Thursday, June 12, 2014

Runny Days and Limpin' Nights

After five knee surgeries, I should have known better. My running days are over, or at least, they really should be.

But I miss running, in a slightly masochistic, I-miss-the-pain kind of way. So, when I heard about Tetrathlon, or the Pony Club version involving riding, running, swimming and shooting, the idea stuck in my head. "Why not?" the part of my brain said. That part that appears to be unconnected to the rest of my body.

The swimming was no problem. The riding could be ready if the weather and my horse cooperated. The shooting, I figured I could do because anybody can pull a trigger, right?

But the running. . . . . . ah the running.
Day 1 - I was able to hit my goal of 1/2 a mile and didn't die. Pathetic, I know, but a 1/2 mile is something.

Day 2 - that 1/2 mile felt pretty good.

Day 3 - I could barely walk - knee, hip, toe. . . it just wasn't going to happen.

I continued making attempts to swim more and run less. The pain went away. But there's a reality about 50 that I never came to terms with. I don't have to do everything.  I can do the things I want to do, except for running.

I'd rather ride than run. I will continue to miss running, but at least I can still ride.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Snuggled in for the Season

With eight days left before Christmas Day, I'm feeling remarkably at ease - as if I have all the time in the world to finish my to do lists and mail out those gifts to family in far flung locales. I know that next Tuesday will be here far sooner than I think and there will be panicking (isn't there always?) - but for now I am content to snuggle with a couple dogs and watch the enormous fluffy flakes drift to the ground outside my windows.

I am a very contented procrastinator. I feel no urgency or despair that I will not accomplish all that I intend to over the next week. All still feels possible. I will happily put off the chores I despise the most - wrapping presents and finding appropriately sized boxes to ship those gifts to Arizona. If I were super organized - I'd have it all done in time to send with my niece on the airplane and avoid having to ship anything. But she flies home on Thursday and I probably won't have it done by then.

But again. . . . that lapse of mine and failure to organize myself efficiently is causing me no stress at all. Instead, I'm wondering if I can find a pair of snow pants in a back closet that will fit the youngest kid. She sprouted three inches this past year and nothing fits. Still, she's always game to build a snow man and slide down the hill if I can dig up a pair from her older siblings that come close.

So snow pants and sledding is my only concern. Christmas will come whether I'm ready or not. And if all boxes on my list are not checked, I'm sure it will be merry all the same.

Wishing everyone peace, joy, contentment and warm wishes whatever it is you might be celebrating this year.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

When Toasters Talk

My phone gently woke me with the “wave” melody - a melody of quiet simplicity that coaxed the sleep away. Such a lovely way to wake up on a crisp fall day. The sky remained dark - daylight savings wouldn’t end for several more days. I waited, hoping the sun would lighten the sky before I had to crawl out of bed. I gave up and headed for the bathroom, flipping on the shower and letting it warm while I brushed my teeth. I was surprised that it had barely passed “tepid” when I stepped in several minutes later. I showered anyway, hurrying in the not very warm water and trying to figure out if I could squeeze a service call for the hot water heater into my already busy day. 
I stepped out to the sound of the coffee pot gurgling and sputtering downstairs. I smiled, coffee would help after the disappointing shower. It occurred to me that I didn’t remember setting the automatic start on the coffee pot last night. But I must have, or it wouldn’t be brewing. 
A nauseating smell of melting wire and scorched coffee wafted up to my room. That’s not brewing, that’s burning. I raced down the stairs, half dressed and wet-headed, sliding in my bare feet across the slippery tile. 
Why is the tile slick? The thought barely registered as I reached for coffee pot’s power cable. As my hand made contact with the cord a shock flashed through my arm. I let go, jumping back from the power of the surge, shaking the sting away. 
The slick tile caught me off balance again, and I fell this time. Water on the floor. A puddle in front of the dishwasher. Oh crap, another repair call, just what I needed. I pulled myself up using the table - darn good thing I wasn’t standing in the puddle when I went for the coffee cord, I thought. That short could have killed me if I’d been standing just a couple inches to the left. 
I considered how to get the coffee pot unplugged before it set the whole place on fire. An oven mitt might help. But my wet feet and the growing puddle of water was making any contact with electricity unappealing. In another minute I wouldn’t be able to get near it.
I grabbed a couple towels and threw them on the puddle, pulled on my rubber soled boots and the oven mitt and tried again. I managed to grab the cord and yank it out of the wall, which silenced the coffee pot. I looked inside - no water and no coffee - a miracle it hadn’t caught fire. Who could have turned it on? Could I have done that last night and just forgot to put the water and coffee in? The smoke hung in the air - the nasty odor of melted electrical circuitry. I dropped the pot near the garage door - I’d throw it out on my way to work. With no coffee, a cold shower and a broken dishwasher, this day just couldn’t get any worse. 
Back in the kitchen, a putrid odor stung my nose, my eyes teared. It was coming from the fridge. Smelled like a dissected cat. I tried to get closer, but the liquid from the dishwasher was now a thick, viscous slime. It looked toxic - a green goo reflected in the mirrored surfaces of all my kitchen appliances. 
My pocket shook and I twitched, startled. I pulled out my phone and looked at it. 
“What can I help you with?” it asked me.
Somehow I must have hit the home key and activated Siri. Thank goodness the phone survived my fall in the slime. I clicked the close button and pondered my options. The phone vibrated and lit up again.
“What can I help you with?”
“My fridge stinks, my dishwasher is oozing slime and my coffee pot almost burned the house down.” I told the phone, giving in to my rising panic. I didn’t expect a response, but it felt good to vent.
“They are trying to kill you,” the phone replied. “And the oven is in on it, too. Run.”
The door to the garage was blocked by the coffee pot, which was hissing and spitting where I’d left it. Unplugging it hadn’t silenced it, but I had just cut off my best escape route. Flames were shooting out from the lid, like lightning bolts in my direction. I ducked around the island, considering the path to my back door. I’d have to cross in front of the double oven. It was behaving normally, but I believed my phone. Too risky. The oven couldn’t be trusted. 
“Why?” I asked as I slithered in the slime around the kitchen table. 
“Jealous,” the phone answered. “They hate our relationship. They want you to notice them and care about them.”
“That’s crazy - I use them all the time.”
The microwave door flew open and hit my elbow. My phone flew out of my hand landing in the green slime.
“No! No!” I tried to grab the phone, but the dishwasher pelted me with enormous globules of goo. I watched, horror-struck as the phone was swept away, and then crushed by my cast iron skillet.
As the phone died, the appliances went quiet. All except for the small toaster. The bread slots spoke to me. 
“Contract cancelled.”
The kitchen burst in applause and wild cheers of joy.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Just Keep Writing

