Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Going crazy without an outlet

I'm currently an injured runner.  Something I never thought I would have to deal with.  I knew I got far more than weight management benefits from my running but until I was sidelined I had no idea the real impact running has on my life and my sanity.  Oh I had an idea but I seriously hadn't come close to the reality.  It's been three weeks since my last real run - minus the test run after I saw my therapist which did not go well.  And I haven't been able to run regularly since before Thanksgiving. 


I can't concentrate on anything.  All I can think about is running and how I can't do it.  I get dejected thinking about going to the gym because I know when I get there I can't run and then because I know I will be tempted to run if I go I just don't.  I stay up too late, I sleep too late, I have too little patience with my kids and my husband.  I can't sit still long enough to focus on writing consistently.  I'm a mess!!  I even found myself resentful about hubby's gym time because he shouldn't be able to do what he loves when I can't.  Am I right?

There is good news, however.  I no longer have foot pain when I wake up in the morning - something I haven't been able to say for going on a year.  (Yes, that long, really!)  And it was only a little bit of pain resulting from my test run after my last treatment.  So, progress!  I see my miracle worker massage therapist again tomorrow and I'm hopeful I'll be back on the trails by early next week.  I've even managed to curtail the daily expansion of my ass by adjusting my eating.  No need to fuel my body for running I'm not doing at the moment... (I'm such a creature of habit!)

Whatever you do that you love, rejoice in it and cherish that you can do it.  And if you're a runner - stay healthy!  I wouldn't wish injury on anyone because it plain sucks ass.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

This week's lesson on balance

It's the holidays and like what I hope are the rest of the women/wife/mothers out there, I start planning and spread-sheeting and making lists around Thanksgiving (okay, post NaNo!) and spend the three weeks before Christmas jockeying for the right gift for everyone on my list.  Hubby admits to never having a good idea for a gift and happily sits back and lets me handle everything.  I used to feel a tiny bit bad about this like I was taking too much of my own control in this piece of our marriage.  But lately I wonder if he's actually not the smarter of the two of us having now manipulated himself out of all responsibility for gift giving and letting me have all the stress.  Hmm. I hope it was only coincidental on his part and he's merely reaping the coincidental rewards.

Big Sister's best friend on the planet and her family moved into the house on the corner last month.  After three years of living far enough away that to see each other outside of school hours required coordinating a play date with their parents, the girls are ecstatic to be able to walk across the street any time they want to see each other.  It has added a new dynamic to parenting - since she now wants to do nothing but play all day and all weekend.  She even told me that she wanted to quit dancing so she had more time with her BFF (Best Friend Forever).  The other day when I'd had enough of her room looking like a tornado had blown through and yelling constantly about how she either needed to do X or she was grounded from seeing BFF, I took a step back and had a conversation with her about how she thought things were going.  As if on queue, she asked me how she is supposed to do her homework and go to dance and do her chores and still see BFF every day.  I told her it is all about finding balance between the things you have to do and the things you want to do so you can do both.  Do you think it's easy for me to be Mommy to you and Baby Sister, and be Daddy's wife, and run the household and go to work every day and be a good employee and still have time to run and write and read and all the things I WANT to do?  Nope, it's hard and it sucks some days but by finding ways to be better and faster and more effective at the things that I have to do, and sometimes giving up things I don't care as much about as others, it gives me more time to do the things I want to do.  The conversation that began with her in tears throwing her hands in the air in frustration ended with a pretty grown-up kind of discussion which I hope lays the groundwork for a very valuable lesson she'll have to remember the rest of her life.  Maybe this will be one of those things that she'll remember for the positive column when she's in therapy as an adult?

On the heels of this conversation, the stars aligned as they rarely do resulting in a day all about me.  I had neglected scheduling a hair appointment too long and had some seriously embarrassing regrowth going on.  My sister was in the same boat so we decided to schedule together so we could hang out for a few hours.  The stylist could get us in before Christmas (a miracle in itself) but only for an afternoon appointment.  I checked my calendar and didn't have anything scheduled that day at work and decided it was meant to be.  While I was at it, I'd take the entire day off.  I haven't had one of those with the exception of the time off required to do my two Ragnars since last spring so I was due!  Since I had the whole day off, I called to see if I could get in to see the massage therapist my sister has been demanding I go see to fix my plantar fasciitis issue.  I called, she answered, and had an appointment open the same morning.  What are the odds?  While inputting the massage appointment in my calendar I realized I had a girls' night dinner planned that night from weeks ago and had already lined up a babysitter.  Seriously!  A decadent day of activities for me and only me.  I came home from girls night that night refreshed and recharged.  Dinner lasted an hour longer than normal because one of the group was running late and we decided to wait to order.  We got to chat in depth enough to realize we were all going through the same things as everyone else and buoying each other up like only girlfriends can.  If only I could have squeezed a run in it would have been the perfect day.

Here's where I tell you about how I haven't been running and where I admit that my "injury" had become a full blown injury (without the quotation marks) sidelining me from my favorite pastime.  I can't ignore it anymore when I go for a little baby mile run and can barely walk for days afterward; where it is so bad that even if I haven't run in a couple of days and go to a friend's house with the "no shoe" rule and spend three hours barefoot I'm in agony when I leave; where the only shoes I wear are my running shoes for the support to stave off the pain and I wear them every minute I'm awake every day.  The worst part is that because I really haven't been able to run more than three or four miles a week since the Vegas Ragnar, I put on TEN POUNDS without even realizing it.  Until one day I put my jeans on and they were uncomfortably snug.  Of course then I was so depressed about the ten pounds I put on five more from emotional eating.  *sigh*

The good news is that running is just over the horizon for me.  I put my big girl panties on and did something about it.  I spent an hour with my sister's amazing massage therapist who touched nothing but my lower leg.  I walked yesterday for forty five minutes as directed and still had zero pain when I woke up this morning.  Which means today I get to go for a little jog and see how it goes.  If I have no pain, I'm cleared to resume my normal running.  If it still hurts, I have to go see her again.  I'm tingling with both anticipation and dread at how it will go.  I want to be able to run so bad and I'm so scared it isn't going to be that easy.  But until I try I'm just sitting here with my ass growing larger by the hour - or so it feels.

Wish me luck!  And here's to you - may you have a happy holiday season while maintaining balance in your own life.  Remember that if you don't take care of you, there isn't enough of you to take care of everyone else...

Friday, December 2, 2011

How I survived (and won) NaNoWriMo 2011

Remember when I was heading into this mammoth undertaking and I said I was scared because this time around it felt different?  Well, almost everything about this year was different.

This was my fourth "NaNo" (as people in the know call it) and my second win.  But, I had several epiphanies this time around which will be the difference in getting the first step of this multi-year project finally finished.  It is the hardest step I believe:  Finish your manuscript.  A first draft must exist in order to edit and polish and make pretty enough to convince a publisher to take a chance on your book.  It's something that no matter how many times I've started I haven't figured out how to do.  Before now.

No, I'm not finished, don't get all a twitter just yet!

But I am still writing in December which has never happened before.  Even the first time I won I digressed into word padding shenanigans and let my characters do whatever they wanted to regardless of where I wanted the story to go or what I thought their motivations should be.  In all honesty, it was long ago and I don't even think I realized they NEEDED motivations yet.  That year all I wanted was the sheer volume of 50K to say I'd won.  And December first came and I abandoned the entire thing.  That year I never even got out of the beginning, let alone the dreaded middle.

This year I treated NaNo like I had a second job.  Everyone in my life knew that my writing was happening at a specific scheduled time (9:00-11:00PM) and let me do it without interruption during that time.  If I'm ever going to be a published author without quitting my day job that's the way it's going to have to be.  And guess what - when I started living like I already have what I want, it was easy to do what I needed to do to make it happen.  Epiphany #1: writing every day is possible regardless of what you have going on in your life. It's just like anything else - if it's important enough you'll find the time to do it.

