Can’t Never Could

My oldest daughter went back to school the first week of September. My twins turned 4 and are at home with me for one more year.

With the new school year comes new routines and new schedules. With the new schedule suddenly came a shift in how my time was spent. During the summer, I was consistently running 3 times a week first thing in the morning. I usually ran just before the sun came up, when there was enough light to see by and be seen by passing vehicles. I arrived back home before my husband headed off to work for the day.

Then school started and suddenly my prime running time was being spent getting my daughter ready for school, then loading up her and her sisters to drive to the school to drop her off. Plus thanks to the tilt in the Earth, the daylight has been coming later and later.

For the last two weeks, I’ve run once. I couldn’t find time to run safely around the new schedule. Our budget does not allow a gym membership with babysitting this month. I don’t have an expensive double jogging stroller to plop the twins into so I could take them with me.

Then this morning, I sent my girls (plus their friend who joins us on Thursdays) outside to run off some energy. As I watched them play, I suddenly had a facepalm moment.

I’d started running back in May before school was out.

I’d started by running laps around my 1 acre yard while the girls played.

I wasn’t dressed for exercise today, but I had my good shoes on, so while the girls played, I walked 2 miles around and around and around. It’s at least more entertaining than a treadmill at a gym. Next time, I’ll get the right clothes on before the girls go outside and I can run.

But walking was a good start.

So often we come up with reasons for why we can’t do something. We can’t find time. We can’t afford it. We don’t have the right people to support us.

I don’t have time to write as much as I want.

What about spending 10 minutes writing rather than browsing Facebook? What about waking up half an hour earlier and writing for 30 minutes before the rest of the family is up? Why not write in the evenings after the kid goes to bed instead of watching another show on Netflix?

Sure, the most ideal thing is to have a couple of hours where I can work uninterrupted. But does little progress somehow have less value than big?

I can’t run with my family’s current schedule.

What about walking laps around the yard while the kids play outside and soak up some sunshine? What about using that kettlebell that’s gathering dust in the bedroom? What about doing strength exercises like sit ups, push ups, burpees, squats, lunges, planks, etc., that don’t require more than a cleared space of floor?

It’s so easy to get bogged down in the excuses. But power comes from looking at ways you can, rather than focusing on the ways you can’t.

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Tuesday Night Writes

A few months ago, I was having one of my low moments. I was struggling with attitude, drive, and just feeling like I was drowning in the midst of all my responsibilities as a wife, mother, homemaker, and this writing thing I’m trying to find time for.

Most of the time, I do pretty well. I keep my head mostly above water and feel like I’m chipping away at things. And then sometimes I sink, and I sink deep.

My husband noticed I was struggling and he got a little advice from a good friend of ours. He came up with a plan.

Every Tuesday night, right after dinner, I was to leave the house. He’d take care of dinner clean up and getting the kids to bed. He said, “I don’t know what you’ll do at that time in the evening, but you’ll at least get out of the house.”

A brief Google search revealed that my favorite coffee shop was open until 10 PM, so the “what-to-do” was quickly solved.

Tuesday Night has become my most productive writing time. I look forward to grabbing my computer at around 7:30 in the evening and running out the door. I can listen to my audiobooks or podcasts in silence as I drive to the coffee shop, and then I can put in my headphones and listen without interruption to whatever I want to.

It’s been lovely!

I’ve used Tuesday Nights to make major progress on How to Write Short Stories. I’m finally at the end of Lesson 3 and I’m nearly finished with the one story I was most excited about writing. I’ve written almost 1300 words this evening, which is the most I’ve written in a sitting since NaNoWriMo last November.

I had to stop tonight because I was feeling a little mental fatigue. Usually, something else will interrupt a good writing flow. Not tonight. Tonight, I actually reached a point where I was mentally tired and ready for a break.

I still have another 50 minutes before the coffee shop closes!

I might be able to finish my story about Tulip Parrots (google Parrot Tulips to see my inspiration for this) tonight if I can get my second wind. If not, I feel like I’ve really made some good headway on this story.

To my husband, thanks so much for giving me my Tuesday Nights!

How to Write a Novel

Years ago, I stumbled across Holly Lisle. I don’t know how I first came across her or why, but this author and writing teacher had a number of writing educational materials on her site and I picked up a couple of her clinics.

Her methods for idea generation and story crafting blew my mind. While her techniques may not work for all people, they work fabulously for me and I’ve been a regular student of hers for years.

She’s launching her newest class today — How to Write a Novel. This is going to be a huge class, with 37 planned lessons.

