Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Update and Announcement

Things have been kind of crazy around here. We had a massive tree go down and that took a while to get sorted, then we've been working on our house for what feels like years, getting it ready for the market. We are so close. I put off finishing my MG book, which is so close to being ready to submit, because doing that scares me. Though I'm going to do it, hopefully this week. Also, during all of this, I was feeling extra awful physically, so I decided now was a great time to get healthy the rest of the way. I started a fitness program a week ago.

Because of this, I got brave, and did something else I'd secretly started a long time ago. Well, I reserved the blog, but hadn't done anything with it.

Until yesterday.

So, I introduce you to my new fitness blog, where you can keep up with my fitness journey. Instead of posting it all over Facebook, which I don't like to do anyway, you can go here for all the gritty details. :) For years I was so scared to even give a reference to how much I weigh, but I don't really care anymore. By putting it out there, I'm committed to losing the rest, so there you go.

Anyway, feel free to check it out. I'm off to work out. :)

Rebecca Gets Fit

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Book Review: How to Embrace Your Inner Hotness by Leta Greene

I don't do many book reviews lately, but a friend asked me if I wanted to review How to Embrace Your Inner Hotness--An Inside-Out Approach to a Lasting Makeover. It covered some topics we'd been chatting about, and when I heard the title, I said, "Sure." 

The word hotness is used in this book to define your appeal to others, but not in the traditional way we think of as being hot. Generally when I think of hotness I think of someone's sexual appeal, but Leta Green, a motivational speaker and beauty expert, uses the term to describe what our essence is--what draws people to us. Just like the warmth of a flame on a cold night, our inner hotness can draw people to us for the right reasons. 

I admit that I'm still not a fan of the word hotness as a general term unless it relates to my husband's view of mebut I can accept it in the fashion Leta describes and uses in this book. (Yeah, I'm a weirdo, but you already knew that.)

The book consists of three parts. The first part talks about how to give yourself an inside-out makeover, how to build your hotness from the ground up. Leta teaches with stories and examples from her childhood that I found fascinating. How can a flannel-clad, shy tomboy with scars and missing front teeth gain confidence? Yes, now you want to know, too, don't you? She also describes ways to use imagery to help get rid of the negative self-talk most (nearly all) of us face.

One of the awesome tools she teaches how to use are "Vanity Prayers." Now, in my mind vanity has always been a negative, and the only connection it had with prayer was repenting or asking for help with vanity. I kind of wish the book had a different term for this tool, because my brain balked every time I read the words. However, the actual exercise is not anything about vanity or praying to yourself, but something that I'm going to institute into my routine to help me overcome negativity about myself. I would share here, but you're going to have to get the book to find out how to do it. *insert smiley face* She also talks about how to put together your look that you're showing the world, and about developing confidence. Lots of good information in this section. She's also not afraid to talk about body waste and "pooperness" as it relates to things we don't want in our lives emotionally. That was something I hadn't come across in a self-help sort of book before, but it wasn't over the top, and it feels like Leta's talking to you while sitting on your living room couch. I'd love to hear her speak in person someday.

Part Two is about finding or rediscovering your perfect match. Even though I'm happily married, this part was an interesting read, and I consider her advice a must-read for singles. Once, when I was dating a man (a few months before I met my husband), I was asked by a sister in church, "Are you sure you're not looking too deep?" Thing was, people were waiting for our wedding announcement. We ended up being wrong for each other, and no, I wasn't looking too deep. Leta addresses figuring out how to figure out exactly what it is you're looking for in a spouse.

Part Three was my favorite, all about how happily ever after is a choice. Leta shares some of her extremely hard struggles and how she learned to have true happiness in spite of them. She is an amazing woman. I read this section practically spellbound. Don't be surprised if your eyes don't stay dry. The three lines that struck deep into my heart are where she asks herself at the end of every day: 

Have I honored myself?
Have I honored those who depend on me?
And have I honored my God? 

Those are questions I'm going to begin asking myself.

I'm really glad I read this book. The beginning was a little slow for me, but that's because I'd already implemented some of what she talked about, and I was ready to get to the next part. I think there's something for every woman in this book no matter where she is along the path of life. Leta also talks about her relationship with God being vital, which is also something I appreciate.

Purchase the book here: Finding Your Inner Hotness

Monday, May 19, 2014

How to Cook a Book

My friend Suzanne Warr tagged me in a blog hop where writers share their writing process. Well, I got to thinking about it, as I am still figuring it out, and my process has been changing. Instead of giving you a mishmash of all the different things I try, I will give you my current recipe. While it doesn't look like the picture exactly, the process should give you several layers by the time it's done.

cake eat dessert

How to Cook a Book 
(And Not Get in Trouble with the IRS)

One idea, either from a dream or grown in a shower. Can be half-baked as long as there is room for full bakeage.

About a half dozen plot points, three of which should be whole.

Huge bottle of water/flavored water (Diet Dr. Pepper for the tricky moments)

One laptop computer, fully charged

One copy of Scrivener, installed

A batch of story (see On Writing by Stephen King, K.M. Weiland's or David Farland's books for good recipes)

One copy of Word, installed (preferably fresh, but use the best out of what you can find. Sometimes the more ripened ones are better).

One Evernote app installed on a smart phone* (optional)

Directions: Take one idea (thaw if it's been in the freezer for a while as this makes it easier to work with), knead for a while, then set aside to rise. 

While the idea is rising, fill the bottle of water, or if the idea is really slow to take shape, use Diet Dr. Pepper or flavored water. I find this helps the idea to meld with the rest of the ingredients a little faster.

Set the water next to the laptop. Take the idea and put it into your installed copy of Scrivener. I've had success forming it into a first chapter.

While the idea is resting, take the half dozen plot points. Set aside the whole ones, and chop the remainder into pieces. They don't need to be uniform, but each should be large enough to give a nice bite of flavor in the finished product. Then, open Scrivener, choose "novel format," and arrange the large plot points on a nice, blank page you will call "Outline." Space these apart--one at the beginning, one at the middle, and one at the end. If you don't have one quite large enough for the end, or if you have several whole ones to choose from, you can wait to add the last one until you are nearly done with the recipe.

Next, take the smaller pieces of plot points and arrange them artfully between the whole ones. If they look a bit wonky, that's okay.