Writer's block aside, which I dealt with the second week and already wrote about, I stuck to marching my characters down the road I had mapped out for all of them in my plot structure/outline.  This got me through the middle before I even realized it.  Epiphany #2: it doesn't matter what advice other authors tell you, the only way to be successful is to figure out what works for you personally.  I thought I was a discovery writer because my favorite author said that's how he writes.  So I spent a couple of years forcing myself to be that, without the success I thought was inevitable.  Then I continued to learn and grow as a writer and explored other possible ways of doing things. I morphed several things that struck me as interesting to work for my own personal style and in the end found my own unique method.

One of the benefits of being an official, registered participant in this event is getting weekly pep talks from published authors who have been where you are every step of the way.  I got one that hit home as we headed into the final stretch.  Basically it said that 50K was not ever going to be a completed novel but the important thing was to finish the story and be able to write "The End" by the time you got there.  To do this, you pick key scenes you already know are going to happen and you don't care about tying them cohesively together, you just write each of them until you get the basic story down.  Then, you go back and fill in the parts between them that have to get the characters from each big scene cohesively.  Ephiphany #3: a rough draft is never going to be anything but a diamond in the rough so don't get bogged down in getting every single thing perfect.  Just write - and ask questions later.  Without this little gem, I would have gotten bogged down in not knowing every single little detail of what happens in the story leading up to the finale and gotten stalled out.  Instead, I wrote the scenes I knew and had already pictured in my head.  And I found out that, by doing so, many of the details of how to get the characters there were answered after they arrived.  And on at least one occasion, I found relationships had changed on the way to that point which will make going back and filling in the blanks that much better.

One of the things I wish I could have changed was not getting so far behind.  I wrote eighteen thousand of my fifty thousand in the last five days.  FIVE. DAYS.  I don't recommend this to anyone - especially if you have a full time job!  I was up until three in the morning for several consecutive nights trying to work and stay awake to do it all over the next day.  I wrote during my lunch hour at work and for the hour I would normally have gone to the gym in the afternoons.  I lived on coffee - pots and pots of it all day and all night - and food that was not good for me.  The worst part is I was so exhausted that even if I had time to work out, I didn't have the energy to do it.  I'm still afraid to step on the scale and see how much damage has been done, I'm already feeling the effects of the caffeine withdrawals, and I'm pretty sure in my delirious state on November thirtieth I said things in a staff meeting that were wildly inappropriate.

I did take an hour the second to last evening to attend an event at a friend's house.  It was exactly what I needed - to see the majority of my writer's group who cheered me on and were as excited about me being out of the middle as I was.  They gave me that extra boost of encouragement I needed to see me through the last INSANE twenty four hours.  If you ever decide to do this yourself, make sure you tell everyone and then shout it out to Facebook and Twitter for good measure.  All the people in your life cheering you on makes those bleak and dark hours when you don't think you have it in you to continue never more than fleeting in the grand scheme of things.

All that aside, I survived - and I'm still writing - and when I look back I hope this proves to be the year that all the pieces finally fell into place.  Someone said that NaNo (or any rough draft) is like filling the room with straw that later you use to spin into gold.  I think of it more like all the hard work of finding and digging up a big, ugly chunk of rock.  When you're done, you're left with something that hopefully you can polish and cut into a beautiful gem.  To all of you who stuck with me and cheered me on and said you knew I could do it: Thank you, I couldn't have done it without you!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Your latest NaNoWriMo WINNER!


With thirty minutes to spare - and 50,205 words at time of validation!

Now I need to sleep.  For a week.

And then finish the story which isn't done no matter how many words I busted ass to pull out in the last month. This first rough draft demands to be finished.

Stay tuned, you know I'll tell you all about it...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The home stretch stress

Five days left of November and I've written 32,783 words since the beginning of the month.  I should have ten thousand more than that but I got derailed this past week with the holiday and family responsibilities after I had gotten caught up from my first sidebar into the weeds.  I've got characters who have taken me places I hadn't thought of, characters who I've had to re-invent to work better with the world and story I'm building as things develop.  Despite all of that, I'm pushing hard for the end.  I have five days left and at this rate I have to write more than three thousand words every day in order to win NaNoWriMo.  I haven't given up yet - I wrote two thousand words between the end of a family party last night and going to bed this morning after two AM.  And I still have two more days of a long weekend to do some major catch up.  I'm not going to lie, I get anxious about my chances of winning when I look at the daily numbers.  But I'm still on track and  still have the basic idea of how things are going thanks to my fabulous plot structure and I've still got great momentum.  I have not yet resorted to word-padding shenanigans (which I have done in years past).  As long as I can find the energy and drink enough coffee to stay awake long enough every night to hit that target word count I'll be golden.  Ready or not, here comes one of the craziest week of my life!

Friday, November 18, 2011

New beginnings in unexpected places

Here we are in week three of NaNoWriMo.  And what a wild ride it has been.  I thought a couple of times that I might be sort of cheating this year since I've *technically* been working on the same novel I originally started with back in 2008.  But I used the following rational to counter that:
  1. I had scrapped every piece of shitty writing I'd done to date and had no plans to even look back at any of it for reference.  (yes, it was that shitty!)
  2. I had plotted out a structure for the entire story complete with several subplots all neatly tied in with each other
  3. I had even changed the main character's name since we named Baby Sister the original character name when she was born
With the new plot and new character motivations I knew the book would be far different than I had envisioned when I first came up with the idea.  But guess what?  I never needed to rationalize a single little thing!

I had a rough start after I got through the prologue (which hasn't really changed much over each iteration of attempts).  I wrote myself into a corner where I knew my character would never be stupid enough to do what I was trying to make her do as a means to get her physically from one place to another.  I wasted days of writing more crap dragging one scene out and never getting anywhere but behind in my target word count. I was honestly getting worried.  What if I hadn't prepared enough?  What if I couldn't figure out how to translate a plot to a real story?  What if I failed?

Then I went for a run.

And I had the best run of my life - five miles in a hour which is insanely fast for me!

I must have shook up my brain with all that pounding of treadmill because I came off that run with a shit-eating grin glued to my face AND a way to get myself out of the corner and fix everything!

I rushed home and wrote like a mad woman.  I was able to salvage most of that original crappy chapter and after adding seven hundred or so words I was back on track toward where I needed to be heading.  I was even on my way to the next mile-marker plot point.

And I know I was still high from that amazing run when the next morning in the shower I had the one piece of unknown I'd been trying to solve SINCE THE BEGINNING IN 2008 just fall into place.  It was so earth-shattering when it happened I expected to feel the earth move beneath me.  But it didn't.  One minute I had this question of "how does that happen that will make sense and be believable" playing over and over in my subconscious.  And the next it was clear as day how it would all work.  The last loose end was no longer loose!  Plus, it was so fundamental that it changed everything.  Including the title which had been the one constant from the beginning.

I wonder if anyone else who embarked on this journey is experiencing anything similar.  Because it is crazy how unbelievable it all is and I'm only half done!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Easy-peasy... that's what SHE said!

We are officially nine days into November and when I finally went to bed last night, I felt amazing. I pushed past head-nodding and what I know is crappy-writing-that-will-have-to-be-edited-like-crazy to hit the ten thousand word mark for this year's NaNoWriMo. Well on my way to that fifty thousand needed to get me a winner status by the end of the month. Sounds great, right? Except the little stats page on the official site is telling me that "at this rate" I'll finish well into December because to date I have *only* been averaging 1,121 words a day.  So much for that buffer I started with when I stayed up on Halloween to write for two hours when it officially became November, huh?

But guess what?  I DON'T CARE!

This year's progress tracker on the NaNo website - which for those of you contemplating participating at a later date makes registering as a participant worth it alone - is much better than in years past. I say this because I am a numbers girl.  I need the data at my fingertips, calculated for me, so I don't obsess and waste valuable writing time assessing for myself just how much writing I have done or have left to do. As in years past, it tells you what your target word count for each day is if you write slow and steady and do the recommended 1,667 words a day.  But this year it tells you what you personally average every day and how many words a day you personally need to do at any point in order to finish on time.  Whoever thought of this improvement should be kissed.  Sloppy and loud -- on the mouth -- with tongue!

