Friday, April 11, 2014

Fiction Friday: The Cat's Point of View

Writing Boot Camp has become #FictionFriday! Each week I'll be picking a prompt and exercising my fiction muscles. This week's prompt is brought to you by 642 Things to Write About.

Today's prompt: A scene from the cat's point of view.

That woman was back again.

Oliver could see her from his hidey-hole under the couch. Her voice was high pitched, especially when she giggled. When she talked to him, she used words like "kitty-witty-witty" and "fluffer-McFluffkins".

Oliver did not like her.

Oliver's roommate, Ben, brought home lots of girls. They came and went, but Oliver didn't really mind. As long as Ben was there to fill his food dish, supply his kitty nibble treats, and roll his jingle ball around, Oliver was happy. But then this woman showed up and things started to change.

Ben starting going away for the weekend. Sure, he left extra food and water, but it wasn't fresh. Three-day old cat good did not taste good. And no treats for days! And the woman started bringing things in. One day, Oliver took a leap on to his favorite windowsill to snooze in the sun and found it covered in stuff--candles and little vases and little framed photos. He fell right off the windowsill and darted under the bed, alarmed. This woman was making her mark. Oliver had to do something about it.

First he stole the funny little brush she put on her eyes every morning. Then he knocked all those stupid little things off the shelf. And then he rolled around on her clean laundry. And then he sat smugly and washed his paws.

It irritated her, Oliver could tell. But she didn't leave.

The final straw came one night, after Oliver had his dinner and collected his nibbles, he trotted off towards the bedroom to settle down on the bed for the night.

"Oh, no, kitty," cooed the woman. "No kitty-witty in the bedroom tonight! I just bought a new chenille blanket and we don't need kitty hair on it!" And she shut the bedroom door, squashing Oliver's face.

"Mrrrroooooow!" Oliver yowled at the door. He scratched at the door. Nothing. He howled louder. Louder and louder, until finally he was screeching at the top of his cat lungs.


"Oliver!" Ben came out of the bedroom and scooped his up. Oliver swatted at him with his paw and tried to lunge at the woman's sleeping form.

"Oh, no you don't," Ben said, quickly shutting the door.

"Meeeeeeer," Oliver growled under his breath.

"I know, I know, you don't like her," Ben said, sitting down on the couch with the cat in his lap.  Oliver glared at the shut bedroom. Didn't like her? That was an understatement. He wanted to use her pants as a scratching post. He wanted to attack her ankles. He wanted to hack up a hairball in her shoes. He wanted--

"It's okay, calm down," He scratched him under the chin like he knew Oliver liked so much. Oliver tried to stay mad, but it felt good.

"The problem is, I like her," Ben said. "Do you think you can at least try?"

Oliver growled again, and Ben laughed.

"Okay, okay," Ben said. "I'll work on her." He laid a blanket on the couch and went back to bed.

Oliver settled down on the blanket. He was comfortable...but not as comfortable as he would be on the bed.

"Where did you go?" Oliver heard the woman asked.

"Just settling the cat down," Ben said.

"Why? I mean...he's just a cat."

Oliver started to growl again. He hopped down, walked over to the kitchen counter, and swatted at the strap of her purse until it fell. He then started to systematically paw the contents under the couch: keys, cell phone, packs of gum.

Lady, Oliver thought, it's on.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Marathon-Sized Decisions

After going back and forth for a few weeks, I finally decided to make a choice. My first marathon is on the calendar, and it's going to be the Atlanta Marathon on October 26.

It was between that and the WDW Marathon in January, but since our family Disney vacation is in December and I'll be running the Glass Slipper Challenge in February, I decided to opt for the marathon that's close to home. I think it'll make it easier on me to be able to train on the race course, and I like that I'll be close to home.

So now that I've got the where and when, I can focus on more important things. Like what I'm going to wear!

Kidding. Sorta.

Here are some things I'm thinking about well in advance to help me #ThriveNotSurvive:

--The training plan. I'm still deciding between a couple, but I know one thing: it's going to have to be flexible. With a husband who travels a lot for work, I'm going to have to do a lot of planning ahead--and probably a fair amount of training with my joggy stroller.
--My schedule. In the same vein, I'll be trying to identify weekends that are going to throw my training plan--other races, holidays, birthdays.
--Hydration. I've never really carried water with me, but training through the spring and summer in Atlanta is going to require me to do it in some form or fashion.
--Shoes. I've always worn the same shoes, but before I get too far into this process, I'll be visiting a running store for a fitting and see what they suggest.
--Timing. I usually run with my Nike+ app on my phone, but I'm lucky if my phone makes it through a half marathon without dying. Time to start shopping for a watch!
--How incredibly lucky I am to be getting to worry about such things. I know not everyone has the luxury to do something like this, and I'm thankful.

