The Power of HappyDayMoments

My friend Jama posts a #HappyDayMoment every day to her Facebook page.  She’s done so for over 2300 days to date.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she’s one of the most positive, up-beat people I’ve ever had the privilege to know.  This year I knew I wanted to be more positive.  I wanted to find the silver lining more and complain less.  On January 1st, I started posting a HappyDayMoment each day to my Facebook.  Some days I struggled to find something to share that I felt good about.  Some days I forgot until after I was in bed and had to grab my phone to get one posted.  A few days I forgot until the next morning and wound up posting a belated one (I’ve remedied this by putting an alarm on my phone to remind me).  But I’ve kept going – I’m into the 150s now – and I feel like I’m starting to feel a change in myself.

Back on May 7th (only a month ago but it feels so much longer than that) I ran the Indy Mini.  I signed up because it was a bucket-list sort of race, the kind of experience that would be one-of-a-kind.  I was excited and, by the time the start actually came, more than a little nervous.  There were a lot of things that did not go well with the race – I got sick a few days before and didn’t sleep much the night before due to congestion, I got a little freaked out by the size of the crowd (I knew it was the world’s largest half-marathon but I wasn’t prepared for what it would feel like to be in that large of a field), I wasn’t as well trained as I wanted to be, and my time really sucked.  But, in spite of that, I came away feeling mostly good about the race.  I found myself all along the course noting things and thinking “I love that – I want to remember that!”  I was actively looking for the positives, determined not to forget them, and making the effort to not let the negative dominate my memories.  At the end of the day, I posted a list of the awesome, great, and not-so-awesome things from the race to my Facebook and I’m happy to say there were more in the first two categories than in the third.  The race itself may not have gone the way I wanted, but the overall experience was valuable not just for the things in my awesome list but for the way I was able to change my perspective and see more of the positives.

Me and Meb
One of the awesome: I got to meet Meb Keflezighi at the expo and get his autograph! He ran the race, starting last so he could run with everyone!

I am working hard now to use this skill again.  Over Memorial Day weekend my older dog, Maggie, started having trouble with her back legs.  Trips to an emergency vet clinic followed by a longer road-trip to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Purdue University ensued.  Maggie’s been diagnosed with IVDD.  There’s a swelling in one of the discs in her spine and it was delaying nerve signals reaching her back legs.  Her back feet will “knuckle” and sometimes one back leg will collapse.  She looks like she’s stumbling around drunk. If the swelling continues she could wind up with nerve damage and a ruptured disc, which would require surgery.  The treatment at this time is anti-inflammatory and pain meds for two weeks and strict crate rest for the next 6-8 weeks.  Strict rest means she is in the crate 24-7, except for when she’s being carried out to the yard to do her business (which is done while she’s on a 6 foot leash to keep her from walking too much or dashing after something).  Making matters more complicated is the fact that Maggie is high-strung and suffers from anxiety.  We are very concerned about how we can manage to keep her calm in the crate for that long.  Fortunately the neurologist at Purdue was able to consult with the behaviorist who’s seen Maggie before and together work on a medical plan to help us and so far she’s doing well with being confined.

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Maggie, giving me the look while I eat my dinner.

I’d originally scheduled to take the week of Memorial Day off work to do some yard work with my husband (we always take that week off and have what we call Mulchapalooza).  We cancelled our mulch order and, while hubs stayed home with Maggie, I went back to work.  I applied for Personal Leave and did triage on my job duties.  I did some crash training on those duties which would have to be handled while I was on leave, taking  care of Maggie.  Now I have seven weeks of being home with my dogs, trying to make sure Maggie stays calm and heals while trying not to stress out about having no income from my job while still having all of our bills to pay.

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My husband got a furniture mover so Maggie’s crate is on wheels, making it easier to move about the house.

 

I’m going back to what I did in the Mini and trying to see the positive in the next seven weeks.  I get to be a stay-at-home dog momma.  My introvert-half will be happy for the time alone.  If I can only convince myself to stop worrying about it, I don’t have the stress of my job hanging over me.  I should have time to do more writing, and to help more with Midwest Writers Workshop.  We won’t be eating out but I do enjoy cooking – it will be fun to try some new recipes.  I’ve always wanted to keep my house cleaner but never felt I had the time – now I will.  Having little financial wiggle room will force my husband and I to do a better job sticking to a budget.  It only takes 30 days to build a new habit, and we have the next 7 weeks to create some new ones which will serve us well even after I return to work.  Most important of all, I am doing what Maggie needs and if all goes well, she will make a complete recovery without requiring surgery.  These are the things I need to focus on over the next seven weeks.