Here's why.  November fifth is my wedding anniversary.  I take that entire day off from writing every year. But this is well enough into the month - almost a week - that we are already into some serious numbers on the daily word count targets.  Those daily 1,667 words add up quickly, kids!  The target for the fifth day is 8,333, but instead I stagnate an entire day at only 6,666.  Then when I go back to it on the sixth day and my word count target for the day is 10,000... well, you can imagine the stress and head games that go along with those two numbers and how far apart they are.  The pressure imposed on catching up such a deficit, I admit, completely derailed me the first year I attempted this crazy adventure.  But I don't have the option of not celebrating my anniversary!  Hubby is super supportive of my writing but even he would have issue with that...

Fast forward to this year when the same thing happened.  PLUS, I had to work last Sunday when I would normally have had plenty of time sitting in front of a football game on TV to catch up on my word count.  AND I've been unable to push myself to stay up super late this week without falling asleep on my keyboard.  Or worse, writing incoherent crap that I have to delete the next day.  Which results in my only having 10,092 words out of yesterday's target of 13,333.  

But guess what!  My super duper nifty stats page tells me that all I have to do is write 1,814 words every day from now on to make up the difference and still finish on time.  That's only an extra 147 words per day from the original daily target or only about 700 more words a day than I have already been averaging this month.  And totally doable when presented in this fashion.


My stress level for NaNoWriMo this year is more manageable all because of someone somewhere (who probably doesn't get paid for helping on this non-profit adventure) who is a numbers person like me.  Wherever that person is, whoever she or he is, I hope someday they stumble upon this blog and know just how much I appreciate this one stroke of genius.

If there is one piece of writing advice that I have found to be universally true no matter who asks it, it is this:  Write.  And write every day.  I'm at ten thousand plus words in a week just by carving out two hours a day, every day except my anniversary.  If I can do it with a full time job and hectic home life when the only time I have to devote to writing is the time I'm awake after my kids go to bed, then anyone can!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Want to know what running is like?

I just saw this video and it so accurately sums up how I feel about running that I had to share it...


Thanks to a good friend and fellow runner for sharing it with me, my heart gets lighter every time I watch it and my feet itch to hit the pavement.  Even though I know I shouldn't until I do a bit more physical therapy for my injured foot.  I'm a stubborn bitch, everyone knows that already, right?

Las Vegas - Ragnar Style

You know it's November, right?  Which means I SHOULD be writing my novel and not recapping Ragnar.  But if I don't do it now all the amazing things that I want to remember will fade as all memories do.  And that would suck.  So I'm taking one for all of you and will just suck it up and drink an extra cup of coffee so I can stay up later tonight to meet my writing goal after I finish this post.  Aren't you glad I love you, my readers?

The things that make a Ragnar a Ragnar don't ever change - you still have twelve people split between two vans who run leapfrog style taking turns running their way through two hundred miles to the finish line.  In between, there's three runs a piece, two periods of "rest" when your van is not the one with the active runners, and lots and lots of driving.  So, I won't regale you with the sweaty details of the parts you already know about.

What was different between Vegas and Wasatch Back?

1.  We had different van mates.

This time we were invited to join a team and I was NOT the captain.  What a refreshing change for me not to have to worry about every little detail!  Hubby and I and Steven got to ride and run with two of our friends that were in the "other" van on Wasatch Back - Carrie and Nancy - driven by Nancy's hubby, Trent.  We rounded out the sixth with one of my brother's friends - Austin - who fit in amazingly well.  Probably because he is as sarcastic and fun as we all are.  I'm telling you, the people in your van make all the difference in the world on the experience you will have.  If you ever do one, you want to stack your van with YOUR peeps, provided you have peeps that are crazy enough to do this race with you.

2.  The other van was full of elite runners.

Four of the six people in the other van did the same race last year as an ultra team.  Which means they are crazy enough to do the entire two hundred miles split up between only six of them instead of twelve.  Because the entire van were elite runners with sub eight minute mile paces (that is INSANELY fast for those of you non-runners) we didn't have much down time between our running.  The first time we had about three hours.  That was just enough time to get to the next exchange point to wait for them, snarf some amazing food (tri-tips and chicken grilled to perfection with a side of delicious pasta salad) sitting on asphalt in a dark parking lot and then sacking out in the gravel between the bushes of the planter boxes of the same dark parking lot.  The second time we had about five hours in the wee hours of the morning.  Not being locals, we had to follow the course the runners were on, through winding dirt and gravel roads, to get to the next exchange to wait.  That drive ate two hours of our time up and later we learned we could have taken the interstate and a much more direct route.  If only we had known.  This is also why Steven and Austin didn't really sleep.  Steven because he took over the driving detail when Trent started falling asleep so we didn't all die.  I think Austin is just not used to sacking out with strangers...didn't want to let his guard down, maybe?

3.  Fewer teams on the course.

This is a huge catch-22 for me.  Wasatch Back allows one thousand and fifty teams and sells out every single year.  That's twenty two HUNDRED vans on the back roads between Logan and Park City.  Vegas had about four hundred fifty teams total and it really was much better.  There wasn't as much chaos at the major exchanges.  We could adequately support our runners without fearing we wouldn't make it to drop the next runner off in time.  All the things those people who don't want me personally to get OFF the waiting list for Wasatch Back 2012 have said in protest when they talk about allowing more teams.  I get it now.  Fewer teams means a more laid back race for everyone.  And I really enjoyed that part of the Vegas race.

4.  The scenery sucks.

I'm sorry to anyone who thinks that dessert landscape is beautiful, because I think those people are nuts.  I had to run through desolate stretches of ugly ass scenery twice with the sun baking down on me feeling like I would shrivel up and die.  Like some dead lizard.  And no one would ever find my body.  I'm used to running in the majestic beauty of northern Utah and by comparison this totally sucked.  Not a tree in sight, no shade for miles, and dirt.  In eight six and ninety degree heat respectively.  For the record, I know why the Vegas race is where they give you double medals.  Otherwise, no one would want to do it!  Of course, there were some pretty parts - Lake Mead at the first major exchange point between vans, and the Red Rock area near the finish were both pretty.  And the one bad ass hill we had to climb had a few trees at the top with a small section where it could be called nice.  However, I did not get to run anywhere near any of those places.

5.  The jokes were a lot more funny this time around - probably because we were all so much more sleep deprived!
  • Every time one of us would do something dumb, someone would smile and reply "aw, at least you're pretty".  This little saying was used so often it ended up written on the window by the end.
  • Bad ass honey badgers.  If you haven't seen the youtube video, you should.  Although it will never be as funny as we all thought it was with zero sleep when we had it playing on one of the iPhones in the middle of the night.  We picked up and repeated two lines from this little gem:  "You're a bad-ass honey badger - you don't give a shit!" and "I'm a tired little fuck".  Trust me, even I thought it was less funny when I got home and had gotten a little sleep so don't feel bad if you don't 'get it'.  (at least you're pretty!)
  • Austin obsessing about how all he needed when he got done running was a banana - and me meeting him at the exchange after his hardest leg with one.
  • Strobe light effects from a high-powered mag light accompanied by cow bells out the window in the middle of the night, compliments of Trent the driver extraordinaire.
  • "You guys can take your vests off now".  Three of us in the back seat had fallen asleep on the two hour drive from hell.  When we arrived it was daylight and we all still had our night gear on.  
  • The anonymous chalk message written on a part of the course Austin ran that said "pick up your vagina and run faster!"  It became our mantra.
  • When the girls weren't feeling so fresh anymore, Carrie stopped and bought a little bottle of baby powder that we then used to freshen up.  Guess what - you can overdo powdering your girl parts in compression shorts... afterward, we had the insanely funny idea of calling our team the "Powder Pussies" the next time we raced.  Something tells me that name might not be allowed.
  • Relating an injury to the other van and referring to it as "I bruised my vagina".  Oh the jokes that followed that one...  

