Day 149: The Hard Things

For the last three nights, I’ve pushed myself to go to the gym. I didn’t want to. It’s not easy. My youngest is in summer camp, which means I pick him up at 3 to go home. Normally he gets home on the bus at 2:45, and home life starts from there. I sign in to work, work on whatever comes in, throw in some laundry or consider what to make for dinner, and if time allows, I run to the gym at 4-ish. With this change in the schedule, everything’s pushed back and time is at a premium, so I’ve been going to the gym at something closer to 6 or even 7, which gets me home closer to 8. Mostly I’ve been putting the boys’ dinner together ahead of time. Because I’m a veggie, I eat a different meal anyway, and since it’s hot, salad has worked out just fine.

But add that I need to get the revised partial back to The Sheila contest, too. I do as much as I can during lunch but the time I need to focus on the changes I want to make to the story? Mostly I do my thinking in the car between work, camp, and home. I haven’t turned on the TV in two days. I just didn’t care enough about anything to let myself be distracted.

Yesterday between dinner and 7, I decided I needed to go for a run. Not just needed, but needed. As in, my training runs are going to be 5 days a week and so far I’m only doing 2. I need to get up to 3 for the next couple of weeks, and then boost it to 4 before scheduled training runs start the first week in August. But before dinner we had a massive downpour: pitch black skies, sheets of rain, you name it. I may have seen a terrier in a basket fly by. The rain subsided between dinner and my food coma nap, and I thought, “But it’s so icky and steamy out. I should go to the gym…but I don’t feel like driving that far. Maybe I’ll sk–”

Cue the inner critic reminding me what a slouch I am, and how I’m going to make a total botch out of this marathon. I got up then and there, got my socks, changed clothes, pulled my hair up in a ponytail, and without another thought I went out to run at the park. Yes, the first mile was like running in a moving dryer full of damp clothes. More than once I thought, “You don’t need to do 5 miles. Four, or even 3 would be fine.” No, dammit, I’m doing five.

The last mile was the best. I hit my stride, I felt good, and I passed 6 teenage boys out for a walk by the stream. Honestly, they made me nervous. I’m probably not faster and they had numbers. There’ve been a lot of attacks in the area lately and I didn’t want to be a statistic, so I hit the gas…and it felt great. Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty” came on my iPod and I found my back kick and off I went, all the way to the stop sign a block ahead. 🙂

But the main thing was, I was out there, sweating my tail off, wearing my OAR singlet, running in the heat. I did it. I didn’t want to. I knew it would be uncomfortable, but it was good and it was worth it.

In mile 4 I had an idea for the ending on the manuscript I’m working on that pulled together what I’ve been trying to do for a while: bring the heroine to her knees. No, not like that, but I knew she had to lose everything before she could truly save herself. I had to make her situation so dire that she would willingly go back to who she was, even though she hated that person. When the thought hit me, I pulled out my cell phone and tried to dictate it into speech-to-text. I didn’t have my glasses on, and when I got home, the result was so far from what I’d intended that it barely made sense, but I managed to piece it together into notes and then finish the rewrite of the synopsis. From there I can make the changes to the manuscript, though I will say it’s embarrassing how weak the original ending is. I only hope I’ve learned from this, and next time it won’t be so difficult to make the heroine miserable.

As I was taking off at the end of mile 4, passing 6 teenage boys who probably thought I was the oldest, fattest lady they’d ever seen attempting to run, it hit me: in writing as in running, I have to do the hard things in order to be better. I have to do exactly what I’m afraid of to get the best result possible. There’s a reason, something in my psyche (and probably everyone’s, to some degree, except that guy who sky-dove off a satellite) that says, “You can’t do this. It’s too scary. It’s too hard. Go crochet something instead,” or whatever your emotional junk food of choice is. But for the past few days, and yesterday in particular, I’ve made myself do the hard things, and I’ve gotten damn good results.

I’m tempted to not watch TV again tonight, but we’ll see. Last night I finished the synopsis revisions at 10:30 and said, “Oh yeah, break time,” and I read some more in “Game of Thrones.” I’m already hooked into it and I’m not 50 pages in. I can even forgive the backstory info-dumps because it’s so well written into the narrative. It was a real treat to take thirty minutes off and sit and read someone else’s work. Maybe there’ll be more time for that tonight, or maybe I’ll keep pushing through the hard things, because I want someone some day to pull out one of my books as a treat earned for a day well spent.

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Day 151: Surprise!

Here’s an example of irony for you. I planned on going to my parents’ on Saturday. I made a list of things to pack but when the time came, I realized I didn’t have a jack to charge my cell phone. I’m not glued to my cell phone but I do like to keep on top of email, maybe check Facebook once in a while  (coughmybiggesttimesuckcough), and of course in case I needed the GPS, which alone is worth its weight in platinum. As I was powering down my laptop I decided, “Oh what the heck. I wasn’t going to bring it but I may just need it,” and the laptop is the only thing I had available to charge the cell phone. Off we go.