A penny for your thoughts: what trips you up when you're training for a race of any length?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Fiction Friday: A Vivid Memory

Writing Boot Camp has become #FictionFriday! Each week I'll be picking a prompt and exercising my fiction muscles. This week's prompt is brought to you by 642 Things to Write About.

Today's prompt: A vivid childhood memory from the child's perspective.

Annie's mother was late.

Her middle school band practice had ended ages ago. Her friend's parents had all come and gone, and there she was--alone on a patch of grass in the carpool area.

"Annie, honey, do you want us to bring you home?" Her friend Stacy's mom had leaned out of the car window as her daughter climbed in next to her.

"Oh, it's fine!" Annie said breezily, not wanting to make a big deal out of it. She waved at Stacy as the car drove away. Now Annie was wishing she'd gone with Stacy and her mom--the sun was starting to dip lower in the sky, and she was getting hungry.

She wished again that her parents would let her have a cell phone. '11 is too young to be distracted by technology," she could hear her father saying in her head. 'Now go outside and play!" Go outside and play? What was she, 4? And even 4 year olds had access to smart phones. She saw them playing games at tables in restaurants while their parents enjoyed dinner. She wasn't even allowed to read a book at the table while her family ate. Dinner time is discussion time, her dad liked to say. Ugh.

If she had a phone she could call her mother and find out why she was--Annie checked her watch--45 minutes late. She tucked that tidbit away to add to her PowerPoint presentation entitled "Why tweens should have their own cell phone" as item #42.

She sighed and laid back in the grass. At least it was warm outside, and it wasn't raining. She played a game she often played, called "What Would Anne Shirley Do". She never told anyone she played a game where she compared her situations to a fictional character, but then again, she was the only person she knew to have been named after one. Anne of Green Gables had been her mother's favorite book and so she was named after the title redhead--only her father called her Annie from the get go, and it stuck.

Annie both loved and hated that she'd been named after Anne Shirley. She loved the books, but didn't think she was anything like her--her hair was plain and brown, not distinctive. Annie would have even chosen carrot-colored hair over her mousy locks. No boys teased her in school like Gilbert Blythe, which to her clearly stated that no boy even noticed she was there.

When Anne Shirley was 11, she was already taking care of triplets. Annie wasn't even allowed to babysit her younger brother. Not that she really wanted to--her 3 year old brother was a ball of energy and dirt, always poking things with sticks and finding bugs.

When Anne Shirley got left at a train station, she imagined herself spending the night in a tree, surrounded by blossoms. Annie looked around. The only trees she could see were spindly little things. Those would never work.

What if her mother didn't come? Where would she spend the night? She couldn't walk home--it was miles to her house, and there were no sidewalks on the road. She could break into the school and use the phone inside--but that might set off an alarm. What would she do if the police came? Would she get arrested? Could they put her in jail? She shivered, thinking of the bad guys that ended up in jail. She didn't want to be in a cell with someone with an eye patch and tattoos up and down his arm, so she quickly scratched that idea.

She could sleep in the doorway of the school, then when it was time to go to class she would already be there. Only she'd have to wear the same clothes...ew. There went that option.

She could walk to one of the houses that were close by to the school. She didn't know who lived there, but maybe they would let her in to use the phone. Maybe they would be nice and offer her a plateful of homemade cookies and cold lemonade. Or maybe they would be creepy, like the kind of people you saw on the news that stole kids and brainwashed them. Maybe they were watching her, right now, deciding on the best time to run out and snatch her.

She sat up, startled. Had she heard footsteps? Annie's eyes darted around, but she didn't see anyone. Where was her mother? She got up and flattened herself against the side of the building so no one could sneak up on her.

What if something happened to her mother? What if there had been a car accident? Or what if her mother had stopped at the bank, and there was a robbery? What if her mother was being held hostage right this very instant? Was her little brother with her? He'd be terrible in a hostage situation. He always made noise and he never sat still, which were two things that ticked bank robbers off.

