Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Everything changes

One of my favorite sayings is "Change is the only constant in the Universe".  And recently it's been particularly true for my life.  Fundamental things I thought would never - I mean NEVER - change, are changing.

Monday morning I got up at five o'clock.  That's a time people usually have to remind me happens more than once in a day because I'm guaranteed to be sleeping through the AM version.  Why did I ON PURPOSE drag myself out of bed that early?  On a Monday?  For yoga.  YOGA!  And guess what... I found out how much I like to work out in the morning.  I felt so amazing all day.  Yes, part of that was because I did yoga which always leaves me feeling amazing.  But there was more.  I had no anxiety about when I was going to fit exercise into my crazy day.  No lamenting about the day having slipped by, taking my best laid plans with it, and falling into bed without having worked out.  Nope.  Instead, I'd already done it before I would normally have been out of bed.  Brilliant! And the best part: I had so much energy all day that I didn't even feel sleep deprived.  Monday mornings now mean yoga at six o'clock AM.

Today I realized that subconsciously I've been changing my night owl activities all week.  I'm slowly training myself to go to bed a tad bit earlier so I can eventually wake up early and run before work.  Because, let's face it, my days of working out during work have been gone for at least eight months with no promise of returning.  And that half marathon is just getting closer by the day...

Then there's my writing...  No, no, I'm still doing it.  BUT, I think I've been writing in the completely wrong genre.  My first novel, poised for completion of the first draft after five long, grueling, frustrating, learning years is an urban fantasy.  Its the genre I have typically read the most so it must be the one I will write in, too.  Right?  Except that both of those stories I've got brewing in my head are NOT urban fantasy.  They are mainstream fiction, character-driven stories.  And I'm so much more excited about them!  So much so that I haven't forced myself to write the conclusion of the first one yet because every time I sit down to do it, I find myself thinking more about the next ones and the writing is crap.  I refuse to abandon my first baby until I've written "The End" and have at least the rough story down on paper.  THEN I can put it away in a drawer to pull out and re-work someday when I've got several more under my belt and could truly make an urban fantasy work.

On the home front, Hubby found out he has off-the-chart cholesterol so the entire family is now eating healthier.  My carnivorous husband hasn't eaten a cheeseburger in almost three weeks.  Even Big Sister has embraced wheat bread, although I'm certain her BFF who always thanks me prolifically for having white bread when she eats over will be sad.  The best part:  I'm no longer the odd one out when fixing meals because now I just fix what I'm eating for everyone.

So while I still can't completely explain it, man am I loving this cycle of change...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The NaNo that wasn't

It's happened before... getting to the end of November and not winning NaNoWriMo. But this time was different. I had prepared for this one far more than any before. I had a fully-plotted story - albeit rough and very high level - with characters and motivations and all the things that I didn't have the times before when I didn't win.  Yet I still stalled at just over twelve thousand words.

Yes, I know... twelve thousand words is more than some people write in an entire month - myself included some months.  But my goal was fifty thousand and it was attainable.  I was even ahead of the word count after the first weekend.

So what happened?

Well, there was that pesky pulmonary embolism I was diagnosed with on November 1st.  But in reality I could have labeled that any of a number of things.  And all those things can be lumped together and called "life".  The lesson I'm taking away from this month of best laid plans, derailed by no control of my own, is that life happens.  You can either let it get you down or you can look at the bright side and take away whatever good there is to take from the situation.  My health had to come first this year; and while I don't have a purple winners bar at the end of the month, I still worked every time I had the energy to do so.

One of the biggest unspoken fears I've been grappling with as I sprint *cough* crawl to the finish line of the first draft of my first novel is WHAT'S NEXT?  What if I can't come up with another good idea.  What if I spent five years figuring out how to write a novel, finally finish one and then that's it.  I'll never have another idea.

I didn't need to worry, though.  While I didn't have the energy or the time to write amid all the craziness of my life during November, I did have ideas brewing.  And now I'm pushing myself to finish this monumental, FIRST novel so I can get to the TWO other stories I've got to write now.  Hello, I'm Terra and I'm a writer regardless of whether I won or lost this year's NaNoWriMo.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Two weeks later

Let me start by stating that unprovoked clots in your lungs - meaning there is no cause that can explain their presence - is truly a shitty deal.  I am the girl who wants answers to everything.  The girl who disassembled my curling iron in high school because I wanted to know how it worked.  The girl who needs to know everything about everything so I can project plan the shit out of it then make appropriate entries into my calendar like marching orders to follow precisely.  How else can I accomplish everything I ever want to in life? Not knowing where we go from here is truly fucking with my brain.

But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Immediately following my diagnosis I was focused on getting from day to day.  The shock of almost dying was surreal and I still don't really know how I feel about how close I could have been.  My first goal was getting my anti-coagulation established.  Those super expensive injections I had to give myself twice a day hurt like hell and my first personal aspiration was to quit having to take them.  Which meant my INR test had to be above a 2.0.  Three times a week I stop in at my doctors for a finger prick to test this.  The day after diagnosis, I was .9.  A week and a half later I was above two after once having to increase my daily dose of Coumadin.  Finally no more shots!  That same week and a half had me feeling better with a bit more spring in my step every day.  Two days post diagnosis I couldn't walk through Scheels without needing a bench to rest.  But, two weeks later, I went for my first run.  I could only run a couple of minutes at a time with stretches of walking in between but it felt like I was running my first race and accomplishing a personal record.  The smile on my face was ear to ear.  This was irrefutable evidence that the clots in my lungs are disappearing and I'm almost all better.

Now let's talk about Coumadin and what it means to be anti-coagulated.  It sucks hairy-ass monkey balls.  I'm a bleeder now who bruises easily.  That hangnail I absently picked at during a meeting?  Oh, don't mind me with blood dripping off my finger.  No, officer, my husband doesn't beat me, I just ran into the bar stool someone left pulled halfway out and I'm anti-coagulated.  All those other bruises?  Yeah, I have no idea how they got there but I swear no one is beating me. Worse than all that is the dietary restrictions.  I can't eat leafy green vegetables?  No spinach?  No lettuce?  No broccoli? No asparagus?  Are you fucking kidding me?  Do you know how hard it is to take a brain that is wired for nutrition and real food and then suddenly you can't eat it?  At least three times in the last week I've gone to bite into a delicious meal only to realize it had something in it I can't eat.  Thank god I didn't have to alter anything about my coffee habits.  Had that happened on top of everything else I might be murderous rather than just bitchy.

Which brings us to the shitty deal I'm facing now that I'm out of the woods and getting back to my normal activity levels:  There is no end in sight for the Coumadin.  When I tried to nail down my doctor with a time frame to expect this to continue he said "at least six months but more likely longer."  So now I'll be a runner who can't eat her veggies and who might bleed out if she doesn't check her clotting factor twice a week and gets a bruise.  Ain't that just grand.  And why?  Because no one knows exactly what caused my blood clots in the first place.  Even though I was taking birth control after the age of 35 which actually states it can increase the risk for exactly this to happen.  On the bright side, I can run again.  Oh, and I hit my deductible on my high deductible healthcare plan so now I can get that IUD that I couldn't afford to pay for out of pocket and which started this whole fucking mess for free.  At least I can still run...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

I have a what?

I'm not a sappy person so it won't surprise you that not only am I not participating in the 'thankful challenge' that it seems half my Facebook friend list is doing but that I tend to scan over those posts as they come across my news feed.  Not that I'm heartless but that it is all the same thing: family, friends, other loved ones, etc.  In my world being thankful for those things happen and are expressed all year, not just the month of November in some new gimmick to twist the whole Thanksgiving holiday into something other than commemorating how we gained the trust of the Native American indians and then savagely stole their lands.  But I digress and that's a rant for another day.

However, today I'm actually thankful to be alive because I literally almost died.  Here's what happened so all the people expressing well wishes on my Facebook feed can have the entire story...

Like all stories, I have to start at the beginning which I didn't know at the time was the beginning.  On October 20th, I ran a 5K with my friends who had both been training hard.  He for a third Ragnar this year, she as a new and committed runner with a set workout plan that this race was a milestone in.  I had been slacking hard and actually hadn't run since the last race we had run together as a relay team the month before.  I figured the last time I'd run it had been six miles so a little three mile 5K shouldn't be too hard since it was only a few weeks between races.  I knew she wasn't planning on running the entire time because at that distance she still does a little walking so I could just stick with her and run at her pace and be fine.  We took off at the starting line and about thirty seconds later I thought I was going to die.  My heart rate was through the roof, I couldn't catch my breath and my friend who I was supposed to be encouraging started pulling away.  Because running is a mental sport, I started lamenting about what a loser I was that this 5K was kicking my ass and thinking back about all the times when I had time to squeeze in a run and instead decided I was too tired or prioritized something else in my life ahead of my fitness.  Oh, and trying not to hate my friend who was a new runner and yet was running circles around me.  It was the single hardest three miles I have EVER run both in terms of physical and mental toughness.  I pushed myself to keep up, more or less, with my friend because I didn't want to hold her back and impact her goals after she had worked so hard actually preparing for this race.  The whole way trying to ignore or not look at my heart rate monitor that said I was in the anaerobic training zone even though I was running slower than my normal pace and walking probably more than half the time.  *Hello, red flag number 1*  We finished together and laughed when we both - plus her twenty-something daughter who left us all in the dust at the start line - all placed in our divisions and got medals.  I left the race vowing to get a race goal on the horizon so I'd have something specific to train for and didn't slip even further behind in my running performance since clearly you lose your base far quicker than I thought. I wheezed and coughed the rest of the day which isn't abnormal since I'd just pushed myself super hard, right?.  *Hello, red flag number 2*

I felt fine after a normal recovery time after a hard race and didn't think anything else about it.  Until about a week later when I was working in the garden and ran up the stairs into the kitchen to break up a fight between the kids or some other such emergency.  The little exertion had me out of breath.  I stood at the counter trying to catch my breath when this weird pain started in the center of my chest.  *Hello, red flag number 3 but the first one I paid attention to*  I stood there realizing I was experiencing "shortness of breath with chest pain".  I panicked and quickly passed that heading straight for denial.  You see, my Dad has coronary artery disease as did my grandfather before him.  Dad had a quadruple bypass as a direct result of shortness of breath and chest pain that his doctor luckily investigated aggressively because of his family medical history before he had a heart attack.  I am a runner obsessed with making better than average food choices as a direct result of my insane fear that that shit is going to happen to me, too.  I stood there, taking deep breaths, collecting data and rationalizing that the pain was not on the right side of my chest but in the center and also kind of in the back.  Totally not my heart and probably just a fluke.  Told you, total denial fueled by panic.  Don't judge.

