Saturday, March 30, 2013

Making My Health A Priority: A Success!

I weigh more than I've ever weighed in my life, and I'm tired all the time. However, I startle myself with the things this old body of mine can do sometimes. I've been swimming since October and on Thursday....

I swam a whole mile! 

My original goal was just to keep moving in the pool. 
It took a couple of months before I could swim freestyle for half an hour without stopping. 
My latest goal was to add some interval training.
It was my husband who suggested I might be able to swim a mile. 
And I did!

Ironman Triathlon, here I come!

The End of the Challenge

This 31 Day Challenge has been awesome for me. Granted, I only did maybe, um, 10 of the posts, but I learned a lot of great things from it. Here's a few:

 1. I want to write to my kids, but this blog isn't the way to go. I couldn't even get them to look at it! And a lot of the things I wanted to say were not really "Hey World! Listen-to-me-talk-to-my-kids" things. They were Write It-In-My-Journal things. So, because of this post, I've begun writing in my journal again. I only give myself about 2 minutes a night to write, and I don't allow myself to go over. This gives me 3-6 lines a night of thoughts about my day. For 2 weeks now, I've been at 100%. It's a whole different format than the old "Write 10 pages once a year" that has been so successful for over a decade now.

 2. I still want to keep this blog. In that very first challenge post  I made a list of things I wanted to write about in this blog. Here they are:
  • I'm shelving any writing projects that aren't already well underway. The ones that I truly care about will get my attention until they are finished. 
  • I'm making my health a priority. 
  • I'm going to turn my house into a home. 
  • I'm going to strengthen the relationships with the most important people in my life--my family. 
  • I'm going to find joy in the things I love to do.
I thought about doing it the way I see so many people blog--you know what I'm talking about Mojo Monday, Top Ten Tuesday, Works For Me Wednesday...but that isn't me. OK, cute titles for the days of the week might be me, but sticking that tightly to a schedule can't be me. Not if I'm going to be busy doing all the things on that list up there. Two or three random days a week is more my style.

3. I do want to be part of the IWSG. It's a great group, and I don't post on The Prosers on Wednesdays. But I CAN DO IT HERE!

Ta Da! 

Stay tuned for my first "Making My Health A Priority" post.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Day 22: What I Do When I'm Alone

Today's post topic is What I Do When I'm Alone. Ironically, my kids are all home from school again today, and I was trying to write something really cute and fun, but they've spent the whole morning bickering. So I'm cutting this one short. If I think of something amazing to write, I'll come back to this post. Otherwise, I'll see you tomorrow.

If you really, really can't wait to read something I wrote, you can head over to The Prosers to read about The Other Woman.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A-Z Challenge: Proper Nouns

This is my first year doing the A-Z Challenge. I followed a few blogs who did it last year, and thought it looked awesome. That's why this year I'm doing it twice! Once on The Prosers, where I only have to write 4 of the 26 posts, and once here, where I'll have to write all 26 on my own.

My preliminary theme is going to be "People." People in my life, people I admire but have never met, and memorable characters from books, television or movies. I do reserve the right to completely change my mind if this doesn't work out.

In fact...wait a minute! Hold everything. Perhaps my theme should be Proper Nouns. That way I could write about Acadia National Park for A... I might be a genius. I guess we'll see.

At the beginning of April, I'll also be working to finish the 31 Day Blog Challenge that I started in mid-March. It's going to be a crazy ride.

Day 21: My Biggest Fear

from stock.xching
 Instead of my biggest fear, let me tell you a story from my young adult years.

When I was a young adult, I had the good fortune to go on a date with a guy I hardly knew. We were working at a national park at the time, and we drove for nearly an hour through the wilderness to get to our date destination. It was an uneventful date, and frankly, I wasn't as interested in him as he seemed to be in me. He started buying me trinkety doo-dads and visiting me at work. He wanted to help me buy a car, which seemed like a kind of boyfriend-y thing to do, and that made me uncomfortable, especially since I didn't really want to buy a car. My friends thought he was amazing though, so I decided to give him a chance (by this point, I was beginning to doubt my own taste in men.)