Annie's heart started to beat fast. She wanted to go home! She wanted to see the light spilling in through the white curtains and see her brother's race cars all over the floor. What if she never saw her family again? She choked back tears.

And then--there was the familiar car pulling into the parking lot, and Annie threw herself in the front seat and into her mother's lap.

"Mommy!" She sobbed, even though she hadn't called her mother that in years, and would have been horrified with herself if she hadn't been so relieved that her mother wasn't being held hostage and she herself had barely avoided being kidnapped.

"Hey, it's okay!" Her mother said, clearly startled to find her daughter in such a state. "I'm sorry I was late, I got stuck in this check out line at the store and then hit afternoon traffic--" she stopped talking and smoothed Annie's hair back.

"Hey there, Annie," she said. "Are you alright?"

Annie sniffled, then hiccupped. "Yes," she said, turning a little pink. "I just let my imagination get a little carried away, that's all."

Maybe she was a little more like Anne Shirley than she thought.

A penny for your thoughts: what is a vivid memory from your childhood?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Thrive, not Survive

As I've gotten older, I've learned something about myself: I'm not good at the process.

For example, I love being on stage. I like the bright stage lights, the rush of nervousness, hearing an audience respond to me. What I don't like? Rehearsing.

I love to play the piano. But I'm not very good at it. Why? Because I hate practicing.

And now? I love races. I love the energy, the comraderie, the t-shirts and bling. Can you guess what I don't love? Training.

I've been running almost two years. In those two years, I've been prepared for exactly one race. And it was last week.

It was a really nice feeling. I got a PR, had fun, and didn't feel like I was going to die at the finish line.

And that's when I had to admit it to myself: I've been surviving my races. And I want to thrive.

I've been so bad at my training and consistency that I've been thinking about sticking with shorter distances and putting off any more halfs and my first full for a year or two.

But then I think of the runner's high. I think of the thrill in the air before a long distance race, the energy of the crowd bouncing on their toes to keep their legs warm. I think of the journey, and I want it.

It's going to take some tweaking. I've realized that the traditional Tues/Thurs/long weekend run doesn't work for me. This week, I'm going to start figuring out what does.

It's going to take time. And that's a commitment that falls not only on me, but my family, too. Are we all ready for me to start seriously working towards 26.2?

It's going to take goals, and not just the end result goal. It's going to be eating right, getting enough rest, and going in the right order--when I started this wild ride, I started with a half marathon and worked my way down. I need to hop off the backwards train, don't you think?

And as we all know well, it's going to take heart. A race is not run on legs alone.

It's time to thrive, not survive.

Question of the day: what have you been phoning in? Is there somewhere in your life that could benefit more preparation?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Showers bring...My Birthday, a New Training Plan, and Busy Weekends

March came in like a lion and out like a...bigger, crankier lion. No more cold, Mother Nature! I think I speak for most when I say we are ready for these warmer temps to stick around.

This month is going to be fun. I have plans every weekend--my birthday, the spring game for our beloved Georgia Bulldogs, visiting with a lovely friend and seeing Divergent (have you read those books? If you haven't, you should!), starting a new training plan (more about that soon!) and a couple of races thrown in the mix. I'm thinking about the Run Like Heck 5k in historic Oakland Cemetery (appealing because it's really close to my house!), and trying to decide between the Tybee Turtle Trot and The Biggest Loser 10k at Six Flags Over Georgia.  Tybee is a bit of a hike from home, but it would be fun to cap off the month with a mini break at the beach.

Here are my goals for the month:

I'm going to make good memories by...Doing some fun spring activities with my Little man. We're going to dye Easter eggs, plant an indoor herb garden, and check out the blooms at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
I'm going to focus on...Organizing my writing. I have papers and notebooks everywhere. How can a girl sit down to finish a story with that kind of clutter?
I'm going to do good by...Donating Easter goodies to kids in need. How fun will those be to make?

A penny for your thoughts: what are you doing this month that is fun?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Judge Not.

Oh my gosh, YOU GUYS. There has been drama.

First there was the bandit. She ran a big race here in Georgia illegally--as in, without paying for a number. She took selfies throughout the race and then wrote a blog post about it. Rage, fist-shaking and strongly-worded responses commenced from the entire running community. .

THEN Self magazine insulted a runner wearing a tutu in a race. Even worse, the runner was a cancer patient. Once again, we pavement pounders came out in full force, organizing tutu runs for the weekend and blowing up social media with photos of ourselves in various states of tulle.

