Day 108: LaLaLa!

Different topic this time. (Though I will say I did my 3rd straight run today, another 4 miles, and I feel fantastic and I have no idea why. I feel like I should be exhausted but I’m not. Go figure.)

I belong to an amazing writing, critique, and support group called the LaLaLa’s. We got together because we didn’t final in the Golden Heart contest in 2010, and we all wanted to figure out what wasn’t working and start moving in the right direction. God bless Valerie Bowman for putting that first email out there. I can’t imagine where I’d be in this world without the LaLaLa’s. Granted, I think a certain someone was perturbed that I was focusing more time and energy into writing and less into him, but I will never ever regret joining this group of caring, talented, amazing women. I’ve met some and can’t wait to meet everyone!

Valerie happened to talk to Barbara Vey while at RWA National this year, and Barbara asked her to write up an article to post on her blog. It went up today, here. 🙂 That’s Jaye Garland in the first picture; she gave me my nickname, God. Long story. Buy me a drink and I’ll tell you some time. 🙂

But there was more to say so Ashlyn MacNamara and Abigail Sharpe added to the story: http://ashlynmacnamara.net/the-divine-secrets-of-the-lalala-sisterhood-two-more-stories/ I had to share just because it gave me such a laugh. It seems I’ve grown a reputation for butt-kicking. If it only worked on myself or teenagers…? 🙂 I hope everyone someday knows what it feels like to know they’ve made a difference in just one person’s life. Thank you, Ash! I might stop grinning some time next week. 😉

You know, I have to laugh. I went back to get links to everyone’s websites, and I’m pretty sure when we started in March 2010, none of us had websites. 🙂 I had this blog. Didn’t use it much. I’m getting there.

Thank you, ladies! You are my angels and my blessings and the wind beneath my wings!

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Day 144: Tapering

No, I’m not tapering back in my training yet. I haven’t even started, so I’m a long way from tapering. Scared spitless of it, too. By the time I start to taper my training, I’ll be 2 weeks from The Big Day, but to earn that medal, I have to train. A marathon is just the party celebrating the end of all my training. I’m going to run a lot more miles in training than I will on November 23rd.

June was a crazy month in my house. We ramped up to the end-of-quarter at work, to the point where I was at the computer for most of my waking hours. Not solely for work, either, since I had to revise and send back my Sheila contest finalist entry, which I needed to send back before the June 30th deadline because we were going to Ocean City for the weekend, and on the 30th I’d be nose-to-grindstone for work. I also needed to figure out the changes to the ending/Big Black Moment, because the original one just wasn’t making my heart bleed enough.

So now it’s July and I have to taper my life back to normal speed, and I’m not sure I remember how. Yesterday I was restless, trying to find something I could grab onto and work on fast and hard, the way I’ve been doing for the last two weeks in June. There was stuff to make up for, like the things I didn’t get done in time, or the things I made mistakes on that needed correction, but come the afternoon when I needed a few minutes to lie down and relax, I couldn’t get my mind to stop whirling. It takes effort to remind myself to just pay attention to my breathing, but it can be done, and it’s a little easier than it had been.

The afternoon was pretty busy, too, but I got things done. Unfortunately I got them done to the point that I still hadn’t taken the time to catch up on home stuff like food. I posted on Facebook, “We’re so out of groceries that I have two choices for snacking: an avocado and water.” I ate the avocado but it wasn’t satisfying. Since we got back from OC, I’ve been madly jonesing for fruit but I didn’t want it going bad while we were gone so I didn’t restock. Now that it’s payday and I have time again, I was keeping myself so busy that again, I wasn’t going and doing the other things that needed doing. The real world stuff like dinner.

Alex dragged me out to Impact because it was his treat for getting all A’s on his 4th quarter report card, and when that was done we went to get a few groceries. It was satisfying to see food in the fridge again but it wasn’t all we needed. I know I can get better food prices at Aldi or Bottom Dollar, but I didn’t plan on going to 3 stores for groceries, so I grabbed what I could at Mega-Lo-Mart (I hate Wally World for so many reasons, but sometimes I just don’t have a choice; no other stores carry bird seed in 40 pound bags–I have a lot of hungry birds to feed–and Mickey’s favorite cat food) and left the rest for today. We grabbed Panera bagels on the way home and that was dinner.

