Category Archives: Writing Life

Pink and sparkly

Today, my husband and I drove two hours to eat at an Arby’s.

It wasn’t entirely intentional.  I mean, I love curly fries, but I don’t make a destination out of them. We were trying to explore our new Georgia geography and ended up in an area where nothing is open on Sunday.

This is something about the South that I am, to phrase it tactfully, still getting used to.

Anyway. We found this big lake on a map. We looked it up online, reading that it was one of the “most popular recreational lakes in the country.” We headed adventourously out from our Midtown Atlanta home, thinking we’d be game for some boating and floating and whatever else the local scene had to offer.

You would think that one of so-called  “most popular recreational lakes in the country” would have some…restaurants? Ice cream shops? Something? Besides fast food?

You would be wrong. At least on a Sunday. And as much as I am a fast food apologist, this situation was not approved by me. For whatever that matters.

We stopped at a state park beach and tiptoed across the red clay beach to dip our toes in the warm water. We watched pontoon boats cruise by, circled periodically by speedboats pulling gleeful skiers and hearty tubers on inflatable rafts.

After a longish drive home, we were ready to spend the rest of our day relaxing on the roof deck. We’ve had several events at the house lately so I had absolutely every kind of wine ready to go.

So even on a Sunday night: a bubbly rose. Which should be rather light and tasty. And pink…and sparkly. Like a…uh, shit. I hate pink shit and I hate sparkly shit.

But this wine isn’t half bad.

Not a bad pick at all, actually,

Good night!

Reasons

I’m going to be honest about something here.

I haven’t posted in a while. Almost two weeks, actually. Maybe you noticed, maybe you didn’t. Maybe you wondered if I was burned out on the sport of writing (partially true), got pregnant (false), stopped drinking beer (definitely false), got swept away by a tsunami (false, unless you count that recurring nightmare), or just plain didn’t have anything on-topic to say, given that I’m not running as much these days (definitely true).

But the real reason I haven’t been blogging is slightly more embarrassing. It’s because I’m afraid of being judged.

Unless you’ve been living under a jumbo-sized jar of organic nut butter, I’m sure you’ve heard of GOMI and the like. Considered by some to be a big ole cesspool of internet meanie bullydom inhabited by the fat and jealous, the site (and its forums) call out bullshit in the general sphere of mostly-female-driven internet journaling: fashion blogs, “healthy living” blogs, running blogs, “lifestyle” blogs, mommy blogs, etc.

I think GOMI is great. I’m a regular reader of the main site and its forums and occasionally participate/comment. The blog world needs a place where readers can voice their opinions and reactions to a post without being censored by its author. Call it a cruder version of letters to the editor.

And of course, most of those opinions and reactions are snarky, critical, or negative. It’s called Get Off My Internets for a reason.

But as I’ve lurked and laughed and snarked, my subconscious has been a little sponge, soaking up a long list of things that people (including me, apparently, as I’m right there complaining too) don’t like on blogs.

The result of this is that I sit down to write, and a little voice in that part of my brain – the GOMI sponge part – shoots down every idea I have.

Your track workout? NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR SPLITS.

Your dinner? PROBABLY LOOKS NASTY BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT A PHOTOGRAPHER. ALSO, YOU ARE NOT A PROFESSIONAL CHEF.

Your weight room session? YOU’RE NOT A TRAINER, THAT’S DANGEROUS.

Your latest house project? IS PROBABLY SOMEHOW RIPPING OFF YOUNG HOUSE WHATEVER, EVEN THOUGH YOU’VE NEVER READ THAT BLOG.

Your outing to the (way cool, BTW) international Farmer’s Market? WHICH YOU DID AT 10 AM ON A TUESDAY, NO ONE WITH A REAL JOB WANTS TO READ ABOUT THAT.

I’ve never (I don’t think) been called out on GOMI. I actually have had a couple of shout outs on the SOMI thread – thank you, whoever you are! But somehow that makes facing the minefield of potential blog-content bombs even scarier. People like you, says that little voice. Don’t fuck it up.

If that voice had a body, it would be a twelve-year-old girl hugging herself awkwardly in the adidas windbreaker that she begged her parents for months to buy her, because everyone else had one. She’d be clutching a three-ringed notebook with a clear plastic cover, used primarily for displaying the folded Xeroxed invitations to birthday parties and other exclusive gatherings distributed judiciously by her more-popular classmates.

It makes me cringe. I’m 31 years old. Why am I acting like a seventh grader when it comes to caring about what other people think?

