Archive | 2013

Ruthless Me

I had a nightmare the other night that I had shaved my head. It wasn’t the baldness that upset me so much, in fact, in the dream it felt like a great burden had been lifted.

The thing that bothered me was that I botched the job. I missed whole sections. Weird bits of hair were sticking out, some of it was really long and it kept falling in my face as the dream continued on.

It was an oddly upsetting dream.

The more I thought about it, the more I came to understand it as a metaphor for my botched attempts to simplify my life. I keep saying I need to do it, and then I keep taking on new projects.

So I’ve decided to get a little ruthless. I’m cutting, delegating, and even (gasp) asking for help. However, there are a few things that cannot go. I will not give up my fiction (5am to 6:30am is ME time). I can’t quit my job. And my family is just effing awesome, so they get to stay. With all those things accounted for, I have an hour or two left each week.

Historically, that time has gone to social media and my blog, but as it turns out, there are other things that also need to get done. Grocery shopping, folding laundry, packing lunches. My guy and I have a pretty fair split of the chores, but there’s a lot to be done, and I’m just feeling completely worn out.

So the blog is getting the boot, at least temporarily. The dream is to some day have time to do it all, but until that time comes I have to prioritize. So please head on over to my Facebook page and “Like” it. I post a weekly nerd word and the occasional, writer related snippet, and when the time comes to get the blog up and running again, my Facebook friends will be the first to know.

I really appreciate all the support I get from my blog readers. Thank you so much.

Until we meet again…

Love, April

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Writing Through the Holidays

Every year the holidays seem to come faster. That is, the days zip past a little quicker, and it’s harder to find time for all the important things like building gingerbread houses, visiting Santa, and yes, continuing to work on the novel. The whole getting-up-at-5am thing is also a little harder, as I tend to drink more. For instance, we had our company holiday party last night. It was fun, and I overslept this morning.

I’m still managing to get up about 4 mornings a week, so I’m still drafting about 2,000 words a week. It’s progress, but it’s slow. I’m really looking forward to January when things calm down a bit. I’ve also set aside the first weekend on January to do another of my own little personal writing retreats. I’m booking a cheap hotel room for Friday and Saturday nights out in the desert. The last time I did this I was able to finish a draft, and since I’m pretty close to finishing the draft I’m working on now, I’m hoping I can use the time to do it again.

I am also saving up my days off just on the off chance that I am accepted to the Hedgebrook Residency program for 2014. We’re supposed to find out before the end of this month. If I’m going I will need two weeks vacation time. I only get the 25th off, and Christmas falls on a damn Wednesday, so it doesn’t feel like much of a holiday, but I don’t want to take any days off, because I might need them. I’m a little conflicted about it. I hope we find out soon – if I’m not going, I likely will take the 24th off, as I would really like to spend it with my kiddos.

Anyhow – that’s the haps. I’ll let you know as soon as I hear from Hedgebrook.

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We Now Return To Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

It took me most of last week to recover from the fabulous ordeal of the Tough Mudder. I thought I was fine on Monday, but the tired just clung to me like a toddler that doesn’t want to take a bath. On Saturday night I bailed on Daniel (we had plans to go hear some music) and fell asleep at 8:30.

Of course, as soon as I started feeling well rested our girl got the stomach flu, so we were up all night holding her hair back, then Daniel got it too. Then we got a flat tire. Then the battery died on the other car. And all that seemed suddenly like small potatoes against the fact that my mother-in-law went in for emergency surgery tonight when her appendix threatened to burst and kill her. Sweet Jesus what will tomorrow bring?

I’m happy, no thrilled, to report that we just got the word that my mother-in-law is now out of surgery and is doing fine.

And as there is currently nobody vomiting in our house, I say things are looking up.

As for the writing, I am back at it, every morning, sticking to my 500 words per day. I’m still optimistic that I can finish the draft by the end of the year, and I’m very excited to say that a recent discovery has changed the entire up-at-5-am thing: my coffee machine has an automatic timer. Hazaaa! These mornings, when I stumble up the stairs, the coffee is already brewed. It is hot, and fresh, and so perfect that the thought of it actually helps motivate me out of bed.