While in the front of my mind I was denying that there could be a problem, the analytical side of me was hard at work in the background keeping track of little things that started not to add up.  Like it was harder to walk from my car to the building and vice versa at work, that I couldn't take the stairs at work without sounding like I was a four hundred pound fat girl ready to puke after my first Biggest Loser workout, that I was lethargic at night and had started to just sit on the couch instead of accomplishing anything every night.  Part of me was still being really hard on myself for having put on a couple of pounds recently and feeling like a total fat girl even though I'm still in my same size clothes.  The inner workings of the female psyche at its worst right there.  When I had a second episode of chest pain a couple of days later *Hello, red flag number 4* I mentioned it to Hubby.  Although the part of me that was still in denial mentioned it offhand with a little joke about "hey, I should probably tell you just in case something happens . . ha ha ha . . . I'm probably making a big deal out of nothing because of Dad . . . blah blah blah".  But I did tell him I was going to make an appointment with the doctor at some point. 

The night before Halloween I was going through Baby Sister's night time routine which involves snuggling on the couch while she drinks her chocolate milk before carrying her to bed to tuck her in.  I stood up from the couch, carrying my petite twenty five pound almost three year old, and walked twenty three steps to her room on the same floor of the house.  And when I got there, I was so out of breath it took me almost ten minutes to catch it again.  (Yes, I just recreated the event so I could count exactly how many steps it was, why do you ask?)  *Hello, red flag number 5 which finally made me take action*

On Halloween, I called and made an appointment with Hubby's doctor since this wasn't something I could see my gynecologist about and that's the only doctor I ever go to.  They could get me in the next day at 11:00 which in hind sight was probably because I told them I was having the "shortness of breath with chest pain" kiss of death symptoms.  At lunch, I was telling my same friends I ran the 5K with that I was going to the doctor because I'd been having problems and he said he'd noticed that he'd had more cardiovascular difficulty in his training since we'd all had . . . dun dun duuun . . . THE FLU SHOT.  Holy shit!  I did the math and that was the same time frame I'd been having issues, too!  I breathed a little tiny sigh of relief that there MIGHT be something else at play here than my impending need for a coronary bypass surgery which is what my mind was in full denial about.  I mentioned it to one of my besties while we were strolling the neighborhood trick or treating and was out of breath after having to save the eleven-year olds from a stuffed scarecrow on a porch.  We both laughed that wouldn't that be the shits that I'd been forced to get a flu shot and then I have these symptoms even though that might get me out of it for next year.

The next day began like any other Thursday.  I'd been on call all night which meant I got to work from home.  I let my team know I was planning on taking a little longer of a lunch break because I had a doctor's appointment but would be back in time for my afternoon support shift.  I got right in, met the doctor and started answering his barrage of questions.  Told him about my family medical history while I cringed inside because I hate that weakness looming in my gene pool like an unexploded, forgotten artillery round in a rice field of Vietnam waiting to go off at any time with no warning.  I had written out a timeline of all my running milestones and things I'd done that involved significant physical exertion leading up to the 5K which had happened four days after I'd gotten the flu shot and what I'd experienced since the flu shot because surely it wasn't a coincidence that it all started then, right? 

After the question and answer period was over, the doctor said they were going to do an EKG and a chest x-ray and handed me a gown.  Are you kidding me right now?  With those words, the shit got real and all the denial was replaced with visions of exactly where the path was leading which ended with me lying in an ICU bed with tubes coming out of my chest looking like death already - just like my Dad did after his surgery.  Not going to lie, I was weepy and it took several minutes to pull my shit together before the first nurse came in to take me down the hall to the x-ray room.  The EKG was a trip because it literally takes more time to set up for the test and get all the leads attached than it does to do the test.  The doctor returned and said my xray was clear and the EKG showed that I had not had nor was I in the middle of having a heart attack.  Both very good news and I perked up.  Next steps: some blood work and a referral to a cardiologist for a stress test.  Sorry, but the flu shot wasn't a factor at  this point.  Just what I knew they were going to say.  Damn my gene pool anyway!  The nurse came back in and drew seven - SEVEN - vials of blood and said they were sending them to the lab via courier so they would have results back today and would call me.  Everything seemed super routine now and I figured my next step would be hearing my blood work was fine - like it always is - and getting a call from the cardiologist to schedule my stress test.  I went home, ate some lunch and started my pager shift at 2:00.

Hubby was off that day so he was chatting with me and catching up on television when my phone rang at 2:30.  I answered it and heard the nurse tell me that I needed to go immediately to the hospital, that they were waiting for me to have a CT scan at 3:00 because one of my blood tests that indicated through chemicals in my blood that I'd had a heart attack came back abnormally high.  And that once I'd finished the test I was to stay there because there was a chance I was going to be admitted.  I didn't say anything, just listened, and started crying uncontrollably, now certain that my vision of bypass surgery was inevitable regardless of what steps I had taken to eliminate the risk.  Hubby rushed over and was now panicked because clearly there was something wrong and he didn't know what it was.  I had the sense of mind to repeat what I needed to do so I was sure I'd gotten it right before I hung up with twenty minutes before they were expecting me at the nearest hospital.

Halfway there, as I'm already mentally saying goodbye to my husband and lamenting that I might not be around to see my girls grow up because of my fucking gene pool that even though I tried my damnedest I couldn't escape, the phone rang again.  The same nurse was on the line apologizing that she'd given me inaccurate information.  The blood test that was abnormal was NOT in fact the one indicating I'd had a heart attack but one that indicated I had a blood clot.  All of a sudden I wasn't rushing to the hospital for an angioplasty and shunts in my heart and hopefully not but probably emergency surgery but *JUST* to figure out where I had a blood clot.  WHEW!  It was like magic how my mind cleared of KNOWING exactly what was happening based on my deepest darkest fears and I was back to feeling  hopeful that this wasn't as bad, whatever it turned out to be.

It was kind of fun being a clinical patient in the hospital and seeing the applications that I support every day and the users that use them for their jobs.  I got registered and filled out paperwork attesting that I wasn't pregnant . . . blah blah blah . . . and went back for my test.  The radiology technician handed me a gown and said "so, you're the one with the impressive d-dimer test, huh?"  It caught me off guard and it must have shown because he said "oh, wait, they didn't tell you?"  Uh, no so now you better tell me I think!  He wouldn't go any further than saying my levels were impressive and played it off that it had to be for me to be spending time with him.  Half an hour later I'd lived through my first CT scan with contrast and hadn't peed my pants even though that's exactly what it felt like was happening when that crap got inserted into my blood stream.  Now the waiting and more blood draws to see what happens now.

Before I could get dressed and walk across the lobby to the lab, my doctor was on the phone to discuss the test I'd just finished.  Good news: you're not going to need to do that stress test because your heart is fine.  Bad news: you have a pulmonary embolism aka blood clots in your lungs.  Then there was a whole lot of talk about how usually you would be admitted and treated in the hospital but because your other test results came back normal and your blood pressure and blood oxygen levels are normal you're a low risk of dying so you can have the choice to be treated at home.  Most of this went right over my head because I was still in shock about what I'd been diagnosed with.  Next steps: more blood draw to test the clotting factor in my blood, pick up prescriptions for anti-coagulation meds to start immediately then back at the hospital at SEVEN AM for ultrasound of the veins in my legs and immediately back to the doctor to discuss treatment.

No longer was I stressing about how my life was going to be limited to ten to fifteen years of struggling with coronary artery disease and early death before my children were grown, now my death had barely been missed and I was still in potentially immediate danger of dying right now.  Very staggering to say the least.  I tried to convey the information to Hubby while I got my labs drawn and my IV which I wasn't going to need further after all removed so we could go to the pharmacy.  If I wasn't already in enough shock at this point, the co-pay for one med I'd been prescribed which was the equivalent of a heparin IV drip and which makes my outpatient treatment an option came to TWELVE HUNDRED DOLLARS.  Thank god it's October and I've had a full ten months to build up my Health Savings Account so I could just swipe the card and smile like I wasn't freaking out.  What else could I do, right?

