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!

Hello November!

I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I updated this blog.  Wow.  I did not intend for October to get away from me like that!

The Midwest Writer’s Workshop Manuscript Makeover session was wonderful!  Terry Faherty is an outstanding teacher.  He made many helpful suggestions for everyone in the session, and found a way to make us all feel encouraged about our writing.  It was a terrific session and we wound up going longer than scheduled because he was willing to keep going and none of us were eager to leave!  I came out of the session feeling good about the possibilities in my manuscript and ready to work on it.

My 5k was slow, but I had a lot of fun anyway.  I got to run with a co-worker, who was doing her first 5k.  We got lots of high-fives from Charlie Cardinal (races with mascots > races without mascots).  My co-worker’s daughter ran the 1 mile race with a friend and we had a lot of fun cheering them on to the finish line!  There we all are after our races, hanging out with Charlie.

Chase Charlie after race

The culminating event for October was attending the 21st Magna Cum Murder conference!  Magna is a mystery writers/readers/fans conference.  It’s organized by Kathryn Kennison, the director of the EB and Bertha C Ball Center at Ball State University.  The conference started out as a small event, meant to help connect the community to the university (Cum Murder is a play on Cum Laude).  The conference rapidly grew and these days we have guests from all across the country as well as internationally.  There are several people who have attended every single Magna, and it’s terrific to be part of something which inspires that sort of loyalty.  There are always new people each year as well, and it doesn’t take long for them to recognize how special this conference is.  No matter if we’re meeting for the first time or we’ve seen each other many years, it always feels like you’re getting to talk with old friends at Magna.  I had an amazing time at the conference but, as I’ve been asked to do the wrap-up write-up for the official newsletter, Pomp and Circumstantial Evidence (how we do love our plays on words), I’ll limit myself here for the moment.

Technically Saturday was the last day of October, but we had one more October-ish event which didn’t take place until today.  My husband and I went to the EB and Bertha C. Ball Center this morning to give a talk on Haunted East Central Indiana.  We shared stories we’ve collected over the years, as well as evidence we’ve caught on investigations, with an attentive audience of about fifty people!  We had a grand time sharing our stories and hearing a few from our audience as well.

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Now that the October fun is over, it’s time to buckle down for November!  I’m participating in NaNoWriMo (you can see my word count in the right hand column).  All the lingering October excitement has put me a bit behind, but I hope to catch up soon and be able to finish my 50k by November 30th!  I’ll also be taking my first knitting lesson tomorrow morning.  There’s another 5k coming up as well, plus Thanksgiving!  All in all, November is looking to be as busy as October!  I hope it will be just as much fun!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

I love the month of October.  It means fall – changing leaves, bonfires, football games, Halloween, and Magna Cum Murder!  I am happy we’re here, though I am wondering where the heck the month of September went.

I had a lot of hats to wear in September.  There was the runner hat, as I prepared for and ran my first half-marathon.  There was my historian hat as I gave a talk on Muncie in the Civil War at a local senior center.  And there was my writer hat as I registered for the Midwest Writers Workshop manuscript makeover session on October 10th (and needed to decide on, or create, 10 pages of a manuscript for making over).  It was a busy month, but I’m happy to say I survived it all!  The half was quite the experience, especially since it rained for almost the entire time I was running.  The talk would have been more fun with a larger audience (note to people running/volunteering at senior centers – don’t schedule a talk at the same time as euchre club if you want anyone to attend it), but it was fun to go back through all the research I’d done in preparation.

The worst part of the month was agonizing over the manuscript makeover.  I had a great idea to work with when I registered for the session, but nothing on the page, and I didn’t like any of my other manuscripts.  After weeks of staring at a blank screen and going um as all the words disappeared from my brain I finally managed to get a good start to the manuscript and thus the 10 pages needed for the makeover.  Part of the torture was that I didn’t want to tell my husband anything about the story up front.  He has always been the person I spit-balled ideas with, who helped me to figure out what I was struggling with, but that means he always knows what I’m trying to say before he starts to read.  I wanted to know if I was setting a good hook with my start and if he already knew where the story was going, he couldn’t evaluate that.  I had to keep quiet and fight on my own when all I wanted to do was talk to someone about my idea!  But I persisted and, when he did read my pages, he reacted exactly the way I wanted!  Success!

My October will be busy too, but more fun!  In addition to attending the Manuscript Makeover session on October 10th, I plan on going to a couple Ball State home football games, I’ll be running a 5k, attending a Halloween party, and then – the best comes last – attending Magna Cum Murder October 30th-November 1st!  Somewhere in all of that I’ll keep working on the current manuscript, hopefully armed with some helpful advice from the makeover session.

Balance

I call this blog The Balancing Act for a few reasons.  First, the old title seemed super pompous to me.  Second, it’s really what I want to write about and third, I think we’re all trying to pull off our own balancing act.