By 6 I was feeling guilty that it appeared I wasn’t making time to work out again. I hadn’t exercised since Saturday morning, when I went for a run before our trip to OC. My plan had been to up my run frequency to 3 or 4 a week for July, since starting next month I’ll be running 5 days a week. I need to get used to the boost in volume. I felt like a slug until 7 when I decided I’d had it; I needed to drop whatever was in front of me, lace up and go. I was going to go to the gym and do 3 miles on the dreadmill, just because it was ridiculously hot/humid, but I remembered I also didn’t have time to refill the gas tank since NJ, so Farm Park, here I come.

Maybe another part of the problem with being crazy busy for so long was how tired I was. More than once I started feeling like hey, it’d be nice to have someone give me a hand once in a while, but I’m a single mom. This is what I got. It wasn’t my choice, but it’s my situation now, so I have to pull up my big girl panties and get on with it, right? As the song in Evita goes, “But all the same, I hate it.” I can do what I need to do but it gets lonely. Even if I still have all this work to do, it’d be nice to have someone to come back to, someone to tell me “It’s all right” or “Hey, nice job.” But In the last nearly 3 years, I’ve had to learn to do that for myself. Maybe even longer than that, considering that may have been part of the beginning of the end, when I stopped needing John’s reassurance that I was someone; I learned to be that for myself. (The end of codependency.)

I was about on mile 3 or 4 when it suddenly hit me, I like being alone. I do value that time of solitude, and I haven’t had it in a while. I’m at work where people can look over my shoulder the entire time; or I’m home, where the boys are ever-present (not to mention Mickey); or I’m at the gym with at least a dozen other people; or I’m driving somewhere on a public road. For a little while last night at the park, I was alone and it was beautiful. I smiled. It felt great. I had music playing, my form was good, my feet didn’t hurt, my knee wasn’t tweaking (the way it did when I tried to fast-walk; suck it, 90 degrees in the shade). I felt healthy and happy, and I was still alone. At the end of my run, the only thing waiting for me was more email; no smiling face, no happy eyes, no gentle hands.

Okay, so THAT’s depressing me again, but you know what I mean. 🙂 In the grand scheme, it was okay. Sure, I hate having to be the only one to get things done. I hate having to make a conscious effort to relax. I hate the pressure and the loneliness, but I like the solitude. Sometimes I do like the solitude. Isn’t it interesting how English has three words—alone, solitude, and lonely—and they mean the same and yet entirely different things?

We have a three day weekend ahead, and after the last couple of weeks, it feels like a vacation. I may be running the July 4th 5k in the rain but after doing a half in the rain, I don’t care. It might even give me a chance to rain-wash my Timex hat, and at last get the mud from my Love Run sneaks. I can do whatever I have to do, because no one’s going to do it for me.

As for those edits…uh, yeah; the same still applies. 🙂

Something else on my mind was positive affirmations. I’ve been working on thinking positive and seeing great things ahead in my future. (Bradley Cooper, I’m still looking at you, babe.) The odd thing was that some of the things I see ahead are so fantastic, so amazing, so wonderful, so joyful, that for a moment I was afraid. I mean, seriously, do I deserve all that? It’d be great to get it all but it’s scary too, because at some point I see myself thinking, “This can’t be real. This has to be a fantasy or a dream, and at some point I’ll wake up and go back to the real Orwellian world I live in.” Again, it takes effort to stop and say, “Hell yes I deserve to live in all that wonderful, not just because of the crap I’ve been through already—because in the grand scheme, bad as anything was, I know I’m really and truly blessed—but because I am who I am and I do deserve to have a wonderful life in which every one of my wonderful dreams comes true.”

So yeah, bring it. I got this.

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.

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 176: One of Those Days

I wasn’t having one of my best days, which is odd because the weather was gorgeous and I had my plans all mapped out: breakfast and coffee, relax, take Alex to playwriting, go to the gym, wait a while to pick him up, go to the Impact Store, grab some cheese bagels at Panera, then go home and relax. But somewhere along the line, I hit a snag and emotionally I sank. It sucked because I’d had that problem for most of the week, and it felt like I had to fight my way through every minute. I couldn’t even put my finger on the problem, other than the obvious “I haven’t been on a date, no one asks me out, and maybe I’m just not worthy”.