We headed home, I gave myself my first injection of anti-coagulation medication and tried to relax.  Which I couldn't do so I took my mind off of things by doing a little writing.  I mean, it IS November which means I had a daily word count goal I needed to hit for NaNoWriMo.  I went to bed at eleven even though I had to be up at an ungodly hour to get back to the hospital the next morning for more tests. 

The ultrasound on my legs showed no clots in any of my veins which on one hand is very good news because there are no more clots waiting to break free and head for my lungs to choke my life potentially from me.  However, it means we still don't have any real indication of how or why I got the ones I already have.

Here's where I sing the praises of my new, and officially declared as mine, primary care physician.  Dr Zimmerman sat in the exam room with me for an hour and a half explaining what all this meant, what all my lab results showed, what being on anti-coagulation medication meant, what possible factors could have contributed to this "unprovoked" clot, and answered every single question I had.  While all the people he had double booked me on top of waited I'm sure.  If anyone needs a good doctor, I've got one I can recommend!  That 'impressive' d-dimer test the radiology technician mentioned?  A high is anything over 500, mine came back at 13,000.  Yep, pretty impressive.  During this chat, I heard lots of stories about people who ignored their warning signs and are dead because of it.  People who were hospitalized for treatment and died anyway.  Very staggering stories considering I ignored at least one of my super early warning signs.  I'm choosing to focus on how lucky I am to have coronary artery disease in my immediate family which I live in fear of developing and how glad I am for being very in tune with my body enough to recognize that there were subtle things not quite right that got me to the doctor.

Now I'm living with twice a day injections and twice a week blood testing until my anti-coagulation dosing gets stablized so my body doesn't make more clots while the clots I have dissolve.  And watching for any signs that I need to go to an ER.  As my amazing doctor said, I'm still a patient in the hospital in his mind even if I'm not physically in the hospital environment.  I hate every minute of having to take things slower because I can't physically do everyday normal things.  Today I carried a laundry basket from the bedroom to the laundry room and needed to rest.  Stood at the kitchen sink to load the dishwasher of dirty dishes and had to take a three hour nap when I was done.  But, I'm still alive so I won't bitch too much about any of it.  The clots, which are in both lungs, are basically cutting off half of my air supply so everything I'm going through is expected.

The best news at the end of the day is that once my lungs are clear of clots in the next couple of weeks I can start running again and doc doesn't think my planned half marathon in the spring is too aggressive a goal to shoot for.  I told him this was a pretty expensive episode of "check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program" but that I was really glad I'd done it.  There are still no answers as to what caused these clots to form in the first place which irritates that part of me that wants clear and definitive answers to file away so I can avoid whatever it is so it doesn't happen again and eventually quit taking anti-coagulation meds that come with even more risks long term.  Personally, I still suspect that damn flu shot as being a contributor plus the birth control pills I've been on for ten months that "increase the risk of blood clots in women over 35".  But, for now, I'm focusing on taking it easy so my body can heal and life can return to normal.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Religion and Politics... oh my!

One of the nicest things about living in the United States is that I have the freedom to choose - or not choose - a religion and not be discriminated against because of that choice.  It should be the same in the political arena.  I'm a huge proponent of my fellow citizens taking the time to exercise our fundamental rights as Americans - voting.  And while I do have very strong personal opinions on which candidate I think will do a better job, I don't think picking "the right" candidate is any more important than just getting out to the polls.  Nor am I ever going to ostracize someone for picking a different choice than me. What infuriates me is when people try to make me feel I've made a bad choice - whether it be for rejecting a religion or for picking the other guy on election day.

I had a really great heart to heart - middle of the night - discussion with some friends a while back where two of them expressed how refreshing it was to know this about me.  We were talking about religion mostly - both are members of the religion I was raised in and later rejected as an adult - but the conversation also turned to gay rights which is one of the major hot points in today's politics.  In expressing my differing views I never once made them feel their choices were wrong or that they weren't entitled to the same freedom I always demand for myself when making my own choices.

Which begs the question:  How did we get to be such a society where it is no longer about having the freedom of choosing for ourselves but about which choice is made by the majority?  Why is it that a Muslim or an Athiest is viewed differently than a Christian?  And why is the political stage so awash in religious tenets?  Why has "conservativism" become a choice of Christianity and the "liberals" the ones trying to destroy the "In God We Trust" folks?  Don't people remember when 'In God We Trust' was added and that most of our parents didn't pledge allegiance to a flag that included the word "under God" in it when they were children? Since when has the conversation been more about proving your choice better than allowing tolerance for everyone's choice?

Bottom line, religion and politics have become far too intertwined and far too much emphasis on personal worth has been placed on both choices a person makes.  Just because my opinions or belief system differs from yours doesn't mean I'm wrong any more than you are wrong because you made a different choice than me.  In this very crazy political season, I hope there's others out there with the same thought process because if not we are going down a very slippery slope as a nation and it makes me sad.  Remember, once you invalidate someone's personal beliefs it undermines the very fabric this great nation was founded upon.  Today it might be tolerance that you show another that someday will come back to you from others and you'll be thankful you had an open mind.

Friday, October 19, 2012

You can't make me... or can you?

I just looked back on my blog archives to make sure I wasn't naming this entry the same as the one I did on this subject this time last year and to my amazement find I DID NOT blog about this last year! *gasp*  Hold onto your hats, this is a rant two years in the making now...

I work for a healthcare company (which will remain nameless here for my safety) and have for about 4 years.  I work in I.T. and have never been in a patient care environment for my job.  The first two years when it came time for everyone in America to get their flu shots, I signed a waiver that I wasn't going to get one.  Employees either had to provide proof they got stuck or weigh in that they weren't planning on it so the company can mark us all off on their little lists.  Two years ago, they got smart and offered a 'permanent waiver' if you were never going to get a flu shot which would make it easier on the head count every year.  I was elated to eliminate the yearly hassle of the waiver.

Then the following year - last year - they decided that everyone was required to get the shot no matter what.  So much for a permanent waiver that didn't even last a year!  The only exception being if you had a religious reason - other than the "I am using my free will to choose not to" - or a doctor-verified medical reason not to get it.  I was furious!  Want to get me motivated?  Tell me I can't do something and I'll prove you wrong.  Want to incite me to violence?  Force me do something I don't want to do.

How did they force us all to comply with this violation of civil rights?  By threatening us with suspension and eventual termination if we didn't succumb to the needle by certain deadlines.  I know what you're thinking - How can they do that?!?  Isn't that discrimination?  Isn't it against some fundamental human and civil right that we have to choose?  I'll tell you how - because Utah is a right to work state which means they can fire me for whatever whim they choose.

Last year I was outraged... and when it came time to march down with the cattle call and get our badges scanned and fill out the paper and sign below the statement that says 'I am choosing to get this shot even after I've been told the risks', I crossed out the statement I didn't agree with and signed the paper.  The turd from Human Resources refused to accept my paperwork saying the company's attorneys wouldn't allow any alteration of the forms.  The following dialogue ensued:

Me: "But that means you are asking me to sign something that isn't true because I don't have a choice to get the flu shot and I'm not willingly choosing to get it."

Him: "Of course you have a choice, you don't have to get the shot."

Me: "But if I don't get the shot I get fired."

Him: "True.  But if you choose not to get the shot knowing those are the consequences you still have a choice."

I looked at him, seething, and couldn't argue with the logic.  If I had the financial means to walk out the door right then and never go back, I would have quit on principle alone.  But, alas, I have a family I help provide for that I had to think about.  There were many I heard who did walk away from their jobs and I applaud them.

For weeks stories floated around about how people who had claimed an exemption for religious reasons or medical reasons had been denied and still required to get the shots.  Apparently a slight allergic reaction wasn't enough, it had to be a severe allergic reaction.  And the religion exemption was even harder to get.

Why am I so against the flu shot?  It isn't the flu shot specifically because I wholeheartedly believe that those who are susceptible to getting the flu or are at risk for other factors should get the flu shot.  But I'm not in either of those categories.  I have not had the flu in over 20 years.  So tell me how a dead virus grown in eggs and gambling that the epidemiologists correctly guessed picked the way last years virus would mutate to get put in the vaccination when there are hundreds of strains of the flu virus will protect me any better than my amazing immune system already does with a flawless track record.  I didn't even get the H1N1 vaccination when I was pregnant!  No, for me this is just a violation of my right to chose what I do and don't put in my body. 

This year I was resigned that I'm still not allergic to eggs - thank GOD since I eat them every day - to get me out of what I knew was looming again.  Instead, I did a bunch of research trying to find if there was a religion I could join that would impart me with some tenet I could waive to say forcing me was 'against my religion'.  Me, wanting religion.  Ironic, isn't it?  Interestingly enough, I found one!  But even that came with a catch....  The Congregation of Universal Wisdom is against basically everything medical because they believe all things are cured by the laying on of hands on the spine.  PERFECT!  What's the catch?  To join the congregation requires a one-time 'donation' of seventy-five dollars.  SEVENTY. FIVE. DOLLARS.  Oh, and if you require an affidavit of membership with a statement about their stand on immunizations, include an additional fifteen bucks and we will express mail it to you.  I wonder how many other people who typed "is there a religion against flu vaccine" in their google search hit on the same page and how long this congregation has been around...

So, what is worse?  Being forced to do something you don't want to do with the threat of losing your job; or being exploited financially by people who cleverly found a very specific niche market of people just like me who are willing to go to great lengths not to be forced into an unwanted immunization?  In the end, my pocketbook won over my sense of outrage and my arm still hurts where they stuck me with that damn needle full of flu vaccine which I'm hoping doesn't mess with my already amazing immune system and isn't tainted with viral meningitis.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What is it about November?