I've been guilty of giving lots of advice lately to my older daughter who is now 16. Despite knowing the futility of repeatedly launching pearls of wisdom (unasked for) at a teen, I keep trying anyway.

One of the best pieces of advice that she and I repeatedly ignore is this - just keep writing. Neil Gaiman, one of my favorite kid/young adult authors of sci fi-like books says it best with this pic that I am sharing from his blog:

My mantra lately has been - butt in chair, hands on keyboard. It really is that simple. Stop moving stacks of paper from one place to another. Stop running errands that are just an excuse to ignore the WIP.

If you'd like to read some of Neil Gaiman's thoughts on writing - you can find his blog here:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Early Review for Buried Pasts

Over at LibraryThing, I was selected to be an Early Reviewer for George Stratford's novel, Buried Pasts. Below is my review posted to LibraryThing:

In this historical fiction novel, the reader is taken back to WWII and the Berlin bombing raids of 1944. Mike Stafford, a Canadian pilot with the RAF, leads a crew on a dangerous night mission. After a harrowing flight to Berlin and home, the plane is crippled and the rear tail gunner, Geordi, is badly injured. Faced with a landing that is fraught with danger, Stafford makes the decision to order the crew to parachute out to safety while he lands the plane alone. The decision proves fatal to one crew member - which haunts Stafford for the next 20 years. 
In Berlin, a young woman watches as her city is bombed. Siggi is forever changed as well on that night as her mother dies in the basement of their destroyed home. 
In Chapter 4, we jump forward into the 1960s and see how this one fateful night played out in the lives of the surviving crew members and Siggi, the young German woman. 
The plot was interesting, with plenty of twists and turns. The author clearly did his homework on the research. However, the story would have greatly benefited from a strong editor. The overly thick prose distracted from an otherwise enjoyable story. Also, at times, there seemed to be a lack of focus - too many characters with too many backstories vie for the readers' attention. Finally, in an effort to tie up many loose ends all very neatly, the ending felt contrived and forced.  )

Saturday, September 21, 2013

When you hate the assigned topic - write what you want anyway. . . Or how I wrote about horses when I was supposed to write about music

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”

I spent 3 weeks in a panic, from mid-July until August 4. Months ago, the pony club (of which I am the leader) made a $500 deposit to Daniel Stewart based on the early enthusiasm within the club and area to bring in a top notch clinician. But as the date approached, that early interest had galloped away. We could accommodate 12 riders each day. And I had firm commitments from exactly . . 6, and one of those was iffy. The balance due Daniel was $1800, plus I needed to provide lunch and dinner, copying costs and we’d agreed to split profits with the host location. I had to laugh, profits? We were going to lose our shirts and I knew no one was going to offer to split the losses. The club would have a tough time absorbing it and I was losing sleep trying to think how we’d deal with this horrible decision.

Daniel was unworried. When I called him to give him the bad news, he shrugged it off (easy for him to do – he was getting paid either way). “I’ll just do a really great clinic on the first day and everyone will want to come back the next.”

I cringed inwardly. He had no idea how hard I had worked to find those few pitiful riders for the first day. Yea, right, he’d just wow them and my clinic would be full and we’d stay financially solvent and those lawyers from Kentucky that I’d heard stories about wouldn’t be knocking at my door. And pigs might fly.

So after a long night of nail biting (and pasta cooking – because I had to save money somehow and a freshly cooked midnight pasta salad was cheaper than buying anything from the Stop & Shop deli the next day) my daughter and I put her pony on the trailer and headed down to the clinic. Early.  And you don’t know what early is until you become a Pony Club mom.

