews which also involves watching a lot of football, shuttling one of my kids to dance 7 hours a week, AND trying to write a novel in all my non-existent spare time.  So, I've recently been on the hunt for awesome new blogs to read so I can pass the award to others I deem worthy and thereby claim mine for my own.  (I sense a future blog post here... stay tuned!)

So without further ado, here is my list of people I think deserve the award because 1) they have kept me entertained enough to keep up with their blogs in what little time I have or 2) are ones I found noteworthy in the week when I went searching for new and interesting people to follow... in no particular order.  Of course, there are many more I like but several of them have already received the award and thus cannot make MY list...

Tickets For Two
Bethanne Strasser
Amber Ruoti
The Rejectionist
Kristie Tencarre
Stacy Malone
Sara M Eden
The B.S. Cafe
Dan Wells

Some of these blogs may never claim the "Lovely Blog" award since I tend to follow an eclectic mix of cutesy and irreverent with an emphasis on the irreverent.  But, that's my list and maybe, just maybe, one of you might find something worth adding to your reading list.  Yes, it isn't the requisite 15 but I'm claiming my award nonetheless.  I never was one for following all the rules to the letter anyway so why start now?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Another year, another novel

Here's today's hard reality of being a writer.  Sometimes the projects you spend two years of blood, sweat and tears on don't end up published.  Sometimes, they don't even end up finished.  My first novel is currently going into this bucket.  I made this decision subconsciously a couple of months ago but I wasn't really ready to let my baby go.  I've spent two full years on it, still believe in the idea, still love my characters and eventually will return to it.  But, because I love it so much I'm not willing to use it as my "first" and thus major learning experience.  So, I'm shelving it... for now.  I've spent the last couple of months editing and finding more work than I thought to get it up to par and ready to write the ending.  I still know where it ends and how, just have to finish the re-write of what's already written so I can finish it up at some point.  For now, I'm switching gears and preparing for this year's NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which starts November 1st.  This time (my third) I'm going in armed with another year's worth of learning and knowledge about how to write better and will spend October coming up with an outline so I am better prepared.  I am not sad, I'm being real.  And if talking to other writers this year and learning from them has taught me nothing else, it is that it takes writing many completed books to finally figure out how the whole process works.  Getting caught up and overly attached to one project over another just sets you up for disappointment.  So, I've tried my hand at urban fantasy - this year I'm tackling a straight out fictional work.  We'll see how I like it since I don't even know what "my" genre is yet.

So, as long as I don't die, two days after I run my first half marathon I'll exchange my impossible seeming running project for an impossible seeming writing one.  Having been successful at NaNoWriMo last year, I know it is not impossible and I'm determined to win again this time around!  And, most of my writing group will be toiling right beside me.  I'm SO excited!  Since I'm not going to be ready to hang up my running shoes, I sure hope my family is as supportive of me this year as they were last.  Running and writing... all at breakneck speed?  Should be an interesting month!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I was SO right not to read this sequel to The Hunger Games until the third and final installment was released!  The second is just as good as the first and I can't wait to see how the whole thing ends.  I literally just finished the last page and paused only long enough to post this little blurb before I walk to the bookshelf and crack Mockingjay open.  Seriously, if you haven't read the Hunger Games trilogy it is well worth reading.  Yes, it is a young adult series but that just means it reads fast.  The Hunger Games happen once a year in Panem to remind the Districts that the Capitol is still in charge and can still make them pay for any disobedience 75 years after the civil war.  Each of the twelve Districts must send one male and one female between the ages of 12 and 18 to the games to fight each other until there is only one left alive.  Yes, it is a book - well, three actually - about kids killing each other but it is not gory enough to be considered horror and it is gripping to hear the story from the first person point of view of one of the "Tributes" inside the arena.  I can't say any more without including spoilers so just trust me and go read them!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Love and Hate... and running

I wouldn't be fairly depicting my running training if I only talked about the milestones I'm hitting successfully and not the downers of the whole experience.  So, I am 35 days away from my half marathon and still mostly on track with my training program.  "Mostly" meaning I am still successfully completing the prescribed long run distances on the weekend (7 miles at this point) and running at least twice more during the week.  However, logging the prescribed distances on the mid-week runs is hit and miss.  I had a week of inconsistent training when I tweaked my back and couldn't run for almost a week - turns out my hips are out of alignment and "I'm weak" - got to love physical therapists and their tactful delivery of such news - so I had to start some physical therapy to strengthen my hips and core which has helped tremendously after only a couple of weeks.