Begin pouring the batch of story onto the idea. There is no need to be careful about this. The faster you pour the story on, the better. Just make sure you do it evenly so there's enough story to cover the whole outline of plot points, and stay inside the program. Overflow is incredibly sticky and tough to clean up. 

Take a spatula and smooth out the uneven parts. Once over should be fine. 

Let sit at room temperature for at least two weeks. Four if you can. Smooth over again. Then transfer to Word for ease of carrying, and deliver to the chefs who will critique your creation.

Once you get the critique back, it's time to bake that puppy. Fire up the computer to as hot as it will go, and shove your mixture in until it's shiny, full of flavor, and rich. If it sounds hollow when tapped, it's not yet done.

While you wait for it to be finished, you might consult a master chef for pointers, and a decorator, depending on what your plans are for the end product.

Serve warm or chilled. Some like chocolate, sunflower seeds, or herbal tea on the side.

*During the process, an app like Evernote can come in handy to keep those bits of idea that might show up where you least expect them to be. Paper and pencil traps them well, too, but I never have a flashlight handy to see those puppies at night.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

One Month of Fitness!

Today marks one month since I began working out again. I've done 3-5 workouts a week, depending on soreness and my usual pain levels.

Have I lost any weight? Not yet. Actually, I find it easier to begin working out first, then adding in healthier eating. Working out helps me want to eat healthier. I make it a point to stay off the scale most of the time. When I started the month, the water retention from my workouts made my clothes even tighter. In the past week or so they're getting looser again, which is awesome. I also am not measuring myself. I don't really care or want to monitor that closely. I had some issues when I was younger which makes me take any opportunity to not obsess about the scale or how many inches are gone.

However, I can already feel some of my shape is redistributing. Shifting. More muscle here, a little less fat there. It feels good. One hormonal issue resolved itself, which I attribute directly to the exercise. Despite my yoga and stretching, my hip and low back have been worse this past week, but I still danced a good deal at a wedding reception on Saturday night. I can't stay still when music is involved!

Last week I made another big shift in our family's diet. We're using a lot more vegetables. Tonight we had pasta with large amounts of cannellini (white kidney) beans, veggie broth, onions, and kale. I was so pleased that every single person ate it and most had seconds. Even my very picky youngest loved it. I incorporated green smoothies again, and I'm getting off of here and making one for everyone before bed.

I still am going to get my fitness tracking blog up and going, but I need to finish some of my writing work first. The revisions to my work-in-progress are taking longer than I thought, but I'm really excited for the story and its possibilities!

I hope your Wednesday is going well!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Announcing . . . the Rat Pack!

No flash fiction today due to technical difficulties, but I do have something to announce. In my current middle-grade work-in-progress, Captain Schnozzlebeard and the Singing Clam of Minnie Skewel Island, my main antagonist is a pirate named Ratbeard. Good old Ratbeard has a huge, fluffy brown beard where his widdle pweciouses--uh, five pet rats, nest and play. 

About a week ago or so, I asked my Facebook friends if any of them would like to be immortalized as a rat in my book. 

The response was amazing. 

I don't know what it says about all of you who wanted to be a beard-dwelling rat, but I am really, really glad to have such weird cool friends! You guys are so fun!

A couple of things to remember: 1) I had to research what names were in use in the mid 1800's. 2) There couldn't be too many of the same letter or sound, so I had to mix and match over and over. I swear, it took me about an hour to compile the final list of five with the consultation of three other writers. 3) If for some reason any of these need to be changed in the future, like if an editor makes me or something, I'll have to, and this is not a binding contract. :D 4) If it's all right with each of you whose names I use, I'd love to put you in the acknowledgments as my "rat pack." 5) I may be asking for names in the future. I will likely have some chickens--both roosters and hens--to name in the sequel. :) 

Here are the five rats:

Juliet (Julie C.)

Pearl (Laura Pearl S.)
Ruby (Ruby M.)
Angela (Angie D.)
Gwyn (Bonnie J.)

Congratulations to my Rat Pack! The book is in revision right now, and I'm not sure what direction the publication will take, but I am hoping to have more news about it sometime this year. (Edit: yes, Margaret changed to Ruby. Same girl, but we went with her first name instead of her middle name. :)

Have a rattastic weekend!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

On Gentleness

The Gentle Giant (I LOVE this piece. Picture and artist link here: Atomhawk)
Yesterday I posted on Facebook about John Travolta's faux pas at the Oscars and my reaction to people's intolerance for mistakes. If you haven't heard about it, he mispronounced Idina Menzel's name as Adele Dazeem. I saw the clip and it was pretty funny. No harm done, right?

What followed the Oscars was a hideous, ugly backlash from thousands of people. Lots and lots of nasty. Idina herself hugged him and wasn't worried about it. I read that he felt awful about the mistake. It seems our world hasn't much tolerance anymore, but waits with bared teeth and gaping maw to chew and spit out anyone who isn't perfect in its eyes.

Now, I'm fine with a little ribbing and some funny memes--I think that helps us process, and there is power in humor to help deal with a situation. I had to laugh at myself at girls' night last Friday for something I said accidentally that set my cheeks on fire! But to berate someone for doing something by accident, well, I just don't get that. I'm not like that. Or, I didn't think I was. 

When I go downstairs to the basement, I go through the kitchen door, through the freezing cold garage, then open another door to go to the stairs. Sometimes when my children catch me going through the door, they grab the handle to stop the door from shutting. 

I've told them several times not to do this. Both my shoulder muscles are slightly compromised, and I had to do a couple months of physical therapy to help my left one. It doesn't take much to strain, and one of the worst possible movements I can make is to have someone jerk either of those shoulders backwards.

Yesterday afternoon, as I was feeling a bit self-righteous that I wasn't doing that awful stuff so many were, I went to go downstairs. As I pulled the kitchen door shut behind me, my eight-year-old daughter grabbed the handle to stop me from closing it. 

It only took a millisecond for me to get upset. "What do you think you're doing?" Her blue eyes got rounder as I paraded through my tirade. "I've gone over this several times. You can't forget! This could really mess up my shoulder!" At this point I began having the strange experience of feeling like I was separated from myself, watching how I was acting. I continued lecturing in a stern voice, until I heard myself say, "Promise me that you will never forget this again!" 