One day, a couple of weeks later, he vanished. Imagine my surprise when I found out that he was a con artist, and that he had bilked many of my friends out of their hard-earned money. He and his wife were wanted in several states. His wife had been doing her own thing in a neighboring town.

The impact of that story didn't hit me all at once, but throughout my life different aspects of it have left me reeling in fear. First of all...thank heavens he was just a con artist. I was alone with him in the middle of nowhere, and so many more terrible things could have happened. I also began to wonder about everybody I dated. Were they just conning me too? I remember being scared to death the night before my wedding that my too-good-to-be-true husband really was too good to be true. I don't know what I thought...that he was marrying me for my money? (Hahaha)

But lately, the story of the con-artist I once dated has taken on entirely new connotations in my head. What if, (heaven forbid) my own children are as stupid and naive as I was? What if they put themselves in dangerous circumstances and aren't as blessed to have it turn out OK? Please don't let lack-of-common-sense be a genetically inherited trait.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Day 20: What Do You Collect?

I collect nothing. I love nothing. When I'm able to get rid of something, and collect a little piece of nothing, it makes me so, so happy. I long to display nothing, perhaps interspersed with a few other doo-dads. But collecting nothing is harder than it seems.

Take this computer table for instance. Just yesterday, I cleared away everything except the computer and its accessories to make space for my beloved nothing. But somehow it slipped away, leaving in its place one cloth grocery bag, a recipe for a rub for pork loin (yum!), a plastic bag that used to hold a RetainerBrite sample, a coupon for Olympia Sports, a report card, a roll of tape, an address book, a kitchen towel and a magazine. What happened to my beloved nothing??? It certainly didn't deposit itself anywhere else in the house.


Over the years, I've made attempts at other collections: trivets from every state I have visited; or at least every state I've visited a gift shop in. Except Florida, cause I forgot. And Maryland, because it broke. And Pennsylvania, because I couldn't find one. Fine. That collection isn't going so well. Ditto with my plate collection--you know, the kind of plate you display on a wall. I got 3 before I lost interest. Up on my dresser, there is the beginning of a Precious Moments statuette collection. My personal favorite is the one of a girl peering into a tunnel, and there is a bunny holding a candle for "the light at the end of the tunnel." My bunny is decapitated, and its head is on the ground at its feet. That's symbolic of something, I imagine. And when I was a child, I collected unicorns. I've only got one left though, and my daughter is eagerly awaiting my imminent demise so she can have it.

I used to collect books. Books, books everywhere, but most of them are pretty old. I've learned that I'm a better nothing collector if I simply go to the library. Plus I've got a kindle for the hard-to-find books.

CelestialEarth Minerals has this gorgeous calcite
on sale right now for $25.00
If I had to collect something other than nothing, I would collect rocks, though I don't even have one. My son does though. He belonged to the Mineral Of The Month Club when he was about 8. Every month, he would get a fancy rock in the mail.He enjoyed it, but my heart was eaten up with envy. I love rocks. When we go to the museum, all my kids have to tug on my arms and whine in increasingly loud voices before I leave the mineral section. When I'm finished with my nothing collection, I think I'll collect rocks.

31 Day Blog Challenge:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Day 19: 5 Blogs I Read On A Regular Basis

Confession: I am not a huge blog reader. I enjoy challenges like this that give me a chance to find different blogs, but if I'm not participating in a challenge, I don't spend much time surfing around. Over the years, my "must read" blog list has only grown to six, so I'll share them all. If any of these blog authors happen to read this, they will probably be surprised to find themselves on the list, because I don't comment much.

