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.