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The princess, snoozing.  She’s worth every bit of stress and struggle we may have!

My Favorite Tale of Revenge

I have enjoyed various versions of The Count of Monte Cristo since I was in high school.  It began, not with Dumas’s novel, but with an old movie version starring Richard Chamberlain.  It was part of a double-feature one Friday night on TNT or TBS.  My parents remembered it and recorded it (along with another favorite, The Scarlet Pimpernel).  My father liked the sword-play and that is most of what I remember about Chamberlain’s version.

In college the University theater did a production of the story, adapted by one of the faculty.  The student performers were joined by one professional actor, brought in to play Edmond.  I went with a friend and we both fell for the actor at once.  Going back stage to meet him was a thrill.

I hadn’t thought of the story for some time, until I came across the 2002 movie version.  The cast list alone made me gape:  Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce, Richard Harris, James Frain, Luis Guzman, and Herny Cavill (with such a baby face you’ll hardly recognize him).  How was this not a run-away hit?  Somehow it wasn’t, but it is most definitely my favorite adaptation of the tale.

You probably know the story.  Edmond Dantes is betrayed by his best friend, Fernand Mondego.  He goes to prison for 13 years.  His fiancee is told that he’s dead.  His father hangs himself.  His boss winds up swindled out of his business.  Edmond, in the meantime, suffers beatings and near starvation.  He also meets a fellow prisoner who, as they attempt to tunnel to freedom, teaches him to read and write, mathematics, economics, philosophy, and fighting.  With his dying breath the man tells him where a treasure is.  He urges him to use it for good, but Edmond says no, he will use it for his revenge.

In Dumas’s novel, the revenge plot becomes convoluted.  Here it is simplified and straight forward.  It is my favorite part of the tale.  Edmond plays his enemies like violins, using their own greed and lust for power against them.  He sets the traps but they enter them willingly.  They bring about their own destruction.  There is justice in what befalls them.  Everything goes perfectly, save one thing.  Mercedes, the woman Edmond was to marry, is not so easy to deal with.  He wants to hate her.  She married his best friend, the chief architect of all his suffering, and yet he cannot.  His henchman urges him to take his treasure and Mercedes and to leave – to give up his revenge and go find happiness.  Edmond refuses, at least at first.  Here again we deviated from Dumas.  Mercedes doesn’t slink away to live in a convent.  She confronts Edmond, tells her side of the story, and he realizes that it will not enough to destroy the men who hurt him.  He wants the chance at happiness with her.

In Dumas’s tale Edmond has a single-minded quest for revenge.  In this film version, the story becomes about more than just pursuing revenge.  Edmond lost his way in the prison, but in the end he is able to find it again.  He started out on a quest for vengeance but in the end he finds a chance for redemption and he chooses that.  Of course, Fernand being the petty man that he is, he can’t let Edmond go and there must be a final confrontation (with swords, naturally, because Dumas did write the original tale).

It’s a fun tale, with great visual spectacle, an amazing cast, and a highly satisfying conclusion.  If you haven’t seen this version, I highly recommend it.  As I said, it is my favorite.  Besides, look at that cast!

Patience, Patience

I resumed running this week.  My doctor suggested I start with just a mile and increase slowly so on Monday I did a mile on my treadmill.  My shin felt absolutely fine after the run.  Yesterday it was a gorgeous day so I took my run outside.  It felt so good to be out in the sunshine running.  I stuck to the one decent road in my neighborhood (the only one that’s been repaved in the past 23 years) and thus was able to avoid the pot-holes, patches, and crumbling asphalt that makes the running on the other roads like trail running.  I felt great running and really didn’t want to stop at one mile, but I made myself stop anyway.  I don’t want to over-do it.  I went back to my house and got my dogs (and husband) to take them out for a short walk, just to get to spend more time out in the gorgeous weather.  I think the walk may have been a mistake.  My calves got very tight and there is some pain in my shin today.  It’s not as bad as it was before I went to the doctor, and there’s no swelling.  I’ll spend some time with the foam roller today before and after my bike ride and see how I feel.  If necessary, I’ll move Friday’s run to the treadmill rather than pounding pavement again.  I’m trying to balance my determination to get back to running with a suitable amount of caution to avoid injury.  It is not easy, especially on beautiful spring days that beg me to get out and run!