Why is it that when the air turns crisp and the nights get longer I suddenly find new energy for writing?  Its like just the thought of November and it's designation as National Novel Writing Month looming in the coming weeks magically motivates me.

I've been in the "percolating" stage for months on my novel.  Which is writer speak for I'm-not-actually-doing-any-writing-but-I'm-thinking-alot-about-writing.  I used to fight this time when it would hit me but I've learned that if I wait it out and allow the percolation I am surprised at what my subconscious spews out when it's over.  This time was no exception.

Remember that the last writing I did was on my camping trip when I got reacquainted with where I'd left the story and all the characters and then banged out a new chapter.  Fast forward to yesterday when I sat down and without much thought produced a pretty killer chapter to fill a hole in the middle that until then had a one sentence of "this should happen here" as a placeholder.  Once that hole was filled in, the flood gates opened wide.

Tonight I spent my allotted writing time NOT on Facebook (miracle) and read the entire manuscript putting one sentence synopsis with each chapter heading.  (I just upgraded to Word 2010 and I'm really digging the default navigation bar on the left that shows you the headings in list form.)  Now I can see the flow of what every chapter accomplishes - as well as the few remaining holes that have yet to be written.  HOLY. SHIT.  I've only got 4 chapters to write and I'm done with my first draft!!

Surely I can write 4 chapters in the next three weeks.  Because then it will be November and I can start on the other thing the most recent percolating has conjured: a new story idea.  Yes, you read this post correctly.  I procrastinated percolated finishing the rough draft of my first novel so long that now I only have three weeks to finish it AND plan a new story so I can do National Novel Writing Month again this year.  Talk about working better under pressure and setting high expectations of yourself, eh?

Here's to burning the midnight oil and drinking more coffee than I have all year so I can basically write at breakneck speed for TWO months instead of one.  And may I live to tell about it when it's all over.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Death of Us All

Death is no longer some thing in the future to be feared; the unknown of where and when and how lurking around some unidentified corner.  No, fifth grade math homework will be the death of us all.  No more mystery!  Death is here...

Big Sister is in her first month of fifth grade - learning a new math curriculum which is completely different than what I learned thirty years ago.  She has math homework every single night.  The book is next to useless - it makes vague statements with zero logical sense and that's it.  No examples.  No elaboration on what the concept is.  No context to glean meaning from.  Nothing.  I fought for two weeks for her to be allowed to bring the damn book home - raging every night about how the worksheets she was required to complete were like attempting to do math when all the words were written in Greek or Arabic.  But now I get why they don't bring the books home - there is nothing more in the books to go on.  So our nights - after dance of course - go like this:

  1. Mom tries to interpret what the hell the worksheet is asking be performed.
  2. Mom consults Dad to make sure they concur on the translation.
  3. Mom tries to correlate the bullshit with what she knows and remembers from school.
  4. Mom tries to translate the bullshit into logic and reason that she can impart to others.
  5. Sometimes repeat one or more of steps 1-4.
  6. Big Sister attempts to complete her math worksheet before NINE PM - most nights failing.

Seriously.  This is why kids don't like math.  The stigma is planted in fifth grade where instead of breaking each concept down into ideas that are attainable and which apply logic and reason - it is math after all, not abstract art - they hide the shit that I-know-very-well-you'll-have-to-use-every-day-of-your-life in this ridiculous core curriculum which was probably written by some dumb ass who was never a teacher in the first place.  He or she is probably living somewhere on a beach laughing about the idiots in Utah who believed him or her and bought all those books and workbooks and student worksheets funding his/her retirement.

Thanks for letting me rant.  If you've avoided fifth grade math after you lived through it yourself the first time, consider yourself lucky.  If it looms in your future, please accept my condolences.  The irony of this whole thing?  I LOVE math and I kicked ASS at math when I was in school.  Go figure... all it takes is slapping some new convoluted bullshit with a fancy shmancy title of "new common core" to completely disintegrate my own math knowledge and confidence. Why yes it's a Monday and yes I'm drinking - why do you ask?

Friday, September 7, 2012

50 Shades of Grey

I haven't done a book review for a while.  But this one has to be done - if only to warn people.

I just finished 50 Shades of Grey, by E.L. James.  I read it under duress and only so people I know would stop asking me if I'd read them.  Okay, and so I could see what all the fuss was about.  You can't turn around without hearing a reference to these books - at least where I live.

I got a copy for my Kindle and, at 27% done, I was so annoyed I found it necessary to update my status on Goodreads (something I have never done before) with the following:  'I'm forcing myself to read this so I know what all the fuss is about. But it is frankly torture. If I have to read the phrase "oh my" one more time I'm going to scream.'

Sorry all of you fans out there, but this book sucked. Take every cliche you can find and wrap it up into a couple of characters, then throw in some porn/sex scenes written like it's for a man. Seriously.  Don't believe me? Try a virgin who meets a hot guy, has sex with him once, and all of a sudden knows exactly how to deep throat - and swallows! Yeah, if you believe that I've got a hot friend who delivers pizza, scantily clad,  who really wants to get laid by the entire sorority house.  No, really!

I'm not above smutty reading nor am I claiming never to have purveyed my share of porn.  But I was under the impression that this was filled with super hot sex.  Like the entire book.  Like women were getting so turned on that their men were noticing because they were getting more play than ever before.  Was there sex, sure.  Was it hot?  Not particularly.  Nor was it always believable.  Tell me a virginal, naive girl who gets her vajay jay pounded repeatedly and tied up and beaten who is only a little sore afterward.  Then there's the bondage factor.  I just don't get it and most of that was a turn off to me entirely. 

The main character, Anna, just graduated college, refers to her vagina as "down there" multiple times, says "oh my" so often that I wanted to scream after the first three chapters, and apparently could only bite her lip as a reaction to every situation.  The author had such a shallow arsenal of description that she merely repeated the same phrases over and over.  And apparently in her world every person in someone's life would find it normal to tuck a stray lock of hair behind someone's ear since every one of her male characters did that at one point.  I spent so much time rolling my eyes and muttering under my breath that I'm wondering how I forced myself to finish it at all.

I had no idea this crap (unworthy of even self-publishing credit let alone a real publishing house) began life as Twilight fan fiction but now it makes sense - right down to the weird and thrown in love triangle that never was properly developed except as another reason to enrage the jealous boyfriend even when he crossed a line of friendship.  What girl has a close friend try and take advantage of her the first time she gets drunk and then days later acts like it was no big deal and proceeds like nothing happened? Probably the same unreal girl who is clumsy and doesn't think she's very pretty but attracts the attention of the cutest boy at school - or in the city. 

I guess the same crazies who dress up and go to midnight premieres to swoon over seventeen year old kids are the same people this book might appeal to.  As for me, I'll take my smut and my characters a little more realistic.  I'm skipping books two and three because, frankly my dear, I just don't give a damn to even know what happens to these idiotic characters.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

It's like riding a bike - only you need to practice

I finished my second race of the year yesterday.  I have a great friend who is a brand new runner and needed a 5K for her first race this weekend to coincide with her chosen training plan.  The only race she could find was a half marathon relay.  So she recruited her daughter and I to run the other two legs leaving her with the final 5K leg into the finish.  It worked out perfectly for me.  We called the team "Two Old Ladies and a Ringer".  Her daughter - being the ringer at 21 and a serious athlete - ran the first 4 miles all up a canyon.  I ran the next 6 miles down the other side of the canyon.  It was a great run even though I hadn't trained hard.  Sometimes just getting out there is all that matters.  It was all downhill and a distance I know I am capable of running so I wasn't stressed that the two weeks before had been a whirlwind and I hadn't been able to stick completely to my weekly workout schedule.

I was all alone with my thoughts and the tunes on my iPhone, surrounded by the changing leaves of fall in northern Utah and IT WAS SO MUCH FUN.  Did I wish I had more time to devote to running so I could have gone faster? Yes.  Did I revel in the fact that I was still capable of 'riding' this particular bike because I had been doing what I can whenever I can to keep in shape?  Yes.  Did I find an analogy to make in order to compare this to my writing?  Of course!

Hubby and I took our girls camping a couple of weeks ago and I persuaded him to trek into the woods alone with the kids and the dog so I could have at least an hour of uninterrupted writing time. He fell for it - further proof that he loves me - and I sat down and dusted off my manuscript that I still haven't finished from NaNoWriMo last year.  I read the last chapter so I could remember exactly where I'd left my characters and started writing.  Amazingly enough, I was still writing when the hikers returned two hours later.  I'd taken myself from the end of the middle to the climax of the ending.  And there are only a couple of 'holes' in the middle where its still a little muddy with placeholder statements of "this is what happens here" left to fill in.  Perhaps I'll get this draft complete and pick up the editing process where I got mired down before November yet! 