I'm supposed to be running 4.5 miles as my "short" runs during the week but that means a full hour and 15 minutes on the treadmill which - added to the time necessary to stretch, cool down and change my clothes twice - doesn't really fit so easily into my allotted hour of time at the gym during my work day anymore.  Finding that kind of time twice during the work week regardless of where I run is a challenge since home life is just as demanding as it has ever been with an 8 month old and a competitive dancing 8 year old.  This week I managed a 3.5 mile run in the gym and a 2 mile run last night... at 10:00 pm... in the dark...with my headlamp and flashing tail-light for safety of course!  (Yes, I look like a fool but I'm a safe fool nonetheless!)

Last weekend the training plan called for us to run a 5K race.  No big deal - that's only half the distance of my last week's run of 6 miles which I finished no sweat.  Weeks ago my training/running partner and I had found a free race and registered.  The only criteria at that point was a 5K on the specific date.  Then we realized it was the same VERY hilly venue of the first 5K we'd run a couple of months earlier to celebrate the end of our walk-to-run program.  Neither of us wanted a repeat of those hills - especially since we're training solely for downhill since that's what our half marathon is going to be.  So, we came up with a brilliant plan to find a different race that would be flatter and easier.  Great idea, right?

Well... all ideas are usually good in theory.

We picked a race that was being put on as part of the local high school's Homecoming/alumni weekend.  It was right by the house and thus part of the terrain I've been training on - piece of cake, right?  And the price was right: $10 and included breakfast.  What could be better?  We show up and realize it is a very small event.  And by very small I mean there are more people gathered to cook breakfast than it looks like are running the 5K.  But that's okay because the entire current cross country team is going to run.  So, there are literally a total of about 40 people - 30 of which are twiggy 15-17 year old high school runners.  We all line up at the starting line - us "just finish"ers in the back since we are definitely not going to win regardless.

The starting gun goes off, everyone dashes off - including me running a pace there is no way in hell I can maintain which I don't realize for about a 10th of a mile until fellow runner checks our pace and says something (I love running with gadgets, by the way!).  Now I've burned through all of my reserves by trying to run a 9-minute mile pace UPHILL and we've already been left in the dust by everyone - and I mean everyone.  Oh, and did I mention that the welcoming and familiar terrain I thought was going to be so fabulous is exactly the reverse since we are running the opposite way I assumed we would and now almost the entire thing is a steady uphill run?  Oh, I didn't?

Welcome to my own personal Hell.

The next 2.6 miles was me in the very back of the small pack feeling like a complete failure.  At the 1-mile marker, I had to stop running and walk because the uphill was killing me.  Approaching the aid station for water, I saw the pre-pubescents directly in front of me actually point and say "she's the last one" - to which I wanted to scream "FUCK YOU" and punch them in their faces, but I refrained.  I ran the one flat spot in the insanely steep uphill 2nd mile and felt vindicated when the same little snots had stopped to sit on the curb because they couldn't go on.  (Teach them to disrespect their elders!)  At this point I was so low mentally that I had practically convinced myself that I was not a runner let alone capable of any kind of distance and that I might as well just consider my registration fee gone because I shouldn't consider even attempting a half marathon.  Forgotten was my 6-mile straight run 6 days ago - I was a complete loser who had no business even owning a pair of running shoes.

Yeah, I was that low... and more than once close to tears.  At one point we ran past an entrance into my neighborhood and I seriously contemplated just turning in and running home with my tail between my legs and hoping no one asked how my 5K had gone.

And then we hit the downhill portion - the final stretch.  And I started gaining on the 12-year old and her Dad who had been walking most of the way up the bitch of a hill.  And then I passed them while listening to her whine about how hard it was.  All I could think was "I'm NOT going to be very last!!"   Well, I wasn't - barely.  And I finished - which at the end of the day was all I had been aiming for anyway.  However, I was still totally down on myself for being last for most of the way and for my slow ass pace which is completely normal at this stage of the game.

It has been a week and I'm still mired in self-doubt and wondering where this competitive nature came from since it has never been about winning for me.  There is much to be said about participating in large events with lots of other people at all levels of fitness participating so you get lost in the crowd and can focus on running your own race, competing only with yourself.  This is an individual sport and the only person I need to be better than is myself time after time as I build up my endurance.  At this point speed doesn't matter, hills don't matter, it only matters that I have the ability to run 13.1 miles... all downhill... in 35 days.  Everything else will come later.

