Blogging A to Z Challenge 2019

Because writing is truly my passion, I will once again be participating in the Blogging A to Z Challenge during the month of April. Almost every day of the month there will be a blog post from me based on each letter of the alphabet. That’s your cue to either gear up to read or unfollow or block me 🙂 We always have the option of writing thematically, but I seem to struggle with that, so I always just kind of keep my theme as “pot pourri” or “et cetera” or “miscellaneous” haha! That being said, I’d love some input — anything in particular you’d like me to write about? If so, feel free to drop suggestions in the comments and I will see if I can find a way to accommodate your request!

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This post is written as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where writers can share their thoughts and offer support to each other in a judgement-free zone! This month, the following question was posed: Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

I can only say that I like to write from the perspective of the hero/protagonist simply because that’s all I’ve ever done or even considered. I’ve never thought about writing from the perspective of the villain/antagonist so I’ve never tried it. I’m guessing it would be a worthwhile exercise, though, to be able to gain full understanding of all my characters.

I suppose, though, now that I really think of it, the novel that I have been working on a little bit at a time for the past couple years is written from both the protagonist and antagonist’s points of view. I started with only the protagonist, but decided that there needed to be another perspective, so the story gets told from alternating points of view — the main character and her husband. So maybe I was just thrown by the word “villain” and need to focus more on the term “antagonist.”

I guess I like writing from the perspective of the protagonist simply because it’s what I’m most comfortable with and what I have the most experience with. Not an imaginative or deep response, but honest!

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In our school district this week, we are celebrating Random Acts of Kindness. Kids and adults alike are encouraged to do things out of kindness for others. One of the activities is schools are having guest speakers. At the junior high, the guest speaker was Adam Kimble, who’s a local guy who’s also a bit of a celebrity — he’s an ultra-runner possibly best known for his success on Discovery Channel’s survival show The Wheel.

He spoke about the role kindness played in the opportunities and successes he’s had in his life and his adventures — kindness to others, from others, and to himself. It was actually a very interesting take on his many experiences — one that I am sure many people don’t think much about, the role that different types of kindness plays is different events of our lives. At the end of his talk, he also spoke briefly about gratitude. He mentioned the gratitude he had for people who helped him during his races and total strangers who helped him and his crew when he ran across the United States. He spoke about the role that others played in his successes, which got me thinking about this:

Now, I am not here to debate the politics associated with President Obama, but this speech drew tons of ire from people who worked their rear ends off to build successful businesses. There was snark and sarcasm to spare from people who were offended by his remarks. Hearing Adam speak today about kindness and gratitude made me think how misguided people were who took offense at what Obama said. Let me share an example from my personal life.

In 2017, I ran the Chicago marathon. Notice the pronoun. I. Because I did indeed do it. I crossed that start line and 8 hours, 7 minutes, and 21 hard, painful, grueling seconds later, I crossed that finish line. I did it. Me. But it would be so incredibly misleading and downright arrogant of me to say nobody else in this world played a role in what is probably the biggest success story of my whole life, probably my proudest personal accomplishment. Because I absolutely did not do it alone at all! My friends Larry and Cathy really nudged me in the direction of running that marathon. My husband granted me all the time I needed to be able to devote hours and hours to training for weeks on end. Many people, both known to me and unknown, donated toward my charity fundraiser. The coaches with Team in Training who helped me with my training, offered support on course, and even the two angels who walked by my side for the last few miles before leaving me to cover the last .2 on my own, all made my finish possible. The crowd support buoyed me up for miles along the course. Volunteers who worked the race and the aid stations waited for me and offered assistance for me if and when I needed it. My family and friends — Aunt Carol, Peter, Dallas, Michael, Alyssa, Joe, Lucy, Ethan, Ben, and special mentions to Jim, Robyn, Becky, and Emily for walking literally miles with me, being my course support, catering to my needs, whims, and demands — all played a HUGE role in my accomplishment. I literally would not have finished that marathon without the help of each of those people I just mentioned. And here’s the epiphany: THEIR HELP DOES NOT DIMINISH MY SUCCESS OR MY ACCOMPLISHMENT ONE BIT! I still get to tell the world I ran a marathon. I still get to sport that dorky 26.2 magnet on the back of my car. There is no asterisk next to the word “finisher”. Instead of being so obtuse as to think that marathon was all about me, I am fully aware of all the hands that carried my, all the shoulders I leaned on, all the arms wrapped around me from the moment I started thinking about running a marathon to the moment I crossed that finish line.