I’m continuing to bike, using it for a cross-training activity.  I signed up for the National Bike Challenge and have been logging my miles there.  The one bright spot from the stress fracture scare is that I finally got that bike I’d been wanting for several years, and my husband has one now too so he can get out for some much-needed exercise!  It’s a good reminder that there are always silver linings to be found.

Thunder and Lightening!

It’s thundering outside my office right now and I’m fighting the urge to run about the office unplugging all the computers.  I worked at a group of radio stations for four years and whenever there was a thunderstorm, any computer not directly related to broadcasting was turned off and unplugged.  Our main station was weird in that the studio and office building sat right below the tower (most stations do not put the two together because the transmitter generates radiation).  A big radio tower broadcasting a 50,000 watt signal is the ultimate lightning rod, and since our building was connected to it, all our stuff could easily get toasted.  Funnily enough, it was actually the defunct tv station tower which sat in front of our building which got hit during my time working there, but the lightning did arc across our building and take out the board in our FM studio (and the dj working there got a bit singed).  And for those of you who believe the old lightning never strikes twice adage, I’m sorry to say you are wrong.  I watched lightning hit that tower and arc over in the same way two times in five minutes.  In between a client called wanting us to play her spot for her.  I told her, “Ma’am, we’re being hit by lightning right now. We’ll have to call you back later.”  Of course, then we started getting flooded with the do-you-know-you’re-off-the-air phone calls.  A little tip – if a station is off the air, EVERYONE working there knows about it.  The traffic people (what I did) are looking at the paper logs to see how many spots they’re going to have to reschedule.  The sales people are trying to figure out if their clients are the ones off the air.  The on-air people are on the phone with the engineer trying to get it fixed.  Silence alarms are going off.  EVERYONE knows they’re off the air and the last thing they need is a bunch of yahoos calling to tell them that!  🙂

Running about unplugging things didn’t feel that strange to me when I started at the stations, because I grew up in cable tv’s early days.  It didn’t come down the county road I lived on because there was a railroad track to cross and the cable company didn’t want to do that.  We had a big tv antennae on our house and when there was a thunderstorm coming, we ran around unhooking all the tvs from it.  I don’t recall that antennae ever getting hit when I lived there, but I do remember a neighbor’s tree getting hit.  It was the loudest boom I’d ever heard (I was 8 or 9 and hadn’t stood by a canon at a Civil War reenactment yet).

My mother-in-law was terrified of thunderstorms and would insist on the whole family sleeping in their family room, which was half underground (they had a split-level house).  My parents never seemed to worry about them much.  I remember my father telling me that he worried more about blizzards than thunderstorms.  Not surprisingly, my husband tends to be more nervous about storms than I am.  Part of me kind of enjoys them.  There’s an energy to them and if I’m in my house, I feel pretty safe.  Unfortunately, one of our dogs is absolutely terrified of them.  I expect when I get home later this afternoon I will find that she’s tried to crawl into one of the kitchen cupboards, or chew her way through the baby-gate I put across the hall to keep her out of the bedrooms while we’re at work.  Poor baby.

What about you?  Do you like storms, or do they make you nervous?  Do you have any storm prep rituals you go through?

Getting Back to Sanity

I knew I loved running and that it was important, but I had no idea how much of an anchor it formed for me.  Since I got the news about the stress fracture I’ve felt so off-kilter.  Everything has suffered.  I basically gave up on my manuscript for Camp NaNoWriMo, didn’t do much reading, and I’ve felt discombobulated and moody.  I kept getting emails inviting me to register for races and they felt like taunts.  Reading about Boston was torture.  When I was training for the Indy Mini, I started each week with a list of to-dos for each day, sorting out what would fit in around my running plan.  That got dropped when the running got dropped and I think that’s a big part of why I felt so lost.

I got a call last Tuesday telling me that my appointment with the surgeon was being cancelled and instead I would follow up with the regular orthopedic doctor I originally saw.  I spent the past 7 days trying to figure out what that meant.  Surgery was out because it wouldn’t work?  I didn’t need surgery to get better after all?  They were going to tell me to just give up on running?  What did it mean?!  It was not a good week. Patience is a virtue that I have not acquired.

The appointment was today and, despite all my fears, the news was good.  Surgery is out because the bone does not show swelling, which suggests that it has adapted to the stress it was under.  I can return to running next week.  I’m supposed to start slow – do a mile and see how I feel – and then ease back in, upping my mileage by 10-20% each week.  If I have any trouble, I should call the doctor.  I am clear, so long as problems don’t develop, to do the 4-miler I’m registered for in July and work back up so I can train for the mini-marathon in September.  As I ease back in, I will use the bicycle my super-supportive husband got for me for cross-training.