At that instant, I realized how absolutely absurd I sounded. In that moment, I realized I was no better--actually, worse--than anyone who mocked a celebrity for forgetting someone's name. My daughter hadn't done it on purpose. She's an incredibly tenderhearted girl, and while I get frustrated with my children for forgetting things sometimes, she would never purposely do something to physically hurt me. I could have turned to shut the door in case someone forgot. I could have said something before I went out the door. Why was I taking this out on my sweet girl who forgot something just like I have done thousands of times myself?

She left to go to her room, and I stood there, sunken in the marsh of the words I'd dropped around us. My heart squeezed as a sick feeling plummeted to my toes. I hurried after her and apologized several times, then asked, "Will you try to remember not to grab the door when I'm closing it?" Such a different, non-accusatory question. She nodded, we hugged, she forgave me.

What I need, what she needed, what everyone in this human race needs is a soft place to fall when they make a mistake. When people do something by accident that hurts or upsets or offends another, most of them feel so terrible. There's no reason to pound each into the ground over it to make sure they understand the awfulness of their mistakes. Believe me, they know. The same goes for treating ourselves with gentleness. I spent too many years bashing myself for things I should have let go of. Gentleness. I must learn to be gentle with everyone, including myself.

So many times lately, the words come to my mind, "But for the grace of God, there go I." We never really, truly know what is in someone's heart. Can't we hold each other's hearts tenderly? Can we hold our own so? Are many of us so terrified of making our own mistakes that we are lightning quick to point and jeer and step on others as if that makes our accidents, our missteps somehow less significant? What if we were to gently reassure ourselves and others that it's all right to have made a mistake? To learn from it and move on? All too often, self-righteous indignation can get in the way and cause us to trample others' soft hearts or keep on bruising our own. 

I say this to myself as well as to the world: please, please, be a soft place for someone to fall. We never really know what is going on in someone's life and heart, even when we are living with them. It is an incredibly damaging sort of pride when we think ourselves lofty enough to pound the stakes of judgement into others' hearts. I can't tell you how many times I have said or done something incredibly stupid and hoped and wished for understanding and gentleness. One of the hardest things I am learning is to be gentle with myself. My husband has been telling me this for years, and you know, he's a really smart man. So I forgive myself for that incident with my daughter. I will hold myself more gently, and I hope that will help me treat others in a softer, kinder, more understanding way.

I leave you today with these two wonderful quotes:

"Your greatness is measured by your kindness; your education and intellect by your modesty; your ignorance is betrayed by your suspicions and prejudices, and your real caliber is measured by the consideration and tolerance you have for others." --William J.H. Boetcker (1873-1962)

"We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness." --Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Monday Flash Fiction: Excerpt from My First-Ever Finished Book, Dream Date

I didn't post Friday because I decided to go to a girls night out with some friends, which meant I ran around that afternoon looking for some gifts. We did this thing where you buy four gifts worth $5 each, then played a little game where we gave them out to each other. It was a lot of fun, and it was worth it!

The next morning I helped with a baby shower for my sweet sister-in-law, then I drove home, went to the store, then fell asleep at 8:00 pm until my children woke me up at 10:00 pm. Knowing we wouldn't be able to get to church the next day with the snow, I was asleep by midnight and didn't wake up until 9:00 am. Crazy. Also rather funny, because of the flash fiction prompt for Friday. So, I figured I'd go ahead and share a bit of one of my WIP's (works in progress) for this.

Prompt: I hear this is ‘Public Sleeping Day’ so share a snippet inspired by sleep.  You know, Sleeping Beauty, Rip Van Winkle, me…anybody who loves (or hates!) a good nap! Go here to read the others at Suzanne Warr's blog! Tales from the Raven

Dream Date is the very first novel I ever finished writing which needs a whole lot of work. It's about a girl, Natalie, who dreams about a guy and falls in love with him through a series of real-feeling, weird dreams. There is also a huge twist in the middle of the story. Anyway, this bit is from where she first meets the guy, Adam. Natalie's on this weird traveling round sidewalk in her dream which starts going faster and faster, so Adam tells her to jump and he'll save her.

Excerpt from Dream Date 

I heard a yell. Looking up as the crazy sidewalk gave a lurch, I saw the guy standing just ahead, in a wide football player's stance, arms reaching toward me. Propelled by the need to get off the galloping deathtrap as soon as possible I forgot about decorum, my short dress, and the fact that I was wearing only one high-heeled shoe. I stood up, balancing like I was a drunk surfer on a tipping surfboard, knees shaking and hands trembling. Just before I reached him, he yelled “NOW!”
I jumped.
We collided, and he staggered backwards into the painting. My right knee hurt where it hit the floor, but I was more worried about my rescuer.
I scrambled off of his firm, strong body (I would have to have been dead not to notice—ok, I would have noticed even if I were dead) and prayed he was alive. He looked up at me, sandy brown hair all messed up, hazel eyes worried. “Are you ok?” he asked.
“Yes, thanks to you.” I sighed with relief—and then it hit me. He's the guy I saw when I was falling asleep! Wait—I'm dreaming. How can I know that? I know I'm dreaming in a dream? That's never happened before! Cool! I wonder if I can fly.
I jumped up in the air (which wasn't easy, considering I was still wearing one shoe) and flapped my arms a little. Nothing happened. I didn't want to fling myself completely parallel to the ground to see if that would work. The twinging of my knee discouraged reckless experimentation.
Even dreaming, I was a wuss.
I sat back down and unbuckled the useless shoe from my foot, then chucked it over the edge of the block we were sitting on.
“That shoe looked great on you, but I don't blame you for sending it to shoe hell.” He smiled at me.
I melted.
He gingerly rolled over onto his side. “By the way, flying doesn't work. I tried it before you got here.”
Wow. I dreamed up a guy like this! I did a nice job. “You’re a great figment of my imagination,” I told him.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


I have a lot on my mind today, but not enough time to assemble it all into a coherent blog post, so that will have to wait for next week. Also coming up next week, the reveal of the five lucky winners who will be immortalized in my novel as rats. Well, their names, anyway. Hee, hee! They will get acknowledgements in my book as part of my "rat pack." Yep. 

I know hump day is difficult for a lot of people, so to help you get through the week, here's a moose:

You're welcome.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Book Recommendation: Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

After much thought and for several reasons, I have decided to no longer accept requests for book reviews. However, when I read a book I have to share with the world, I'll post a recommendation. 