  • The Prosers: I contribute to this blog twice a month, but I check it out at least once a day for a pep talk and to see what amazing things I can learn about writing.
  • A Merry Heart: Connie Keller is the author of Screwing Up Time and Screwing Up Babylon. I'm not sure how I even found her blog--it was through the Prosers somehow, but whether she is a friend of one of the other bloggers or whether she left a brilliant enough comment that I decided to check out her blog is a mystery lost in the mists of time. I love her blog though. She keeps it simple--it's usually just a quick story about her family. But her sense of humor and her brilliant family keep me coming back.
  • Strands of Pattern: Again, I found this blog through the Prosers, or maybe through Hatrack, a writing site where nearly all my most important writing connections originated. Jeff Hargett writes exactly the kind of blog I need. I think his own thoughts are amazing, but what makes him stand out from the crowd is his ability to network. He is my lone tie to the amazingly interconnected world of fantasy/science fiction writers.
  • Creations By Kara: Recently I have realized that I need a creative outlet other than writing. I have a phobia of decorating my home, and after 17 (?!) years of marriage, it really shows. I didn't have to look hard for a blog that could help me out. Sadly, we don't talk much anymore, but Kara was my best friend through high school and college, and even through graduate school. How she managed to get all the design savvy, I'll never know, but I intend to get me some.
  • Bryce's Ramblings: Bryce is the author of Vodnik. He's also a friend of mine. I don't know him well, but we have a lot of the same friends. Sometimes I forget that I don't know him better. The more I read his blog, the more I'm sure his family and mine would get along just fine. I enjoy reading his take on things--movies, board games, holidays...and I love watching his career take off. I think he's the Next Big Thing.
  • Pure Imagination: A YA Blog: I am always on the lookout for awesome YA books to read. The author of Pure Imagination and I don't have exactly the same taste in books, but we overlap enough that I enjoy perusing her site. The truth of the matter is that somehow this particular book blog made it to my dashboard, and so I keep returning to it. I'd love to find one that was a better fit, but I'm a creature of habit. However!!! It is a great blog, and if you love YA, particularly paranormal romance or contemporary YA, you might love this one. If you happen to know of a great book blog that had more YA science fiction, high fantasy or historical fiction in it, I'd love to know about it.

31 Day Blog Challenge:

Monday, March 18, 2013

Day 18: Where Are You Happiest?

I had one blog post that I wrote a couple of years ago and for some reason never published. It's just been sitting here in draft form, waiting for this particular challenge. The theme for today is "Where Are You Happiest?"

Where we live, a cabin on a lake is not called a cabin on a lake. It is called a "camp," which I believe is in reference to the place where loggers used to live when they were away from home. When I say that we spent the fourth of July weekend at camp, your mental image would be completely wrong if you picture a tent or an RV. It's more like a cottage--not quite all the amenities of home, but with oh, so many perks that more than make up for the lack of a dishwasher.

Yesterday, we were squishing our toes through the sand when my 6 year old said, "Mom, this is the best place in the whole world." I think maybe he is right.

When my husband's parents decided to buy this camp about ten years ago, I was less than thrilled. I can't even remember all the reasons I thought it was a bad idea. Something about feeling tied to that spot for our vacations when I wanted to travel the world. Or maybe I knew they'd spend all their time there and I'd be back to not having a babysitter. Who knows. 

At the time, I'd been down the road to the camp once before, and I remembered it as the most rutted, rustic road I had ever been on. Yeah, it still is. But the camp is situated on a little peninsula on a quiet lake. They've got their own tiny beach on both sides, plus a little section of woods to explore on the other side. 

We fish (well OK, everyone except me fishes. Ew.) We kayak, swim, jump of the floating dock, make fires and roast s'mores and hot dogs. The kids go into the woods and build forts and who knows what else. We spend time with family, and watch movies. We play games--we scare away the wildlife playing PIT, and we play scrabble, boggle, triominoes, skip-bo, Dutch Blitz and sequence. 

J went kayaking yesterday and saw a moose--the first one we've ever seen there. 7 loons came to visit us while she was gone. Last year we accidentally disturbed a loon's nest when we stopped at a small island. My youngest son picked up one of the eggs and brought it to me. It was larger than a chicken's egg and speckled green. We set it back where he'd found it and hopped back in the motor boat and sped away before beginning our lecture about not disturbing bird's nests. Thank heavens, all seems to be well though. Through binoculars, people spotted the loon sitting on her eggs a few days later. Loons are among my favorite creatures on Earth, and their numbers are declining. Hopefully the egg he picked up last year is the loon we saw last week.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Day 17: Why and When Did I Start Blogging?