Or at least that's what I keep telling myself!  We'll see how I feel after another 5K - this time on verified flat terrain - slotted for tomorrow and a 7-mile DOWNHILL run I'm looking forward to on Sunday.  Do I still love running?  Yes - except for the days that I hate everything about it!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The House at Riverton

This book was an amazing little gem by author Kate Morton!  In essence it is a mystery that at it's core is based on a secret kept by a servant girl regarding the people she served at the time of WWI and beyond in England.  It is told by the woman, Grace, at the end of her life as a flashback.  This irritated me at times because from the beginning you know there is this huge secret that no one knows but her.  I just wanted to know what the big secret was but it took until the very end - literally - to find out all the details. However, the journey to get there was filled with a great story and great characters and the secret was unpredictable and satisfying when finally revealed.  I look forward to a re-read so I can fully enjoy the story rather than wishing for and hurrying toward the end.  Highly recommended!

Look at me - reading more than a book in a month... I AM super woman at times!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mr Monster... my first ARC

I know, I know... what the hell does ARC mean?  First, this is a pet peeve I've been dying to vent out to the world and now here's my chance!  Have you ever noticed that groups of like-minded people (like authors) tend to create their own lingo complete with acronyms?  And then they throw those acronyms and buzz words around like it somehow makes them cool?  (Or am I just a total bitch and this bugs me way more than it should?)  In my humble opinion this practice does little to endear "outsiders" to those who use the lingo and instead makes them look like uptight snobs who never grew out of having a secret club with a secret code for entry.  I promise never ever to become one of "those" kind of people.  And I give anyone reading my blog permission to call me on it if I ever do succumb in a moment of weakness.  Deal? 

So, an ARC is an Advanced Reader Copy.  A copy of a book that hasn't yet had all the mistakes edited out (OMG, published authors make spelling errors?!?!?) and isn't ready to sell in bookstores or anywhere else.  They are printed to send out to readers in advance of the publishing and release date and authors get copies to do who-knows-what with.  (Now you get the name, right?)  I admit I'm new to the whole industry - who knew writing was so much more than writing a story - and I'd never heard of these little gems.  That is until Dan Wells - who I still can't say enough good things about - made it possible for me to get one.  Which is how I came to read a book already that is not available in stores until the 28th of September... as in two weeks from now.  I'm giddy as a school girl when I think about how I, the most impatient person on the planet, did NOT have to wait over two months to read the sequel of what I have already decided is my favorite book of the year. 

Mr Monster is the sequel to I Am Not A Serial Killer and is just as fascinating and unputdownable as the first one.  How does one talk about a sequel and not ruin the original?  I'm not sure which is why it is hard to do a proper review.  The main character is still John Clever, a 15-year old sociopath obsessed with serial killers and who is still living his life with major rules so he doesn't become one himself.  Only now he is dating the object of his obsession - very bad and very good at the same time - and embroiled in working with the FBI to catch a serial killer without incriminating himself in the process.  Dan Wells has done such an amazing job of creating a character who is so genuinely flawed and in any other book would be considered the antagonist but who finds himself the hero so we are forced to love him.  This book is also classified as Young Adult Horror and it is dark in parts but not as graphic or violent as the first - it is more up in your head disturbing rather than blood and guts although there are bits of that as well.  To say anything else would give things away and do injustice to the whole thing.  So, please trust me and if you haven't already read the first one, get on it so you can be in line for the sequel when it hits bookstores later this month!  Personally I can't wait for my daughter to be old enough to read them!

Friday, September 10, 2010

One Step At A Time

The hubby and I took a little mini-vacation over Labor Day weekend.  We left both kids home with family and hit the road... for a 13 HOUR road trip to my sister-in-law's wedding reception.  We drove a total of 31 hours in three days to spend about 40 hours with them.  It was totally worth it even when you factor in the TWO speeding tickets - one for each of us.  The best part was all the time we had to spend together in the car, talking and bitching and brainstorming and getting inspired for new book ideas. 

I came out of the weekend with two killer ideas for new stories to write and now I'm torn about which I want to do first after I get the initial draft of my current project finished.  The daily writing... goal?  Rule? whatever you want to call it, I'm on a total roll.  I'm about 3 chapters into my re-write and finding less and less that I need to fix once I got past the prologue.  I don't want to jinx anything but at this rate I anticipate being finished with the first draft by Nov 1 when I get to start my new project as part of NaNoWriMo 2010.  I'm looking forward to a new story - something fresh and new and exciting - and am kind of surprised that both ideas are just straight up fiction.  No sci-fi, no fantasy, just regular old stories.  I guess I still don't know what "my" genre is so that's okay, right? 