When I saw Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures at the library in the new section a few weeks ago, I had to pick it up. When I flipped it over and saw the following on the back cover, I knew we had to read it aloud as a family: 

 "She stood at the window and watched as the squirrel was vacuumed up. Poof. Fwump. 'Holy bagumba!' said Flora."

Flora is Flora Belle Buckman, ten-year-old self-proclaimed cynic. She witnesses an accident involving the neighbor's powerful new vacuum and a squirrel. The squirrel manifests strange new powers after the incident. We also meet the neighbor's nephew, William Spiver, who afflicts us with a high-pitched voice and is afflicted with temporary blindness. Mary Ann is one of the villains in this story--despite her being a shepherdess lamp. 

Flora applies advice from the comic Terrible Things Can Happen to You! to the situations she finds herself in throughout the book. There are also chapters from the squirrel's point of view, and some comic strips here and there of the action. The story was absolutely charming! We laughed our way through the whole thing and got teary-eyed through parts. While Flora has a bit of a "my parents are dumb" mentality, truth be told, they rather were, and even if parents may not approve of her cynical attitude sometimes, her situation makes it entirely understandable. 

Warning: you and/or your children may run around the house speaking like William Spiver, referencing Terrible Things Can Happen to You, fantasizing about giant doughnuts, yelling "holy bagumba" and "holy unanticipated occurrences," and naming all the squirrels in your backyard Ulysses. 

I also just found out that this book is a 2014 Newbery award winner. So, if you're looking for a great middle grade book to read with your children, I highly recommend this one! Do you have a good read-aloud story to share? 

Front Cover

Friday, February 21, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: Personal Best

Flash Fiction Friday is a weekly roundup of quickly-written fiction, 1000 words or less. Our host is Suzanne Warr and her blog, Tales from the Raven. Go here to read all the entries! Flash Fiction Friday

Today's prompt: In honor of the Olympics, show someone overcoming a physical limitation or reaching a new personal best.  Extra points if you can sneak some Olympics references in there. 

                                                    Personal Best

                                               by Rebecca Blevins

I sat down on my bedroom carpet and reached and reached and reached. I'd been working toward this goal for months, several times every day. My hamstrings trembled with the strain.

My trainer, Lisa, had told me to be careful not to overdo. "If you push too far too fast, you'll hurt yourself, Bobby," she'd said, blonde ponytail bouncing as she cracked her gum. But what did she know? Pretty much everything, I guessed, yet she couldn't feel exactly just how much I wanted this. 

Okay, I told myself. I'm almost there. Just a bit more, a little more--oh, to be a kid again. A kid who didn't have all these aches and pains, a kid who could turn somersaults and do backbends with ease. When did I stop? Why did I stop? 

Oh, yeah, that's right. When I became a grownup, got a real job as an athletic shoe salesman, married my wife, had kids. When I thought that being an adult meant I had to squash that kid inside flat, so flat he couldn't breathe, and surrounded him with apathy so he couldn't get back out.

What was I thinking? Those people ice skating and skiing on the TV for the Olympics--they didn't lose sight of what they had. My little girl, Jenny, dresses up in her tutus and spins around the living room like she's Gracie Gold. I bet Gracie did the same thing when she was five, and look at her now! When I was a kid, I had dreams! Big ones! But they got swallowed up in the practical, the grownup version of me.

No more. I've decided that middle age should be renamed the enlightenment age. I spent so much time proving who I was that I forgot who I could be. So what if Joe's lawn looks better than mine? I don't care anymore. I'll get a boat and park over it instead and spend weekends sailing instead of pulling out dandelions. I've always kind of liked those yellow spots in the yard anyway.

A little more reaching, almost there . . . I took a deep breath, then as Lisa had taught me, let it out slowly and stretched my fingertips out toward the toes on my right foot. My back was straight--I would do this with proper form. My hamstring had just about reached its limit as I sat, bending over it. Just a fraction of an inch more--THERE! I barely touched my toes with the tips of my fingers, but I'd done it! Finally! 

Finally. Today, my toes. In a few weeks, my heels. 

I think I'll try that yoga class next Thursday. And maybe take Jenny ice skating this weekend.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Honesty: Always the Best Policy?

This post will be long and rather personal. If you do not like long and personal, feel free to click on the label "humor" and you will find some funny stuff. Normally, I prefer funny stuff.

I tend not to share a ton of my personal self with the world. Not the really deep things that I struggle with. This is partly just my personality, but also my choice. While I am true as to how I present myself online, there are things I keep back, intentionally. I hate it when people whine on social platforms, and I am not a whiner. However, I realize that sometimes holding everything back isn't a wise thing to do. There is strength in sharing struggle.

I've needed to write this post for a long time, but I didn't because I wondered how people would see me. I also worried whether I should share in case any potential literary agents or publishers look at my blog, but you know what? The few things that are most important to me include my writing, and I'm rearranging my life to fully incorporate that career move. I think that's something to be proud of and would be a plus to anyone in the industry. So, here goes.

I found out a couple of years ago that I have a grade three-nearly-a-four spondylolisthesis, or in other words, a slipped vertebrae in my back. I was quite the celebrity around the chiropractor's office for that one. They were amazed that I was able to move as well as I have. Apparently, my mobility is quite miraculous. (For reference, a grade five means the vertebrae has completely slipped off the spinal column.) My L5 vertebrae is longer than the other ones, and somehow it slipped forward and down. A bone hook grew up to support it. After many x-rays and an MRI it was discovered that the bone hook is naturally doing the same job spinal fusion would do, but giving me a little more mobility than I would have with surgery. I also have some abnormalities in the bones around, which, along with the double hernia I had repaired when I was a young infant, suggests that this spinal problem was set up to happen since birth. I found this x-ray example online. This will give you the general idea. Picture a bone hook surrounding the vertebrae, ensuring the vertebrae won't slip any further, and it's close to what mine looks like:


Because of this, I am always in some kind of discomfort if not outright pain. The arrangement of my spine means that if I jump around a lot or sit on hard surfaces for very long, it causes a chain reaction of pain from my hips to my neck that takes a few doses of ibuprofen and a good deal of rest to ease. Sunday, for example, I forgot my cushion to sit on the piano bench at church (I attempt to play for the little kids), and we had a prolonged singing time. I was in pain for two full days after that, until I got a massage to help release the muscles. I had to take ibuprofen to lessen the pain enough to be able to work out even mildly, and I try not to take it since ibuprofen sometimes hurts my stomach. No other medicine works for me, though. One little thing affects another. Right now, the biggest thing I can do to help myself in this area is physical therapy to strengthen my core to give stability to my muscles, which helps support the vertebrae. Deep tissue massages to help break up muscle knots from the way things pull abnormally, etc. I'm doing workouts such as the stability ball, which is easy on the joints; ballet workouts, which stretch and lengthen as they strengthen; yoga, Pilates, strength training, etc.