There were so many other noteworthy things that happened in those thirty three hours that I could go on and on about:
  •  Steven saying randomly over and over, "Austin, have I said 'thank you' lately?" every time he thought about how he was originally assigned to the runner position Austin did.
  • Taking time to set up a tent at the last major exchange so we could all go inside, strip down and take a baby-wipe shower.  "You know you're on Ragnar when a baby wipe shower is the highlight of your weekend."
  • Hubby getting mad at the inconsiderate and obnoxious college-aged children who wouldn't shut up so we could sleep on the ground around them.
  • Carrie and Nancy running all three times in the dark.
  • Steven's sprint finish on his last run.
  • My getting the shaft and having to run TWICE in the dreaded heat - in the ugliest parts of the course to boot.
  • Watching Austin power through his TEN mile run - six of which was brutal uphill and then being stubborn to a fault when asked if he wanted/needed someone to take over and finish it for him.
  • Losing Carrie at the second major exchange after she handed off to the other van.
  • Lake Las Vegas at night is so amazingly beautiful!  We all said we wanted to come back to Vegas and stay there instead of the usual places you think of when you think Las Vegas.
  • Hubby starting the weekend saying "this is my last Ragnar".  And then kicking ass and feeling so great at the end that he was asking when the next one is.
  • The wonders of 'Sore No More' cream - just don't put it near your girl parts!
  • Nancy crying out "That's MY girl" when a confused runner from a different team slapped her bracelet on Carrie who was waiting for Nancy to hand off to her.
  • Nancy and Carrie both running personal-best fastest times - on their THIRD runs when they were the most tired.  Both of them ran sub-nine minute miles.  A-maz-ing!
  • Nancy commenting on how fast this adorable, young girl runner was when she left the exchange significantly ahead of Nancy - and then Nancy running so fast she overtook the same girl while we all cheered her on with cowbells.  Then when Nancy passed off to Carrie, she paced the entire leg with the same girls' husband who happened to be the same guy who offered us bananas at the first leg when Austin was obsessing about how badly he needed a banana.  See, smaller is better!
  • Wine for the women at the finish line.  The bottle we bought in a gas station and had hauled with us the whole way in the cooler.  Drank from a shared paper cup we swiped from the hotel room.  Best glass of wine ever because it was so deserved.
  • Feeling sorry for people we saw at the finish line with "only" one medal because this was their first Ragnar of the year.  Saints and Sinners medal for those of us who did Wasatch Back this year and Deuces Wild medal for those who had done at least one other one plus Vegas this year.
  • Walking through The Paris hotel casino after the race was over.  Sweaty, stinky, haggard looking while women in hoochie skirts and hooker heels made up perfectly passed by on all sides.  And not giving a shit because just being there meant we were headed to a shower and a real bed.
  • Crashing in the room and not seeing a single typical Vegas sight before hitting the road to come home the next day.  Although Steven did!

So what about my own personal experience running this time around?

The highlight of the running part for me was my night run at one in the morning.  It was chilly enough for a light jacket, I could see the Strip all lit up in the distance, and the run itself was easy and enjoyable.  Well, that is until it was longer than advertised and I had spent everything I had in me thinking I was almost done.  Luckily, Carrie had back-tracked to find me in the dark after they parked and we ran in together the last half mile.  I was hurting and spent and she kept trying to distract me by making me think about what I was going to do the minute we got done and what drink we were going to celebrate our finish with.  I don't know if I ever even answered her, but just having to think about it in my head and knowing she was right there with me kept me pushing to the end.  She's my favorite little ferret.

The lowest part for me was when I had to admit I couldn't finish my last run.  I'd been ignoring a pretty significant running injury for months (ha, still am!) and after the end of my second run I knew the third was going to be brutal.  Luckily, it was going to be one hundred percent downhill.  Not a single foot of elevation increase according to the race maps.  I started out feeling great and pounding the miles out.  About two miles into my six mile run it wasn't downhill anymore.  And uphill aggravates my injury worse - plantar fasciitis - as it pulls the tendon on the bottom of my foot in a bad way.  I was still in good spirits and made a deal with myself and my burning foot:  walk the distance between every other barrel cone and run the rest.  That worked for about a mile and then I could barely walk and had to stop at every barrel to stretch my calves just so I could walk to the next one.  Every step sent sharp pains shooting up from my foot and I literally thought I was going to die.  No more running for this girl.  Not that day.  So I walked - and cried - and cried harder as each person passed me - until I could see my van appear over the next rolling hill.  Nancy was walking toward me and as I came within earshot she asked if I was all right.  I told her 'No' and cried harder as she took off running back toward the van.  My amazing Hubby - who already knew it was too bloody hot out and too much rolling hills for me to handle - had already suited up and warmed up and was ready to go.  He crossed the two-lane highway, hugged and kissed me and let me cry on his shoulder for a second and then finished my last mile and did his six.  The fact that this is my lowest point and most likely made his Ragnar all at the same time is only a little ironic.  Almost as ironic as knowing he was unable to finish his last leg on the Wasatch Back and had trained super hard for Vegas so as not to repeat it.  He was certainly my hero that day.  

After, we talked about how this Ragnar was Blood, Sweat and Tears.  Hubby had bled when he banged his leg on the tailgate at some point, we were ALL sweaty and stinky, and I had cried like a baby... In the end, we all decided that Ragnar is really about being with friends for thirty six hours straight.  The running  part is just a reason to make the time and do it.

Here's hoping we get a spot for Wasatch Back in 2012.  And if not, we'll find another one to do instead!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gearing up for NaNoWriMo - take four

It's almost November and, like many writers, that means I'm gearing up to embark on National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  This will be my fourth attempt to write 50,000 words - FIFTY. THOUSAND. WORDS - between November 1st and 30th.  Nothing else in my life is slacking during this month.  I don't get to take a sabbatical from work or being a Mom or being a wife.  I just have to add this gargantuan task into the already crazy mix.  I know it can be done - I "won" the year I was pregnant with baby sister after all.  Although I could argue that life was way less crazy back then with only an eight year old in the house to care for.

In anticipation of the event, my writer's group met this week and I laid out my rough ideas and got tons of great feedback, as always.  We discussed things I need to remember to think about.  Hard questions were asked, ones I hope I have answers for stewing around in the soup of my subconscious where this story's been brewing. Brainstorming for things that could happen to make the story different and unique that I'd never considered were thrown around.  I don't know what I'd do without those three women...

This NaNo feels different.  I've got a plot structure and my version of character studies that double as story lines that feel much like a plot.  ME!  A PLOT!  I've sharpened my tools and laid them neatly in my writer's toolbox.  And I've committed to both myself and my writer's group that once I start writing come November I'm not stopping until I've got a completed first draft.  Time to step up, grow a vagina and put my money where my mouth is about this writing stuff.  Which I'm sure is why things feel different this time.  It's the anticipation of knowing that something big might be happening... and hoping you don't fuck it all up.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Life is a whirlwind... hold on tight!

I'm forcing myself to take a break from the whirlwind of life I'm currently caught up in.  I didn't realize the 30-day blog challenge would result in me missing writing here every day but it did and I feel like I've abandoned my poor blog.  You know what they say, it only takes twenty one days to create a habit and clearly I've developed the habit of writing every day.  Success!

Last week was a frenzy of planning and execution to celebrate Big Sister turning ten years old.  We had three days of celebration in a row between our little family, her friend party and extended family party.  We survived and I didn't have much time to get hung up on how fast the last decade has flown by.  Seriously, I have a ten year old?

Immediately I was thrust into planning mode for the next big thing happening just days later...

Tomorrow Hubby and I leave for Las Vegas to run our second Ragnar Relay of this year.  I know I have been running all summer but at the same time I fear I haven't trained enough.  I guess we'll see on Friday and Saturday how well I'm prepared this time around.  The first time I did everything by the book and by the numbers - meaning I followed the twenty week training program faithfully.  Was it beginners nervousness or my stressing about having to run twenty plus miles in two days that motivated me?  Could have been a little bit of both.  Now, I'm a seasoned Ragnar alumni who knows what to expect, have WAY easier runs on tap AND get to run mostly downhill - for real, this time - AND at half the elevation than I normally train in.  So, I'm less stressed and haven't been running the kinds of mileage I probably should have been since my longest run is *only* six miles.  The classification of each of my runs are moderate, easy and moderate - compared to hard, very hard and hard last time.  Either I'm a genius not to have been stressing all summer or I've set myself up for failure like an idiot.  Honestly I fear it could go either way.  I'm looking forward to a van full of people I know well and love and seeing a side of Vegas I've never seen before.  Regardless of how I run, I know it will be a blast.  Hubby and I are viewing it as a four-day mini vacation with a little bit of running thrown in and are looking forward to spending some quality time together while our girls spend a party weekend with their fabulous nanny.