The current lesson here: writing is an ongoing process of getting on the bike but you have to keep getting on it to get any better at it.  It's not a new lesson, just a different way of looking at it for me.  I've also learned that in my own writing process I have to finish getting the story down before I can start editing.  And, much like my exercise plan, I have to squeeze writing into my insanely busy life wherever I can in order to keep myself progressing forward.  Someday when both of my kids are in school (and perhaps Big Sister is driving herself to dance) I'll still be writing and be better at it than I am now.  And I'll look back on this part and know how much it was all worth it to stick with it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

From fiesty fetus to tyrant toddler

I went back into the archives of my blog and found this little 'foreshadowing' I wrote in October of 2009 when I was 22 weeks pregnant with Baby Sister: 

We have officially entered the part of pregnancy where I am no longer the boss IN MY OWN BODY.  Don't get me wrong, it does come with good and bad but this week has been very eye opening in the "what will my baby be like" department.  She is already a very demanding little fetus who makes herself known and imposes her wishes whenever she wants.  Specifically, she does not like it when I sit in an upright or leaning forward position.  Whenever I try to (or forget!) she delivers some pretty nasty kicks and punches to my insides.  And they downright HURT!  The funniest part is when I adjust to accommodate her wishes she immediately settles down.  If it is any indication of the level of stubbornness or feisty attitude we are in for after she is born, we are in trouble.  More specifically, I think I am in trouble since she will be a fiery Aquarius - JUST LIKE ME!  I do love the active bonding that goes on with these clashes of wills but I hope it is not a foreshadowing of things to come.

From the very beginning Baby Sister has been fiesty and strong willed - just as she was in utero.  But lately she has turned into a down right tyrant.  No big surprise since her third birthday approaches in the next few months. She has a knack for wearing all of us down with her whining - Daddy calls is "the attack of the whiny butt" which actually makes the whining worse.  But it's better than beating her into silence which I sometimes drag myself into another room to avoid.

For example, she was mostly potty trained and then decided she doesn't want to do that.  She actually demands diapers now.  The best part is her screaming 'NO' at the top of her lungs - accompanied by kicking and hitting on occasion - whenever I try to force her to use the toilet.  And there's always crying first thing in the morning with circular arguments about "no potty!"  Do I think she just had a relapse?  No way.  Not when she tells me WHILE she's peeing in her diaper that she's peeing.  Nor when she demands that I 'thange bum, Mommy' as soon as she's wet.  We've tried everything to coerce her - potty treats, promises of visiting Mickey (her favorite character) at Disneyland, of trips to the beach, of a big girl bed - and she just soils herself then lists all the things she won't get now.  It is infuriating.

Another of my favorites is when she tries to put her own shoes on and can't.  She screams.  I try to help.  She screams louder and bats my hands away.  She tries and fails again.  Screams even louder.  I try to help again.  She screams louder still.  And about that time I have to walk away.  Her sense of self and desire for independence is stronger sometimes than my will to live.

I think the hardest thing for me has been overcoming my initial arrogance that just because she was going to be an Aquarius like me that I would miraculously know exactly how she ticks and thus exactly how to deal with her.  I was so wrong.  Where logic prevails with me, she could care less. 

The very worst part of this stage is when I say - in the mean mom stern voice - not to do something and then must watch as she narrows her eyes, shakes her head almost imperceptibly, and does it anyway keeping direct eye contact.  I just know that when she is a teenager she's going to do the same thing with 'oh yeah, watch me' uttered from her adorable rosebud lips.

Poor Big Sister, who dreamed of a day when she would have a sibling, actually said to me last week she wishes we could give Baby Sister back.  Baby Sister antagonizes her so much.  When no grownups are looking, Baby Sister is poking and prodding and sassing and then looks angelic when Big Sister finally complains.  If Big Sister is sitting anywhere on the couch, Baby Sister demands that it is her spot and kicks (and sometimes hits) until Big Sister finally laments and moves to a new spot.  Sometimes the new location becomes the coveted location and the cycle begins again.  Big Sister has also learned the art of walking away - usually with her hangs up shouting "I'm done!" in her 'tween melodramatics.

I'm officially too old for these shenanigans and most days understand the natural fertility cycle of a woman.  Where I logically know that women in their late teens and early twenties are far too young and inexperienced in the ways of the world to be the kind of mom I want to be - which is why I waited until my thirties to pro-create - I must concede that I had far more energy and patience when I was 'waiting to have kids until I was ready'.  Definitely paying for it now that I have to deal with a tyrant toddler in my FORTIES. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Olympics through new eyes

The Olympic Games happen every four years.  And every four years, since I was a small child sitting on the couch next to my mom cheering for gymnastics and following the swimming with my dad who was a swimmer in high school, nothing much has changed for me whenever they roll around.  Until this year.

I still watch - with my own children sitting next to me now - cheering on the women's gymnastics team and hoping they win gold; cheering and appreciating amazing performances from top gymnasts from all over the world; cheering on our swimming team; watching the diving; watching volleyball in all its forms; and being fascinated with glimpses of other not-so-popular sports when there is prime time coverage.  But this year something has changed.

This year, I'm also watching track and field events.

Four years ago, I was not a runner.  Four years ago, I was overweight and unhappy with my life.  Four years ago the only thing I didn't watch in the summer Games was the track and field.  I even remember being irritated with Hubby who ran track in high school wanting to watch.

Now, I'm a runner. And I can't get enough of watching the amazing athletes.  And I'm answering questions and correcting the misconceptions from my daughter about 'why they are running so slow' because it's fifteen hundred meters instead of one hundred.  I'm appreciating the difference between a sprint, a middle distance and a long distance and am inspired and awed by those who do multiple events.

I guess one could extrapolate from this that it only takes four years to fundamentally change your life.  Thank god I have the Olympics to measure the distance I've come from that other girl who ran the corners and walked the straights hoping just to pass the required mile in P.E. class in junior high.  The one who took dance the next year so I wouldn't have to run.  Who drove aimlessly through parking lots as an adult looking for the closest spot so I wouldn't have to walk so far.  I like my new life and how I feel and appreciate how much effort it has taken me to get here from there.  I'm strong.  I'm fit.  And that makes me powerful.  And although my body isn't perfectly chiseled, and there are always setbacks along the way that constantly test my will, I'm still active and I'm still a runner.  That fact alone means I will live longer and feel better than that old girl I used to be.  More Olympics to watch that way, too!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Go with the flow, bitch!

I am a control freak.  It's no secret nor is it some earth-shattering revelation.  But I'm learning to recognize situations where I can't control losing control.  Like this week, for example.  I've just started a protracted training schedule for a half marathon that I only have ten weeks to prepare for and can't afford to slack on.  AT ALL.  I've finally found a cross-training cardio workout that I enjoy enough that I want to get out of bed for in the morning - on the weekend even.  And what happens?  I come down with a stomach bug. 

It started Monday afternoon and instead of getting to go to my Monday night gym class, I writhed in pain on the couch all night.  I suffered all day Tuesday.  Even more horrid because Tuesday was the Utah Pioneer Day holiday and I had the entire day off to fit my run into at leisure.  I was so sick that I laid around all morning so I could muster the strength to smiled through the pain long enough to hang out with the neighbors for a few hours.  No run for me that day.  I had a full day of meetings in the office on Wednesday and powered through them all, visually suffering enough that my co-workers told me repeatedly that I should go home.  Thank god for work from home Thursdays that I spent on the couch.   I'm almost feeling back to normal today with only a few minor abdominal pains remaining.  I woke up with high hopes that I could run.  Packed my gym back and dragged it with me to work this morning and everything.  But, alas, did not feel up for it still this afternoon. 

The control freak in me is seriously freaking out that I cannot afford to lose an entire week of training. YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND - AN ENTIRE WEEK!  The zen girl who is starting to emerge at random times has her by the throat shouting "suck it up, bitch and go with the flow.  It is what it is!"  I like to call that zen girl, my inner runner.  The one who exists now only because I run.  What an oxymoron.  My inner runner telling my inner control freak to quick freaking out that I can't run...  Wrap your brain around that one!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A pause to reset

What's the best thing when you're in a funk with a broken give-a-damn?  A ten-day vacation where most of the time you are off the grid and completely unplugged from everyday life.  Hubby and I took the girls to Montana for the Fourth of July holiday.  It was exactly what I needed and started the process of returning to my old new self.  After four days of river rafting, a day of boating and a whole lot of relaxing I was almost back to feeling normal again.

When we got back, I committed myself to training for a half-marathon in the fall.  My thought process is that if I don't have anything looming that could kill me without training, I won't force myself to train.  There are a couple in the Sept/October time frame that look like I could do them fun so I counted the weeks between now and then.  (So I'd know the last possible minute I could hold off training and still have enough time.)  The first one is only 10 weeks away.  That is not a lot of time considering most half-marathon training plans are 12 weeks.  YIKES!  So, I started looking at training programs and getting my mind focused on regular running again.  Since I haven't run a step - unless you count that sprint in the rain from the store to the car - since Ragnar a month ago.

Meanwhile, I have a good friend who recently joined the same gym I go to.  She has a completely different schedule as me so she goes during the day and I'm an evenings and weekend girl - when I have time to go.  We were talking and comparing gym stories.  She's a group fitness girl, I'm a loner.  She has a favorite class and I love yoga - which is the only group fitness I do - which both occur on Saturday mornings.  That's the one day a week we could both go.  I told her I'd try out hydro training if she'd go with me to yoga and try it.  Our schedules finally lined up yesterday to allow a 4-hour trip to the gym so we did it.  I got up at 7:00 - that's AM! - and was at the gym in the pool by  8:00.  Guess what?  I LOVE Hydro Training.  It is basically hard core aerobic circuit training in the pool.  And according to the instructor will never make me have sore muscles because the lactic acid doesn't have a chance to build up since the movement of the water massages it away.  Amazing.  I have found my favorite cross-training activity!  After class, we warmed up in the hot tub then dried off in the sauna and changed into regular workout clothes for 75 minutes of yoga.  It was heated yoga, which I've never done before, and it was the hardest yoga I've ever done.  Nor have I ever sweat that much before.  You know it's a workout when you have a little puddle of sweat on the floor in front of your mat AND you are sliding around in sweat where your feet go.  I should have paid attention to everyone with towels on the top and bottom of their mats...  Three hours of hard-core exercise later, I had magically started to feel back to myself.