Hey, in times like these you take pleasure in the little things.

Here’s hoping tomorrow is a better day. I know, at the very least, there will be coffee in the morning.

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Who’s A Tough Mudder?

I am – Oorah!

We did it. Alex and I ran (and walked) the whole damn thing and finished every obstacle. In terms of painful but gratifying things I’ve done in my life it ranks third after giving birth to my two kick-ass kiddos. Here’s our before and after shots. When Daniel saw that bottom one on the right he said: “I’ve never seen you look that out of it… while sober.”

Tough Mudder

It took us about 4 hours, which I’m pretty happy about, as I’ve never run 10 miles in my life. Of course, we didn’t run the whole thing because the course went up and down hills (and I do mean straight up and straight down), but we ran a lot of it.

There were some things that were as I thought they would be: the Arctic Enema was awful – full stop, running on the trails was tricky – people were dropping like flies from twisted ankles and horrific cramps, walking the plank was really fun, and trudging through a quarter mile of knee-deep mud at mile 9 was murder on already exhausted muscles.

Then there were the things I did not expect.

1. The first thing that surprised me was how well run the whole Tough Mudder event was. They had water stations every two miles (with snacks like bananas or cliff bars, which totally kept me going), and life guards at any obstacle with water. The lines at the obstacles were generally pretty short and moved quickly, and at the end, after you run through the live wires, they force water on you – over and over, as you stumble toward your free beer.

2. That leads me to that last obstacle – the Electroshock Therapy. This is their signature obstacle, and I wasn’t fool enough to think it would be easy, but it was fucking terrible. It might not have been so bad, except my shoe got caught in the mud and I fell hard, catching a live wire in my left ear as I went down. I don’t know how much voltage I took to the side of my head, but it hurt enough that for a few seconds there all I could do was press myself into the muck and think “just stay down.” I laid there, hoping nobody would fall on top of me, caught my breath, then very carefully stood up between the wires. I found my footing and charged through to the end – only another 30 feet really, and I think I took another hit of electricity, or two, to my legs, but I made it. They put that orange head band on me but I couldn’t stop walking. I think maybe I was in shock. They forced a few cups of water into my hands. I drank them, and asked Alex to make sure my head wasn’t bleeding. My ear was numb, but my whole head hurt so much I couldn’t tell if I was injured or not. It was the only time in the whole race that I fought tears. If it hadn’t been the last obstacle I might have been able to run it off and not think about it, but then again, if it hadn’t been the last obstacle, I might have quit and not finished. I pushed forward to find my beer.

3. Given the advertising of the event, I had been a little intimidated by all the testosterone, but I am very happy to report that there are actually lots of women who ran with us. I would guess 40%. And there was a wide age range too, I would peg the average around 35. And I only saw one or two folks go around an obstacle over the course of the entire race. People were in it for the challenge, which was cool.

4. The electric eel wasn’t so bad, but the monkey bars kicked my ass (I fell off after the third rung- it was greased I swear – and had to swim the rest of the way). Also, I thought the cage crawl would be easy, since I am totally comfortable in the water, but once I dunked and came up under the chain link I had to seriously fight back a panic response that came out of nowhere. All I could do was focus on moving my breath in and out while I climbed ahead. Way freakier than I expected.

5. It was a ton of fun. I mean, I wouldn’t have signed up for it if I didn’t think it would be at least kind of fun, but I think it was the challenge that attracted me. Now that I know how much fun it is, I will totally go back (though until my head stops hurting I reserve the right to go around the final obstacle – yes, my head still hurts 30 hours later).

So that’s that. If you’re thinking of doing one yourself, here’s what I learned:

1. Train on hills. Seriously. I was running five miles easy leading up to the event, but the hills killed me.

2. Start hydrating two days before.

3. Cotton socks are death around mile 8, they bunch up and just hold mud in clumps. Also, I wish I had worn some trail running shoes.

4. You will need help. Don’t be afraid to ask, it’s part of the fun. Be sure to return the favor when you can.

5. Don’t worry about carrying water. The hydration stands are well stocked.

Alex is already pushing to do another in February. I’m waiting for my head to stop hurting before I commit to a date. I’m thinking maybe a half marathon is next… I mean really, it’s only three more miles, and there’s no electricity involved. How hard could it be?