I challenge everyone to think about the accomplishments and successes you’ve had in your life. And then think long and hard about how you did that. Can you say with a clear conscience that it was ALL YOU? I’m betting not. Instead of getting defensive, try a little gratitude. Honor the role the people in your life — both known and strangers — play in getting you to the literal or figurative finish lines in your life.

Gratitude is a funny thing. Once you experience it, you become acutely aware of it in so many other places in your life and it makes you see the world differently, in a warmer light. Gratitude begets kindness — kindness to others and to yourself. Start looking for opportunities to feel gratitude — you’ll be amazed at what it does!

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#IWSG — Creative Outlets

This post is written as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where writers can share their thoughts and offer support to each other in a judgement-free zone! This month, the following question was posed: besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?

And this question caused me immediate angst! Because I DON’T have any other creative outlets! Is that bad???? I actually don’t think of myself as a creative person, so I shouldn’t be surprised that I don;t have a lot of creative outlets. It’s funny, because I never even thought of writing as a creative outlet for myself. It has always been more of an emotional outlet. I tend to write when I’ve got feelings I need to deal with, and usually they are negative feelings or feelings that I am grappling with having. Writing offers me catharsis. Writing offers me clarity. Writing takes weight off my shoulders and mind. I never really feel like I have these thoughts or ideas that I need to share with the world (if that’s what a creative outlet is), so maybe I am just strange!

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Train Hard, Eat Clean Challenge

The boxing gym I attend, K-Fit, offered a 20 day challenge titled “Train Hard, Eat Clean”. The idea behind it was to continue with the good habit of exercise (since we were already attending classes at the gym there) and try to form the new habit of eating clean. We were challenged to focus on eating whole foods instead of processed foods and avoid sugar, including added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol. We were encouraged to eat as many fruits and vegetable as we wanted. We got a daily email with health and nutrition information as well as recipes and encouragement. I decided to take on this challenge because sugar is for sure my bugaboo. I believe sugar is addictive for some people, and I am one of them. In the past, I have found that if I eat one sugary thing, it triggers an outright binge. I also have found that I always crave sugar after a meal. Always. So I thought this challenge would be good for me to tackle.

I was right.

During this 20 day challenge, I continued to exercise as I had been. I had no alcohol and no soda. I drank water and seltzer water instead. I increased my intake of fruits and vegetables. I focused on eating whole foods as opposed to processed foods as much as possible. I avoided foods with added sugars and cut out having the sweet snacks I always had in the past. It wasn’t easy. When I am stressed, I find myself wanting a Diet Coke or something sweet. I watched Jim eat a really yummy chocolate cake for dessert one night when we went out for dinner with friends. I was faced with a barrage of sweets in the teachers lounge it seemed every day I went to work. I turned down Dan’s caramels at a meeting (if you’re local, you know just how hard THAT was!!). But I managed to do it. One way I was successful was by telling everyone what I was doing. By being upfront about it, people understood and it kept me honest. I was also fortunate enough to have a husband who supports me in every endeavor I take on. His encouragement and “atta girls” really helped me stay with it. I also had the support of a great group of people at the gym doing this right along with me. We all shared stories of successes and temptations along the way or talked about upcoming obstacles and offered encouragement to each other so we could get over those obstacles.