At one point my mom emailed me so I kinda let loose on how miserable it is being a single mother with challenges and no real hope for better on the horizon. I think my exact words were, “It sucks ass, let me tell you.” It did perk up a little when a friend posted a pic of Bradley Cooper, working on his next film and he gained weight for the role, and at the risk of sounding like a complete idiot, the man could be 300 pounds and I’d still think he’s beautiful.

I felt a little better when I posted this on Facebook

cheer up

…until a friend said, “And it’ll happen when you least expect it!” I saw that from the front seat as I waited for Alex to get out of playwriting, and I fought not to reply, “Lady, that ship has not only sailed but it sank, twice. I’m not holding my breath anymore.”

Instantly I had that “Leave me alone” feeling, which is ridiculous when you consider that I really hate being alone, for reasons already discussed above. I haven’t been on a date in over 18 months, unless you count that one disaster that sent me running for the computer so I could delete my online dating profile from that particular site. Not that he was a bad guy in the grand scheme, I suppose, but holy crap, I couldn’t have taken another 5 minutes with him. Of course, it also makes me wonder if I want to be with anyone. At this point I’m scared I’ve forgotten how to kiss, let alone to just be anywhere with someone else.

ANYWAY…

So I got Alex and his play seems to be coming along for next week’s finale, and we headed for the Impact Store, only to get bogged down in traffic that took 20 minutes to go a mile. I can run faster than that. 🙂 We finally got to the store, but by then I was already in a crappy mood, and then there was no place to park so I had to back all the way out to turn around and go to the rear of the store, and there was nothing there that interested me (which I took to be a good thing; if you don’t want OR need anything, you’re in a good place, right?). Then Alex loaded up one of my shopping bags with videos but he forgot the coupon on the grocery store receipt, so it wound up being $28. Not what I had planned.

We went to the nearest Panera but the parking lot was packed so I walked what felt like a quarter mile just to get there. I was behind a dozen people and I couldn’t see any cheese bagels, so I gave up and walked back out…only to find Alex was checking out all his movies and most of them were on my seat. Traffic was a bear again getting home, and partway there after some muttered epithets about another driver’s lack of driving skills, Alex asked in crystal-clear voice, “Mom, are you you having a bad day?” It didn’t hit me at the time so I just answered that yes, I wasn’t having a very good day, but it was okay because we’d just go to the Panera closer to home.

But then I muddled through the rest of the day and by 8 there was nothing on TV I cared about, so I went outside to knit and enjoy the last of the daylight on a beautiful late spring evening. I also kind of pissed and moaned to myself about how other people are out having fun and here I am, stuck at home, going nowhere. But when the light was gone, I went back in and cleaned up the kitchen and danced a little to some music, and decided to catch up on some TED talks online I’ve been meaning to watch, and I saw a brilliant one on turning the worst experiences in your life into what shapes your identity, and it was wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that I had to stop it several times to take notes.

Then I saw this music video about autism, and it brought back to me what Alex had asked me. I’m blessed that he can communicate, and not just that he can communicate but he understands emotions. He’s not locked inside himself like some kids. He has a well developed sense of empathy, even if he doesn’t know what to do about it (but isn’t that most men?).

The other day in the middle of my shitty mood, I decided the problem isn’t that I’m not going anywhere; it’s that I’m not doing anything to get myself where I want to be. I posted on Facebook:

TIME TO STOP WISHING FOR WHAT YOU WANT, AND START MAKING THINGS HAPPEN.

That, in essence, was my problem. I wasn’t moving forward, but that was my fault because I wasn’t doing anything to push myself forward. I opened my current work-in-progress and started editing it again, even though I know one of the reasons I’ve been avoiding it is because of the emotions that are going to come to the surface. It’s not easy stuff to write. The funny stuff is easy; I can toss out one-liners or witty banter and it’s no problem, but dig deep for the feelings, and I’ve been balking for months already. I just tell myself, “I need to get back to that,” but I don’t, and I’m tired of it. I’m not doing anything to fix the problem; I’m just daydreaming about what I wish I had.