All things considered, life is pretty damn good - I even set a new personal record for fastest mile tonight on my 4-mile run: 12 minutes, 18 seconds.  Not too bad considering it was the 3rd mile of that run!  Amazing... a 4-mile run is my "short" run during the week!  I'm on track for a 6-mile run on Sunday... and I'm half a mile away from having logged 150 miles just since May 23rd.  Like everything in life, it's all happening by taking one step at a time.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Goals... okay, fine!

Normally, I scoff at goal-setters.  (Sorry if you are one of them, don't take it personally!)  I'm a live-in-the-moment kind of a girl - always have been and always will be.  It is way more fun that way and I tend to avoid all guilt by not thinking too hard about life and the choices I make day to day.  I never look back or over-analyze what I've done for the same reasons.  Except now I am conceding that sometimes goals and all that come with them might be necessary - at least in some aspects of life.

Why the change?  I wrote again last night... only 30 new words but they are 30 more than if I hadn't told myself that - no matter what - I have to write something every day.  A daily writing goal, if you will.  I figured I would start out small - no word count I had to make, no looming milestone to intimidate.  Just write every day.  Every. Single. Day.

It felt so good writing again and, although I have come to terms that I must go back to the beginning of my manuscript and totally revise it before I can go on, at least I know what my plans are so I can get busy getting it done.  I WILL have the first draft of my first novel complete before November 1st.  (What's this?  Another goal?)  In hindsight I am such a better writer than when I started last year so I would have to revise anyway - I'm merely saving myself some of the work for draft two by doing it now.  Kind of like ripping the bandaid off...  The best part is that my characters are whispering to me again - or rather I'm listening for them again - which I worried wouldn't happen since I'd been ignoring them for so long.

In many ways, it is my running that taught me this lesson I can now apply to other areas of life...  I am following a training program designed for people who have never run a half marathon.  It tells me exactly what to do every day.  And even though I look at it on paper and think "What the Fuck have I gotten myself into?", when the day comes and it says run 3.5 miles (like today) and I'm still sore from my 5-mile run on Sunday - like I can barely walk down the stairs to get to the gym at work - I still did it and felt great doing it.

If I didn't have a goal to run a specific distance by a specific date, I wouldn't push myself.  Having the steps laid out for me on how to get there allows it to happen gradually one step at a time.  Without it, I might still be struggling to run for more than 10 minutes at a time instead of being able to run for more than an hour.  That last sentence was purely for me - since I have to focus on how far I've come rather than how far I have to go.  Easier and more productive to think "wow, I ran 5 miles in an hour and 11 minutes which is an hour longer than I could run at all 3 months ago" than "OMG, it just took me over an hour to run 5 miles, how am I going to run 13.1 in 2 months?!?" which is how I really feel inside when I think about my half marathon.

What will get me to the finish is doing the small steps every day.

So, lesson learned is that sometimes goals are important - not in the Franklin-Covey-plan-every-single-minute-of-your-day-based-around-a-goal-in-every-aspect-of-your-life way but maybe just for the really important things.  And that, when measuring progress, sometimes it is better to look back and acknowledge how far you've come rather than fixating on how far you have left to go.

Book Club Retreat with special guest appearance

A couple of weekends ago was book club.  This was the killer month where we let loose and rent a condo for an overnight, old-fashioned slumber party where we allow ourselves to "semi-forget" (read escape from life where) we are moms, wives and girlfriends and shop and eat and stay up talking until all hours of the morning.  Of course we carve out an hour to discuss the book we all read the month before, too!  This was our second annual retreat and while we did not have a hot tub in our room this year we had something just as cool....

This year worked out that my month to host and pick the book to read fell the same month as the retreat.  Because I couldn't find a better choice, I picked "I Am Not A Serial Killer" by Dan Wells which I have already reviewed here.  One night at a social gathering a couple of days into the allotted reading time, one of my friends asked if I was going to ask Dan Wells, the author, to come to our book club.  After all, he is a local writer so it could totally be possible.  I hadn't thought about it although I did have the perfect 'in' having met him at the writers conference I attended in April.  A couple of weeks went by and I thought about it again and told myself to suck it up and just ask him - since I really had nothing to lose after all.  I mean, the worst he could do was say No, right?  Only he didn't!