I’m giving myself one more day to sleep in and recoup, then it’s back to my regular schedule of getting up early to write. It’s been quite an adventure.

Ohhrah!

 

 

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Tough Mudder Tomorrow!

I gave myself a few mornings off this week. I’ve been training really hard for this race I’m doing tomorrow, and decided that I needed the extra rest to be at the top of my game.

In case you haven’t heard me yammer on about this race yet, let me tell you a little about it. It’s a 10-mile obstacle course with the tag line “quite possibly the toughest event on the planet.” Now, I have no frame of reference for the validity of that claim, but I do know there will be 12 different obstacles, some of which involve electricity, fire, dumpsters filled with ice water and barbed wire. I’ve been training for a long time.

My partner for the race (who also happens to be in my writing group – see how I always bring it back to the writing?) is my friend Alex. She and I just checked into our hotel. It’s a Ramada, so you know it’s pretty nice. It’s 11pm, and way past my bed time, but I’m too excited (nervous?) to sleep yet.

Our start time is 11am. 12 hours to go – yikes. We’re hoping to finish by 4, and I honestly don’t know if that’s optimistic or if we’ll finish way before that.

Daniel and my mom are meeting us back at the hotel with the kids. We decided it wasn’t worth the entrance fee to have to chase them through a crowd of adrenaline junkies. As much as I would have loved to have them at the finish line, I’ll settle for beer and a burger in beautiful downtown Temecula.

So wish me luck.
I’ll post some pictures as soon as I’m able.

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Pages Are Flying

I’ve hit a groove with my early morning writing. My alarm goes off at 5am, it takes me about 10 minutes to get upstairs and make coffee (I move really slowly that early in the morning), and then I write one full page in my journal, which takes about 15 minutes, and then I write for an hour. At 6:30 I head down to get the kids up and in the shower – time to start the day.

Since writing about my blog’s fourth birthday, and reflecting on how I used to write so much more (in basic volume), I’ve tried treating my fiction like I treat the writing I do at my job. I get up when I say I will and just know I have to hit 500 words in an hour. Instead of laboring over the parts I know need polishing, I skim ahead to the section where I actually need new prose and just start writing.

It’s been kind of amazing. 500 words a day, and I’ve been doing it 6 days a week for three weeks now – yes, I’m even getting my lazy butt out of bed on Saturdays. That’s 3,ooo words a week for the math-challenged. At this rate I can absolutely finish this draft before the end of the year. It won’t be perfect, but it will be done, and that fact alone is enough to keep me motivated to get out of bed before the sun comes up.

The pages are flying and it is so very satisfying.

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Remote Working

One of the perks of my job is that I work remotely. I have often said how cool it is that I can take my work with me anywhere, but the truth is I never do. Because if I’m going somewhere it’s usually because I don’t want to be working. I’m am not the girl you see sitting by the pool with her laptop.

Except maybe, this week, I am.

My mom has a show opening at a gallery in the desert this Friday and I really want to go. The party starts at 6 and it’s a 3 hour drive (or 5 in traffic), so it would have meant leaving after lunch and using some vacation time, but instead I’m going to flex my remote-worker muscle.

Our thinking is that we will drive out early in the morning. We will leave at 6am, and by 9am I should be happily settled in to some public place with free wi-fi. Eventually I will be in our hotel room, or even (we’ll see) by the pool. Then, come the end of the day, I will put on my art-show-opening fancies and have a lovely night with my momma.

And then Saturday morning I plan to wake up early enough to work on my novel while I watch the sun come up over the desert. I’ve been dying for some desert time. It’s going to be a great (if short) trip.

Here is a sample of mom’s sculpture. You can see more of her work on her website. 

Laguna

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Happy Birthday to my Blog!

My blog turned 4 this last weekend.

four candles

It’s been four years since I first hit “Publish” back on my modest little MobileMe site (remember MobileMe? No? Neither does anyone else). Since then I’ve written 274 posts – just over a post a week. I also earned my masters degree, had a baby, finished a few short stories, wrote a travel book, did some actual traveling, took a full time job and well, lived life. A lot has happened.