When we return, I'll again only have two or three days to prepare for the next big thing:  Halloween - my favorite day of the year.  We have a neighborhood party with the kids, an adults-only party, a family party AND the school festivities all on tap BEFORE the actual trick-or-treating.  I'm still sad I am not going to be running the Halloween Half with several of my friends and loved ones but there's always next year.  When I look at how crazy the last half of October is it is probably for the best that I threw in the towel on squeezing a half marathon into the mix.

And there will be no rest before the next big thing:

The day after Halloween, I'm embarking on my fourth National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where I will *finally* emerge at the end of November with not only a win but a completed first draft of a novel.  Technically I'm still working on the same novel I started back in 2008 but the only thing the same about it has been the title and basic premise.  Now I have a plot structure outline, a synopsis, character studies, etc. and will hit the ground running on November 1st.  I'm so much more hopeful this time around than any of the previous attempts I've made to write this damn novel.  My intention is to blog along the way so you all can see the process but I'm not promising it will happen more than sporadically.  I'll be writing a novel - fifty thousand words - in thirty days after all!

This glimpse into my life, which lately has been even more frantic than usual, has been brought to you by Folgers coffee - the only thing really keeping me going and awake most days.  Ironically, the thing I should have been doing the most this week in preparation for Ragnar is resting and getting lots of good sleep and I'm quite certain I'll be exhausted when we hit the road in the morning.  At least I can sleep in a moving car without getting sick...

So, is it just me or has life been on a fast track lately for anyone else?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Living in denial

I hate it when people say I can't so something.  Most of my teen years were spent proving that just because you told me I can't, I'll show you I can.  It hasn't much changed in adulthood.  There are merely less instances of it now that I no longer live with my parents who were the ones most often telling me I couldn't.  But what happens when it isn't a person who tells me I can't?

After Ragnar (and it's intense training so I didn't die during it) were over in June, I went back to just running for the love of running.  And it was great.  Then a friend put together a team for the Ragnar in Las Vegas and invited me and Hubby to join.  I had to go back to training hard AND acclimating to running in the heat, which I still hate but can actually do now.  The only saving grace is that I have much less mileage and mostly downhill to run on this one so it didn't require as much training.  Plus, I knew I'd done Ragnar once this year so no sweat doing another one, right?  At that point all thoughts of doing anything else competitive for the year were abandoned and we proclaimed 2011 as the year of Ragnar.  To try and do anything else might just make me hate running.

And then one of my favorite cousins-in-law convinced me to do another half marathon since her sister was making her do it. It's the same half I did last year so I knew exactly what to expect with the course.  And, it is a week after Las Vegas Ragnar so I could do a half marathon training program - with a few tweaks - and train for both at the same time.  No sweat!

Now we are less than three weeks from that half marathon race day.  Next week is Ragnar.  I  need to taper off in preparation for Ragnar race day which means no super long run this weekend.  Last week I mapped out a ten-mile route and limped through only six of them when my calf cramped up and I couldn't stretch it out.  (Hydration, hydration!  You cannot slack on it when you are a runner!)  Yesterday my training plan called for a twelve-mile run but I hadn't yet done ten so I mapped out a little easier route and attempted the ten again instead.  And I made it seven before giving into the temptation to skip the last little loop and turning toward home.  At that point I was pushing myself to run and not walk because of the pain in my foot from my nemesis, plantar fasciitis.

I'm facing a sad reality that I may not be capable of running a half marathon no matter how much I want to or how much I've been training for it.  I have yet to do multiple runs in the same day to really be ready for this Ragnar AND I can't push my poor foot further than eight miles without excruciating pain.  My sister - who constantly amazes me with her powers of perception - told me yesterday that I should have been dealing with my "injury" for months instead of living in denial.  Case in point - I can't even call my plantar fasciitis an injury without quotation marks.

So, it is with much consternation and reluctance that I declare - officially now - 2011 as the year of Ragnar and only Ragnar.  If I can get my "injury" under control I'll try for another half next year just to prove I can do it.  And I'll take small comfort from knowing I'm achieving something just as significant.  By doing two Ragnars in the same year, I will earn two medals when we cross the finish line in Las Vegas next week.  And that "Saints and Sinners" medal will be awesome!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Blog Challenge Day 30 - A motto or philosophy

Here I go again - over thinking a silly blog challenge topic.  So off the top of my head here's a bunch of mottoes I most often live by.  If you want something you have to just go and get it.  Life isn't going to give you something unless you've put in the hard work.  You want to be a writer?  You write every day and learn all you can about how to do it well and be successful.  You want to be successful at something else, you find out what it takes to be that thing and you do that every day.  You want a new job, you start acting like you already have it until someone notices you're already doing the work and chances are you'll get promoted.  Never give up on your dreams, no matter what.  And never focus on the negative.  Focusing on the negative and the set backs along the way just bog you down from progressing forward toward whatever it is you want.  Grasp life by the horns and hold on for the ride.  As long as you are living every day and doing what makes you happy you are leading a fabulous life.

I hope you've enjoyed this crazy blog challenge... thanks for sticking with me through the whole thing.  Now, I'm off to work on my novel.  November approaches after all!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A year ago today

I read a blog post this morning where the blogger looked back on what she had written a year ago.  I got curious as to what I was doing a year ago so I took a look at my own posts.  Here's what I found from October 2nd, 2010:

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 here we are today...  Last year I was ready to shelf my novel and in fact tried to do just that.  What I got was a failed attempt at last year's NaNoWriMo where I languished halfheartedly with a new idea and eventually went back to my original one - the darling I cannot kill.  Then, thanks to my writer's group and my friend's editor, I discovered another layer of the toolbox of the writing craft that I didn't even know I didn't now about.  Now I have a completed plot structure with completely different characters, a new twist, new motivations, the works.  And I am going to finish the damn thing before I move on.  I haven't spent this long world building and figuring out how my characters really tick just to throw it away or shelf it before it's done.  Besides, I tried that and the characters rebelled.

I've done so much research and learning recently; I am a different writer than two months ago.  On tap for this October is expanding on my plot structure by outlining basic scenes (and sequels) so I can hit the ground running.  I'll finally be equipped to complete a first draft during this year's NaNoWriMo in November since this time I am even more prepared than in years past.

Do I have illusions that this will be the first novel I publish?  It would be nice but I know it probably won't be.  However, I will still learn by finishing it and then revising, and querying and all the other things that go into the job of becoming a published writer.  And then I'll start another story and another and at some point I'll really know enough to get a publishing deal so I can then call myself an author instead of 'just' a writer.  Here's to another year of chasing the dream with all the hard work it takes to make it happen... may I live through it and still enjoy it.

Blog Challenge Day 29 - Hopes, dreams and plans for the next year

I'm not someone who sits down and makes goals and then breaks them down into short term steps to reach long term steps and then march through them and arrive at the end where life will then magically be perfect.  I leave that up to people who buy day planners and subscribe to that kind of philosophy.  Instead, I take every day as it comes and live it to the fullest.  I have a vision of what the future looks like and every choice I make hopefully leads me closer toward it.  But, if I somehow end up on a side track that turns out pretty cool, the route will shift.  Case in point, when I was in high school I dreamed of being a pilot and for a while I was training for that and exploring the possibilities.  And then I stumbled into a job that ended up being way more fun and I've built a career out of it.  Same thing when it came to being a parent - TOTALLY stumbled into that one but then embraced it and never looked back. If I were a goal setter, I'd look like a failure on paper when looking back.