Today I have deliciously sore muscles - I'm sure from the yoga - where every movement comes with a twinge of soreness reminding me of all my hard work.  I basked in the glow of that feeling while mapping out my new workout schedule which hopefully will mesh better with Big Sister's new dance schedule we got yesterday after try-outs.  Four days of running, two days of cross training hydro style and a day of rest.  Only one day will be a bitch to try and fit this all into but even if one run a week doesn't happen and the rest does I'll be ready in twelve weeks for another half.  I do believe my give-a-damn is officially fixed!

Friday, June 22, 2012

It was wonderful and it was horrible

I survived - and finished - Ragnar Wasatch Back relay 2012.  It was amazing and wonderful on one hand, and on the other it was terrible and horrible.

The amazing and wonderful came from all the things that weren't running - with the exception of the first half of my run in the middle of the night.  Hubby and I hand-picked our van-mates after having experienced the difference between a Ragnar with new friends you get to know better and a van full of old friends.  Hubby got hurt in late January and could not train so he bowed out a couple of months before race day.  His substitution - who we met on our Vegas team last year - luckily was as cool as he is and fit in perfectly with the vibe in the van.  It was a weekend full of laughing until our abs hurt - and laughing even more when we wondered why our abs hurt so badly.  A weekend full of my favorite word (you know, the one that starts with F and ends in uck!) spoken freely from everyone and thus no need to filter from my own mouth.  A weekend full of judging.  And whores.  I could tell you more, but what happens on Ragnar stays on Ragnar.

The terrible and horrible part sums up having to run in extreme heat when I hadn't trained properly at all.  I'm still a hormonally imbalanced mental and emotional wreck who is carrying around an extra 10-15 pounds thanks to my injury last fall and the cursed birth control I'm still stuck on.  (Seriously, what's the deal with men getting all freaked about letting a doctor cut open their junk and sterilize them?)  My broken give-a-damn had me down to barely running the couple of weeks before race day and it all combined with the extreme heat for a perfect storm of horrible.  We had an injury in the other van and trades happening in our van to make sure we were better positioned for the right runner on the right legs.  It was hard not to be discouraged about being one of the two non-ultra runners in our van but I was in that category with one of my best friends.  We kept each others spirits up while the other four of our van-mates ran circles around us.  I like to think it was just sheer brilliance on my part that I stacked the van with the best runners I know who could get us up and over the most narly hill Ragnar has to offer anywhere but comparing yourself to others is so innate...  The fact that there was someone capable of running the last three miles of my last run rather than make me suffer in the heat and push the entire team even further behind our scheduled finish was sheer genius on my part, right?

Looking back on the whole experience I am once again amazed at what I did when, in the moment, I didn't think I could do any of it.  I finished with my first daytime/heat/miserable run and thought 'I'm done, let's just go home'.  Then my night run was in a canyon where I had spotty GPS signal so I used my UN-calibrated Nike+ iPod sensor which I luckily just always have on my running shoes.  Brilliant - or so I thought until I figured out it was feeding me such inaccurate data that I'd pushed myself too hard and too fast in the beginning to have enough left to finish strong.  The first five miles were blissful - middle of the night, cold enough I could see my breath puffing out in the light of my headlamp, DOWNHILL on a canyon road, the moon rising over the mountains.  The last two miles of that run were so hard and ended with me limping into the exchange cursing with every step - literally.  I'm pretty sure I completely ruined the innocence of that volunteer I ran past.  After that, I knew there was no way I could run again and started to worry and fret about how I was going to have to walk my entire third run - the hardest of my three because it was all uphill.  But guess what, when it was time to run again after having caught maybe two hours of sleep in little cat-nap snippets, I ran!  If it hadn't been so hot, I would have run that whole leg.  That fact still amazes me.  Maybe that's what Ragnar is really about - pushing yourself beyond what you think you are capable of and finding that you're capable of so much more than you thought you were.

Registration for next year's race is already open and I promised Hubby we would not register a team for next year - which freaks me out whenever I think about it.  But never fear, we are still going to be Ragnarians.  Hubby and I decided to compromise.  We will do Wasatch Back every other year and do another somewhere else on the off-years.  Next year we're planning on Northwest Passage in the Seattle area.  It might be my favorite race since the average temp for the area on race weekend is low 70's - at sea level even.  Still hot but not hell-hot.  Why can't they do a Ragnar somewhere when it's only 50-60 degrees?   Now THAT would rock!!

Next up: fixing my give-a-damn so I can talk myself into another half marathon in the next year.  After all if you don't have something to train for, it's harder to keep pushing yourself past your comfort zone.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ragnar approaches

Ragnar is a week from today.  As I look back on how different I felt this time last year it is hard not to post about it. 

Last year I was a brand new Ragnarian who had no idea what to expect who had trained hard - pushing through injury which I had no idea would impact my life so greatly a year later.  This year I breezed through logistics planning for my team with ease - thanks of course to my handy dandy spreadsheet I could re-use from last year!  I attended the Captain's meeting last night and smiled sweetly at all the newbies furiously taking notes, because they were now the ones with no idea what lay ahead of them, and chuckled about being in their shoes last year.  Last year I had obsessed about buying the right gear weeks before, this year I haven't even started to worry about what I need to buy except briefly in passing a couple of times.  Guess I know what I'll be doing this weekend, huh? 

Two major things are weighing on me.  Training and temperatures.

Last year I was in great shape having just finished my first half marathon a few months prior to starting Ragnar training and averaged twenty five miles a week until race weekend.  This year, I was barely able to run a mile straight when training started because of my injury - caused of course from training so hard the year before for two Ragnars and ignoring the plantar fasciitis I had going on.  Plus, I have a two year old and what seems like a crazier schedule this year with Big Sister's dance which impacted my training time severely.  I haven't come close to the distances I was running last year and although I've been following the beginner training plan laid out by Ragnar I fear I am not prepared enough for all the running I'll be doing on race day.  I guess we'll see next weekend how ready I am! Hopefully I'm just being too hard on the comparison between where I was last year and hating how far back injury pushed me from there.

Last year it was unseasonably cold in Utah and there were still mountain passes covered in snow that the course had to be rerouted around.  This year it's hot.  As in we've broken heat records in the past week.

(I've expressed my hatred of running in the heat before, right?)

Yesterday I ran three and a half miles in late afternoon heat (it was seventy degrees out I believe) and ended up with heat stroke.  About four hours post run I had the worst headache and was nauseated for hours.  Today I did some research - which means I asked a fellow outdoor enthusiast who trains in the heat - and found out both symptoms can be caused by heat stroke.  Great... the heat index is predicted to be ninety six for next weekend.  NINETY. SIX.  Two of my runs are anticipated to be in the heat of the afternoon. 

I'm trying hard not to panic.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Root Cause

I can't keep kidding myself that I'm merely "in a funk" - my give-a-damn is full on broken and for the life of me I couldn't figure out exactly why.  Until yesterday.

Root cause is a buzz word I've heard thrown around the I.T. industry for at least a handful of years - coined by someone who I'm sure copyrighted it and is making tons of money just by my referring to it here in some way.  Basically it means that every problem can be traced back to the very beginning of any chain reaction where you can find the very first thing that happened to set things in motion.  Once you understand the root cause of an issue, you then know how to fix it at the most basic level.  See, fancy name for a pretty simple concept.

I don't hide that I am a problem-solver with OCD tendencies in every aspect of my life.  Remember, I'm the one who has a spreadsheet to plan Thanksgiving dinner to the Nth degree of minutia.  (Although in my defense my sister's spreadsheet is even bigger and better than mine...)  So it might surprise you that it took me several months to even put my finger on the fact that I had an issue that needed to be solved.

So what, you ask, is my problem?  I am losing my mind.

There.  I said it.

Here's a few items of proof illustrating just how bad it is:
  • I say things that come out of my mouth followed by me immediately wondering where the hell the comment came from.
  • I am short (and sometimes borderline mean) to my kids.  I've become the mom who yells - and swears - all the time.
  • I have zero patience with Hubby.  Well, everyone, really.
  • I'm a totally raging bitch basically every day.  And I don't mean bitch in a positive way this time, either.
  • I have zero ambition or drive to push myself in anything - whether it's writing or running or just getting the dishes done at night.
  • I have constant cravings to eat junk food and find myself standing in front of the pantry without memory of how I got there.  (Luckily I've had enough will power to not buy junk so there's nothing I actually find...)
  • And inside my head where it's just me, I don't fundamentally feel like me anymore.

It has all been building slowly over the last couple of months.  The fact that it did sneak up on me slowly probably explains why I didn't notice it.  This past weekend it came to a head - filled with crazy and ready to burst.  Like the big zit on the neck of the kid sitting in front of you in 9th grade English.  So big you could see it stretching beyond the containment limits so far you were worried it would burst and spurt right at you while you watched and wondered why the kid couldn't see it himself to take care of the thing.  It was that kind of coming to a head. 