It was an amazing night on so many levels...  we always have fantastic discussions where we dissect the characters, who we all inevitably love or hate with little in between, and theorize on why the author wrote what he/she did, etc.  Imagine having the same discussion only the author is there in the room and can tell us definitively whether we are right or wrong and even tell us why he did the things he did and how he came up with all the elements of the story.  But that wasn't all... after the discussion he stayed and signed every one's books and sold us t-shirts if we wanted them, passed out a few ARC (advanced reader copies) of the sequel not out in stores until next month (for a price!) and took pictures with everyone - including a photo where we all lined up on the staircase leading to the second floor of the condo with kitchen knives poised at each others throats.  (Okay, it was after 10pm at this point so you can imagine how punchy we all were getting!) This alone would have put it on the all-time greatest list of book clubs.

But it got better!  At this point in the night several people had to head for home because life only worked for them to be there for the evening instead of staying the entire night.  And I thought Dan (yes, we're on first name basis at this point) would make his way out through the kitchen answering a couple of questions the writers in the group (my writing group is a subset of my book club) would bombard him with.  And to be fair I warned him before he agreed to come that there were four aspiring writers among the attendees who would love to discuss writing after the book discussion was over if he was willing.  What I didn't expect was him sitting down and getting comfortable and staying well past midnight until we had asked every single question we could think about writing and publishing and editing and being an author.  What a generous and inspiring man Dan Wells is!

I gleaned two nuggets of noteworthy advice from the evening:  1) if you put as much hard work and effort into being a writer as a doctor does at training to be a doctor you'll have just as successful a career as the doctor and make just as much money.  The only difference is that there are no college programs designed specifically to train you like the doctor has.  2) if you read 2-3 books per month on average and expect to live say 30 more years, that's 720 -1080 books you potentially have time to read in your lifetime.  So why on earth would you waste one of those slots on something that isn't good?  (I'll never finish another shitty book again - minus book club selections I'm committed to reading of course - and refuse to feel bad about it!)

The most inspiring statement for me was when we were talking about being an author and Dan made the point that there is not a lot of difference between being a published or unpublished author besides having convinced someone to buy your book and print and sell it to others.  The same manuscript you sell today could be rejected by someone else tomorrow and just because you sell one does not mean you are overnight a better or even different writer.  You are simply a writer because you write.

I think I'm still a little high from the evening... can you tell?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Writers block and fundamental questions

How the hell did it get to be mid-August and almost 2 months since I wrote anything substantial?  (Besides my blog of course!)  It isn't like I don't know where the story goes - I know exactly how it ends already.  It isn't like I haven't had time - I've sat down several times and re-read the amazing scene where I left off with almost all of my crucial characters finally all in the same room where they can now go on together to the climax.  And then an hour has gone by - or once it was almost three - and not a single new word written.  Not ONE! Very disheartening and after the third time I decided I should really figure out what is going on before I open that file on my computer again.  And here we are... August and neck-deep in self-doubt and self-loathing because I'm STILL STUCK HERE!

So, I've been doing some major soul searching - 3 and 4 mile runs give you plenty of time for it when you're not wallowing in doubt and loathing!  And in the course of my busy life the last couple of weeks, I've had the opportunity to talk with two of my writing buddies from my critique group who helped put my finger on the real heart of the issue.

It all started when I went to the writer's conference where I honed my skills by leaps and bounds and took my writing to the next level.  What I couldn't see, but that has been lurking in my brain, is the fact that I must once again start over...  or at the very least revise entirely what I have written.  All 63,208 words of it.  Because my protagonist has been acting all wrong.  And I mean ALL wrong!

But, as devastating a realization as that is, it isn't even the true issue yet!

The core issue is:  what kind of a writer am I?  Am I one that writes with a plot or am I a discovery writer who lets her characters decide what happens and where things go?  Am I a write-the-first-draft-before-I-read-a-single-word-for-revision writer or am I a revise-as-I-go-so-when-things-change-I-can-fix-them writer?  Because I don't yet know the answers to these two fundamental questions, I cannot go on.  Because do I write the next part as if I've already gone back and fixed my main character's flaws that I now know exist assuming I'll fix everything in the 2nd draft revisions?  Or do I stop now and go back to the beginning and make things right before I go on?

If there is one thing I've learned in this almost two year journey of being a writer (albeit an unpublished one still) it is that, while every published author has an opinion of how writing should or does happen based on their own creative process, no one is exactly the same.  What motivates us and keeps us writing is as unique as the authors themselves.  And what works for my hero Stephen King (write to the end and don't read a word until months later when it's time to revise it and don't even think of plotting!) is not what works for everyone else - possibly myself included.