My first blog post was called "Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3." It was written on April 29, 2010. This is what it said:
"It's nearly impossible  to decide what I want to write about on this blog. Should I talk about my family? music? books? being an author? religion? politics? 
If I waited until I knew what my niche market was, I would probably never start a blog at all. At least we can cross out politics. For right now, I'm just going to be random."
A picture from my early blogging days
Acadia National Park
 Not a lot has changed over the years. I still feel uncertain what this blog is for. I started blogging mainly because I am a writer, and I needed a platform to share with my future multitudinous fans. Still, what was I going to discuss? Writing? My life? Books I've read?

The matter was simplified when I joined The Prosers. Here is a link to my first blog post there: Life Begins At The Edge Of Your Comfort Zone. I still think its a pretty great one. It was published at the end of 2011, and I pretty much abandoned this blog after that. But lately, I've been missing the ability to simply talk about my life.

When this blog flourished, I did a blog challenge. I also had a bucket list of things I wanted to do before I turned 40, which I didn't finish, but which I had a fun time attempting and blogging about. Some of those blog posts still get lots of hits, which makes me happy, but it makes me even more happy that I enjoy looking back, the way I look back on a journal.

But I'm still torn...
I figure, when my (unfortunately still future) multitudinous fans come searching for me, they aren't going to be particularly interested in my blog about writing. My favorite blogs are the ones that chronicle the lives of authors, not the ones that give their writing advice.

And when I look back at what I love about this blog, it is the way it served as a journal, and the memories it evokes. Still, it worries me to get too personal on the internet. I've tried hard to keep my kids names and faces off.

So I know what I want to write about. I just still don't know who my audience is. Do I make this blog private, so I can spill my whole soul into it? Or do I keep it public, and continue to shelter my family? Both ways seem a little empty. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

31 Day Blog Challenge:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Day 16: My Greatest Accomplishment

I'm having a harder time with this topic than you would imagine. My children are the greatest thing I've ever done. But at least today, I'm not seeing them as MY accomplishment. Instead, they are a collaborative effort between me, their father, God, and of course, my children themselves. That doesn't even take into account the fabulous people they've been blessed to have in their lives.

I have childless friends who long to be able to say that children are their greatest accomplishment, and I know that it was only a matter of happenstance that I am not one of them, so how can my children be considered an accomplishment? My darling friend Becky never raised her own children. But she used to throw a humdinger of a tea party for my kids every year. Homemade petit fours, homemade hummus, lots of kinds of sandwiches with the crusts cut off, fancy plates, hats for everyone, lots of sheets and a table out in the middle of a meadow.

She had a hammock in her living room, and sometimes she would have us come over, plop me in the hammock with a bowl of hummus, chips and a good movie, and entertain my kids for the rest of the day. She grew up in West Virginia, in indigent circumstances, and the stories she told of her childhood--scrubbing clothes in the stream, toting buckets of water and swimming in the swimming hole--ignited the imaginations of my children. Meanwhile, she let me rest, which helped me be a better mother. She also taught my kids in church. She deserves to call my children one of her accomplishments. I hope she knows that.

The other thing I would probably call my greatest accomplishment is my novel. I've written several, but only one that is publication-ready. Writing it is hard. Getting it ready to be published is crazy hard. I'm totally proud of it. But it isn't published yet. I promised everyone I would self-publish it last year, but then an editor asked for the full manuscript, and of course I've got to give that route my best effort. But the waiting is a killer!

31 Day Blog Challenge:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Day 15: 10 Things That Make Me Awesome

I am awesome. 

I must be. I'm writing this post, aren't I?

Frankly, it's been a while since I've thought of myself in terms of awesomeness. Which is as good a reason as any to spend a few minutes reminding myself what makes me special.

1. I swim twice a week. I started in October. I'll never forget the first time I swam freestyle for an entire half hour without stopping. Now I'm working on getting faster. I thought I'd get bored, but I was wrong. It's meditative, fun and in water. 