I knew something was super wrong with me when I let an entire weekend slip by - one with an extra day in it for the holiday - and I didn't go for a single run.  Me, who used to wake up and first thing to pop in my head was planning when I'd get to run that day.  Me, who has a Ragnar to run in less than three weeks.  I let four days slip by without a run and at least two distinct times consciously decided to skip it and "do it tomorrow instead" with no solid plan as to when I'd have time to fit it in.  The thought had even occurred to me that I could be suffering from some sort of depression since it was so unexplainable otherwise. Pretty damn scary especially for this girl who has always had everything under control.  I feel like I can't cope with day to day life anymore.

I was talking to a handful of women I work with yesterday and the subject of permanent sterilization versus birth control options came up.  Several have or have had IUDs, a couple have taken more permanent sterilization measures either on their own or their husbands.  One just went off all birth control so she could get pregnant again.  And then there were two of us who had just recently switched from an IUD and started back on the good old 'pill'.  Yours truly fits into this particular category.  (Oopsie, forgot the disclaimer that we were going to be talking uterus and all things related!)  As the other girl currently taking the pill was describing how crazy she has been the last couple of months and why she hates taking the pill because of it,  it hit me like a ton of bricks.  It was like she had been living inside my skull because she had just defined everything about how I'd been feeling but until now had been unable to articulate.

And then everything clicked into place.  With a big shiny spotlight pointed directly at the root cause I hadn't even consciously been looking for.  (Queue hallelujah chorus.)  I looked back through my blog posts and found that everything suddenly changed in late January - when I'd started on the damn pill.  God I miss my IUD and wish it didn't cost $900 to replace it... but this isn't a blog post about the ridiculous cost of healthcare or the pitfalls of having high-deductible insurance coverage so we won't go there.

Just the knowledge that I know why I feel crazy and helpless and lethargic all the time gives me hope and has me excited to take control of my life back.  First thing first: I MUST find a different form of birth control.  Immediately!  Then, once I feel like myself again mentally, maybe I can finally shed the last ten pounds from my injury-induced weight gain that even though I've been running again and eating right won't budge from my hips and - what do you know - can also be explained by that goddamn pill.

I'm hopeful now and looking forward to getting back to normal...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Myth busting

Ever heard someone say it is so much harder and more time consuming to cook dinner every night?  Or that eating healthy costs so much more money?  Or that wearing special shoes or taking a miracle pill will help you tone your body and lose weight?  Well today I'm putting on my myth-buster hat and tackling all of these.

We'll start with "it's so much easier to pick up fast food on your way home from work rather than cook dinner" with a peek into a day of my life.  This particular day was crazier than most.  I headed off to work in the morning leaving Baby Sister with her nanny after scooting Big Sister out the door to walk to school.  (Yes, my kid walks to school - shouldn't every kid?)  I worked a typical day except that I had to leave a couple of hours early since Big Sister's dance studio decided once again to conduct business as if none of the dance moms actually work outside the home.  Meaning specifically that she had to be in full hair and make-up and across town by 4:30 for the annual team photo shoot.  Awesome, since I don't usually get off work until 5:30.

I left the office at 3:00, rushed home while project managing Big Sister's efforts from the phone in the car, and did the fastest make-up and hair I think I've ever done including ringlets.  Big Sister has stick straight and super thick hair - I love that she did not get my curls except for when she wants curly hair and it becomes a chore.  Thank god for my Chi and my ability to use it for creating curls in addition to it's straightening properties.  Of course Murphy was alive and well since the shirt I'd bought her the night before was too big through the chest when she put it on.  I had to get creative with safety pins because I didn't have time to whip out the sewing machine to take in the sides. We left the house only ten minutes behind schedule leaving Baby Sister with Daddy and hoping they were correct that the shoot would only take an hour. Pictures were fabulous and we were headed back across town by 5:30 now hoping traffic wasn't too bad.

This was also the night of our first neighborhood walk-about which we never miss.  During warm weather months, two or three different families host little block party gatherings so that everyone can wander around and mingle with each other, catch up on gossip and meet any new people who have moved in.  It started at 6:30.

Here's where the myth comes in.  Considering I only had an hour to drive across town, feed my kids dinner and head out to the next activity,  society would say I had to pick up either burgers or a $5 Hot n' Ready pizza on my way home.  But NO!  Instead I went straight home, browned up some ground turkey, made it into taco meat and served my kids taco's.  Well, Big Sister prefers to eat her taco fixin's atop corn chips instead of in the crunchy shells and Baby Sister prefers little individual piles of cheese and meat, etc to eat as finger foods so basically, I ate tacos.  The point is, it took me no more time than it would have to sit in the long ass line I passed at the Wendy's as I drove by.  Not to mention how much healthier my choice of meals was by comparison.  Plus, now I have an extra pound of taco meat in my fridge to eat left-overs in the next couple of days when I'm in an even tighter pinch for dinner - say tonight when Big Sister has to be at the dance studio by 6:30.

I cook ninety-five percent of the time at home.  It isn't always quick and easy but it is always better than anything else I could feed my family.  The extra effort this activity requires is actually on the front end when you're doing your grocery shopping.  I usually have the basics on hand like spaghetti (I make my own amazing and authentic sauce) or homemade macaroni and cheese (that actually uses cheese and milk instead of powdery blobs of orange chemical concoctions you get in the box).  Then I mix things up with a few preplanned meals in mind for the week.  We always have tons of fresh fruit in the house and the crisper drawer is always full of veggies.  With a little creativity I can throw together many a meal just by opening the refrigerator - even if I don't know exactly what's for dinner before I walk in the door from work.

It makes me wonder who exactly "they" are that says it is so much easier to buy crap from a fast-food joint and eat out of a bag every night.  Probably the people marketing the crap in a bag from all those different places who only care about their bottom line.  And let's talk about cost!  I can feed my family of four for an entire week buying the ingredients to cook my own meals on less than what it would cost to eat out just one meal a day for that same week.  This is based on fact since we had way more money left over at the end of the month once we started eating in versus when we were subscribing to the marketing ploys.  This was also before I'd pulled my head out of my ass about things like processed foods and high fructose corn syrup evils. 

With obesity rates in adults and children alike continually rising, I wonder how long before the general population demands better choices in their food that contribute to better health instead of sacrificing long-term health for the convenience of a packaged dinner or fast food slop.  Most of the food we eat isn't even real food when you look at the ingredient label.  When was the last time you had to list the ingredients on a head of lettuce or a bundle of bananas?  Even more frightening is how many people I talk to who never even glance at the ingredient list of the 'food' they consume every day.  When you cook your own meal, using real whole foods you know exactly what you are eating and feeding to your kids.

There was a story in the Washington Post this week about how Sketchers are settling a lawsuit for $40 million.  Turns out they were lying when they said wearing their funny looking shoes would tone your lower body without stepping foot into a gym.  You can't tone your lower body by wearing a pair of shoes and sitting on your ass all day any easier than you can lose weight and keep it off by eating some fad diet or taking some pill that causes side effects worse than just keeping the extra weight on.  You have to eat real food to nourish your body and burn more calories than you take in every single day.  Period.  There's no other way around it.  Trust me, I've tried it all (minus surgical measures where I drew the line).  When is society as a whole going to wake up and realize that corporations are only after one thing - to make money by selling us crap we don't need - and start listening to common sense again?

I challenge you - if you aren't doing it already - try cooking for a week and see how easy it really is.  You don't even have to have a recipe box that your mom or grandma handed down to you anymore.  All you need is Google - recipes for everything and anything are right at your fingers.  It's an amazing world out there!  And if you want a quick, easy to read, common sense book on how to incorporate real food back into your diet, I highly recommend "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto" by Michael Pollan.  That little book was partly what changed my life years ago and should be required reading for every American - in my humble opinion.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

You're doing it wrong

I took another step on my journey of figuring out how to write a novel this week.  In an attempt to pull myself up by my bootstraps and self-motivate some action in the writing department since writer's group looms over my head, I reached out to my editor for some advice. 

I know what you're thinking: Wait, she has an editor?  But she isn't even finished with her first draft!  This is my friend who I found out recently is also an editor.  He will be tasked with editing my work once I get it finished.  And since I think it is super cool to refer to the fact that I have an editor, I'll now be doing so every chance I get.

Remember I said I was currently discovering my own editing method?  I told him what I had been doing and how unmotivated I'd become and asked for some advice on the whole process.  Turns out, I was doing it all wrong.  In my haste to have something for my writer's group to see, I was doing the editing completely out of order.  I was editing on the micro level instead of the macro level.  I haven't even worked out the big picture and filled in all the gaps yet.  I haven't figured out what the outline is to make sure I flow from scene to sequel and back to scene yet.  All this has to happen before we go through chapter by chapter which is what I'd been doing with my alpha-readers.

AH-HA!  No wonder I wasn't feeling the flow!  It was like recapping a race I hadn't even trained for yet.

I know my writer's group is going to be sad that they won't get to see what I'm up to for a while again, but I'm back to the writing desk.  This time with some direction on how to get from here to the end.  And with my new knowledge I'm excited to be here again which is the whole point.

This also reminded me of something else a lot of people have said...  Writing is damn hard work.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I think I can...

I've been in a bit of a funk the past few weeks.  Life interfering with my running has me doubting whether I can even be ready for Ragnar this year.  Being crazy busy with Big Sister's dance competition season leaves me no time for much of anything past my day job, cooking dinner and trying to stay ahead of Little Sister's toy bombs before bed.  I've had zero energy for staying up late which means I haven't written in weeks.  Because I haven't written in weeks I feel like I've lost the spark of creativity and the roll I was on a couple of months ago; and the overwhelming thought of what it will take to re-immerse myself has me dragging my feet to start again.