Here is the truth. There are many things about my life right now that are probably GOMI-worthy. I’m a running blogger who is not running much. I don’t have a real job at the moment and I spend a lot of time at the gym. I take 9:30 AM yoga classes. I devote most of my free time to reading, writing, overseeing major home repairs, performing minor home repairs, undertaking DIY projects, and decorating our (very nice) house.

But I’m different! I assure myself. I’m not a so-called professional blogger complaining about how OMG BUSY my life is while filling my days with fitness classes and iced coffees. I don’t make a cent from this blog. I’m not one of them.

I’m different. Really, though…am I?

My friend Gesina is fond of quoting a Modern Family scene in which Jay speculates about what Gloria does all day. “I’m guessing the gym and one other thing,” he says. Yep, pretty much.

(Of course, this isn’t permanent. I’m still figuring out my grad school situation. Depending on how that shakes out, I’ll figure out my job situation. But I can take my time to do that. I’m aware that I’m very lucky.)

When I started this blog almost three years ago, I wrote every day. Fairly banal musings, for the most part, on my day’s run, inexpensive wine, and whatever meal I’d managed to cobble together in my tiny NYC kitchen. I started commenting on other blogs, and started getting more comments on mine. I started adding the ubiquitous QUESTION to the end of every post. More comments! Oftentimes, the most superficial and banal content + question generated the most comments. I MADE BROWNIES! DO YOU LIKE BROWNIES? OMG, I LOVE BROWNIES! THOSE LOOK SO GOOD!

Nothing wrong with that (who doesn’t love brownies?), but at some point it started to feel a little contrived, so I cut the Q&A thing and tried to focus on making my writing a little better. And a little more me. I’m not sure if I succeeded or not, but I’m very proud of some of those posts, the ones where I branched out and wrote about something I was experiencing or thinking rather than eating or drinking.

But lately, I’m afraid the things I’m experiencing and thinking will be snarked on. It’s been really tempting to go back to OMG BROWNIES.

Deep down, I know that my insecurity over being judged by internet strangers stems from being judged by me. This Real Housewife of Atlanta thing is fun and relaxing but as it stretches on, it’s becoming sort of humiliating. I’m capable of doing more with my day than the gym and one other thing.

In the meantime, I’m trying to get over it and just write.

I hope that you’d like to keep reading.

And that’s why I haven’t been blogging lately.

Home

Home Depot opens at 6 AM.

I never thought I’d be the type of person for whom that is relevant information.

But there I was yesterday morning, before sunrise, walking through the orange-trimmed automatic doors. Sawdust, turpentine, fertilizer…it wasn’t exactly like the scent of freshly ground coffee beans, but this mix of smells was somehow energizing nonetheless. It smelled…productive.

These people, the ones that shop at Home Depot at 6:30 AM: they are project people. Trucks loaded up with sheetrock and plywood. Siding and trimming and big buckets of paint. Small machines intended for mysterious tasks about which I couldn’t even attempt to guess.

Me? I was there to buy an extension cord to expedite the process of steam mopping all of the floors in our new home. It needed to be done before the movers showed up later that morning. I’d spent several hours cleaning there the previous day, and had finally had become disgusted with the inefficiency of having to unplug the vacuum cleaner or steam mopper every ninety seconds to move it to a new outlet.

We closed on Friday afternoon, a week early. The deal of the century, the seller’s agent had remarked as we all gathered around an attorney’s conference table, and I’m not even blowin’ smoke up your asses.

No, yes, we knew it was a great deal, we said. My fingers were sore from being tightly crossed behind my back for the last month, waiting for something to go wrong. There were a few near-misses, like the time we almost backed out because we thought it needed a new roof. (Thankfully, it doesn’t!) But it did seem too good to be true. This magnificent house had sat vacant on the market for almost a year, despite a colorful history of bidders and would-be buyers. Why us? Why now?

Something about our ridiculously lowball offer spoke to the seller, perhaps? I guess it will always be a mystery.

Mapping out the logistics of moving in to the house, I’d always assumed we would pay people to go in and clean beforehand. The house, in spite of its magnificence, was….well, it was pretty disgusting. A year of neglect will do that to even the handsomest of structures.

But when we moved up the closing date (and subsequent moving date), there was no longer time to hire cleaners. Oddly, though, I relished the idea of doing it myself. I hate cleaning, but there was something almost romantic about getting to know the house square foot by square foot, going over each and every dusty floorboard, learning every scuff and squeak of the place that’s now home.