To say I am relieved would be an understatement.  I feel like I”m getting my life back.  Running truly is my anchor.  It’s so good to have it back!

Bumps (and Potholes) in the Road

Well, to be honest, it’s more than a bump or a pothole.  It’s more like a sink-hole.  The road just fell away.

I am supposed to be running my first half-marathon on Saturday, the Indy Mini.  I’m not going to be doing it though.  I’ve been having a lot of shin pain post run and, after trying rest, ice, compression, and elevation without any relief, I made an appointment with an orthopedic doctor.  We did x-rays and they appeared to show a stress fracture in my left tibia.  I had a MRI on Friday which will confirm this, but the doctor didn’t seem to have any doubts about what he saw on the x-ray.

That’s sucky enough, but no, it gets worse.  This fracture, unlike the ones that runners typically get, is on the tension side of the bone.  The conservative treatment option – rest for 4-6 weeks – is almost never successful.  The treatment which does work is having a metal rod installed in your leg.  The doctor’s response, when he told me this, was that hey, no one is paying you to run.  You can swim, you can bike.  I’m not sure why I didn’t explode at this point, save that I was still processing the news.

If running was just about fitness then sure, I could switch sports.  But, for me, running is about much more than physical fitness.  It’s about mental fitness too.  I call it my mobile meditation – when I’m on a run, all I’m thinking about is running.  I’m not worrying about what happened at work that day, or dreading what might happen tomorrow, or plotting a story.  I’m thinking about how my body feels, how far I’ve gone, how much farther I want to go.  On bad days I’m giving myself pep talks or making deals to go a bit further.  On good days, I am reveling in the feeling of strength and power.  I’ll admit, I could probably get that same benefit from another sport.  But what I can’t get is the other part of the mental fitness.

A big part of my running is racing.  Racing, for me, is not about winning or placing (which doesn’t happen).  It’s about running a best time.  That means setting a goal for myself, coming up with a plan to reach it, and then going after it.  I won’t get that from swimming or biking (there are no races).  I need that to motivate me to get out there, to do that run when I’m tired or my head aches or maybe I just have had a crappy day and want to curl up on my couch and hide from the world.  But there’s more to it than just that.  I have met so many interesting people at races, from the girl walking her first 5k who high-fived all of us runners as we passed her on the return to the woman out running a 5k while in the midst of chemo for breast cancer (who also high-fived me as I passed her on my way back out for the second half of the 10k I was doing that day). When we’re all lining up to wait for the race to start, we’re all united and wishing each other well.  Maybe running is the only thing we have in common but at that moment, it bonds us.

The bottom line is, giving up on running is just not an option.

UPDATE:  The MRI does confirm the stress fracture.  The soonest I can see an orthopedic surgeon is May 27th.  I am on a waiting list for an earlier appointment and will call to check in on that regularly.

Ready to Stop Going it Alone

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the introvert-extrovert dynamic lately, and how it applies to me.  If you’d asked me growing up (at a point when I understood the terms) I would have called myself an introvert.  These days I think I’m closer to an ambivert.  I get energized both by being around people and by getting away from them – I hit a saturation point with either activity and need to switch things up.  Keeping things balanced is key – just enough socializing, just enough time to myself.  Finding the right balance is the part that’s challenging.

I used to have a friend to run with.  We’d meet up on Saturday or Sunday to run together.  Our pacing was similar enough that we could run together.  Sometimes I had to push a bit harder to keep up, sometimes she did, and some days we spent a lot more time walking and talking than we’d intended.  It worked.  It was especially nice when she was training for a half-marathon and had some long runs to get in.  I wasn’t training for that distance but I joined her for her first 7-miler, 8-miler, and 9-miler anyway.  Unfortunately, after her half, she quit running and I’ve been on my own for the past year and a half.  That’s been fine – I run at the time that works best for me and I don’t have to worry about pacing with anyone else – but now that I’m training for my own half-marathon and have my long runs looming, I find myself wishing I had someone to run with me.  It’s not a matter of accountability – I manage that part just fine on my own – but company on these long runs would be appreciated.

My writing situation is similar.  For years I wrote fanfiction and was part of a group of supportive writers.  I did my first NaNoWriMo with them and had a blast.  Over the years several of us have drifted away from fanfiction, and a few from writing at all.  That support network isn’t there any longer.  For a while it didn’t bother me but of late I’ve been feeling like I’ve hit my saturation point on writing solo.  I miss having that supportive group, miss having people to be encouraged by and to encourage in turn.  It wasn’t hard to find a supportive group in the fanfiction community, but figuring out how to do that outside of it is a puzzle I haven’t solved.  Yet.