So, for the next year I hope life (and my hard work) takes me to a finished first draft of my novel, better job satisfaction working under my new supervisor, another Ragnar relay completed, another half marathon with a better time than the first one,  continued success with my fitness insuring many more years of life ahead of me, lots of time spent with my kids making fun memories, and quality time with Hubby who I've now been with for eighteen years next month. Throw in time with my extended family and close friends and my year should be pretty full.  And of course I'll share the ups and downs of all of it with you, my readers. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Blog Challenge Day 28 - A scar I have and it's story

I am not accident prone and was hard pressed to find a scar at all - never mind a scar with a story.  After all, how exciting can the little round scar be on my stomach, where they pulled my gall bladder out after it quit working?  But then I remembered the very first scars I ever got. 

When I was a kid I had chicken pox, just like every other kid on the planet before they developed a vaccine, only I was lucky enough to get them twice.  The first time around I didn't have very many so apparently I didn't develop immunity.  Lucky me.  The second time around was brutal, or so I've heard. I was too young to remember more than what my parents told me about it but the stories are horrible.  Apparently they couldn't stop me from scratching at the ones on my face and I was left with two perfectly round pox scars - one over each of my eyebrows. 

When I got old enough to be sarcastic and sassy, I started telling people it was where my horns had been before I broke them off.  Ironically, I think my mother in law might have believed me...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Blog Challenge Day 27 - A physical feature I love

Four words:  I. LOVE. MY. RACK.

I have already blogged about this here if you want the top ten things I love about my body - a list I still struggle with.  I am happy to report that seven months after the original list I have one more thing to add:  I love the definition in my arms.  After months of waffling between hard core runner training for multiple Ragnar Relays and a total body program with weights setup by my trainer, I have defined triceps and biceps.  Plus, I'm strong.  I never thought that would be true.  It is somewhat amazing even still...

I just realized I may have interpreted this all wrong.  In which case, I love shoulders and hair which are the first things I notice when I see people of the opposite sex.  There, now I have all my bases covered!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Blog Challenge Day 26 - A childhood memory

My fondest memories of childhood all revolve around camping with extended family during the summers where I grew up in Utah.  One particular year my siblings, cousins and I were all old enough and allowed to wander away from camp for hours at a time.  We were in one of our favorite camp grounds in the Wasatch National Forest outside of Salt Lake and we discovered a trail leading up and away from the highest loop of the campground road in a steep section where there were no camp sites.  I remember hiking up and up, for what seemed like hours, through dense forest areas of aspen and pines looking for what undiscovered treasures we just knew we were going to find.  Around every corner there were new sights we'd never seen before, areas where we had to find the trail or make our own to an area that looked easier to travel.  Fallen logs to climb over, statuesque trees rising into the overhead canopy where the sun barely filtered through, long dark sections of trail lined with tree trunks beckoning us to go deeper.  The wind whispering through the leaves on the trees around us the whole time promising us adventure..  Our secret trail eventually ended at the top of a steep hill where it opened up into a meadow with a waterfall at the edge.  I remember breaking through the tree line into the bright sun of that summer afternoon thinking we had discovered our own world. We toiled at the waterfall and rollicked in the meadow before finally, and reluctantly, heading back to camp.  Looking back I'm amazed we remembered how to get back and I'm certain if our parents knew exactly where we had gone that day they would not be happy.  The memory of that one stolen, perfect afternoon has never left me...  Nor do I remember, even though I know we tried, ever finding that exact spot again.

I hope one day I'll allow my own girls enough freedom to explore on their own without worrying about the axe murderer or child molester who could be lurking, just waiting for their chance to pounce, so they too can make a memory like this of their own.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blog Challenge Day 25 - A recipe

I debated about what recipe to share pondering which would wow you all with my culinary skills.  But bottom line, I just discovered the most AMAZING frosting recipe and had to share it.  If you have the right frosting you can make anything better.  Case in point, this frosting made even the gluten-free cake it adorned completely edible.  I've been making frosting since I was a kid when my Mom taught me how to make chocolate cake from scratch.  And, my Dad is a baker.  But I had NEVER made butter cream frosting before last weekend at our neighbor's place.  Something I will definitely be changing every chance I get now that I have this amazing recipe!

Butter Cream Frosting

1 cup salted butter, softened*
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
5 cups confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup milk

Blend it all together with a hand mixer and spread on everything - or whatever you have on hand that calls for frosting.

*The recipe we were following called for half butter, half shortening but we didn't have any shortening so we just used butter.  So yummy without all the partially hydrogenated oils.  Also, if you don't have salted butter, then just add a pinch of salt.  Whatever you do, don't - and I repeat, DO NOT - use margarine.  This is butter cream frosting and if you don't use butter it will taste like... well, shit.  (No one should ever eat margarine in my opinion but that's not what this post is about...)

Enjoy!  And remember don't be stingy when licking the bowl - it's just bad manners.  Although trust me when I say you will be tempted!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Blog Challenge Day 24 - A movie no one would expect me to love

I love movies and Hubby and I watch lots of them.  I am not a particular fan of comedy - I much prefer chick flicks, action and thrillers - and I detest stupid comedy.  I still don't see the appeal of Napoleon Dynamite, Dumb and Dumber was only vaguely funny the first time when you didn't know the jokes and don't even get me started on Super Bad...  Little Fockers only made it all the way through the playback a few weeks ago because Hubby was sort of amused.  So, I'm sure it will surprise everyone that I loved the movie "Bad Santa".  I don't know what it was about that particular movie in that normally detested genre but I could watch it over and over and still laugh.  Maybe it was Billy Bob who pulled off the drunk Santa so well.  I know it wasn't a fluke because I saw it in the theater and several times since.  If they could bottle that movie and sell it I'd buy it!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Blogger Challenge Day 23 - A way in which I want to be remembered

This is easy.  I want to be remembered as someone who never gave up and always did what she wanted.  Someone who followed her dreams and made things happen for herself instead of waiting for life to deliver it up to her on a silver platter.  I live out loud, with no filter, and live every moment as it comes.  I don't do guilt - either inflicted upon me or imposed on others - and I'm usually impulsive.  I hope everyone who really knows me thinks of me as someone they like to be around because I'm a breath of fresh air.  I guess we'll see when I'm dead if I do a good job at that and can keep it up for another forty years at least.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Blog Challenge Day 22 - A website I like

One of my favorite websites is  I love to be able to sit down at my computer, map out exactly where I want to run and see how far it is as well as the elevation change I have in store before I leave.  Just last week I found a neighborhood street that went all the way through between two major streets that only currently connect with a dirt road.  It made my run SO much better that day!  I know I could use the site to keep track of my workouts and lots of other really cool stuff but right now just knowing before I go is invaluable.  Right now I need to go and figure out how to squeeze eight miles out of the flattest parts of the surrounding area for tomorrow's run...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Blog Challenge Day 21 - Something I know I do differently than other people

It might not have escaped you, if you've been reading my blog for any amount of time, that I have the mouth of a sailor.  And I have young children.  And I live in a very conservative little suburb of the notoriously "red" state of Utah where that kind of thing is generally frowned upon.  I know I am different than most people I meet because I do not sensor my expletives even around my children. *gasp*  It might further surprise you to know that Big Sister - who turns ten in a few weeks - has not repeated them.  Well, except that one time when she was three and it was Daddy she was parroting at the time, thank god!

I was not the first of my siblings to have children and I had two adorable nephews years before I had kids of my own.  It was very hard to take hearing my oldest nephew, who was about four or five at the time, come up to me - constantly - and hit me while telling me I was bad because I had said a bad word. 

First of all, I don't really believe in good and bad as all-encompassing labels.  Every action, every reaction, every situation always has multiple sides to it and each party involved is justified when deciding his/her own actions.  Just because the majority of people in a community or a society have agreed to view a thing as unacceptable does not make it bad.  (Getting off my soapbox now but this distinction will help illustrate what's coming...)

From that moment on, I vowed that I would never label expletives as "bad words" regardless of who says them or in what company they are said.  Of course at the time I had no intention of ever pro-creating.