2. I am in the process of healing my shoulder. You might not think that is awesome, but finally putting in the work to heal a shoulder that has been chronically injured for well over a decade brings me more satisfaction and pride in myself than I ever dreamed it would. It takes time. There are ups and downs. But several times a day my arm will do something it wasn't able to do before, and I get a jolt of pride. I did this! I am healing myself. My body has been so good to me, and I haven't been very kind to it over the years. But I am learning.

3. I have amazing friends. My husband has been out of town this week, and I have been so, so sick. No one knew how sick I was until Wednesday when I called the church to say my kids just weren't going to make it to their activities. My voice must have sounded like I was near death, because ever since then I've had a constant stream of calls from people begging to help me. Meals, rides...In fact, a dear friend just stopped by as I was writing this to hand me money, and a menu from a Chinese restaurant (with a delivery service). The menu had a little bow on it. I wish I could say that I deserve all this kindness. But really, it's just because somehow I've been blessed with awesome people in my life.

4. My family is awesome. My husband got home late last night, and we're back to our old schedule where he starts his day an hour before I start mine. Plus he took all the kids to school this morning so my day could be a little more relaxed. And my kids. They are amazing and good, and I'm proud of them. Again, I know that's not how I am awesome, but I must be doing something right if I'm surrounded by this much goodness, right?

5. I play the piano.

6. I am a writer, with one manuscript sitting on a publisher's desk as we speak. Keep your fingers crossed for me. AND I have another blog, which I share with some awesome women. If writing is your thing, you should check it out:  The Prosers

7. I'm funny. 

8. I remember my mom telling me once that I was too smart to be critical of other people. She told me that finding the good in people was sometimes a lot harder, and I should use my intelligence for that. I took her advice to heart, and found I have an intuitive knack for understanding why people act the way they do. So, I'm awesome because I see the good in people.

9. I am kind. I try to teach my kids that if anyone has a problem that makes them an easy target for a joke, the last thing they need is to be the target of a joke. I would never want to cause anyone else pain.

10. I'm awesome because I am capable of so much more than I thought I was as a teenager. I hope that in twenty years I'll be able to say that I'm awesome because I'm capable of so much more than I thought I was when I was forty.

31 Day Blog Challenge:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Day 14: My Playlist

I love it when I get a good excuse to talk about music! Lately, my daughter has been Broadway-obsessed, which translates to a different type of music being played at my house than usual. There is the nightmare-inducing gorgeousness that is I Am The One and I Miss the Mountains from next to normal. I can't listen to it much or I'll be a basket case, but it is in my head more than is entirely healthy for anyone prone to the winter blues.

We love anything from Newsies, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat or Phantom of the Opera, and there is ALWAYS Les Mis, except I Dreamed A Dream, which I used to love, but can't listen to since I saw the movie. My favorite Les Mis song is Do You Hear The People Sing?

My Pandora station is filled with Michael Buble and Jason Mraz wannabes with a dose of Dr. Horrible, for good measure. Here's what I listened to this morning:

1. The Scientist by Coldplay
2. My Eyes from Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog
3. What Is This Feeling from Wicked
4. It's Time by Imagine Dragons
5. Defying Gravity from Wicked
6. I Won't Give Up by Jason Mraz
7. 93 Million Miles by Jason Mraz
8. Into the Fire from The Scarlet Pimpernel
9. Try by Pink
10. Run by Sugarland and Matt Nathanson

31 Day Blog Challenge:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Day 13: Do You Have Regret?

Um...yeah. Emily Watts once said something like "If there is guilt to be found in a two mile radius, I will find it  and make it mine." Never has anyone so elegantly captured my personality in a single sentence. This was incredibly vivid when my oldest daughter was a baby. I wanted to do parenting right. I read parenting books during every second of her nap times. As a result, if I was holding her, I felt guilty that she wasn't down on the ground strengthening her neck muscles. If she was down on the ground, I felt guilty that she wasn't in my arms, bonding and learning how much I loved her. It took a long time before I learned to put down the parenting books and trust my instincts.