I lost 11 pounds in 20 days by doing this. And if I am being really honest, it was not anywhere near as hard as I thought it was going to be. I think the support system with the emails and the group at the gym and good friends and a terrific husband really carried me over the hard parts. I feel better. I feel stronger, both physically and mentally. The mental part is really huge for me, though. I have always talked about my weakness around sugar but I proved to myself that I don’t have to be weak. I CAN be strong. I AM strong, stronger than the sugar. This is really big for me. I am pretty proud of myself for doing this.

I wanted to grab a quick, ready to eat breakfast this morning so I grabbed a container of yogurt I had in the fridge that had been off limits for the past 20 days because it has added sugar in it. It was really sweet, almost too sweet if I’m telling the truth. The sweetness overpowered the vanilla flavor. I have to wonder if that has to do with not really having any sugar for the past 20 days. I’m nervous about having a piece of candy or a dessert, though. What I WANT to happen is what happened with this yogurt — I want it to be too sweet so that I don’t have the desire to eat much of it. What I am AFRAID will happen is that it will trigger those cravings all over again and I’ll be back to square one. I didn’t count on being afraid of sweets at the end of this. But I am.

I’ve made some healthy changes over these past 20 days, changes I want to keep in place. So I will keep plugging away at this. I enjoy being healthy most of the time and junky only occasionally (like I was the past 20 days). I don’t want to go back to the reverse of that. My body needs me to keep moving forward with healthy eating choices. My mind needs me to keep moving forward with healthy eating choices. It’s what I need to do if I want to live up to the slogan on the back of my K-Fit hoodie:

You. Better. Stronger.

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#IWSG — Questions

Today, I share with you my post for this month’s question from the Insecure Writer’s Support Group: What are your favorite and least favorite questions people ask you about your writing?

I love when people ask me ANY questions about my writing because that means someone is actually READING what I am writing! There are few greater thrills in life than seeing a notification that I got a comment on one of my blog posts! I am also in the process of writing a novel (have been for a few years now), so I also enjoy when people ask me what it’s about. Maybe someday I’ll finish it…..

I get uncomfortable when people ask me where I get my ideas for the things I write because my answer is pretty unremarkable — I get my ideas from life and the world around me. There is no magic pill available for inspiration. I just find it where and when I can! I feel like when people ask, “Where do you get your ideas from?”, they’re looking for an answer that either wows them (if they’re not writers themselves) or points them in a definite direction (if they are also writers). I never feel like I can answer this question adequately!

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2018 Year in Review

2018 is in the rear view mirror, and that’s fine. I feel fortunate that 2018 was not necessarily a highly eventful year — I didn’t have any real bad experiences, but I also didn’t have any superbly outstanding events, either. Some highlights, in no particular order:

1.) Boxing class: In January 2018, I started taking a boxing fitness class and it has literally changed my life. I love the variety of activities we do. I love the emotional release I get from donning a pair of gloves and hitting a bag. I love how strong I feel when I can do an exercise the way it’s supposed to be done instead of modified. I love the supportive atmosphere — the instructors and the other women who are in class are simply some of the best people on Earth. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed anything as much as I enjoy my boxing classes!

I can throw a punch — do not mess with me 🙂

2.) New grade book platform: This school year, our district adopted a new online grade book platform to coordinate with our transition to standards-based grading. I’m not going to name the program because I’m not interested in bashing the company/product by name. But the transition has not been easy. It has been hard trying to learn the beck end to get the program up and running, and it has been challenging to assist teachers as they try to learn the ins and outs and figure out how to make it work for them and their parents and students. I’m not thrilled with this grade book program — I feel like it was sold to us one way but it is much different in reality. So it’s been a bit exhausting.

3.) Grand kitty: My daughter and her boyfriend got a cat named Fergus, and he is such a fun cat! I love playing with him and cuddling him — he makes me miss having a cat so much!