The other aspects of my health are something I won't go into detail about right now, but in order to feel better and not like I've constantly been hit by a truck, I desperately need to reduce stress in my life so my body won't be continually in fight-or-flight mode. That is something that was made extremely clear to me. So I've come up with some ways to decompress, some time to take care of myself. I need to take the time to prepare the food I need to prepare to help my body heal, the time to recover from the workouts that stress my body, but are needed to heal. I am not looking for advice or recommendations; I know what I need to do (both from experience, medical advice, and from my AFAA fitness certification which at least is good for something now) to feel a good deal better, but I need to back off of everything so I can do it.

In this world, taking care of yourself is considered a luxury by many.I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "I wish I  had time to exercise, or take care of myself." Sadly, many who say this do so with pride, as if they wear that sentiment as a badge. I am not immune to this feeling; part of me still is trying to convince myself that it's okay to say no, to slow down. But I have to, because my family needs me. Due to some incredibly stressful happenings in the last few years, I have realized that I need to cut out the unnecessary, to slow down, to focus on the important things. If' it's not important, out it goes. And by important, I mean that which contributes to healing my body so I can continue to teach and raise my family, write books, and tend to a very few other things. We are hoping to move this summer, so I also need to focus on getting my house ready. Undue stress is very much my enemy at this point, and I can no longer ignore that fact.

It's difficult listening to the spoken and perceived thoughts of other people, and I admit to thinking or saying these on occasion myself--"Well, others are doing a lot while they have health problems" or "she should do this to fix her problems," or "does she really have those problems in the first place," or "I do it despite XYZ, why can't she?" Those are incredibly difficult voices to tune out. I've been straining to do everything I'm asked to, not wanting to come across as having a hard time myself--but the time has come for me to admit that I have to back off. I have to focus on my own health, or I'll be useless to my family, as I was much of the time over the last years. 

This has been a very serious post, and I thank you if you read this far. I think my littlest boy summed it up for me nicely after a workout the other day: "Mommy, I'm so glad you exercised so you don't die." Seeing me in  pain and not feeling well overall has made my children afraid for me, and that is not okay. Not if I can fix the issues by taking the proper steps. I've reassured my little guy that I'll do my best not to die. In order to keep my promise, I need to take care of myself. I've ignored these issues for too many years, and I can't afford to do that any longer. In order to have the strength to take care of myself, I need to take it. No one is going to give that to me. This will be difficult, but I am not nor will ever be a quitter. It's not in my DNA.

On a happy note, I'm excited to share my other blog with you soon, where I share what workouts I'm doing. I also intend to keep up my AFAA certification, and I'll keep that updated as well. I'm hoping to get all of that released this weekend, but I need to finish up my first ten manuscript pages and query to send for that workshop. 

The last thing I will share with you is something I posted on Facebook recently. I've pondered this a lot, and I've really taken it to heart in my courage to share this post with the world. 

 Photo: Some days, you just need to remember this...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Taco Salad Nachos

A few nights ago, I made something I hadn't made in years. I was already thinking of posting it, and when my sweet sister-in-law asked about some family recipes, I figured I'd go ahead and share. It's incredibly easy, and the healthful factor depends on what kind of chips and toppings you use. If you use fat-free tortilla chips, I'd recommend baking the beans and cheese together as a dip, topping with your veggies, and scooping it up with the chips instead of baking the topping on them. 

Taco Salad Nachos

Bag tortilla chips, whatever kind you like (there's a whole grain kind that would be so good in this)
Refried beans (I use fat free since the chips have oil, I think baked chips would get soggy too quickly, but you totally could try it--or use the dip option I mentioned above.)
Shredded cheese, any kind. We use cheddar. Low fat or no cheese at all would work just fine.
Toppings. Onions, black olives, tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, diced cucumbers, green onions, Greek yogurt, sour cream, guacamole, diced avocado, cilantro, whatever floats your naval vessel. 

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly mist a large cookie sheet with cooking spray (make sure the pan has an edge). Spread chips on the cookie sheet, covering the bottom. Stir up the refried beans (if yours are thick you can thin them a bit with some water, then dollop the beans onto the chips. (I like to use lots of beans to make this healthier.) Sprinkle on your cheese of choice, if desired. Either add diced onions here to soften them slightly, or leave until the end or do both. Put the pan in the oven and keep an eye on it. It will probably be in there 5-10 minutes, depending on how much beans and cheese you use.

While the pan is in the oven, thinly slice the lettuce (we used romaine hearts here), chop tomatoes and cucumbers, whatever you want on top. You need to have this ready as soon as the pan comes out of the oven.

When the beans and cheese have come together in a lovely blend of melty goodness, take out the pan. Quickly put onions and olives on top, then diced tomatoes, cucumbers, then lettuce and green onions, if you want them. Serve with salsa, Greek yogurt, guacamole, sour cream, whatever you want. The contrast of the bubbly hot beans with the cool lettuce and veggies makes for a really tasty meal. Leftovers don't work out so well because the beans make the chips soggy after a bit, but I guess you could just call it Corn Tortilla Mash Topped With Tasty Stuff if you wanted. I really recommend eating it soon after assembling, though. I like to heap mine with veggies so I only get a few chips and lots of the healthy stuff. Much better than taco shells. I didn't have the other things, so this one just had lettuce and onions, but lots of them!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: Saving Catie

Flash Fiction Friday is a weekly roundup of quickly-written fiction, 1000 words or less. Our host is Suzanne Warr and her blog, Tales from the Raven. Go here to read all the entries! Flash Fiction Friday

Today's prompt: Oh, I don’t know…maybe this is a good day for platonic friendships?  No?  Well, let’s go with love, then, but give it a twist if you can!

