I’m not Avoiding You, I’m Avoiding Everyone

I’ve had a slightly used jug of buttermilk stashed in the back of my fridge since shortly before Christmas, marked “best by Jan. 25th.” The recipe–for a lovely, decadent, double layer red velvet cake–only called for one cup. The store only had one-quart jugs in stock.

At first, determined not to waste it, I vowed to find a few other culinary endeavors to use up the remaining buttermilk. But my abilities to dream up uses for sour milk are limited and I admittedly didn’t take the time to look up alternate recipes online. So, time marched on. And pretty soon my shame became evident as the expiration date neared.

I’m avoiding it now like the plague.

(Reading the title, you probably clicked over here thinking you’d catch up on some very good reasons why I’ve been so elusive online lately, expecting to see some humble, heartfelt apologies for why I’ve not posted since…well, since the buttermilk was only slightly past its prime, but I’ll avoid all that, too.)

I see it in there on a daily basis, relegated to the furthest point – back corner, top shelf – of my refrigerator. It’s to the point now that I’m really terrified to open it in order to dump the contents down the sink and to rinse out the jug. In my estimation, whatever soured milk turns into once its crossed over, it can’t smell good.

On the other hand, I’m still feeling just guilty enough about my wastefulness that I hesitate dumping the whole thing, undisturbed, into the trashcan and forgetting about dutiful recycling, just this once.

Something’s gotta give.

What about you? Do you have seemingly easy tasks or decisions that you’d rather put off? Come on, don’t ignore me! I’m right here and I’m not going away, so you might as well share! Hello? Are you avoiding me?

 

 

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A Brisk Run

A bitter wind nips at my face, burning my nostrils, but it feels good to be running outside despite the cold air. Our neighborhood is especially quiet this morning. The children and most adults have already left for school and work. The few who haven’t have no doubt taken comfort in the warmth of their houses, leaving the outdoors to those of us brave enough to venture out.

As I make my laps, a few flakes drift down. Through even the smallest of crystals, I can taste the impending spring weather, still a few weeks away, on the tip of my tongue. The sun pokes through a cloud opening but even its bright rays aren’t able to provide any measurable warmth. Still, it’s good to see it, if only briefly, and it makes me smile inside.

I think to myself, “having someone beside me running is the best feeling in the world,” and I look up at her, wagging my tail. She reaches down to pat my head and offers a few soft words of encouragement. Her spirit gives me a renewed energy and, together, we end up running longer than I ever have before.

When we get back home, she goes upstairs and I get a long drink of cool water and wait for her to come back. After awhile, she returns and we sit together on the couch. I lay my head in her lap and she strokes my ear, telling me how well I did today. I let out a deep sigh, close my eyes, and think that maybe this feeling is even better.

As told by Buddy.

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Write Now

If you read my New Year’s post, you’d know that one of my goals is to “be more present in all things.”

I should heed this sound advice in my writing as well.

Over the course of developing my first two manuscripts, I found that if I immerse myself in the present writing, it comes out much more fluid and with a considerably less amount of effort. On the other hand, if I try to look too far ahead, try to gauge the outcome of a story before its had time to take its own shape, I get frustrated.

That’s when negativity sets in and takes up residence in my brain, overstaying its welcome like an annoying relative during the holidays.

I start to feel like it’s been all for naught. Like what I’ve written so far is complete garbage not even fit for the recycle bin.

I have to learn to trust my instinct and intuition more, to hope that my characters will lead me in the right direction and let the story unfold in the here and now.

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A Book by Any Other Name

Do you ever pick up a book and read the back cover, simply because you liked its title?

Can you judge a book by the cover, or, in this case, the title?

Can a title make or break a book? I often think so. That’s why it seems so important for me to choose just the right one for mine.

I’m pretty satisfied with “Autumn in Vermont” for the name of my first novel still in editing stage. However, my second manuscript, which is a work in progress, is–I gotta say it–another story.

I’m only about halfway through my first draft, yet I feel a need to “name” it, at least temporarily, until I find out what it will become in the end. Kind of like giving your unborn child an in-utero nickname like “the Alien”, or “Jellybean.” (For the record, I never felt compelled to call my own children anything other than “the baby.” As far as my writing goes, “the book” just doesn’t do it for me.)

For my drafting purposes, I’ve temporarily been using “Sawyer’s Bend” because that’s the name of the town around which the story centers. It’s serving me well enough now, but I’m not resigned to it for the long haul, by any means. In fact, I can see this novel growing into a sequel or even a trilogy, and then “Sawyer’s Bend” would no longer fit.

Still, part of me wishes I could have enough foresight to give it a more permanent name while I’m still in the midst of creating it, or at least some ideas. I’m coming up with nothing.

Perhaps that’s the wrong line of thinking, though. Maybe going into it with a title stuck in my head now would shape my story into something it was never meant to be in the first place. It would be like stubbornly sticking to the name “Sue” after finding out you had a ten pound baby boy. Sure, it could make a catchy line in a country song, but how will it shape his future?