4.) My first grant: I applied for and was awarded with my very first grant at work! I was awarded $1000 from Window World of Joliet to purchase STEM materials for the maker spaces at our 4 school buildings. It was pretty exciting to get free money!

Receiving my check for the grant I won from Window World of Joliet. Joining me are 2 of my co-workers, Sarah and Lesley and the owner of Window World of Joliet.

5.) Mom’s big move: My mom sold her house that was a half mile down toe road from me and moved to a single story house in an active adult community 30 miles away from me. It is weird not having my mom right down the road, but I am happy for my mom having an brand new home that is easy for her to move around in!

6.) Hamilton! For Valentine’s Day, Jim took me to see Hamilton, and that started a love affair! I have seen it two more times since then and listened to the soundtrack countless times. I simply cannot get enough. I love the music, the story, the artistry — how lucky I am to be alive right now 🙂

My first time at Hamilton!

7.) Court case settled! In August 2016, Jim was hit by a car while running which caused him to injure his shoulder and required surgery and physical therapy to get fixed up. The court case for this incident was finally settled in November — a little more than 2 years after it happened! I am thrilled that this is over and done — and that it was settled without having to go in and experience my first deposition!

8.) #MeToo and #WhyIDidntReport: These 2 movements brought out of me the admission that I was the victim of sexual assault twice in my life — once when I was about 10 years old and again when I was about 14 years old. I never told the world about these things but felt compelled to do it this year to help shine a light in the fact that there is hardly a female alive who has not experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault and that there are so, so many of us who never reported it (like me — I never reported either incident). I really believe we need to change the culture we live in — we need to believe women when they report, we need to support women when they share, and we need to shame the men who hurt women rather than shame the women and engage in victim-blaming.

What does 2019 hold for me? I don’t know but I can’t wait to find out!

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Like almost everyone, I make resolutions with the start of each new year. Here are the resolutions I made for 2018 and how I fared with those resolutions:

1.) Run 2 half marathons: nope, didn’t happen. I’ve struggled to get my running mojo back after the marathon in 2017. I did run 3 5Ks, though, so my running wasn’t a total loss.

2.) Lose weight: lost some, gained some, but overall, I think I had a net loss of a few pounds in 2018.

3.) Go to the dentist: finally did this in December and found a nice dentist who works to keep my fears in check. I’m scheduled to go back in February for a deep cleaning.

4.) Declutter: did some of this but not enough. I. Have. Too. Much. Crap.

5.) Attend church at least 25 times: this was a big fail. I think I probably went only like 10 times in 2018. That’s too bad for me because I always feel better when I go to church regularly.

6.) Read the Bible: nope, failed at this, too. I need to learn to put down my phone and pick up a book when I go to bed!

7.) Reduce my f-bomb use: I might have done this, but not very successfully. It still comes out of my mouth more than I would like it to.

So, it looks like I had more failures than successes with resolutions in 2018. What will happen in 2019? Well, here is what I hope I will be able to make happen:

1.) Lose weight (old resolution): I just want my weight to start with a 1 instead of a 2. I’m going to set some other resolutions that will hopefully assist with this.

2.) Declutter (old resolution): I simply MUST get rid of crap.

3.) Attend church at least 25 times (old resolution): I feel good when I go to church. It brings me a sense of inner calm. I need to fulfill this resolution.

4.) Read the Bible (old resolution): This is a better idea than surfing Facebook or playing Candy Crush when I relax before bed.

5.) Reduce my f-bomb use (old resolution): I just feel better when I’m not such a potty mouth.

6.) Cut back on how much meat I eat (new resolution): I am going to try to have 1 or 2 days a week where I don’t eat any meat. I know it is healthier for me, and believe it or not, sometimes I feel bad eating an animal.

7.) Break up with sugar (new resolution): I am addicted to sugar. I know this. I try so hard to not eat sugar, but I literally have withdrawal symptoms sometimes (shakes, headaches, upset stomach, irritability) so I cave in. I want to fight through that and get rid of my dependence on sugar. My boxing gym is helping with this as they are sponsoring a 20 day sugar detox challenge starting today, January 1.