We made fantastic time getting there so I took a few moments to turn on the laptop so Alex had something to enjoy. He’s not one for sitting around, chatting with the grandparents; that’s my job. Somewhere in the middle of the afternoon I decided to see how he was doing, and in the process make sure he was using Chrome, not IE. IE is to the internet what dial-up used to be. I can’t believe I used that monster for DECADES, people. But in checking, I figured what the heck; I’ll look at my email and make sure nothing has blown up while I’m gone. I see this:

Congratulations Finalist, The Sheila Contest, 2014

What the what? I knew I’d entered, and I even judged (it’s my chapter so it’s kind of mandatory), but finaled? Me? SWEET! 🙂

The final round judge is an editor for Grand Central, so this week I’m knee-deep in making sure this turd of a synopsis shines like a conflict-rich diamond. The partial has to go back to the coordinator by Monday but we have a seriously busy weekend ahead—when do we not?—and I won’t have time, so it has to be done by Friday.

I just thought it was funny that I had no plans to check email all weekend, and as it turns out, it was a darned good thing I did. The first person I told about my final was my mom, so that was also pretty neat. Then there was seeing all the “like”s on Facebook when I posted the news. My scores were great (note to self: write thank-you’s to the judges) but the judge who gave me the lowest score pointed out a few things I missed so I’ll be leaning on her feedback the most as I get the partial and synopsis out the door.

Final placement news should come out August 18th. I’ll have officially started marathon training by then. Won’t this be interesting. 🙂

Day 157: Carpe Diem

Remember the line at the end of the opening credits to “The Jetsons”, when George is running on the treadmill and he can’t control it, and he yells, “Jane, stop this crazy thing!” That’s been my day.

Last night I put together the end-of-year teacher gifts for Alex to give his teachers. Today was the last day of school so it was now or never. (Or really, then or in the morning, and given that the bus could come anywhere in a 20 minute range, the night before was a much smarter option.) Fortunately the a/c unit cooperated when I put it in place (I call it R2D2) and worked on the first try. Nothing short of a miracle considering the outlet is touchy and won’t work for a stand lamp, so I didn’t expect the a/c to work so easily, but we were blessed. It was hotter than hell yesterday and today is expected to be worse–can you say “dreadmill”? I knew you could–so I had to cave in and put on the a/c. Really, there was no choice.

This morning Alex told me he was sad about it being the last day of school. This from the kid who’s been counting down the days since Memorial Day? I said, “Why are you sad?” He said, “I’ll miss my friends.” Sniff. But it’s only 10 days ’til ESY (extended school year); he’ll see them again soon, and next week he’ll see the kids from summer camp. Some are his Red Dawgs friends, too, but camp is always fun.

Since the dining room was cool(er), I decided it was time to kill the clutter and get through the pile of unopened mail, and organize the boys’ school stuff. Usually it all just ends up on the table for “Some Day”, and today was Some Day. Now it looks much better and if we want to eat there, we can. There’s no TV in there, though, so we usually don’t, but it’s nice to know we can. While I was at it, an old UFO caught my eye. It was going to be a 3-colored afghan but I fell out of love with the pattern, so it was sitting on the UFO pile, collecting dust. As I was sipping coffee and going through email, I saw an adorable daisy-filet afghan pattern that I really wanted to try, and seeing the UFO, it clicked. I just needed to unravel the UFO and reappropriate the yarn. Not a problem with the table all nice and spacious now. I’m one unraveled ball into it so far but it’s adorable and, as usual, I’m already wondering what other yarn/colors would look cute in that pattern. My stash, like my imagination, goes on forever.

Before Alex’s bus came in from the half day at school, the mail came. It usually comes at 5 so I was surprised. In it was a summons from the court to appear in my burglary case from last year. Tomorrow at 9 a.m. I was like, “WHAT? I don’t have time for this! This says the trial could last 2 weeks, and Alex starts camp on Monday, and this is June; I can’t call in to work.” After panicking, as well as letting my boss know I’d be in court tomorrow, I called the Witness Services clerk and found out no, don’t show up unless the DA calls. WHEW. It could turn out that they all show up in court and decide to take a plea deal. No fire here, folks; all is well.

But then the president of my writing chapter let us know one member lost her father yesterday, and another lost her 25 year old son. That one hit me in the solar plexus. Worse still when they said he was her only child. I can’t wrap my brain around it. As I was trying to process this information, I heard Alex up in his room, talking to his tapes, and it was music to my ears. You never know. I’m usually really good at empathy but for the life of me, I can’t even begin to imagine what she’s thinking and feeling right now. If I were her, I’d be pounding some kind of sedative; I don’t think I’d want to think or feel. Ever again.

As far as Alex knows, going to Rita’s for custard tonight is to celebrate the end of the school year, but it’s also Carpe Diem day. I did that after Sandy Hook, so we could get away from the everyday and make some fun memories together. (Which we did. The boys had fun goofing around together at Chickie’s & Pete’s. I loved watching them just be kids because after that day, too many parents in CT didn’t get that privilege.) I’m also going to finish this afghan, because 50 years from now I want some little kid to say, “Mom/Dad, where did we get this blanket?” and they can answer, “That was made by your Grandma Carla. She used to make TONS of these things. They were all over the house. No one ever got cold at Grandma Carla’s!”