Well, screw that. I have to DO something.

Day 236: “I Think You Can Do It”

I’m back! 🙂 I want to start again, to keep track of the events leading up to Day 1, which will be quite a milestone for me. 

Last night I entered the Philadelphia Marathon. Registration opened at midnight, and the first 1,000 entrants got a $20 discount. Given that the $105 entree fee almost scared me off, I figured it’d be worth it to lose a little sleep. I forgot that the idea of doing this would make me lose a little sleep too, but oh well. 

The ironic thing is that I ran a half marathon on Sunday, the inaugural Philadelphia Love Run. It poured down rain almost the entire time, and when I finished there wasn’t a single dry inch on me anywhere. My legs were still aching when midnight rolled around, and getting down stairs is something amusing to watch I suppose, but I still signed up. 

Needless to say I’m nervous. I’ve never done anything like this before, and if I recall the traditional interview question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I can sure as hell say this wasn’t in the game plan. But I started running and I fell in love with it, and it rescued me when my life was falling apart. It gave me purpose, and a goal to pursue. For me, this is the pinnacle. At my age I don’t see an Ultramarathon or an IronMan in my future. I’m not that crazy, but a marathon? I’ve done four half marathons now. That’s technically the same distance as two full marathons. Why the hell not?

Training for the Love Run, I did nothing but cardio in an attempt to lose weight, It didn’t work as well as I’d hoped but it did help. With this last half under my belt, I know one thing I want to do to prep for the marathon is to build up the strength in my legs and core, so I’m using the machines at the gym again. Tonight I spent 10 minutes on the rowing machine. That was fun, considering on Saturday I took the boys into Philly to get my race packet, and we passed a huge regatta on the Schuylkill. For ten minutes and change I could feel like one of those rowers, and imagine myself an athlete. But really, I already am an athlete, and that idea is somewhat bewildering, because I never used to think of myself that way. For my first 44 years, I was the polar opposite of an athlete. Three years later, look at me now. 

After I’d registered, Ryan came down the stairs for a drink, and I told him what I’d done. He thought a brief moment, then nodded and said, “I think you can do it.” I was stunned at first. I’m not used to positive encouragement; well, giving it, but not getting it. It was interesting, but it also told me I’d done something right if my own son’s first reply to a statement like that was, “I think you can do it.” No doubts, no laughter, no “Are you out of your mind?” Nope, he’s been watching me go running or go to the gym, and he knows I’ll put in the work it takes to get what I want. I’m just so glad to know that he knows.

That’s why I’m doing this: because he’s watching. 

Me, a Foodie?

I used to blog with Chicklets in the Kitchen, but it’s been a while. I’m sorry to say, I ran out of ideas. The problem was twofold: I’m a vegetarian so my meal choices were somewhat limited, and I ran out of time to be creative.

However, that’s going to change out of necessity. I had an idea this morning for a story involving a character who’s a chef, and to make her more authentic, I’m going to do my homework. I’m going to try a new recipe once a week; something fresh and healthy, but full of flavor enough that I’ll want to make it again. This, of course, is assuming it works out and I *do* want to make it again.

I say this now, and I have today off. We’ll see how ambitious I am when reality kicks in and I have to fit cooking in with the gym, the boys’ dinner, and school stuff. But this morning I got up, made chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, spinach quiche and a loaf of bread. (The bread was a cheat; I thawed it the night before.) I was so full from breakfast that I wasn’t interested in lunch, and I started dinner early. Dinner was a batch of toll house cookies, homemade french fries, and deep-fried hot dogs (because I got puppy-dog eyes when the boys asked, “Fries and…?” Most things didn’t get a picture before they were devoured–remember, these are teenage boys–but here’s one stack of cookies, adored by Ryan:

IMAG0941

 

I’m also coaching myself out of eating after 8 at night. I’m going to brush my teeth–who wants to eat after they’ve brushed? They’ll just have to brush all over again–and switch to only drinking water. I’ll also put on my anti-wrinkle oil in hopes it spends a little longer on my skin, fighting the oldness. 😉