8.) Be able to do a 3 minute plank (new resolution): I was so close to being able to do this in November, but then I ran into a rough spot with my knees, hips, back, and shoulder. But I’m feeling pretty good now, so here I come for the 3 minute plank!

My boxing instructor encouraging me by planking with me while I’m pursuing a goal of a 3 minute plank in November.

9.) Be able to do push ups (new resolution): I want to be able to do real push ups — not push ups from my knees, not half-assed push ups where I barely lower my body, but real live push ups. I’ve never been able to do real push ups in my life, so I think it’s finally time!

10.) Hit my 100 ride mark on my Peloton (new resolution): My husband and I got a Peloton bike right before Christmas and it’s a cool milestone when you get to 100 rides. I’ve got 9 rides already, so I’ve got 365 days to do 91 more rides!

Taking my first ride on our new Peloton the night it was delivered!

Do you have any resolutions? Or do you have any advice that can help me on the road to achieving what I’ve resolved for 2019? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear from you!

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Amid all the brouhaha over the “Christmas” (more like winter??) song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, I had to weigh in. You know I can’t keep my mouth shut.

I read what I thought was a really good analysis of the interpretations of this song on Snopes. It kind of explains the spirit in which the song was originally written, points to the first time the lyrics were seen as questionable, offers alternative interpretations where the lyrics are viewed as empowering to women, to the current context we are seeing in society now.

It’s important to know the lyrics, so even if you’re familiar with the song, take a minute to read the original lyrics. Different recordings by different artists sometimes change the lyrics. Then you can start to form your own opinions. But since we all form our opinions based on different life experiences, you really can’t discount other people’s opinions just because you disagree with them or you don’t like them or you think they’re silly. You can have your opinions about people’s opinions, but ultimately, opinions aren’t facts. So if you think “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is just a playful tit for tat song, that’s your opinion. If you think it’s got a “rapey” undertone, that’s your opinion. If you think people are insensitive dolts for seeing nothing wrong with the song, that’s your opinion. If you think people are being laughable snowflakes for finding the song offensive, that’s your opinion.

Here’s one thing about opinions: for the most part, your opinions matter to you and to people who have the same opinions as you. I also find it deliciously ironic that the battlecry in society  for people to stop being so hypersensitive and getting offended by everything happens because people are offended by people being offended.

I’m to the point where when I say, “Baby, it’s cold outside,” I’m referring to either the weather or the hard-heartedness we humans are so fond of showing each other nowadays.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, indeed.

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#IWSG December Post — My Writing Space

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeMy post for December’s #IWSG answers the question, “What 5 objects would you find in my writer’s space?” First, I’m supposed to have a writer’s space? My space is wherever my laptop is, I suppose. I don’t have a dedicated space — is that bad? So I guess I can just say the world is my writing space 🙂 But as far as objects I have that would serve as writing tools for me, I suppose first I’d have to say my laptop/Chromebook. It’s where I do all my work. Nowhere near as much writing would happen without it! I’d also say that when I sit down to write, another object near me is probably my unfinished novel. Someday I’ll have time to finish it. Sigh. Third, I’ve always got a pen and notebook somewhere near. If I have to write down a reminder or idea real quick, that’s where I do it. A fourth item would likely be something to drink, like soda or water, not alcohol. Alcohol would just make me sleepy. But Having pop or water gives me something to do as  I ponder. I can take a sip and think. Finally, my dogs are always with me when I’m writing. My one dog, Zoey, always wants to crawl on the keyboard. I think maybe it’s warm, that’s why she likes it. But my dogs are always glued to me when I write. Maybe they’re jealous I’m giving some attention to something beside them? I don;t really have a typical writing space or typical writer’s tools, if there are such things. But these are the things I almost always have around me when I write!

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