Holly is currently offering the class at a her Super-Early Bird Splinters price. This means the class is not completed and the techniques have not been tested with a large number of writers. Any early-birders are encouraged to give feedback on the lessons and there’s a huge community of authors who will help each other along.

As the class is completed and refined, the price will go up steadily for newcomers. Anyone who buys the class now has full access to everything and all updates forever.

I know I have folks who follow me who are writers, and if you feel like you need an extra boost to your methods, I highly recommend Holly’s Writing Classes.

At 11:59 PM ET on October 5, 2018, the price for this class will go up. It will never go back down, so this is a great opportunity.

I’m currently going through How to Write Short Stories, and I’m hoping to have the money to jump in on How to Write a Novel before the clock ticks up, so I hope to see some of you in the class.

If you’re unsure of if Holly’s methods will work for you, check out her free course, Write Flash Fiction that Doesn’t SUCK.

DISCLAIMER: I am one of Holly Lisle’s affiliates, so I will receive compensation if you purchase through my links. It doesn’t change a penny of what you pay, but it will help me get closer to being able to afford the class on my own.

Chasing Short Story Gems

After spending the better part of a year feeling like my writing well has gone completely dry, my Muse (my personification of my creative right brain) is now running around cackling with all sorts of shiny new plot ideas.

I am equal parts terrified of what’s coming out of my own head, and excited about it.

I purchased Holly Lisle’s How To Write Short Stories a couple weeks ago. I’d been intending on getting it for a while, and finally bit the bullet and bought it. I started working on the class a couple weeks ago, struggling through the first lesson a little, though a couple gems popped up as I went through the first few exercises.

Then I delved into Lesson 2, which started expanding some of those gems into frameworks of short stories. And some of them are strange for me, yet, I’m getting really excited about actually writing the darn things.

Some of my ideas are:

  • Tulip Parrots (google Parrot Tulips, then switch it around to birds instead of flowers)
  • Sea folk terrorizing a fishing village
  • Magic steel drums that lure children away
  • A magical marketplace that can only be accessed by complete honesty
  • A sentient geyser

I’ve only expanded half of the original ideas from Lesson 1 so far. I still have more ideas to play with!

Now if you’ll excuse me, my Muse is getting decidedly weird with the geyser idea, and I better go follow her and see what surprises she has for me.

Baby Steps

Little by little, I think I’m getting all my ducks in a row. A couple of them still go rogue, but I’m getting better at herding them where they need to go. I figured out that the best way for me to make progress right now is to hack up all my goals into the smallest bite-sized bits I can.

Improving my health has been a key. Using my running program and my Passion Planner, I’ve been able to check off each run, mark when I hit milestones (like running for longer), and see a visual representation of my progress. Seeing progress and not feeling like I’m spinning my wheels in the same place forever provides a huge motivational boost.

Reaching a further point during my runs is like a physical checkpoint, too. I run the same route every Tuesday and Thursday. At first, my half way point (where I’d turn around to go home) was this old barn. Now it’s a stand of trees a ways further past the barn. I’m up to running for 2 minutes at a time, with only 30 seconds of walking in between the runs.

Seeing progress in this has helped me work through other things, stuff around the house and my writing as well.

My goals of “Finishing Survivor Epilogue” and “Finishing my NaNo Novel” were proving to be too huge for my current state of mind, so I dropped to something different that I could chunk up smaller. Holly Lisle, who still remains my favorite writing coach, has a newer class up, called How to Write Short Stories. I bought the class and started on Lesson 1. It’s shaking cobwebs loose, getting creative juices flowing, and generating ideas for some short stories.

The class is currently incomplete and a little buggy, so anyone who takes the class is also acting as a type of beta tester, working out bugs and kinks, but even in this form, it’s hugely beneficial.

Baby steps and building a pattern of success for myself is helping me make progress for the first time in a very long time.

Spring Recap – 2018 Reading Challenge

I’ve been meaning to do an update on my reading challenge since March. This spring really got away from me. I’m not quite keeping up with the pace needed to finish the challenge, but I have added 9 more books to the list.

  • Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Next book in a series you started)

This book took most of February to get through. Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive is not good for quick, light reading. In this third book, it took me a little while to figure out who was who again, since I haven’t re-read the first two books since they came out. Once I remembered who the characters were and what was going on, I enjoyed it greatly. Sanderson holds first place as my “Favorite Living Author” and he never disappoints.

  • Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs (A book that’s published in 2018)

Patricia Briggs is probably second place in the “Favorite Living Author” rank. She usually has a book come out right around my birthday in March, so it’s a perfect time for me to grab the next one. This book focuses on her werewolf pair, Anna and Charles, and some troubles close to home. There was an absolutely fantastic twist that I didn’t see coming at the end of the book that made my jaw drop. I don’t think this is the best of her books, but I enjoyed it all the same.

  • Luciana by Erin Teagan (A book you borrowed)

I borrowed this book from my oldest daughter. Luciana is American Girl’s “Girl of the Year” for 2018. My daughter recently earned enough money to buy her own doll and the doll also came with a book. Luciana Vega dreams of being one of the first astronauts on Mars and sees a first step towards that when she goes to NASA Space Camp. While this was a quick and simple read for me, I thought it was a great book for girls in our day and age, and especially a great one for my daughter, who’s been all about space since she was 5-years-old.

  • Dangers in the Desert by Diamond Wilson (A book by a local author)

“Local” author is a little bit of a stretch, since Diamond Wilson doesn’t technically live here anymore, but Diamond and I grew up together, sharing classes, basketball practices, sleepovers, and all sorts of other adventures. Dangers in the Desert is her second book in the Quest for the Queen series, as a group of kids try to unravel the mystery of a missing piece of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The story bounces between the cold of Montana and dry heat of the Middle East and Diamond’s great descriptions give you a great taste of both of those places.

  • Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser (A book with a weather element in the title)

I’m a long time lover of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House on the Prairie books. I’ve read the series countless times and I’m planning on visiting some Little House Museums during our upcoming vacation (you have no idea how excited I am about that!!!). Prairie Fires is a well-researched and detailed true account of Laura’s life and the creation of the Little House books. In it, you see what parts of Laura’s account were true, and what areas were fudged or tweaked around (or left out altogether). There’s a lot of focus on Laura’s daughter Rose and her influence on the books as well. Even though this was technically a non-fiction, long lovers of the series may find it very emotional.

  • The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera (A book set in a country that fascinates you)

New Zealand has long been a place of fascination for me, but I was rather frustrated when it came to finding a book set in that country. It seemed that I could not find many books available through my library that were set in New Zealand. I did come across this one, which is far more of a fantasy than anything else. A simple, short read, it painted an interesting picture of a small New Zealand community and it’s special relationship with whales.

  • Life in a Medieval Village by Frances & Joseph Gies (A book you meant to read in 2017)

Okay, to be totally honest, I meant to read this all the way back in 2015 or so. Frances and Joseph Gies have several books out on Medieval life that I’ve intended to read for research purposes for quite a while. Though I occasionally got bogged down by names and dates, the overall information in the book was interesting and gave me a few good nuggets to remember and consider for worlds in my fantasy

  • Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg (Nordic Noir)

I’ll tell you right off that Nordic Noir is not a genre I will be returning to anytime soon. While it was an interesting story, there were aspects in the storytelling that I didn’t care for. In it, a woman named Smilla goes on a mission to find out the truth behind the death of a neighbor boy. The story has a lot of twists and time jumps, so pay attention as you go.

  • A River in Darkness by Masaji Ishikawa (A book by an author of a different ethnicity)

A month or so ago, Amazon gave away a number of e-books that had been translated into English. One of them, A River in Darkness, is an autobiography of a man who spent most of his life living in North Korea before escaping. The book was a heartbreaking and sobering account of a brutal life that many North Koreans lived. It was hard to read and hard to fathom just how terrible it all was. With all of the talk in the news about North Korea, the timing on this was very interesting. While not an easy read, I highly recommend it.

So that’s 13 books down for the Reading Challenge. I’m open for other book ideas in the challenge, so comment below if you have any recommendations for me.

A Knee and a Spartan

Last year around this time, I started having trouble with my left knee. It hurt if I knelt on it and after a few weeks, would hurt terribly if I sat with my leg bent for any length of time. Weeks passed and it got worse, and worse, and worse… By September, I had to hang on tight to a handrail in order to get up and down flights of stairs, and even that was getting difficult. I was taking elevators and handicap ramps to spare myself the pain. Straightening my leg after sitting for even a short period of time became agony.

I mentioned it to my chiropractor, who tried a few adjustments first. They did nothing. Then he recommended me to the physical therapist who worked in his office.

I was beginning to dread that I’d torn some tendon or something in my knee (my mom tore her ACL when I was a teen and ended up with 2 surgeries and an terrible recovery time). I stressed and worried over my meeting with the PT.