Saving Catie

Catie lay by the pond. It was overcast, which was nice, because even though the seasons had begun changing the pond was tepid. It hadn't done much to cool us off as it had last year. There was a plus side to less swimming, though. Our romance had deepened through countless hours of conversation and not a little harmless flirting.

She didn't hear me approach. I couldn't help but stare at the curve of her dark neck, couldn't wait until she spoke to me again with her soft voice. I smiled, thrilled at my good luck that Catie had chosen me. There had been plenty of other better-looking dudes out there, but I wasn't about to analyze it too much--she was mine, and that was that. 

I took a breath to tell her I was there, in the hope of not startling her, when something burst through the trees and grabbed Catie! Before I could even make a sound, a huge man was dragging her into the woods.

No! Oh, no! My heart stopped for a second, then slammed into gear. My feet finally got the message as I chased after them through the trees and into a clearing. Catie's strangled cries slashed at my heart as I saw the man there, trying to hold my beloved down onto a stump. Light flashed off of the silver ax he held. 

With a wild screech, I flew at the man, beating him about the head with my wings. He dropped Catie, and she coughed and choked. "Fly, my love, fly!" I yelled. 

She stared up at me with her beautiful brown eyes, then grabbed a stick with her beak. Just as the man was about to catch me, Catie swung the stick around and jabbed him in the eye. The man fell back, clutching his face, and Catie and I sailed into the sky. 

We flew in silence for a bit, both of us more than a little shaken. "Well," I said, "I think next year we'll find someplace else to rest on our way south."

She nodded. "I agree, Jas. Trenton said this morning that he heard there's a resort a little way off our usual path, but that the humans there like to feed Canadian geese."

"Sounds good to me." My insides ached with how close I had come to losing the love of my life. I tried desperately to think of how I could show her how much she truly meant to me. Then I had an idea! When we rested again, I'd find a large leaf and fill it with the juiciest bugs I could find. With my plan firmly in mind, and a grateful smile in my heart, we flew on in companionable silence.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Got Any Grapes?

My thirteen-year-old, Professor, comes up with some deep, thought-provoking ideas and subjects of conversation. So, last night during dinner, he remarks, "There are some pretty big questions out there in the world." Of course I wonder what we're going to be discussing tonight, then he continues with his questions. "Are you a gummy bear?"

 "Got any grapes?" 

 "And, what does the fox say?" (If you haven't heard this one by now, you must be quite comfortable under your rock. May I join you?)

Did I also mention Professor makes us laugh a lot? He has the Studio C Bisque Guy impression down pat. If you haven't seen the sketch, here's the first one.

Some nights are good for discussing deep things. Other nights are great for singing silly songs about gummy bears, ducks at lemonade stands (I really love that one, actually), and wondering what the fox says. Yip.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Back in the Saddle Again

It's Monday, but after the weekend, I was ready to get back to the routine. I leave my computer in the basement on the weekend now, so all my internetting (like my new term?) is pretty much done on my phone.

I realized how much I enjoy my new little office setup in the basement, and I began missing it by the end of yesterday. It's a nice feeling. Instead of living for the weekend, I'm finding ways to organize my life so that I am making each day work better for me. I'm learning to manage things to handle stress better, which is something I've desperately needed.

In addition to setting aside time for writing each day, last week I added another thing back into my routine: fitness. Each day right after lunch, the kids are given independent work, and I go downstairs to work out. Then I check on the kids, wrap up school, shower, then go down to my office. I got three workouts in last week, but let me tell you, today--


But, because it was 1:00, that meant I had to, and I wasn't sick or injured enough to skip it. (I have a pulled intercostal muscle--rib muscle strain--but if I'm careful it's okay.) So I worked out anyway. Leg day. Jellyfish leg day. Meaning I took my expensive post-recovery drink because it really seems to cut my muscle soreness and recovery time in half.

Soon I'll be keeping record of some of my workouts and progress on another blog I reserved a long time ago, I'll be posting the link to that blog within another week or two, so if you're interested in what I'm up to, why I'm doing what I'm doing, and how I'm doing it, look for that reveal soon. I know some of you wonder why I'm not teaching classes at this point, and I'll talk about that and all fitness-related info there. 

I will leave you with one last thing for today. Hopefully it's not what I'll look like when I get out of bed tomorrow morning.

leg day | This is how I still feel… even if leg day was the day BEFORE ...

Friday, February 7, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: Trapped

Flash Fiction Friday is a weekly roundup of quickly-written fiction, 1000 words or less. Our host is Suzanne Warr and her blog, Tales from the Raven. Go here to read all the entries! Flash Fiction Friday

Today's prompt: Show someone fighting for their freedom.  BONUS if there are no visible constraints!


by Rebecca Blevins

"NO!" I shout at the vile wreck of a thing grinning at me--if what essentially looks like a trash heap can grin. A person can only take so much, and I have finally reached my breaking point. "I won't, I can't, I WON'T!"

It sits there, daring me, mocking me. Gravy from its last meal drips off  cold lips; half-chewed potato, soggy broccoli pokes between holes in the stench of crusty teeth. It holds my gaze as if Medusa herself holds me prisoner, the glinty-eyed and slimy-tongued monstrosity poised to snatch me up in its cold, Machiavellian grip, stuff me into its gaping maw, and with painful prods and pokes from sharp claws, drown me in the moldering heat of its belly. 

I can't look away. I'm trapped, doomed to suffer an interminable fate, one which gets more terrifying the longer I try to break free day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. Even after all this time, something inside me rebels, burns brightly. Then, the sound of softly-padded footsteps crack into my frozen terror.

"Mommy!" My tousled red-headed son plods into the kitchen wearing his fluffy dinosaur foot slippers, rubbing sleep from his eyes with pale fists. "What's for breakfast?"

Before I address my fate, I clear off the table, pick some bits of ham off my son's booster seat, wipe it with a washcloth, then watch him climb in because if I don't I'll hear, "I can do it myself!"

I bang around the cupboards before finding a small, plastic pumpkin tray left from Halloween, scatter some Toasty O's on it, and put the tray in front of my son. He shoves it away and cries, "I don't want cereal. I want pancakes!"