I certainly hope this shit is somehow normal because I rarely find myself in this land called self-doubt. But right now the world is pressing on me with stress and insanity and I have yet to rally myself completely out of it.

Maybe I'm just sad because we are losing Little Sister's amazing nanny at the end of this week as she embarks on new adventures with her husband - on the other side of the country.  She's been with us since Little Sister was five months old - two solid years - and has become one of my closest friends and confidants.  Whenever I think of life without her I get all weepy and sad.  I don't even want to think about the reality of what next week will look like where I don't see her every morning.  And work from home days without long lunch-time conversations are really going to suck...

But, like the little engine that could from that childhood book I remember having to read to my youngest brother over and over again... I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can.  I keep telling myself that - even if it is something I actually believe one minute and the next something I'm merely willing to be true.

It's amazing what a positive attitude can do to turn things around.  Even if it isn't in profound ways.  After taking a week off of running to address some knee pain issues - caused by lack of cross training to strengthen my quads - I went for what my training program called for yesterday: an EIGHTY MINUTE run.  Twice as long as I've done since my injury.  I didn't think I had it in me but guess what, I did!  The first mile was all uphill and I powered through it.  The middle was fraught with headwind that sucked the speed out of me.  But when it was all said and done I busted out FIVE miles and did the entire run.  Boo-ya!  Just because I'm using a different training program from the last two Ragnars doesn't mean it isn't effective.  I just have to keep believing I can stick with it and be ready in two months.

Luckily I have my writer's group looming toward the end of the month spurring me on to get writing - which I haven't done since the last meeting.  Instead of wallowing in all that I could have been doing which is in the past and cannot be controlled or changed, I am choosing instead to focus on what I can control: now, the present.  As always, I get my creative juices flowing and build momentum by crafting blog posts.  Step one, check! since here I am!

A conversation I had with an old friend a couple of days ago reminded me that even if I don't make cookies from scratch, even buying the package you add butter and an egg to and making a dozen cookies 'hot from the oven' is enough for my kids and won't overstress me.  All I remember from making cookies from my own childhood is how messy the kitchen was and that I always got stuck doing the dishes afterward.  This way, my kids only get the joy of warm cookies without all the extra fuss and I'll still be a great Mom in their memories.

Maybe I should write what I know - who's interested in a story of an overachiever fighting to be super woman and perfect in every aspect of her life?  Because I could totally write that shit with my eyes closed and two hands tied behind my back!  Too bad inner conflict isn't enough to build a solid plot.  Guess I'll stick with living that story and finishing the one I'm writing instead!

Here's to getting and maintaining momentum - may we all be successful at it at least today.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Finding your own method

I've been at this novel writing endeavor for many years - more years than I'd like to admit.  The lions part of the journey for me was learning the craft.  Like so many others have said before me, the only way to get better at writing is to write.  Yes, you can go to conventions and conferences and listen to others talk about how they do it - did that.  You can read books on the craft written by others who are successfully doing it - did that.  You can form and join writing groups who encourage and critique - did that.  But bottom line is that what works for others doesn't always work for you.  My novel is the most complete and mature to date (this is the third time I've started again to write the same story among writing other things) because I think I've found what works for me.  Of course time will tell if I've really got the formula completely dialed in but so far here's what I'm doing.

  1. Outline.  Oh boy did I spend too long thinking I didn't need any version of this before I wrote.  I have several projects that ended in the middle of nowhere with characters who I didn't know anything about doing crazy things I couldn't get them out of and which had nothing to do with the story I wanted to create.  This time I put together a rough outline to get me from beginning to middle to end with enough vagueness to allow my romantic notions of discovery writing to still exist between the sign posts.
  2. Character studies.  It helped so much that I spent an entire month of preparation writing about what makes my characters tick.  What their motivations are.  What their character flaws are.  What their goals are.  Then when I put them in a scene, I know enough about them to write their reactions and interactions with each other consistent with what I know about them.  This also helps move the story along between the outline sign posts.
  3. Write like mad until the very end of the draft.  I almost got the entire story down during NaNoWriMo in November.  My motto was 'write now, ask questions later'.  Later comes in the editing process where I fix all the stuff that doesn't work in the first draft and finish up the ending that's already been worked out in my head.
  4. Editing with my writing group.  Every two months I get feedback on two or three chapters from my most trusted alpha readers as I start to polish re-write the first draft.  The only think you do more of than writing in this process is re-writing.  I'm learning that lesson currently.  I take comfort in knowing that no one gets it right the first time and that the first draft is supposed to suck.
I've learned another thing during the current editing process.  I'm resisting making many huge changes as I get through the first round of editing.  Sure, there are a couple of chapters that I know need to be completely rewritten because the very beginning had my main character acting kind of out of character since she wasn't as well developed in my mind at that point.  And there are a couple of plot threads that started out pointing in one direction that I morphed to another that need to be fixed in the beginning for consistency.  But other than that, the feedback I'm getting from my alpha readers are going in a "to-do" list that will wait for me to get through my first edit all the way to the end.  That way, my story is the most complete version of my story it can be before major revising prompted from outside editing influences will be entertained.  Why does this work better for me?  I don't know, it just does.  And that, my friends, is exactly the point.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Revision - embarking on the scary journey

The past couple of weeks I've had to suck it up and dive into the part of writing I've been dreading since I started writing - and rewriting - each draft I've started of this crazy novel that I swear someday will be finished: revision.  I've never voiced that I'm scared of the whole undertaking until now but I am.  I even procrastinated an entire month of writing time between critique sessions because I didn't know where to start or how to go about it.

There.  I said it.

I started this current draft with a fairly basic outline and well-thought out characters which was new for me having been a purely discovery writer on all the earlier drafts.  Even with an outline, I was still doing a fair bit of discovery writing between the sign posts.  I already knew I needed to revise parts of the beginning to match where the ending had morphed to during writing so it should have come as no surprise.  But I still had to slap myself and put on my big-girl panties just to dive in.

What I found after three excruciatingly hard weeks of writing sessions with little to no changes in overall word count is this:  Just like everything else it seems when it comes to writing, you just have to do it and it gets easier the more you do it.  I had to get over my OCD of a perfectly formatted word document and start hacking things up and making side notes in the margins and deleting them when they were checked off.  This meant reading and rereading to make sure there was continuity between the old and the new - constantly tweaking a word here and a sentence there. 

(Does it surprise you that I found a way to have a checklist even in this area of my life?  I guess it shouldn't, right?)

After three weeks of doing nothing but rewriting, I can report that chapters one through three have gone through the first revision gauntlet and I have polished chapters four and five to submit for critique at tomorrow's writer's group.  It is amazing to have blown past this obstacle and know it has no power over me.  No longer will I cower on the sidelines worried that I don't know how to revise.  I know I can and do it I shall.  Which is good because do it I must if I plan on finishing this thing.

The beauty of having a well established writer's group is that they keep you honest - and writing.  Without knowing it, that's exactly what mine did for me this month.  Without these three amazing women, I would not be where I am today.  Period.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Wait, it's not November!

What the hell is wrong with me?  I go back and read my own posts circa November and I see how determined and motivated I was to write.  And how I vowed to keep it up until I was done with my rough draft.  Fast forward to present and what have I been doing for the last two months since my last writer's group meeting had me motivated to polish three chapters of my NaNo writing for submission?  Nada.  Zilch.  Nothin'.  Well, not really - the last two days I finally got off my lazy ass and started my late night writing sessions again and have a whole chapter to show for it.

Yes, I might be PMS'ing... why do you ask?

Every once in a while I get down on myself like this and rant and rave to Hubby who calmly reminds me about all the things that I do in addition to writing.  Like a forty-hour a week job, twenty-hours a week of being on-call after hours, our two kids I'm basically raising by myself while he works in the evenings, training for another Ragnar in June, etc, etc.  And that most of the people I'm comparing myself to don't have jobs other than being Moms.  I get this and I understand that I'm being hard on myself but that doesn't stop me from going to this place when I feel overwhelmed by trying to drive myself to accomplish everything I want out of life.  Being an overachiever has its costs - don't let anyone tell you any different.

Thank god for my writer's group who have agreed collectively to hold ourselves to producing writing this year.  They and are keeping me honest by demanding new material to read and critique every couple of months.  If it weren't for them, "tomorrow" would always be when I was planning on writing and I wouldn't have that shiny new chapter of "showing" in place of the three sentences of "telling" that was there before.

This post is also driven by the fact that I got to hang out with some old friends who we haven't seen in about five years this past weekend.  One of the women, who I've always looked up to and admired, shyly tells me that she's been writing fan fiction and got so obsessed with writing that she's also written a novel.  IN. THREE. MONTHS.  I wanted to shout 'Are you fucking kidding me?!' at her and throw my napkin down in a fit of anger then stomp off to anywhere else to wallow in the fact that it's taken me years and I don't have a single completed draft to show for it.  Instead I told her how amazing that was and gushed about how I couldn't wait to read it because that's what you do when other people do the things that you want to do and haven't yet.  There is a silver lining.  I found out that one of our mutual friends is an editor so when I have a completed manuscript I know where to go for the next step and it will be someone I trust. Plus my competitive nature has kicked into full gear which helps drive my late night writing sessions as well now.

If you need me, I'll be brewing pots of coffee and depriving myself of sleep in pursuit of this crazy dream!