And then I got pregnant and people started talking about how I'd have to clean up my language and how everything would change and blah blah blah.  And the rebellious bitch who I am at my very core said "oh yeah?  Wanna bet?"  And I never did. You're probably wondering how both statements can be true - that I never have filtered myself around my children AND that they have never developed the same habits.  But both are true nonetheless.

You see, instead of labeling all my favorite colorful words as 'bad', they have been dubbed 'grown up words'.  And you have to be a grown up to choose whether you say them or not.  Ingenious, I know.  This way, Hubby and I say whatever is our nature to say - never directed AT the kids, of course - and the kids don't have to feel conflicted inside knowing that Mom and Dad are "good" people but they say "bad" words.  Plus, I've eliminated what I call the forbidden factor: that phenomenon when you tell a kid they can't do something and that just makes them want to go out and do it even more.  Of course, it also means that the kids will know exactly how to effectively use all the grown up words by the time they can choose to say them.  But, so be it.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Blog Challenge Day 20 - Foods I love and hate

I love pasta - but I don't eat it very often.  When I do, I choose red sauce over my preferred cream sauce because I can't afford ten hours on the treadmill to burn off that one meal.  My Dad is of Italian descent and he lived there for a time when he was younger before he met my Mom.  Which means the family recipe spaghetti sauce he passed down to me is authentic.  I love to make a big pan of sauce - simmered for hours so the flavors come alive (my mouth is watering as we speak) and then eat spaghetti all week - lunch and dinner.  Unfortunately, Hubby chose to spend his money in college predominantly on alcohol and thus ate a lot of ramen and spaghetti.  Which means he doesn't ever want spaghetti.  *sigh*  Oh well, more for me!

I love eggs.  I could eat eggs every meal of every day and never get sick of them.  I love them scrambled with onions, omelets, over hard, hard boiled... just as long as the yolk is cooked and NOT runny and slimy.  *ick*  Eggs are probably my biggest source of protein since I don't really love meat besides fish and fowl.

I'm a sucker for baked goods... cake, cookies, brownies.  OH.MY.GOD. I love brownies.  Again, I don't indulge very often but there's a side of me who wishes I wasn't so responsible.

I also love chocolate - especially when mixed with peanut butter.  Show me a candy bar with that combination and I'll show you a candy bar I've had a love affair with at some point in my life.  Currently, the Lindor chocolates that are little bit size balls sold individually are my nemesis.  They have them right by the cashier in the cafeteria at work and I break down and buy one almost every day.  


I hate diet drinks.  If it's got chemical sweetener in it, I can taste it a mile away and want to hurl once the liquid passes my lips.  If I were dying of thirst - literally - and the only thing available was a diet soda, I might waste away before I gave in and drank one.

I hate coconut.  Not sure if it's a taste or a texture thing - either way, I'm not a fan.

I hate walnuts and almonds.  I used to think I didn't like ANY nuts until I tried cashews and found they are delightful.  Peanuts don't count because they are really a legume and not a nut - and I like them, too.  Walnuts, though.  Bleck!  And why do people insist on RUINING a good browning by putting walnuts in them?!?  Seriously, people, enough already!  And don't get me started with all the things slivered almonds show up in. UGH and they are so hard to pick off, too!

I hate bloody rare beef and I refuse to handle raw hamburger.  If it doesn't come home from the store already nice and neatly formed into a patty before needing to be cooked, Hubby gets the honors.  The slimy feel of raw meat just makes me queasy.  And while I love a bite or two of a really great steak, if it's rare I can't even look at it.  Hubby, on the other hand, is a carnivore and has no problems.  Yuck!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bog Challenge Day 19 - A talent

I have a talent for spotting bullshit and calling it out.  You may not think of this as a talent, but I have found it comes in quite handy and not many people possess it or embrace it.  Does this talent get me into trouble?  Sometimes.  Will this talent potentially inhibit my ascension to an upper management position with my current company because I'm not willing to bum pat and kiss ass while I propagate the bullshit?  Maybe.  Would I trade this talent?  Not in a million years.  You have no idea how free it feels when you have not only spotted bullshit but have brought it out into the light of day so everyone must acknowledge it for what it is.  There are never elephants in the room when I'm around.  Do I come off as abrasive to people?  Possibly.  Do I care?  Nope.  One of my favorite quotes is (paraphrased) 'Always tell it like it is because those who care don't matter and those who matter won't care.'

Now, for those of you who were hoping for "normal" talents... I play piano, I play guitar, I draw (better than my Sister but not better than Hubby), I run, and I write fiction. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Blog Challenge Day 18 - Things I do everyday

Here's another thing that you may find quirky about me!  I'm struggling with this post since 'everyday' has such a specific meaning and if I take it literally, meaning every single day, I can't come up with much to include.  So, since I am a literal kind of girl, I thought I'd break it down into weekdays and weekend days and give you two very different lists which still meets the criteria.  (Someone needs to remind me this is merely a blog challenge designed to get me posting about things I don't normally post about so you all can get a glimpse of me and that there are no right or wrong answers here!  Sheesh, I can be so uptight sometimes!)  Then I started the lists and found they were kind of boring and that the things I really do every day would be harder to come up with but might be a much cooler list.  So, here they are:

I wake up before eight AM - seriously?!? When I realized this is true I cried a little.  I am a night owl who officially never lets herself sleep in anymore, even on the weekends.  Even crazier, I usually wake up earlier on the weekends so I can go running.  Case in point was just this past Sunday when Hubby and I consciously decided not to set any alarms.  And I was still awake and up by 7:45.  Insane...

I play Words with Friends on my phone.  And, this is the ONLY game I play on my phone.

I think about running and whether I'll be able to fit a run into my crazy day.  I successfully find time to run an average of three times a week and I cross train or lift weights three others - something I can do much easier in the time allotted for the fitness center at work.  There is only one day a week that I do not work out but even that day I'm thinking about running and whether I really HAVE to rest.

I tuck my girls into their beds at night.  Even Big Sister has not rejected this practice by deeming it not cool in her 'tween years.  YET...  Even if I'm not there when they go to bed and Daddy, grandma or the sitter does it, I still make a point to visit each of their rooms, make sure they are covered up and kiss them good night. Maybe they will look back on this as the one normal thing their crazy Mom did when they are talking to their therapists.

I check Facebook.  Yes, everyday.  Even when I swore it off and vowed never to waste another hour on it again.  I limit it to once a day to make sure I haven't got anyone to wish happy birthday to and get the status updates of the people on the list of real friends who's crap I care about seeing.

I drink water.  At least ninety ounces, sometimes more.  Some days I hit that mark easily, sometimes it is a chore but every day I'm committed to proper hydration.  It makes such a difference when I work out and I always know if I've been slacking because I feel it.

I think about my novel.  I wish I could say that I write every day.  I'm getting there but some days the things I count as "writing" are really just moments of day dreaming about the world I'm creating and wondering about what makes my characters tick.  While in my mind that counts as working on my novel, it is not really writing new words every day.

I stay up too late.  What can I say?  There are never enough hours in a day to squeeze in everything I want to do.  Most days I sacrifice sleep for doing more of the things I want than I would if I went to bed on time.  Do I pay for this every morning?  Yes.  Yes, I do.

Which leads to the one thing that surprised even me since it did NOT make the list of things I do every single day:  drink coffee.  I realized that I don't drink coffee on the weekends consistently.  While you can set your watch to my daily java consumption on work days, I just don't need it to get through the weekends when I'm not surrounded by bullshit.  Maybe that's because I can always squeeze a nap in between football games on Saturday and Sundays now that it is that season again.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Blog Chllenge Day 17 - Things that annoy me

Finally, a list I will be able to finish with zero trouble...

People who waste my time.  As a busy woman I don't have time to waste.  So the checker at Smith's who stopped my checkout process to sniff my dryer sheets and then launch a conversation about them before continuing was not my favorite person that day.  People who walk slow in front of me, meandering, when I can't get around them.  People who drive the speed limit limiting my ability to go as fast as I wish.  (Yes, I am a speed demon, why do you ask?)  People in the express checkout lane in front of me with more than 15 items.  People who stop in the aisles at the grocery store to talk to someone else and block the entire aisle.  Meetings where nothing gets accomplished.  Yes, this category has many, many sub-categories of which I could go on and on.