The monster grins, beckons, smiles with silver teeth. My carefully-built defenses shatter. I plug the sink, run the hot water faucet, and squirt in enough pomegranate-scented dish soap to float the weight of my defeat.  "I'll make some pancakes in a few minutes, honey. Mommy has to do the dishes first."

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

On Having it All

        Late at night, just as the children were finally going to bed, my eight-year-old daughter came up to me and said, "Mommy, can we spend some time together tomorrow? I haven't seen you very much." She tried not to let her lips tremble as she gazed up at me with sea-blue eyes. I told her yes, hugged her tightly, and sent her to bed.

I'd talked to the children about this, that Mommy felt very strongly she needed to do this writing contest thing, and that I'd be holed up typing a lot for a week or so. They were supportive, but I knew it would stretch them a bit because they were used to having me around almost constantly. I figured it would be a good experience.

After all, it would only be for a week or so. Not forever.

We made it work. After the more time-consuming school subjects in the morning were done, I headed downstairs to my corner of the office and pounded away on my laptop. The kids came in as needed, but only if it was important. Occasional hugs were classified as important. Now and then I read them part of what I was working on and basked in their smiles and giggles. Late one night my four-year-old son snuggled with me in my office chair for a bit, then curled up next to me in his beanbag and blanket and fell asleep to the sound of my typing, and my daughter sat with me another night. We were with each other a lot, even though I was more inaccessible than usual. 

The interesting thing is that the whole setup felt very comfortable. With a little tweaking (and set writing hours), I'll be able to keep on doing this--working on my writing career and teaching my children. Between that and what I need to do for my health (which is a whole other post, but vanity is very much the least of it), I will have precious little time for anything else at all, but I am all right with that. I've been feeling the push to write and to take care of myself for a while, but when you have the rest of your life screaming at you that your talent is just a hobby and you should sacrifice it for other things, then you don't always listen. However, when you receive spiritual nudging that begins to feel more like shoving, you'd be pretty dumb not to. 

I think this experience has helped the children learn that Mom needs to be respected more as an individual. That I have thoughts, feelings, dreams of my own. I talked to them about how being their mom is the most special thing I've chosen to do, but that I also have this deep desire to work on my author dream. They nodded their sweet heads and were very supportive. My daughter even hoped I'd continue on working on a story I'd started for her a couple of years ago. It's good for them to see me as not only Mom who cooks dinner and makes them clean their rooms, but Mom, a happy person with talents and a fuller life.

Here's where I could start out with saying, "if you are a mom," except this applies to everyone. Mothers notoriously neglect themselves, but they aren't the only ones. If you are a person, you need to take care of you. Otherwise you become an empty husk of a soul because you've neglected yourself until that husk is so dry it begins dissolving and floating away on the breeze.

I know. I've been there. 

After that exchange with my daughter, I tried thinking of what I could do to make her feel extra loved. Then, the other day, I was sitting on the couch, on the phone with my mom, when my very tired-looking, chilled daughter came into the living room. I motioned to her to get the BYU fleece blanket and come over to me. She snuggled with me, and I stroked her hair as I chatted with my mom.

After about twenty minutes, she had fallen asleep. My chest filled with warmth. I remembered being young and listening to the soothing sound of my mother's voice as she talked on the phone once in a while. I remembered feeling loved and taken care of just because she was there. The lesson was very well-driven home to me as I snuggled with my sleeping daughter and listened to my own mother's soothing voice.

So, there is, indeed, room for both things. It is a difficult thing for me to stand up and claim a block of time for my own dream every day, but it is necessary. The time I spend with my family will be a lot better overall if I don't neglect what I need to do, and I will be a lot more present for them the rest of the time.

Last month I read a book that made me realize I had not only been shortchanging myself by putting my talents dead last, but shortchanging God. If you are a person with a dream--no matter what that dream is--you need to read Drawing Out the Dragons by James A. Owen. I don't read many inspirational books, but this one was absolutely life-changing. As in there was the me before reading the book, and the me afterward. 

So, there you have my deep thoughts for today. It's difficult to change, difficult to make hard choices to change your own life, but those changes are critical. 

Make a hard choice today. (And read that book.)

Monday, February 3, 2014

I Write Trees

Today is the due date for the first chapter contest. I have been editing over and over and over, and when I get so sick of looking at my stories and decide that they're a mash of paper, not unlike spitwads, I throw things. 

Just kidding. 

What really happens, is instead of doing laundry or dishes or anything else I should be doing between typing bleary-eyed on my computer (except helping kids with school because that's a have to as well as a constant thing into the afternoons), I wax poetic. So, here you go. I'm not promising this piece is any good, but when I'm in this mood poetry becomes more about expressing as quickly as my fingers can allow than it is about iambic pentameter.

(How many of you just Googled iambic pentameter or planned to when this post is over? Confession: I had to. I didn't remember if I'd used or spelled the phrase correctly.)

So, um, poetry. So if you hate this, then print it out, chew it up, and spit it at a target. I may be doing the same thing with a couple of chapters.

i write trees

the seed of an idea drops on fertile soil takes root and grows, inky tendrils weave in and around the page sucking up white space into a sapling reaching for the heavens and becomes an explosion of ideas and leaves of passion and excitement.

at the peak of  frost leaves drift away, pages hibernate for the winter, stark bare bones remain every bump and knot silhouetted against blue-gray sky as sap drains leaving empty twigs, words rest blanketed in ice cold sticky silence.

scrivener sings and wakes sleepy sap which thaws, creeps as thick honey to each warming branch, buds of ideas poke out phrases and carve their way through pointed pen tips, showing in careful caution, adorning dark bark with the beginnings of setting, character, and shade.

then comes pruning, then come blossoms

then comes fruit. slightly speckled with relief, sweet-tart, and subtle hints of bitter tears.

a book is grown.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

I'm Traveling . . .

I'm traveling! Well, at least my words are. I'm a guest blogger today on Authors' Think Tank. Come visit! What's Voice Got to Do with It

Friday, January 31, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: Shay's Backward Day

 Flash Fiction Friday is a weekly roundup of quickly-written fiction, 1000 words or less. Our host is Suzanne Warr and her blog, Tales from the Raven. Go here to read all the entries! Flash Fiction Friday

Today's prompt: National Backward Day–show someone who feels backwards or like they’ve got it all wrong.  BONUS if they’re the only one who sees the problem!