That appointment came and Curtis had me give him a detailed breakdown of when my pain had happened and how it felt, then poked and prodded and twisted and bent my knee.

His prognosis was somewhat heartening. I had some tissue buildup under my kneecap. He had an actual name for what was wrong, but I forget what it was now, but basically when I sat, that tissue was getting compressed into my joint, which was causing most of my pain. Because I began favoring that leg, the muscles had grown weaker and it had gotten worse because of that.

No torn ACL, thank goodness. No surgery needed. Just some physical therapy.

… … yay…

So I started going in a couple times a week, first getting my knee area massaged by one of the two PTs that worked in the office, then getting into very simple exercises (starting with just bending and straightening my leg while sitting, which was stupidly hard to do). And ice. Lots and lots of icing my knee.

I started attempting squats after a week or two. Couldn’t do that without pain. Even riding the bike to warm up was difficult.

But, little by little, I saw improvement. The squats started getting more painless. I started to be able to do single-leg squats on the bad knee.

Then I’d slip on ice, or my dog would collide with my bad knee, and I’d be set back a few weeks while my joint recovered from the unexpected.

Last week, I had my last PT appointment. My knee is pretty much 100%. I still get a vague ache every so often, but it’s not tied in with anything sitting or standing.

More importantly, having a functioning knee again has helped me to decide that things need to change. I’m about 100 lbs overweight and that’s been causing other health issues.

About the time my knee first started bothering me, a few friends of mine ran this thing called a Spartan race. I saw pictures and while my husband laughed and said it was insane (and I didn’t disagree), there was a little part of my brain that wanted to do a Spartan race. I used to be able to run a 5K and I always loved obstacle courses as a kid. When the knee went, I pretty much figured I’d never run again, much less do a Spartan race.

Now, though?

About a month ago, I was at a ladies get-together with my best friend. At the table next to us were our friends who’d been doing the Spartan race. A bunch of them had their Spartan t-shirts on. My friend and I started talking about the Spartan and I said that now that my knee was better, I was tempted to start looking into training for one. She said, “Want company?”

So her and I have started running. Because she doesn’t have the 100 extra pounds to lug around, she was able to jump into one of the Couch-to-5K programs. I took one look at those and laughed. I haven’t run in at least 10 years. Most of those programs are WAY more than I can physically do right now. But I found one called None-To-Run, designed for the very out of shape who want to start running. Even the first week’s exercise of 30 seconds of running was more than I could do, so I spent the first time just briskly walking laps around my acre yard while my children played. Then I was able to run for 30 seconds and walk for two.

Now I’m 3 weeks in, and I finished the official ‘Week 2’ of the program. I ran for 1 minute and walked for 2 today (plus an extra 5 minute cool-down walk because I misjudged how far to go before I turned around to head home). Seven minutes of total running in my 30 minute workout. I figured I got about 2 miles.

You know what? I feel better than I did a month ago. I’m sleeping better. I’m not as hungry (weird…). I noticed that I’m carrying myself differently. My posture is straighter, or something. I feel taller. I’m eating better, though not strictly following any program on my eating, so I’m still eating junk when the mood strikes.

Scale says a difference of about 5 lbs, but I know I’m building muscle in addition to losing fat, so I’m not paying attention to the scale right now. Supposedly my scale measures BMI as well, but I doubt how accurate it is since it’ll give me multiple different numbers each time I weigh myself.

Each Saturday, my friend and I meet up to run “together,” each at our own pace. We’ve run a popular local trail together, and we’ve done laps around my yard when I wasn’t able to leave the house because of kids. Knowing that she’s running too helps me to be motivated to not skip my solo workouts.

There’s a 5K coming up the first weekend in August. I ran it before… I think in 2001. If I can keep with the program, I should be about able to run those 3 miles by then. I’m going to do it, because nothing motivates me better than external deadlines.

Next year in May is the Montana Spartan Sprint. By next year, I should be able to run the 3 to 5 miles and have the strength to complete the obstacles. I’ve got another exercise program I’ll start implementing when I finish None-To-Run. I’ll be ready in a year.

Who knows, maybe in a couple years, I’ll be ready to go for a Spartan Trifecta.

It’s not writing related, yet, it kinda is. Poor health and poor self-esteem can do a lot to a writer. Writing’s on a bit of a back burner right now, but in the last few weeks, I’ve found my mind drifting back to those unfinished writing projects. The energy and drive to finish them is coming back from wherever it’s been for the last few months.

Maybe that obnoxious Muse of mine is drawn to running?