I didn't devote specific blogs about either of these issues, because I don't have anything to say about the topics that haven't been said: taking something that isn't yours, even if it isn't physical, is bad. Making fun of people is bad. Especially if that person is going through chemotherapy and all she did was have the (gasp) audacity to wear a tutu.

Then this weekend I ran a women's 5k. No boys allowed, just ladies of every age, shape, size and costume. And here is what I saw: support. Calls of encouragement to those that slowed down on yet another Atlanta hill. Cheers when we made it to the top. Pats on the back, laughter, tutus, sweatpants, race shirts, goofy looking compression socks, bad hair days, rain jackets. Happiness.

What I didn't see? Judgement. From anyone.

That's what this is supposed to be about. It lightened my soul, after a week of reading cross-fire between the Self magazine and the rest of the world. It made me happy that I could go out in my funny pink running skirt and trot along at my own pace and not have to worry about anyone making fun of me for the way my arms sort of whaff about when I'm not focused on them, or the alarming glaring whiteness of my legs after a winter of fleece-lined running pants.

When did the world become so judgemental? We're all guilty of it in so many aspects of our lives. Running, work, motherhood--don't get me started on the judgment that runs rampant in mommy circles. You can't make a move as a mother without being labeled with something. And being a runner is becoming just as bad.

I was at a race launch a few weeks ago and someone asked me what long distances I'd run. When I said I'd run a half marathon at Disney, this woman gave me a look and said, "oh, you're one of those."

Yep. I'm one of those. It was like my 13.1 didn't count as much as hers because I'd done it while running through a castle and got a high five from Mickey Mouse at the finish line.

Running any distance--a mile, a 5k, a 10k, a half, a full or beyond--is a huge accomplishment. This person had no idea what part of my running journey I was on, or how far it had taken me to get there. I wanted to poke her and say, "hey, judge not, lady."

I've seen the memes that bash folks who post their daily mileage or workouts on social media. Here's a novel idea: if you don't care about how much I go to the gym or how far I ran that morning, don't read it. Same with foodies who post pics of their meals or new mothers who are enamored with their babies. People have their likes, their obsessions, their goals. You can bet when I start training for my first marathon, my journey is going to be public and out there. I might never make it without the amazing people I've connected with.

Why can't we all just wear tutus and get along?

A penny for your thoughts: do you ever feel judged? How do you brush it off and keep going?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

How to be a Morning Person

I am not a morning person.
I am not perky in the morning--I'm generally a bear to get out of bed. The morning and I just aren't friends.
I don't want to be this way, so I've been doing some research on how to change my habits and become a morning person.
I'm one of those people that needs a good, solid 10 hours of sleep. Let me tell you, that doesn't happen. Between night owl Little Man, finding time to write, exercise, and reading just one more chapter, sleep has kind of turned into a luxury. I know I'm not the only one in this boat! I'm not going to get my coveted 10 hours on a regular basis, so I need the sleep I do get needs to be good.
I downloaded the Sleep Cycle app on my phone, which uses your smart phone to sense your movement when you sleep and track what sleep phase you're in. Based on that, it uses a 30-minute alarm window that goes off during your lightest sleep phase. Then it gives you a graph of how well you slept. An average night for me:
It's been interesting to track the things I do during the day and how they affect my sleep. The biggest culprit I've found is eating close to bedtime. Even if it's just a snack, I don't sleep quite as well.
I try to go to bed and get up at the same time every night, but the weekends always screw me up. So does my toddler, who I'm pretty sure is nocturnal. I'm also really bad about Pinterest-ing myself to sleep--browsing pins until I'm so sleepy I doze off holding my phone. Terrible, I know. I love falling asleep with the television on, too. All of these are bad ideas, because falling asleep with electronics that emit light can disrupt your body's production of melatonin. My husband and I have banned electronics in bed, a rule we follow most of the time.
Instead of checking my Pinterest boards, I've been trying to incorporate some bedtime yoga and a warm bath. I love my bath time, and I usually have a stockpile of my favorite soaps and candles.
I try to make mornings more bearable by getting up with time to relax before we have to be out the door. This is a huge challenge, because I'm practically hardwired to stay in bed until the last minute. But doesn't the day just start so much better when you're not rushing around trying to find shoes, pack lunches and do your hair at the same time?
I know I need that time in the morning to process the day. Because mornings are hard, you know?
A penny for your thoughts: Are you a morning person or a night owl?