You’d have to be open to change somewhere along the way.

What about other writers out there? Do you have a title in mind when you start drafting a new book? How often do you stick with the same one when it’s all said and done? I’m curious, so please post your comments here.

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Run to the Bagels!

It’s cold outside.

I’m training for several upcoming 5k races and, at the least, a mini-marathon in early summer. My first race is March 5th which requires me to begin logging in the miles now. I have a treadmill I’ll use occasionally, but it’s not the same as running outside.

Did I mention it’s cold outside? Like 10 degrees Fahrenheit cold.

But I did it! I ran the full 3 miles on the schedule for today, with icicles on my eyelashes (yes, I’m serious) and slush frozen on the bottoms of my shoes.

I think the only thing keeping me going on the last mile was the promise of a bagel fest at the end of the road. Visions of the delectable, doughnut-shaped baked goods dangled in front of us runners like carrots, only with more effectiveness.

Of course, it may have also had something to do with the fact that the breakfast station was located in a nice, warm and toasty cafeteria.

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A Year of Reflections and Resolutions

I met up with my best friend over lunch today for our annual New Year’s hopes and dreams pow-wow. It’s an excuse a chance not only for us to catch up (which we manage to do several times a month anyway) but to talk about what we hope to accomplish over the next year. It helps for me, and her too, I suppose, to say the things I’m dreaming of doing out loud to a real person. It makes me accountable to someone other than myself.

Not only does my friend refrain from looking at me as if I’ve got a few screws loose when I say I want to run 13.1 miles in the middle of November through the streets of downtown Indianapolis with several thousand strangers shedding articles of clothing, she’ll cheerfully tell me, “You can totally do that!”

It’s not that my husband won’t give me the same encouragement. He will. Eventually. But first he’ll scrunch up his face and ask me if I realize exactly how far 13.1 miles is. And then he’ll remind me that I do have four wheels that will take me just as far and faster.

In honor of our annual tradition, I decided to post my thoughts here. But, then I thought it was fitting to not only make resolutions for the upcoming year but to reflect on the past year as well.

So here goes…

2010 marks the year that I reached my weight loss goals and actually surpassed them by a couple pounds, fitting into a size I never thought I’d see again.

I discovered the joy of running and spending quality time with my other best friend.

I competed in my first of several 5k runs and a 15k and discovered a lot about myself with each step.

I was even somehow able to pull off that 13.1 and finish my first mini-marathon!

It’s not all been good though. I’ve had to withstand numerous eye surgeries and procedures, disappointments and setbacks, but I like to think I’ve done so with at least a small amount of grace and minimal self-pity.

And through it all I’ve come to realize I am truly blessed.

Now for 2011…

I want to finish at least six 5k-15k runs, plus 2 half-marathons or a half and a full. I’m allowing myself an open ended goal on this one because it has a lot to do with available events, timing and whether or not I’ll have any unavoidable down-time due to unforeseen eye issues.

I will finish the draft of Sawyer’s Bend and polish it, then stalk contact an infinite number of agents until I find one who will not take out a restraining order represent me. It would be best if this was followed by an offer from a publisher.

I will strive for continued improvements in my physical, mental and emotional health and well-being.

I will work at making my home more comfortable and inviting to family and friends and in strengthening those relationships.

I will be open to new ideas and creativity.

I will be more present in all things.

I am looking forward to the New Year and to all the opportunities and blessings it has to offer, and I wish each and every one of you the same. Happy New Year!

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Pressing Issues (or ways I’m distracting myself from writing)

Last week it was preparing myself for my first mini-marathon. The week before, maybe it was Halloween or my oldest daughter’s school trip to Washington DC.

Whatever the reason, I seem to be finding more and more things to place in my own way and to not write. It’s not that I don’t have the time. Right now, time is the one thing I do have. More eye troubles and another recent eye surgery have forced me to take a time-out, in fact.

No running, no work. No bending, no lifting. No cleaning. No sleeping on my right side. Surprisingly, I am allowed to drive, but seriously, where would I go and what would I do with all these restrictions and a black eye? Until Wednesday, at least, there’s tons of things I can’t do.

I can, however, sit for seemingly endless hours at my leisure while life goes on around me, not entirely uninterrupted, but as close as it’s gotten to it in a very long time.

So, what am I doing with the hours between sleeping and eating and checking in with the family every so often?

Reading mostly.

My spot on the waiting list at our local library for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson came at a very unopportune time. I’m halfway through the nearly 500 page story and I’m hooked. I also have the next one in the series, The Girl Who Played with Fire, waiting in the wings. I only hope the third one is available soon after I’ve finished with the other two.

Larsson was a brilliant writer who died shortly after delivering his three manuscripts for publishing. It’s unfortunate that he was unable to realize the full extent of the brilliant writing career that he so deserved. It makes me wonder if he, too, ever put off his writing in favor of other things. Or did he keep at it, day in and day out, until he was finally able to present something worthy of catching the eye of the right person at the right time? Something every writer dreams of.

So, what’s stopping me from realizing my dream? That’s a big question.

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