I attended Midwest Writers Workshop this past weekend, and my struggle for balance there was between my introvert tendencies and my extrovert tendencies.  I’m pretty sure I’m an ambivert, because there are times when I do feed on being with a crowd and yet there are also times when I need to run away from that crowd.  It comes and goes.  But for this past weekend, the introvert side of me was definitely taking over.  Part of the conference is networking with other writers, but mostly I wanted to hide in the corner and watch all the activity.  I found Riley, a writer I met last year (when I had an extrovert moment and introduced myself to her) and we went to a lot of the same panels.  On Saturday night a couple of Twitter friends decided to make a “Shelly sandwich” and pulled me out of my shell a bit (and didn’t run screaming in fear of what emerged; thanks Rena and Kathy!).  Despite the wanting to hide parts, I had a good time at the conference and learned a lot.  I will write more about that at another time.

Balance this week is about getting back to exercising.  I am signed up for a half-marathon in September which will be, thanks to the whole stress-fracture-scare of March/April, my first half.  It may be my only half.  It depends on how well the shin holds up to the training.  I am woefully behind in training from where I should be according to every training plan I’ve looked at, but I’m trying not to let that worry me.  I’m mixing in biking to hopefully make up for not having quite as much running mileage and planning on doing a mix of running and walking in the race.  It will be my first at this distance so that’s an automatic PR anyway, right?  Besides, this is TRUE:
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Balance this week is also about accepting that I’m not going to hit my word-count goal for Camp NaNoWriMo and not obsessing over it.  I could drive myself crazy trying to hit impossible daily goals, miss them all, and not get in the exercise I need, or I could let this one go and try to keep the story moving without making myself nuts.  So far I’m doing good on the not making myself nuts part, but not so much on the keeping the story moving part.

And just like that, we’re at the crux of this blog. I seem to only be able to pursue one hobby at a time.  For the second half of last year it was running.  I ran at least 1 mile every day for 177 days in a row.  It was great.  I set PRs in the 5k, ran my first 10k, lost about 20 pounds, and felt really strong physically.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe I managed to write much more than 177 words that whole time and I missed writing.  The year before I threw myself into NaNoWriMo, hit the 50k word goal (writing over 8,000 words in a day to make it) and I don’t think I ran more than a couple days the whole month (and yep, I missed running).  I’ve yet to figure out how to balance getting in my workouts with getting in my words.  And I really want to do that, not only because of the whole punching people thing but because I really want THIS to be true too:

MugI believe that one day I will manage to do both of these things.  I just haven’t figured it out yet.  I’m going to try not to let that make me crazy (or crazier) in the meantime.

Writing New Things

I’m working on a new writing project.  My Camp NaNoWriMo manuscript crashed and burned as I grew super distracted by other things (like whether or not I had a stress fracture in my shin which would need surgery if I was to run again).  I got answers on the stress fracture issue and got my groove back at the same time.  Happy happy!

Now I’m stepping back into running, working hard on my patience so that I continue to build mileage gradually and don’t wind up hurt again.  At the same time, I’ve stepped back in to writing.  I’m leaving the Camp ms alone for now because, quite honestly, it was boring me to write so I can only imagine how it would be to read.  My new project is different (for me) and kind of exciting.  I think I have just the right mix of writing what I know (there’s a ghost in the story) and playing what-if (my main character is my imagining of what my daughter might be like if I had one).  I’m having a lot of fun getting to know this character and can’t wait to see how she handles the situation I’ve thrown her into!  I’d like it if this was all coming together a bit faster but, just as with the running, I’m being patient and letting my word-count grow gradually.

The genre on this one is hard to categorize.  18-year old protagonist in her second semester of college.  With a ghost.  And a mystery.  Paranormal YA?  Paranormal NA?  A big hot mess?  I guess we’ll see as it goes what best seems to fit it.

I debated on putting this out here.  It seems like as soon as I talk about a ms it hits a big snag.  At the same time, I hope that by going ahead with this post, I will be kicking myself in the butt to keep going.  It’s public now.  That should add some pressure to keep working at it, right?  I think I need a dose (smallish) of such pressure.  So if you’re so inclined, feel free to poke me from time to time and ask, how’s the ms going?

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.

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.

Fighting Fear

I am training for my first half-marathon (the official training plan start is today). I am a bit nervous about the race, but only a bit. After all, I have trained for races before and I have a training plan to guide me. After years of competitive swimming (ages 8-17) and a few years of running behind me, I know I can do this.

Thinking about my running has me wondering what’s different about my running? Because while I’m confident I will conquer my first half-marathon (and the one I signed up for later in the year as well), I am NOT confident about my ability to write at the moment. I hoped to have something to pitch at Midwest Writers this summer but I don’t think that’s going to happen after all. I’ve been feeling blocked for some time now. I’ve finally got an idea for something to work on but my inner-editor is trying hard to shut me down. She wants to find plot holes, character flaws, and other reasons why this idea won’t work. I think it boils down to fear, pure and simple. I had another idea I was working on shot down by other people and it’s been hard going to bounce back from that.

What I need to do right now is pick a “training plan” for my writing and let it guide me. I have a few to choose from. There’s the NaNoWriMo method of no plot, no problem; there’s the inverted pyramid method Jess Lourey shared with us at last year’s MWW; there’s a weekend novelist idea. I need to pick one and run with it, see where it takes me. But most of all, I have to trust that, like the running, I can do this. I can get past the block and start creating again.

Right?