Looking back, my first post was about trying to hit a deadline. I was writing the first draft of my novel to turn in as the thesis project for my masters. I wrote 45 pages in three days!

Whaaa?

These days I write about 200 words a week. Granted, I only manage to squeeze in a few hours of writing over the course of seven days, but still. Did I suffer a serious blow to the head or something?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this. The 45 pages I wrote in that crazy long weekend were not good. But are the two hundreds words that I spend a week on now-a-days THAT much better?

I think I need to lighten up a bit. I so over think every word I write lately that it’s becoming paralyzing.

Actually, that’s not true. At work I pour words out all day long. I have to. I have deadlines. And come to think of it, I wrote those 45 pages on a deadline too. So maybe what I need to do is set deadlines for myself. Just bust out some words because that’s what I’m sitting there to do. At work I don’t second guess every word. I write them, then I review them to make sure they say what I meant them to say, edit a little as needed and move on. My fiction-writing self needs to take a hint from my corporate writing self.

So resolution for my fifth blog year: just keep writing and stop over-thinking.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

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Office Break In

This is the scene that greeted me Friday morning when I arrived at work.

Breakin

At first I glanced in through the wrecked door and saw Daniel’s monitor on his desk, so I thought the door broke on its own some how, but upon closer inspection I realized my monitor (which is newer and frankly a lot fancier) was in deed missing.

The funny thing is that on the way to work that morning I was actually thinking to myself – why do I lug my laptop home with me every night? Sometimes I do it so I can write in the morning, but I knew I wasn’t going to be writing on Friday morning, so I felt kind of lame for bringing it home, until I saw this.

After calling 911 and being transferred to dispatch to call for the cops to come, I peered in again and saw that Daniel’s laptop was also missing. Then my hands started to shake a bit. He has been working SO hard on this screenplay, and he is notoriously bad about backing up. I called home and broke the news and was very happy when he asked if his backup drive was still there. I looked closely and reported it was and he exhaled. Turns out that last time his computer crashed and took all his files he started backing up daily.

So that’s the silver lining. My back up drive was also untouched (though it sits on my desk right next to the monitor and could easily fit into a pocket), so all our files are safe.

It took three hours, but the cops finally did show up and take a report. (Fun side note – they had no record of my 911 call at 7am – I had to call three times. Government shutdown in action or just the LAPD at work?) Their finger print guy will be in some time today to see if he can get anything and we are thinking pretty hard about what new security measures we’re going to take. I’m pushing for metal doors, but seeing as we don’t have any windows, that would make the space kind of cave-like. Bars are icky. Maybe one of those metal grate things you pull down over the glass at the end of the night. The landlord seems unconcerned, but I’m thinking, now that the thief knows it’s that easy to break the door and take our shit, why wouldn’t they come back? I worked at a restaurant once that was robbed two nights in a row by the same guys. It happens.

These things happen.

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I always pick the wrong technology

My husband and I bought our HD DVD player a couple months before Blu-Ray put HD to shame, I set up my first blog with the now defunct iWeb, and I’ve been using Shelfari to keep track of my books for years now. It’s a trend. I always seem to pick the wrong technology.

Thankfully, I manage to make the shift to the right technology eventually, but it’s so disheartening every time I realize I’ve done it again.

So anyway, I have now transferred my library over to Good Reads. I actually set up the account in 2010, but only because all my friends were doing it and I swear, as I was entering my info I was thinking “whatever, it’ll never catch on.”

(insert sheepish grin here)

Thankfully, Good Reads actually makes it really easy to import a library from Shelfari, or I might not have done it. And I have to admit, I do really like the widget they provide for showcasing my bookshelf (that’s it over there on the right). And it has the whole social thing going on, not that I really have time to write reviews of every book I read, but I enjoy seeing familiar faces as I browse.

If you’re on Good Reads, send me a friend request (or whatever the equivalent is). I’m just getting up to speed, but you know me – I love all this stuff. It shouldn’t take me long.

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