(Unfortunately, Shay is not the only one who sees her problem. And sorry, Mom, this one called for the "B"word. Those who read my post about that last week will understand what I mean.)

Shay's Backward Day

by Rebecca Blevins

I pounded off the alarm and accidentally fell back to sleep. Once I finally opened my bleary eyes, the red numbers of the clock stared at me evilly. New clock, new apartment, new city--I still wasn't used to any of it. 

Thanks to mistaking the "off" button for the "snooze" I had only five minutes to get ready for work. I threw on the first clean thing I found--a loose knit dress--slipped on sandals while praising my new job for Casual Friday, and ran out the door. 

The seat in the car felt kind of weird, like it had lost a lot of cushion. "It's probably time for a new one anyway," I muttered. I'd said that each year for the last three, but my old Civic kept barely holding together. My rump was so bony that I noticed as soon as anything lost a bit of softness, so likely the cushion had settled even more. Weirdly, my stomach seemed a little larger than normal, but that wasn't out of character. After all, I had eaten quite a bit of Chinese last night, and salty food does that to me. Still, my middle felt . . . strange. I poked my stomach, and it wasn't soft and squishy like when I'm bloated, but kind of hard, with a couple of weird bumps. I got this nervous, anxious, fluttering feeling, but the car behind me honked. I looked up and the light was green. 

I swung into the parking space and hurried into the office, holding my tiny purse in front of me. The bathroom was just inside the large sales room everyone sat in, sectioned off in short cubicles. As soon as I reached the room, everyone looked up. As if they were part of a single, ginormous organism, their gazes dropped to my belly. A couple of the guys laughed; a few of the women seemed concerned. I turned and fled into the bathroom and locked the door.

 Breathe, just breathe!  

My heart pounded, and after I set my purse down, I felt my stomach again. Yep, two weird, roundish lumps. I went over to the mirror, and I looked several months pregnant. I had always been skin and bones, so any bit of swelling was noticeable. But I wasn't in a relationship, hadn't been to any clubs where someone could have spiked anything, had no memory loss--what the heck was going on?

Someone knocked on the door. Oh, not now. Please. A voice came through the thin wood. "Shay, it's Jennifer. Are you all right? I didn't know you were pregnant." 

"I'm not!" I blurted. "Uh--I'll be okay. Give me a minute." Jennifer worked in the cubicle next to me. Unlike me, she was fashionable, smart, spoke with a British accent, and was quickly becoming a good friend--my only friend. I'd started here just three weeks ago, and I couldn't afford to become the laughingstock of the company. I'd already done that at my last job. Maybe some alien had abducted me? I'd been having strange dreams ever since I'd been working here.


I couldn't put off knowing what was happening forever. I stood in front of the mirror and lifted up my dress. 

My stomach looked terrible! Instead of being smooth and flat, it was in two rounded lumps with a huge split down the middle. Curiously, it looked familiar. I tilted my head, trying to wrap my brain around what I was seeing. Where have I seen that before? After a few moments it dawned on me, and I gasped in horror. It was a butt! I felt the bony points--my butt! 

I spun and checked where my rear used to be, and found that somehow my front was my back and my back my front. 

Jennifer pounded on the door. "Shay! Please let me in! I can help!" 

I hadn't a soul in the world to turn to. Not who wouldn't make great fun at my expense, anyway. The doorman in my apartment building enjoyed ribbing me a little too much. I sighed and let her in. "Jennifer, you'd better steel yourself. You're not going to believe this--"

She interrupted me. "Let me guess. Your bum is on backwards."

I was floored. "How did you know? Why didn't you tell me?"

She put a hand on her slim, green chino-covered hip and studied me through blond bangs. "You've been drinking those free bottled drinks in the break room I told you to stay away from, right?"

I nodded sheepishly. 

"I tried to give you a hint. If I'd said anything more you would've thought I was nutso." She shook her head. "The guy you replaced didn't stay away from them either. He couldn't handle working here after his incident." 

This wasn't making any sense. "How is that legal?"

"This company is full of whackadoos. When you signed your new hire papers, you took personal responsibility for anything you ingest. It's buried in lots of legal jargon. You probably didn't read that closely, did you?"

I shook my head. "No. I feel like an idiot."

She smiled, her even white teeth the perfect candidate for a toothpaste commercial. "Don't. Hardly anyone reads the fine print. When you sign on you're basically agreeing to be experimented on, but of your own free will. The higher-ups like to try out their products on unsuspecting employees, but it's all voluntary. You get big bonuses if you act as their guinea pigs. Heck, when I started, I ate a granola bar and had blue hair for a month. But don't worry. The guy before you had his bum back where it belonged in two weeks, so yours should follow suit. 

"The longest anyone had a change was when Edwina sprouted chicken feathers that didn't go away. She went through several molts before she disappeared without saying a word. Rumor is she lives in Hawaii with a huge retirement pension. Everything has been highly tested before it comes to us to minimize symptoms, but no one takes anything knowingly unless they are desperate."

"Seriously?" I stared at her.
"Seriously." She leaned against the door. " They brought the drinks in a few months ago. I'm curious--what do they taste like?"

I thought a moment. "Kind of like cherry Kool Aid. Pretty good."

Jennifer chuckled. "I guess you shouldn't drink the Kool Aid, then. She handed me a long sweater. "Here. I keep this on hand for emergencies. And a hat, and a scarf, and yoga pants, and after last October's fruit snacks, a pair of knitting needles . . ."

I raised my eyebrows. 

"Don't ask."

I wrapped the sweater around me. It concealed my belly--bottom--pretty well. "So . . . this should be switched back in two weeks?"

"Should be." She sighed. "I guess we'll have to cancel going clubbing tomorrow night."

"Unfortunately, yeah." I felt so awful. I had been so close to making a real friend in this new city. 

"So," Jennifer said, "You like chick flicks?"

As much as I wanted someone to hang out with, I had to be honest. "Not much. I'm more of a Vin Diesel kind of girl."

"No way! Me, too!" she exclaimed. "Tell you what--I'll bring some Thai food and ice cream if you have movies, and we'll party in your apartment instead."

I couldn't believe my luck! "Sounds great!" 

Having to walk around bum backwards for a couple of weeks would be awkward, but at least I had someone to groan about it with. Things were definitely looking up.