Getting to Know Me

I saw this list of questions on Kathy Palm’s blog and though I’m not officially part of the blog-hop, I like the questions and thought it would be fun to answer them.  So here we go!

1.  What’s your least favorite book?

This is a tough one, because I am inclined favorably toward books.  It takes a lot for me to really dislike one.  But I’d have to say the book I least enjoyed reading from my school days was Crime and Punishment.  I think it was a bit over my head at the time, and it’s Russian and thus generally depressing.  Honorable mentions would go to Agatha Christie’s works, because I find her characters two-dimensional and her “cheats” of having the detective be the killer or not share all of his knowledge even when we’re supposed to be in his head really honk me off.

2.  What’s your favorite book from childhood?

Again, it’s hard to pick just one.  So here are a few that really stand out to me (as in, I can’t think of my childhood without also thinking of these books):

the original Nancy Drew mysteries – this was the first series I binge read.  I remember getting these from my school library and reading them at lunchtime (yeah, I was that kid).  I loved Nancy.  She had her own car and got to go in secret passages and overcome dangers and solve mysteries.  She had a supportive dad and a really nice housekeeper/mother figure, cool best friends and even a boyfriend.  She was awesome.  I wanted to be her.

The Hideaway – two kids run away from home and wind up in a cabin in the woods, taking care of themselves for the summer with no grown-ups, and they do it quite well.  I read and re-read this one.  I loved it.

The Anne of Green Gables series.  How could you not love Anne with an “e”, Gilbert, and all of their children (we will not talk about the last book because the death of a certain character still makes me tear up).

3.  What author(s) inspired you to become a writer?

Strangely, this is the most difficult question to answer.  I don’t know that any one author inspired me to write.  As far back as I can remember I was telling stories.  When I was a kid all my stuffed animals had personalities and my brother and I created elaborate dramas for them.  I think that comes more from my mother than from any author – she is the one who tells the family stories.  She also read to me a lot.  Then, in elementary school we did Young Author’s Conference one year and I got to write my own story.  That’s what really made the connection of story-telling leading to book creation for me, and it’s been something I wanted to do ever since.

4.  How do you feel about ebooks?

I don’t see the love of e-books being something exclusive from the love of books and reading.  We’ve turned our family room into the library in my house and it is full of books.  Between my husband and I there are also multiple Kindles in use in our house and I love them as well.   I can’t understand people who want to bash on e-readers any more than I could understand someone who’d want to bash on books.  What matters is that people read, not what platform they choose to use (and if it takes a gadget to get a kid turned on to the joy of reading, then use the gadget!).

5.  Are you a compulsive reader or do you take your time getting through a story?

I am a compulsive reader.  There are certainly books that I wish would never end, but my compulsive need to know what happens next will override any thoughts of lingering.

6.  Which book(s) have you re-read the most?

The original Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, the Nero Wolfe series by Rex Stout, and Harry Potter.  There is something so comforting and wonderful about the worlds of those books that I want to revisit them, and something so engaging about the characters that I love to spend time with them even if I already know what’s going to happen next.

7.  If you could live in any world depicted in a book, what would it be?

I’d love to live in the world of Harry Potter.  I also would love to visit (and maybe stay) the steampunk world Kenneth Oppel created for his Matt Cruse series (Airborn, Skybreaker, and Starclimber).

8.  If you could kiss any book character, who would it be?

Ian Rutledge from Charles Todd‘s series, because the poor man needs some TLC!

9.  Do you communicate with your favorite authors on Twitter?

Not on Twitter, but I’m Facebook friends with a few and we do communicate that way.  I’ve been fortunate enough to volunteer with Magna Cum Murder for several years and have had the chance to meet many authors that way.  In some cases those meetings are what led to me reading their work (and in a few cases I’m more fond of them as a person than I am as a writer).

10.  If you could have dinner with four literary characters, who would you choose?

It’s really tough to limit myself to just four choices!

Nero Wolfe (because we’d not only have good conversation but excellent food)
Amelia Peabody (because watching her spar with Wolfe would be funny)
Armand Gamache (because we’d need a peace-maker at the table, and he’s a genuinely lovely man whose company I’d enjoy)
Albert Campion (because maybe with the other three at the table we’d be able to pry loose a few of his secrets)

And there you have it!