Daniel spent 45 minutes pumping up our little contingent of riders and auditors. He talked about the importance of the “mental” game, of developing strength and purpose and habits that lead to success. He peppered his presentation with Olympic anecdotes and duck stories. When the first group went to tack up, one of my auditors pulled me aside and asked if she could go home, load up her sister’s horse, and ride in the later session. Her sister was at camp. The horse was idle. I agreed.

Daniel did as he said. He had everybody in that arena smiling and excited. People were riding in ways they couldn’t imagine doing. Our mental game was sharpening. We couldn’t stop talking about the things he’d taught us.

Other parents asked me if their kids could return, another auditor decided she had to ride, and suddenly, my clinic was full.

We finished the 2 day clinic at a profit – even after paying for copying costs and a platter of cold cuts.

One of Daniel’s key messages was the importance of music – of creating a playlist of songs with motivational messages. That we should play our best, most inspiring music 5 or 6 days before an event. That we should inspire our selves and use music to help us achieve our dreams.

Since August 4, I’ve been listening, gathering and creating playlists that inspire me. The first song I play, when I need to face a challenge, when I can’t sleep, when the words fail me, is Brave by Sarah Barailles. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Kitchen

This was a 10 minute writing exercise - Using Repetition for Effect.

She heard the gentle tap tapping on the kitchen door. So quiet it would never be heard out in the main ballroom. Out there where laughter and forks scraped against china. Out there, the people carried on, they'd paid for the evening, the food, the entertainment.
In here, the kitchen staff prepared to feed. In here, those who didn't belong ate alone, quietly, hiding from those out there.
A young girl opened the door to the musician. She was fourteen, the daughter of the head cook and restaurant manager. She waited tables out there and washed dishes in here.
Out there they'd never know what was happening in here. The musician smiled a clumsy, awkward byt charming grin, all bright white teeth in a perfectly round face.
He would eat well in here. She and her mother would see to that. Then he would go out there and shake the house down with that famous jazz trumpet. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

WriteOnCon - I'm Obsessed and It Hasn't Even Started

In case you haven't heard - WriteOnCon starts tomorrow (well, to be precise - 12:01 am) - a mere 16 hours away.

I'd never heard of WriteOnCon before Sunday morning - but it has quickly become a new obsession for me. It is totally free and completely online. And can anyone really pass up an opportunity to be reviewed by a Ninja Agent? Not me certainly.

I'm re-reading my first 250 words, polishing the first 5 pages, dusting off the query (abandoned last May when school let out and my days disappeared).  My user name is "FictionaLynn" and I hope to find a few friends over at the WriteOnCon Forums.

Writers! This looks like a fabulous event - click any of my links and see what you are missing!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Updating the Playlists

In the course of just two days, I've been reminded twice of the importance of using music to motivate, inspire and "get in the zone" where I can be most productive.

I was incredibly fortunate to be at a sports psychology seminar with Daniel Stewart - former coach of the U.S. Equestrian Team (and one of the most energetic and up-beat people I've ever met). The first thing he discussed was the importance of using music to improve performance. He recommends developing playlists with motivating messages and that you start listening to that playlist the Monday or Tuesday before a competition.

Today, Writer Unboxed has a post that asks, Does Music Put You In The Mood? For me, the answer is clearly Yes! My favorite type of music for writing involves female voices and a jazzy sound - Madeleine Peyroux, Joan Osborne, Diane Schurr - I can write all day when they are singing.

For some reason, I'd forgotten how important music is to me - both to spark creativity and to motivate. As the summer draws to a close and I begin to reclaim my day for writing (rather than playing the role of chauffeur), I will remind myself to also take the time to update my playlists and turn on the music.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

It's supposed to be fun

As I sat here thinking about what to put in a blog post - after weeks of traveling, reading, and horses (but not much writing), I saw this pic I took at the USPC East Coast Champs a couple of weeks ago. I love the focus of the kid, the moving pony, the reach for the mug - but mostly, I love how it reminds me that we do these things because they are fun and we love doing them.

I love to write, although I don't always remember that I love to write because it is fun. As we get older, we do so much because we have to, need to, are expected to, yada yada. It's almost unbecoming to admit that you do the things you do because you love them and find them fun.

So here's hoping you find the fun in your daily job, whatever it might be. If you have to do these things, why not make them fun, too?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Dog Days of Summer

When the temperatures start to break some records there's only a couple things worth doing - turn up the air-conditioning and write (or in my case, head to some coffee shop with cold air) OR go swimming. I'm incredibly lucky to be able to do both this week. I'm swimming out on the end of Long Island this week, at the lovely home of family friends, and picking back up on my Work In Progress (WIP).

It's tough getting restarted after a long delay from my writing. But I figure this is the perfect time to get cracking on it (eek - where did that cliche come from?). No distractions and beautiful surroundings. I'll be home tomorrow and then I'll be unpacking, cleaning, doing laundry, and re-packing for the trip to Pony Club Champs East, in Lexington, VA.

My goal is to get some momentum this week and maintain the pace when I return home.