So all weekend I swept and scrubbed and sucked up bugs: belly-up beetles turned crispy from months in a sunny windowsill, surprised little spiders crouching in corners. I cursed at unexpected cascades of dust coming off of high shelves; I scowled at stains and spots of paint that refused to succumb to my scouring.

But mostly I smiled. It still seems too good to be true. I love our house.

And to all of you Home Depot early-dwellers, you project people with your 2X4s and mysterious little machines?

Perhaps one day I’ll join your club, if you’ll have me.

All quiet

I love writing, but sometimes I feel like I have a limited supply of words to lay down. And unfortunately, I’ve had precious few of them left over for blogging over the last couple of weeks.

I’ve been working really hard on this other writing project. Okay…that’s an exaggeration. I’ve been intending to work really hard on this other writing project while being constantly distracted by Draw Something (user name: shelbyvanpelt – and no, I’m not very good at in spite of my love for MSPAINT, but it’s highly entertaining nonetheless.)

In any case, you haven’t missed much. For instance, I calculated my March mileage and it was ho-hum.

Starting the month off with a foot tweak and a bad bout of flu, I knew I wasn’t going to hit the 200+ mark, but still…I didn’t really bounce back from that like I should have.

This past week involved a lot of easy running. No speed work, and not even a real long run.

To be completely honest, I feel like I’ve already moved on from this marathon, and I’ve been spending way too much time thinking about all of the things that I want to do post marathon. Other fitness-y things that aren’t running. Because I love running, but I feel like I have a limited number of miles to give, and I’ve been coming up short all spring.

Gah. I’m just all out of sorts lately!

You know what will help with that…

Red Brick is one of the local craft breweries here, and I recently picked up a pack of their HopLanta IPA. Hoppier than a bullfrog with a stubbed toe, the label claims. Cute.

So I wasn’t blown away by this beer, but it wasn’t bad either. I’d call it medium hoppy, with a good dose of breadiness and not so much bitterness. Easy drinking and enjoyable. I expect it tastes better when served fresh from the tap on a warm patio on a summer afternoon…as opposed to out of a bottle from my fridge. 6.7% ABV.

Bottom line: Standard IPA that performs well at the local/regional level. (Purchased at Your DeKalb Farmer’s Market, $8/6)

So I want to get back to writing here daily or at least several times  a week, because I miss having that daily ritual…what should I write about? Are there any controversial topics in the running and/or booze world about which you’re dying to hear my uninformed opinion? No? How about random questions for a FAQ/NAQ? Fire away, friends.

NAQ: bedtimes and schedules

Yesterday, I mentioned that, at 11 PM, I was still a couple of hours away from my normal bedtime and a few people actually asked about that.  Well, folks, I can take an idea and run with it. Sounds like it’s time for a NAQ* post!

[Please note that I’m posting this because my schedule is a slightly unusual and because I realize it’s a little strange for a grown-ass woman to stay up so late and be such a lazy slob in the morning. But it works for me. I am not posting this to show you how busy I am and complain about how hard my life is. I’m not that busy and my life isn’t particularly hard right now.]

Q: What time do you go to bed?

A: Usually between midnight and 2 AM. And I generally wake up between 7 and 9 AM.

Q: Why do you stay up so late? What’s wrong with you?

A: I prefer nights to mornings, and my current job rarely requires anything of me before 10 AM. Sometimes, I don’t have to be at work until 2 or 3 PM. It’s pretty awesome.

Q: What the hell kind of job is that?

A: I work at a running store.  I do the actual shoe fitting/selling thing and also do our store’s website and marketing, as well as helping out with events and training programs. Since we don’t open until 10 AM, I don’t need to wake up terribly early, even when I have to open. (But I do work a lot of evenings and most weekends.)

I love my job and am sad to be leaving it in a couple of months when we move to Atlanta.

Q: When do you run?

A: On days that I work the “morning” shift, I typically run in the afternoon/evening. On days that I work the “afternoon” shift, I usually run in the late morning, after a nice cup of coffee and breakfast, or at lunchtime. On days off, I run whenever, just as most people do on a lazy Saturday or Sunday.

I rarely run first thing in the morning unless I’m doing a long run or a morning “shakeout” run on a double day.

Of course, in the summer when it’s hot as balls, I have to shift my bedtime so I can wake up and run early in the morning. I hate the summer.

Q: WTF do you do when you’re burning the midnight oil?