Having to pick up after Big Sister.  This one sucks and is more than likely my own fault.  For eight years of her life I had enough time to baby her and go behind her whirlwind cleaning up after her since, after all, it was just her.  Now that we have added Baby Sister, I don't have the time or the energy.  It might kill me before she gets the hang of picking up after herself.

Baseball.  I hate everything about the sport and the fact that they play it practically all year is SO annoying.  And, no, this does not make me un-American.  I am allowed to have this opinion.

People who don't pull their weight at work.  This is a huge one - people who wander the cubicle halls and chat all day - either in adjoining cubicles within earshot or at intersections that I have to walk past.  They annoy me even if I don't know who they are.

Books that have not been made into audio books that I want to read.  Seriously, why isn't every single book just automatically made into an audio book for people like me?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Blog Challenge Day 16 - A song that makes me cry

Remember the post about odd things where I confessed that I cry at lots of stuff?  Well, I've never - I repeat - never cried about a song.  Is that weird?  I did, once, cry because a certain song came on at a particular moment so I'll tell you about that instead.

It was seven and a half miles into my second leg of Ragnar.  I had already run six miles that morning and the leg had been rated Very Hard.  I thought it was because it was extra long but it was because it was also a lot of rolling hills.  It was excruciating and I didn't think I could go the distance.  And then I crested a hill overlooking a beautiful valley and "our song" came on my iPod and I knew that Hubby was at the next exchange waiting to take the baton from me and cheering me on from there in spirit.  

I'm not gonna lie - I cried like a baby for the next two miles.  

Had it been another song would I still have cried?  Perhaps eventually since that was the most painful two miles I've ever run, but since it was that particular song I didn't wait.  Anyone who things that running is only a physical sport has never done any endurance running.  It is one part physical, four parts mental.  And yes, there's crying in running!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Blog Challenge Day 15 - Five funny fears

How are fears ever funny?  I guess I'll regale you with my silliest ones and hope that's adequate.

1.  Spiders - seriously, even the daddy long-legs kind scare the be-jesus out of me.

2.  Bees - they send me screaming and running.  And the time one flew in the window while I was driving?  I almost died because of that damn bee!

3.  Ladders - I am not afraid of heights if looking down from above but I'm super squirmy and scared to climb higher than two rungs on a ladder.

4.  Throwing things away - I have serious hoarder tendencies that I must vigilantly curtail.  Every time I throw something away I'm afraid I will need it in the future regardless of how long it has been since I used it.

5.  The I.R.S. - those bastards truly frighten me with their ability to completely screw up your life if you cross them.  *shudder*

Friday, September 16, 2011

Blog Challenge Day 14 - A vacation I'd love to take

This was an easy one... My dream vacation is really more of a lifestyle change.  I would love to live abroad - in Italy.  If it can't happen permanently, I'd settle for a trip long enough to immerse myself in the culture beyond the typical tourist areas.

About seven years ago we had friends who had moved to Germany that we went and stayed with for two weeks.  Those two weeks changed my life.  To see how fundamentally different life is in Europe has never left me.  No large refrigerators to hold a week's worth of groceries because the bakery, the butcher and the grocer are all within walking distance and you buy what you will eat today and maybe tomorrow.  Think of how much food you would no longer waste because the vegetables - from Costco - go bad in the crisper before you have a chance to use them!  Recycling is not optional - you have a separate can for paper and one for real garbage - the stuff Americans send down the garbage disposal to be cleaned out of the water supply at the treatment plant.  Most things at the grocery store come packaged in recyclable paper packaging and there is very little plastics.  Those two things alone revolutionized our lives after that trip.  We are recycling Nazi's and the only time I ever use the disposal is if people who don't know are over and put crap down the sink that I cannot get out.

My heritage on my Dad's side is Italian and I have always been drawn there - as if my blood somehow longs to return home again.  I love the food, I love the wine... I even tried to teach myself the language in fifth grade as part of my gifted and talented program project.  (Yes, I've always been an overachiever.  Why do you ask?)  Maybe someday I'll work at a job where I have enough vacation to take an extended trip - and lots and lots of disposable cash on hand!  Or maybe when the kids are grown and I'm a full time writer I can do it from there instead.  Either way, bring on Italy and soon...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Blog Challenge Day 13 - Five strange facts about me

Here's another of those challenging posts that I was tempted to replace.  How do I define strange and how do I pick just five? I looked it up on and here's the official definition: 

unusual, extraordinary, or curious; odd

Hmm... I can work within those boundaries! Here are five extraordinary, odd or curious facts about me:

1.  I am fearless and honestly never nervous in any situation - except when it comes to spiders and bees which send me screaming like the girl I am.

2.  I am one tough cookie, a heartless bitch even at times - but I cry at almost every episode of Parenthood, practically every movie ever made including some action packed ones, and lots of books.

3.  I still have the movie ticket stub from every movie I've ever seen in the theater for seventeen years with Hubby.  I have no plan of what I will do with them, nor do I scrapbook.

4.  I love chocolate and I love peanuts but I despise peanut M&M's and chocolate-covered peanuts.

5.  I am a problem solver to my very core.  Even Hubby sometimes has to stop me and tell me to just listen because he is merely venting and does not require me to solve the issue at hand.  Many arguments could have been avoided in our early years if he had figured this out immediately.

Bonus fact:  Doesn't matter what we are talking about, I can still eat.  I chalk it up to my Mom being a nurse and always answering any question that came up over dinner, regardless of the topic.  Like that one time when I was seventeen and asked what an IUD was in the middle of a restaurant...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Blog Challenge Day 12 - A song played at my wedding

Nevermind the creepy 80's video that even I wish I had never seen...  
This was "our" song back when Hubby and I tied the knot in 1994.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blog Challenge Day 11 - A recent photo of me

This is me... 

at the beginning of the summer right after I got my feathers in my hair.  Can you see them among all the crazy curls?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Blog Challenge Day 10 - Five things from my bucket list

I've never made a physical list of things I want to do before I kick the bucket before.  There's always things swimming around in the back of my head that I know I want to do but never something to mark them off of when completed.  Here's the first five that come to mind:

1. See Italy - including the town my family name originates from
2. Write a book - publishing it would be nice, too but not necessary
3. Get my pilot's license (I got halfway done in college)
4. Compete in a triathlon - and finish
5. Learn a foreign language - preferably Italian

Putting these down in an actual list makes me feel like I need to check them off.  You know what they say... someday will never come unless you are doing the things you want to do then now.  Or maybe that's just me that says that?  Now I'm not so sure but it's true nonetheless.  What's on your bucket list?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Blog Challenge Day 9 - A photo I've taken

This was the sunset of the best day we ever spent at the beach.

And this is still the coolest picture of animals with attitude I've ever captured...  Can't you just see the mischievousness shining through in the one giraffe that's looking at the camera?  I know it's a female and that she doesn't take crap from any of the others.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Blog Challenge Day 8 - Thank you letter to someone who has changed my life

How do you pick just one person?  One person to single out as the biggest influence of change? Is it your parents?  Your spouse?  Your children?  Your mentor?  The author of your favorite book?  I can't pick just one - and have been struggling with this question for a week now knowing this post was lurking in the blog challenge.  I was even tempted to replace it with something easier.  But then what would be the point of the blog challenge if I got rid of all the challenging posts?  Then I decided that I wasn't being graded on this and anyone I picked would give you an insight into me so I went with the first one that popped into my head a week ago.

Dear Big Sister,
             Thank you for surprising me with your conception at a time in my life when I was convinced I didn't want kids because my career was so important I couldn't be bothered with motherhood.  I was wrong.  Over the years I have suspended my selfishness in ways I didn't think possible without regret just to make you happy which in turn makes me a better person.  Your logical mind challenges me daily to explain how life works which means I surely won't ever suffer from Alzheimer's.  In trying to mold you into a well-rounded adult, I hope I don't scar you and that you don't need therapy as an adult.