So, like an alcoholic at her first meeting, here I sit acknowledging I have a problem to solve.  But, admitting the problem is the first step!  Now I just have to figure out where to go from here.  Stay tuned since even I don't yet know where that is except back to consistent writing in some form.  After all, I've got to finish my first draft of the current project before October 31st since NaNoWriMo commences in November and I already have an idea for my next project...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

This was a book club pick - one which I toyed with choosing a year ago myself and put down after about 200 pages and the first graphic rape scene assuming the rest of the ladies in the group would find it too disturbing.  I'm so glad someone else had the courage to pick it and make everyone read to the end.  With its mammoth size at 973 pages it is very intimidating but, as our group proved, it can be done in a month and is so worth the read! 

The story and characters are so well developed and fascinating that even when I was under pressure to finish in time for the discussion (which I didn't!) I couldn't force myself to skip ahead or even skim quickly.  The story tells the struggle over the decades to design and build a cathedral in a small town in England.  It is told from the point of view of the builders as well as the monks who are financing and encompasses bishops, earls, lords, entrepreneurs and the struggles of a civil war to determine the new king. The information on architecture and medieval society were enthralling and the author weaved the fictional story beautifully into the history of the times so it was marginally educational as well as entertaining giving the reader a glimpse into what it might have been like living in the time period.  The overall story arch is a mystery that spans almost two generations before finally being solved and keeps you guessing until the very end.  The story was never predictable and is raw and authentic and emotional. 

I went back and forth on what to rate this book but in the end I chose 4 stars instead of 5 simply because it is not an easy read.  With so many characters and story lines it requires dedication to stick with it.  Unlike many, it is not a book you can easily carry around reading only here and there and thus not one I would read again - which is my own personal criteria of a 5-star tome.  Pick it up when you have time to dedicate because you won't want to put it down once you start.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Putting on the big girl panties

It is official... I AM a Runner!  No more do I talk about going running and mean "running" as in I walk most of the way with a few short bursts of jogging.  No, now I can run for 20+ minutes straight with no walking in the middle.  AND I'm not winded doing it!  If you've spent much time with me on my blog you'll know that when I started down the running road I could barely run for 30 seconds at a time before I thought I'd die - literally.  If you would have told me then that I could or would be running for 20 minutes in a row and feel like I could go more I would have thought you were crazy, secretly hope it would happen and doubt it ever would.  Today, it is a reality and I love it!

So, how did I do it?  What made the difference?  I found a buddy who was exactly where I was - starting at the bottom and had never run a day in her life but wanted to.  We both got a Nike+ SportBand that comes with a coach feature.  We started a "Walk to Run" coaching program that walked us through every single day exactly what to do and followed it like our lives depended on it.  I'm only 8 weeks into that 12 week program and I'm running 2+ miles a day 6 days a week.  Yes, ME!

At the end of the 12 week program, we'll be running a 5K race.  This will not be my first 5K but it will be the first one I actually run the entire way and run to compete rather than just complete.

And in October, I'm running my first half marathon!  Yes, as in 13.1 miles of running.  How fitting - my first half marathon is called the Halloween Half and I get to run it in my Halloween costume on my favorite day of the year.  What could be better?  Um... having the first draft of my novel complete before then, too? 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Feeling inadequate amidst success

I am an amazing woman who finds time to raise two young daughters and be a wife while working full time at my "real" job, train for my first half marathon in October, manage a family schedule going in at least three different ways daily AND write a book in my spare time while keeping up with my monthly reading for book club.  Yes, I'm exhausted just thinking about it!  So why is it that I feel inadequate?

I'm certain it is because I have not had a chance to write in several weeks and my resolve to live like a writer is failing as a test of character.  I know I am being super hard on myself but I'm also being honest at the moment.  I don't normally do guilt but lately I go to bed and feel guilty that amidst all the chaos of my life another day has gone by without writing.  I found time to run 3 miles tonight and I am willing myself to read a 1000 page book this month for book club that I'm hopefully on track to finish by the end of the week.  And yet, I can't find time in a day to write.  And even when I do, like now, I'm writing on my blog instead of my manuscript!