A: It’s not that much extra time, really. I usually eat dinner around 9 PM, sometimes later.  If I’m working in the evening, I get home around 8:30. And at my husband’s old job, he worked long hours and was rarely home before 9 or 10 PM, so I’ve been in the habit of eating on the later side for a while.

By the time I finish dinner, clean up, and random chores, it’s usually 10 or 11. I watch TV, blog, and/or work on other writing projects for a couple of hours, then mosey to bed and read or dink around on my phone for a little while, until my eyelids get heavy and I shut the light off.

See? Not that much different than someone who eats dinner at 7 and goes to bed at 10:30.

Q: Is your husband on the same schedule?

A: He was, before his new job. He went to work at a normal time in the morning, but since his commute was a 5-minute walk, he didn’t have to wake up terribly early. We’ll see what happens once we get settled together in the same city. I have a feeling he’ll be on a more traditional schedule, and I still don’t know what my schedule will be, because I haven’t figured out what I’m going to be doing yet. (I should probably get on that.)

If I need to adjust to 6 AM wake-ups, I can do that. But it’s not my preference. I’m more relaxed, alert, creative and happy in the evening. I’m grouchy and unproductive in the morning.

Q: Just wait until you have kids.

A: I know. It’s one of the many reasons I fear I’d be an unfit parent. You should see how surly I get with my cats when they stomp around on the bed in the morning. And I can just kick them out of the room and go back to sleep.

Q: Are we done talking about this yet? I can’t believe I just wasted four minutes reading about your daily schedule.

A: All done. And this post was so quick to write – it’s only 11! I’ve got a whole evening in front of me…

*Never Asked Questions. Credit to: Marie, AR, and Sarah-who-doesn’t-have-a-blog-anymore. <3

You can say you KNEW ME WHEN

If I believed in destinies, I’d be likely to say that writing was mine.

Yep, even in spite of two failed NaNoWriMo attempts, it’s always been something that I enjoyed, and a skill at which I believed myself to be relatively capable. Someday – if I ever get off my ass – I hope you’ll be able to pick me up at your nearest Hudson Bookseller during your connection in Houston or wherever and be, at a minimum, mildly entertained by my words as you complete your travels.

But perhaps it’s in the nature of destinies to be shaken once in a while?

Mine was, recently, as I was digging through a harmless-looking box of childhood artifacts at my mom’s house over Christmas vacation. Nestled among the frayed ballet shoes and “thank you for participating!” softball trophies, I discovered a collection of books that were “published” each year by my elementary school teachers, grades two through five.

Whoa. I’d forgotten all about these! As I fingered their spiral bindings, I suddenly remembered the thrill I’d felt when our annual creative writing projects were laminated as keepsakes.

The only problem is that these “books” are…so hilariously bad. I mean, what do you expect from an eight-year-old? Or even a ten-year-old? But still. My husband and I were doubled over with laughter as we read through them.

Let’s start with the earliest one…second grade, age 7:

Like most budding authors, I responsibly opted to cut my teeth on a collection of short stories, rather than diving right into a novel. (And I’m sure that many markers were drained in the painstakingly thorough coloring of that unicorn outline.)

Upon opening this volume, the reader is immediately presented with a reminder of both ownership and authorship:

Whew. Because if this thing got lost….

Beautiful Animal Stories is a diverse compilation of compact tales largely about kittens, ponies, butterflies and doves. I’ll choose to share just one selection with you, a coming-of-age drama called “The Twin Baby Hearts.”

Touching on themes of incest and growing up too fast, this dark tale is helpfully accompanied by chronological illustrations of the title characters engaged in their nefarious conduct. It it worth noting that the male protagonist, described as a “carpender,” was actually meant to be a builder of treehouses and not a killer of runty freshwater fish.

Third grade, age eight, brought my first real novel, the cleverly-entitled Cat-astrophe.

Capturing the hearts of animal lovers everywhere, this story chronicles the adventures of a pair of siblings who secretly rescue a kitten from their modern suburban yard. Shortly thereafter, they learn that the family is relocating…somewhat surprisingly, given the demonstrated era, via covered wagon. They shall travel from their current home in Bismarck, ND to Sacramento, CA (someone was studying her state capitals!)

The irony of Cat-astrophe is that there really is no conflict here. When the parents discover a cat on board the wagon, they cheerfully endorse its presence, saying that it will help with the mice in their new frontier home.

Insightful commentary on the benefits of pet ownership despite historical ambiguity? Or a rip-off of Little House On The Prairie? You decide.