Carpe Diem, folks. Because you never know.

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Day 168: Let It Go

Yes, I mean the song. Well, mostly.

Last Sunday I had a hard time getting started on my run. This Sunday I had some encouragement in the form of my cat, insisting that by 6:30 I should be out of bed. In his defense, my alarm is set to 5:30 on weekdays and he doesn’t know what a weekend is. I would’ve liked to have slept a little more but hey, que sera, sera.

I rolled out of bed, had a little breakfast, and goofed around on email and Facebook until I finally came to the conclusion, I needed to go hit the park. I couldn’t go to Kelly Drive with the Sunday Funday Runday team; most of them were already there, running the Oddysey Half Marathon. I didn’t sign up because I had it in mind to cut back on my races. (As of now I’m doing 6 more races than I did last year, including the marathon. While I was goofing off, I browsed the Whiteface Mountain Uphill Race, glutton for punishment that I am, but I’ve been to Whiteface and it’s gorgeous. Plus the registration fee is only $40, almost too good to resist.)

By 8:30 I said, “Okay, let’s go.” I changed clothes, laced up, and went out the door to go to Valley Forge. I could’ve run at the farm park but I go there all the time, and I wanted to treat myself to something different. It meant carrying my keys with me, but I figured I could hide my purse in the back of the car.

Checking the map, I figured I’d go from the Visitor’s Center to Washington’s Headquarters; a good long run, right? So imagine my shock when I got to WHQ and realized I’d only run 3.30 miles. I ran the stairs at the train station a few times–pretty sure the park guide at the WHQ building thought I was nuts–took lots of great pictures, and headed back.

Not far from WHQ, I was back at the parking lot marked by a block for Guarnam’s location during the encampment. (I probably have the name wrong but Google’s not being much help at the moment.) I decided I could either cop out and run the 3 miles back, making a total of 6 miles for the day–seemingly wasting the trip, since I could easily run 7 miles at home–or turn right onto North Inner Loop and take the longer way back. Guess what I did?

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The long way. I was at the “You Are Here” mark and instead of taking the straight trip back up Rt 23, I turned right and did that crazy wide loop back, about 5 miles. Gorgeous.

But I forgot to mention that on the way out, when I crossed the road, there was no one around, in front of or in back of me. A few cars drove by but nothing outstanding, and then “Let It Go” came on my iPod. I laughed out loud, then looked around. What the hell? 🙂 I sang it. Probably scared every deer in the county but so what. I even took a selfie:

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But the remarkable thing about it was how it made me feel: FREE. Really, the parts about, “That perfect girl is gone” and “It’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through, no right no wrong, no rules for me: I’m free!” Mostly it made me feel like I need to stop caring about stupid petty bullsh*t and just let loose who I am. Say what I think and how I feel. Stop hiding to make other people feel better. Don’t be a b*tch but don’t let myself be walked on, either.

And no, I’m not “coming out”. 😉 In fact, in my first mile a truly hot guy waved at me; not just the usual, “Hey how ya doin'” wave runners exchange; it was a complicated little hand wave that ended with a point in my direction. Damn, I almost tripped on my shoes.

Oh, and one more little pay-attention moment, when I turned a corner and saw two women stop, looking around, talking to each other. I’m thinking something died on the path and they’re not sure what to do about it. No, it’s a baby squirrel, lost. They warned me it might try to follow me; apparently it wasn’t sure who mommy was and it did that with them. I had to get a picture:

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It made me laugh because if you have the full, unedited version of Bruno Mars’ song, “Treasure”, you know it starts off with a male Siri-like voice saying, “Hey. Baby. Squirrel. You. One. Sexy. Mother–” Yeah, you can guess the rest. But today I saw a real baby squirrel. The pic is now my Facebook profile pic, to remind me, I’m one sexy…yeah, that. 🙂

Best part of all of this was that I got ALL my stuff done this weekend. I did everything I had to do (electronics dump-off at the HS; Alex’s playwriting class finale; Impact Store; Panera; cut the grass; collect mail/newspapers for my neighbors who were away for the weekend; run; pick up groceries), so when I came home with the food, the only thing left to do was to take a shower and goof off. How often is THAT on my To Do list? Yeah, baby!

But honestly, I’ve been kind of restless so I’ve been on Facebook a *lot*, reading articles, watching videos, etc. Oh, and the sugar-free streak is over. My neighbors brought us a variety pack of fudge to thank us for collecting the mail. I think that was overkill, but I couldn’t give the boys all the fudge when I’m the one who got the paper/mail. It was delish, and the really odd thing was that I’d been munching all afternoon (on sugar-free snacks) and pretty regularly looking for more, but one piece of fudge and it was like, “Okay, I’m good.” I might need to seek out some balance in my diet, but really, I did so well for so long, why blow it?

I’m watching the Tonys tonight because Bradley Cooper is on it. I’m not sure how he’s connected, but does it matter? 🙂