If I look at it objectively I can admit that I've been extremely busy the last three weeks.  My sister in law got married over the 4th of July weekend two states away (six-day road trip), Big Sister had a dance competition in Las Vegas two weeks before that (another road trip) and I didn't even have a moment to crack the laptop open on either trip.  When I got back the laundry had doubled in size and the time I normally would have spent writing I spent getting caught up on laundry and getting my house into a semblance of order again before we have to pack for the next big trip at the end of the month for my family reunion.  My running I can do at work at the gym and, with hubby working mostly night shifts lately, my evenings are devoted to dotting on my kids - not to mention the Dance Studio Shuttle Bus 4 days a week.  So it isn't like I don't have valid "reasons" to have little writing to show for the last months.  But that also isn't how I want to be - with a rational excuse/reason for not writing.  No, I want to be a writer, damn it!

In the end, I'm going to quit my bitching, acknowledge what an amazing feat surviving and staying on top of my life is, and vow to do better in the coming weeks.  It's like my hubby always says about the lottery:  you'll never win if you don't play.  The same can be said about writing: if you're not doing it every day, you'll never finish or get published.

I met a blogger (who I will keep anonymous to protect the innocent) a few weeks ago who has hundreds of followers and spouts advice to admiring fans everywhere and I learned that SHE. ISN'T. EVEN. PUBLISHED. YET.  If she can get that big of a following and talk that kind of talk having 'only' landed an agent, think about what I can do once I get my first novel under my belt.  I am recommitting myself starting now:  I will stop procrastinating and just write!

Monday, June 21, 2010

I Am Not A Serial Killer

What an amazing read! Once in a great while a book comes along that actually lives up to the hype on the cover. This one claims to be "unputdownable" and it really was! It is a young adult horror novel but anyone will find the main character undeniably fascinating. Creepy, yes, but fascinating nonetheless.  Since it is a young adult genre, even the violence is tame enough for those with a gentler disposition. I knew I would love this book regardless of it's merits since I met Dan Wells and got some great critique and mentoring from him at my writer's boot camp.  It was even better than I had anticipated and made the hardback purchase for ass-kissing-with-the-author-so-he'd-share-his-secrets well worth it.

The main character is a 15-year old sociopath who's family owns a mortuary.  He is fascinated with serial killers and because he is in therapy and knows he has issues he has constructed a whole lot of rules to keep from turning into a serial killer himself.  When there is a real serial killer who comes to town and begins terrorizing the inhabitants, he must use his knowledge of the serial killers he has studied to try and figure out who is behind the killings.  You don't know whether to love or hate him as he plays both protagonist and antagonist at times.  The twists and turns and glimpses into a sociopath's mind keep you turning the pages so quickly that it is over before you could think twice about putting it down.  I highly recommend this book to anyone - even the young adults it was marketed for.

The best part of this book for me personally was the fact it has proven, even though I have become an author turned crazy nit-picking reader, that good fiction can still be found and enjoyed.  It is just sometimes harder to find...and comes packaged in the strangest of covers.  This book also marks the first non-book club read for me this year.  How utterly pathetic on so many levels...

Life of Pi

I should have read this book before I became a writer...  I read the jacket cover which told me it was a story about a boy and a tiger shipwrecked on a lifeboat - which sounded really interesting!  Then I had to read 97 agonizing pages of a 'Part One' in which nothing really happened except give background story.  (One of the first no-no's for an author.)  In a nutshell, this was a great story, but badly written. I spent the first half of the book wondering when there was going to be a point and, by the time things started happening, I was so mad that I could have cared less about the interesting aspects of the story or even the main character. I'm glad it was a book club discussion because I came to appreciate the nuances through the eyes of my fellow readers but I still hated the actual reading of it. The author has a great way with description but sifting through the meandering of the monotony made it not really worth it.

I wonder if I'll ever be able to read for the mere enjoyment without critiquing and analyzing what I would have done differently.  One thing is for sure, I have morphed into more of a writer than a reader and sometimes I lament the loss...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The new bod

I've said it before: the proof is in the pants - and it is still true.

I just finished the maintenance phase of my last round of HCG protocol.  In a nutshell, HCG has three phases.  Phase 1, you do daily shots and eat a very restricted diet and then phase 2 (or maintenance) is three weeks of "no starch and no sugar".  This gives your hypothalamus time to rest from the intensity of phase 1 as well as establish a new set point for your 'normal' weight.  This set point is the place you now yo yo back and forth from but always return to.  (For more details about how the whole HCG thing works, you can read the research from the doctor who developed it here.)  Phase 3 is "normal" eating with your new habits.