It’s also worth noting that, without exception, my early works contained an “About The Author” section at the end of the book. This year’s edition was especially detailed, spanning a full six pages – nearly a third of the book’s total volume.

Just in case you missed it the first time – MY HOUSE WAS GREEN.

In fourth grade, age nine, I branched out and created my first work in the mystery/suspense genre:

Fourth grade was also the year that I learned how to type (exciting!) and mastered (er…sort of) the art of the paragrph.

As for the storyline here…well, it’s pretty damn weak. A family goes camping (at the same campground my family used to go when  I was a kid!) and then goes hiking (on the same hike we used to go on!), whence they’re stuck by a surprise snowstorm. The ever-resourceful children build an igloo for the family to take shelter, but they can’t escape the ominous signs that appear each night.

(Illustration at its finest.)

Finally, after, like a week with no food and increasingly menacing omens, someone in the family remembers that they know how to make smoke signals (ORLY? finally?) and the group is plucked from the mountain via chopper, never to uncover the source of their mysterious haunter.

Plot resolution FAIL.

But it was fifth grade, age ten, brought the most embarrassing book of all.

And it was called I’ll Never Baby-Sit in an Amusement Park Again. You remember the movie “Adventures in Babysitting,” right? Featuring a young Elisabeth Shue?

[source: imdb]

Well, I went ahead and took that movie’s  noble concept and copied it, creating an eight-page adventure-drama around the concept of a frenzied-yet-clever babysitter named Megan who happens to lose her charge at the fairgrounds. In order to earn enough money to buy a hot dog to keep up her strength to continue searching (yes, really, I wish I was kidding)…she is forced to sell herself into an impromptu manufactured pop group whose name alone makes Saved By The Bell’s ZACK ATTACK seem downright hipster:

So hot. So cool. So…not either one.

Also: major FAIL at understanding the concept of an AIR GUITAR:

A shiny, new air guitar. Um. It’s not an actual physical object. OMG, ten-year-old me…just stop.

Reading it for the first time in over twenty years, I couldn’t exactly explain why, but this last book made me cringe in a way that the others didn’t.

By all objective accounts, I’ll Never Babysit in an Amusement Park Again was the best story I’d written to date. The book’s spiral-bound pages were filled with actual writing, rather than halfhearted illustrations or lengthy autobiographies. It contained proper paragraph usage and (mostly) correct spelling and grammar. It had a feisty main character and a plot that – although borrowed – made sense. It had a beginning, a conflict, a climax, and a resolution.

Flipping through the flimsy pages a week later, it hit me. The source of uneasiness was that this was the first time I’d tried to write for an audience.

Because in the fifth grade? I’d never actually babysat before. I was trying to write from the perspective of movie characters I’d come to idolize.  (And book characters too….I fancied myself a Claudia with a dash of Stacy, but, honestly, I was probably more of a Kristy mixed with a little bit of Mary Ann.)

[source: teenangster]

So why is reading this fifth-grade piece so terrifying? Because. At the time, I thought it was a great idea to “reach” and write from a slightly different (i.e., slightly more mature) perspective, and I was probably sure that I would nail it – reading this little booklet, I actually remember feeling triumphant about it.

But in retrospect, it fell totally flat – even for a fifth grader.

The process of reading my own early writings has actually reinforced a theory I’ve had about fiction writing for a while:

(1) Write what you know very well; or

(2) Write what you don’t know at all.

When I started my last (slightly lapsed) novel (the one I shared a snippet of!), I decided to write from the perspective of an adolescent male. As I begun writing, I was somehow quite positive that a male perspective was the right way to go –  but I couldn’t really explain why. I think it’s  because I could more easily get inside the head of a person who wasn’t ever me. Which is easier sometimes.

Anyway, this random introspective post has been brought to you by my childhood student-author aspirations. And by beer:

A bottle or two of New Holland’s Mad Hatter IPA fueled this post. This is an easy-drinking IPA: you’ll definitely notice the hops, but they aren’t all that puckery. Quite a lot of grapefruity citrus in this beer. 5.2% ABV.

Bottom line: As an IPA fan, I wouldn’t necessarily buy this again for the hop factor, but I’ll say that for an IPA it’s a very mild and drinkable beer!  (Purchased at Bottle Revolution, $2/12 oz)

Please tell me I wasn’t the only one who wrote embarrassing stuff as a kid.  Did your elementary have this self-publishing system, too?