Our new kitten, Apollo
Picture taken by my daughter
Last week, we got a kitten. We've been petless for nearly a year now, and it was with many misgivings that I allowed myself to get talked into this cat. I am not an animal person, but my kids are. Well, this kitten is amazing. It's the first time we've had a kitten when I haven't been completely wrapped up in the business of having my own babies. I can't believe how much time he wants to spend cuddling, and I feel enormous regret that I didn't spend this much time socializing my other animals. He takes nearly as much time as a baby. And he loves me! He loves me so much that my "I am not an animal person" mantra might be crumbling to the ground. Sweet, sweet kitten. Did my other animals need me this much and I just didn't see it? I don't know what I could have done differently, and it isn't that they had miserable lives. Our last cat loved my oldest daughter fiercely, and our golden retriever was strong-willed enough to seek out enough loving to stay happy.

But huge, earth-shaking regrets? No. I do regret that I always talked my mom out of going on a whale watch when she came to visit. Now she's gone. That's on my bucket list of things to do when I get to heaven.

I regret that sometimes I yell too easily, and usually not at the child who got me riled up in the first place. Because I've been holding it in with that child, it's usually the next child to not be perfect that pops my control.

It is bittersweet, to think of the paths that have closed when I've chosen to take a different route. Right before we moved across the country 13 years ago, I was offered a full-time teaching position at a university. I wanted to be a stay at home mom, but someone was offering me my DREAM JOB. I'm grateful my husband had already accepted his current job and our stuff was already packed, so I didn't have to torture myself over the choice. I would make the same decision over again, but there is a tender, raw spot in my heart when I realize I'm no longer qualified for a job like that. Who knows if I ever will be? But do I regret it? No. Not at all. Think of everything I would have missed.

31 Day Blog Challenge:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

In Which I Take Back Paradise

Day 12: Something I Miss

I've been sitting at this computer reading through old blog posts and missing my old house more than I can find words to express. It all started when I accidentally changed my layout to the flipcard style and all the pictures of our backyard, our golden retriever, and our swimming pool appeared. Of course I started skimming the posts, and now I'm horribly homesick. What on earth possessed us to move away from paradise?

Unfortunately, paradise is far, far away from an LDS chapel (yeah, I'm aware of the irony in that statement. So were most of the pioneers, I think.). That ultimately was the reason we moved, and I have faith we'll be blessed for it. We are being blessed. We have great neighbors, and my kids are finally involved in all the extra-curricular activities we could never quite manage before. But I'm beginning to realize the source of this empty feeling inside.

Things were easier there. I didn't have to try so hard to make time for family or to find things to do. Of course it wasn't perfect. It was a quirky house. Plus, my teenagers had practically stopped using our swimming pool, and as L, J and I splashed around, my heart would worry about the other two kids. But still, it was a good place, and I really dislike my house now. The other house WAS part of our family, and this house just houses our family.

And me? I've been a writer for too long. Perhaps I'm saying that wrong. I'll always be a writer, but I panic if I don't have a good writing project going. I think it's time to unleash some of that creative energy onto my home. Unfortunately, that means spending money--money I haven't earned as a writer, and that I barely earn as a preschool teacher. I don't know how to make a house a home. I've been very lucky to have homes handed to me up until now.

I'm going to start using this blog to capture that journey.
  • I'm shelving any writing projects that aren't already well underway. The ones that I truly care about will get my attention until they are finished.
  • I'm making my health a priority.
  • I'm going to turn my house into a home.
  • I'm going to strengthen the relationships with the most important people in my life--my family
  • I'm going to find joy in the things I love to do.
Wow. Do you see how well those goals could transfer into blog posts? Do I really want to commit to writing 5 posts a week? Probably not. But if I work on those in order, perhaps I can settle into a natural rhythm.

**As I looked back through my posts, I also realized that my favorite posts came from the 31 Day Blog Challenge I took part in a couple of years ago. I googled 31 Day Blog Challenge, and found a great one that is on-going. Then SERENDIPITY! The topic for March 12 just happens to be "Something I Miss." It is kismet. I am jumping right in, mid-challenge.