We all know from my previous lamenting posts I did not lose the 40 pounds I wanted to lose in the 40 days of phase 1 I endured and pushed myself through to the bitter end.  But I can't very well complain about the almost 30 that I lost in just over a month.  There isn't really supposed to be much fluctuation in phase 2 - no more than 2 pounds either way - so my expectations were low and I did well with my "maintenance" activities.  (I've gotten REALLY good at finding "no sugar added" ice cream in the city!)

One night, at the end of phase 1 or the beginning of phase 2, my sister and I went through all the pants in my closet ... as deep as they go and as many sizes as I've been hoarding... I either donated to charity those that were dismally out of date (the 80's called and they want their pants back!), handed off to my sister if they didn't fit anymore since she's wearing the size I just came out of, or kept in the closet in two categories: the ones that fit now and the ones that are "almost" perfect.  This later category were those pants that I could get my ass into and could do up but that were not quite comfortable once I got to that point.

And then I started running again.  But this time using a set training program with a coach and a 5K goal in August!

This morning I pulled out some pants and put them on and realized they were hanging on me.  Like there was enough room for me to put my baby inside with me for sure and possibly even my eight year old.  How the hell did that happen?  I tried on every pair of slacks I own in one sitting so I wouldn't have to do this every morning anymore searching for pants that fit!  I chalked it up to a late night with my sister and pulled out another pair.  They fit the same way!  Eventually, several pairs later... (Yes, it took a while!  Don't judge, I hadn't had any coffee yet!) I ended up pulling out some of the Capri's I've been dying to wear from that "not quite there" category and guess what!  THEY. FIT. PERFECTLY.

I loved how I felt all day and I had another great run this afternoon completely inspired by how I look and feel in my "new" pants.  That damn scale says I weigh exactly the same as the last day I took a shot three weeks ago but I know I couldn't wear these pants that day because I tried.  And I can't lie... I am now one of those women who turns to the side with her butt sticking out in the restroom so I can check how my ass looks in the mirror.  What an amazing feeling - it's almost as great as knowing I can walk 4 miles pushing my 5 month old in the stroller without batting an eye or straining a body part.

I am still in love with running - happily the affair did not die off on my long hiatus of pregnancy and recovery - and I'm training strong.  I'm preparing for a 5K in August - the first one I'll run/jog the majority of instead of the other way around.  Hell, at the rate I'm progressing, I'll be running the entire 5k!  And, more importantly, I'm enjoying my new body as I continue to mold it with running and proper diet.  Bring on the swim suit weather! I'm ready!  Well... at least the shorts and tanks!  Is a woman ever really ready for swimsuit season?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dance Distractions

I just realized it has been almost two weeks since I've written here...  I assure you, there is a reason and it has everything to do with a major announcement a couple of weeks ago at Big Sister's dance studio.  Turns out the economy has really hit everyone everywhere and after 27 years our director is retiring and closing.  This is very sad news by itself as Big Sister will have to make new friends and most likely not have all her dance "sisters" with her next year.  But, more pressing has been the search for a new dance studio with amazing teachers who will continue to mold her and hone her dance skills.  (The kid has to pay her way through college somehow, people!)  So, I've been away playing obsessive Dance Mom and letting every aspect of my writing suffer.  *sigh*

Between approaching total strangers at the school talent show last week asking where they dance (accompanied by looks that said clearly they were taught never to talk to strangers!), endless phone calls with my sister-in-law who is equally as obsessed with finding THE PERFECT dance studio for our girls, hundreds of text messages with other Moms to compare notes on new places, and visits and phone calls to potential studios we were able to find a great place close to home where Big Sister and her dancing cousin will now call home.  Thank god it only took a couple of weeks and we can now just focus on settling in for the summer schedule and team tryouts later this month.

Tonight is the Year End Show at our beloved studio where they get to showcase what they've been working on all year... accompanied by a ton of tears from the girls I'm sure!  The show will also feature a bonus "Parents Dance" which this Dance Mom will be participating in.  Not only am a "Dance Mom", I am now quite literally a dancing Mom.  Next weekend is their final competition in Las Vegas where the dancing Mom will also be competing.  It's silly, I know, but I'm LOVING getting to dance again after 25 years, enjoying every practice and looking forward to our performances.

I had a breakthrough in figuring out how to write a pivotal scene in my novel - thanks to an inspirational 4-mile walk with a writing buddy - and I can't wait to refocus my efforts on my writing now that all the dance distractions are dealt with. Now, where's my coffee?