These Boots Are Made For Hiking…

I’m the poster child for late bloomers…but I like to think of myself as a perennial. I go through cycles of blooming and live to bloom another day. I bloomed a couple of years ago with my long-distance running. That’s not to say I won any awards (ok, ok, I did come in second in a small 10k), but I did run four half-marathons and live to tell the tale.

My latest blooming, or rather struggling to dig my roots in and raise my leaves to the sun, is to go back to school at night for a masters in environmental science. If I were going to college now, I would pick it as an undergraduate, but back when I went to college it really wasn’t an option. No worries…I believe in reinventing myself at every age.

I started my new degree a little over a year ago. I took a groundwater modeling class just because it was the only class offered in my degree. Last Fall, I took a course in restoration ecology and fulfilled one of two prerequisites, geology. Now I’m taking environmental communications and environmental chemistry. It’s more of a struggle than I would like to admit…

In all of this, though, is a wonderful adventure…the other prerequisite that I need is a field course. So, I’m going to Iceland. Yes, pity poor me, I “have” to go to Iceland! I will study the geology of volcanoes and glaciers in the place where the earth is visibly tearing apart. I will hike up volcanoes, ford streams, swim in geothermal pools, and sketch land forms into a notebook as the wind and sleet assail me.

The first thing I’ve done to prepare myself physically, is to buy my first pair of hiking boots. Off I went to REI…I joined the team as a member…which means $20 to be used to support local trail systems. I bought my first pair of hiking boots, and a pair of water shoes…for those times when I need to ford a stream. I bought hiking socks too. My premise is that if my feet are happy, I will do well.


Back home, I put on my socks and boots and went for a “hike” around the neighborhood to break in my boots. Three miles later, I felt as if I’d made little progress in breaking in my boots. The next morning, however, I felt differently. I had shin splints. My calves, and various and sundry other muscles, were inexplicably sore. I had expected to get blisters as part of the breaking-in process, but apparently it wasn’t really the boots that needed to “break in”, but my own body that needs to prepare for my trip.

I woke up sore today, but after work I put my hiking boots on and headed out for a walk. This time I only went two miles, but I felt as if I were wearing ski boots. Each step felt heavy and filled with import.

Now my boots are five miles into breaking in…and so is my body! I can easily walk, or even run a few miles with no negative effects, but hiking must be a different experience all together. Good thing I am starting two months in advance to prepare my body for my next, big adventure!

Find the Joy in the Journey…and never stop finding new journeys!



The Courage to Start Over Again

I find myself “back at square one” when it comes to my fitness goals. After a year of limited ability to exercise, followed by surgery, followed by recovery, I find myself with the ok to exercise from my doctor and no motivation to do so. I did go out one day and I ran three miles. I felt as if it were a half-marathon and that I was under-prepared. I was sore for four days afterward. Apparently I’m not ready for that and need to start slower.

Dejected and unmotivated, I decided to re-read my blog to see how I was able to get started the last time. Not only did I find my initial posts motivational, I found that I have left a record that, if not beneficial to anyone else, is a goldmine for me.  I struggled just as much back then just to get started walking on my treadmill. The difference is that I know just how far I got from that humble start. I need to do it again, and I need to find the courage to do it. I think I just did.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling that I already did this and shouldn’t have to do it again (the “poor me” trap), or the trap of thinking that I am just not the fitness “type”, or the trap that it just doesn’t matter. I do have to do it all again, but hopefully this time I will learn from past lessons and not get discouraged or take too many false steps.

I am the fitness type, because I’ve been fit and I loved it. I learned this late in life, not having been much of an athlete as a child. I learned that strength training makes me more stable…more graceful (I was never a graceful child). Running, eventually, makes me feel healthy and energized…at least the shorter runs do. The longer runs make me feel powerful in a whole different way…conquering my fears and proving to myself that I can do it.

It does matter. Being fit and healthy is a gift that only I can give myself and one that will extend my life and enhance my quality of life as I get older. It matters because it makes me better at all I do, provides me with endurance, energy, and perspective. It gives me confidence. I was getting used to the words, “I am a long-distance runner”, now I’ve removed all my “13.1” magnets from my car because they made me feel like a fraud. I earned them with blood (not much), sweat (a whole lot), and a few tears.

It won’t be easy, but what worthwhile goal ever is? I have new commitments that will make it harder for me to find time for fitness, but I’m used to scheduling challenges. I have my own, personal record of how to get to my goals, and I will…

Find the Joy in the Journey!

How Do You Find The Forest When You Are Surrounded By Trees?

Well, it’s just about the end of the month which means I should be doing a month-end review of how I’m faring versus my objectives for the year. I should be looking at my month-by-month objectives and measuring my progress; I should be looking over my stretch objectives and seeing if I’ve kept forward progress on them. Screw that. The year is flying by un-beholden to me and I’m sure I’m doing some things well and falling woefully behind on others. These days I’m just hanging on for the ride.

Lately I’ve been tortured over why I’m getting “nothing” done these days when I was doing so well last summer. I am exactly, thanks to it being a leap year to make everything all “even”, 11 months into my 50 by 50, which I started on May 29, 2011. Last summer I read more, did more home improvement projects, wrote more thoughtful posts, exercised daily, and spent more time with my family, husband, and girlfriends. In short, I was making inroads!

Now, I’m struggling. I’m not working out. Not losing weight (gaining, yes, losing, no). I’m barely reading, hardly see my gal pals, and my house is a mess! What gives? I took a much needed family vacation a few weeks ago and that helped a bit…but not as much as I’d expected. It was wonderful to get away from work, from the house, and spend lots of time with my family.  It was wonderful! Then I came home to being behind in my job and behind at home.

It’s taken the last few weeks of reflection to finally figure out my misconceptions. It’s probably obvious to even the most casual of observers, but I have lost my vision of the forest because I’m struggling through the trees. I have finally stepped back far enough, though to see the forest. And what I see is that when my children need more of my attention, I have less time for myself. And when I have less time for myself, I fall into a negative spiral of care for myself. Being able to see this gives me the perspective that I need.

There will always be times when my family’s needs are paramount, but I still need to take care of myself so that I can take care of them. It is like the advice which we all get whenever we fly; when the oxygen masks drop, put one on yourself first and only then turn to help the others around you. It’s not that I’m being a martyr, it’s just that when I get caught up in spring sports or college planning or other things related to my children, I seem to run out of time for fitness. It’s really just an excuse. If I get up and exercise every day, I know that I can still fit those other things in to my day.

Last year, when I started this grand adventure, I was coming off of a month of incredible stress for both the good and the bad things in life. Then I moved on to the summer when I had more time for myself than other times during the year…especially in late summer and all through the fall. I wrote and read and spent time with friends, I worked out on my treadmill and fixed up my house, and ran/walked a 5k! Then everything fell apart. In retrospect, the change came with the confluence of the holidays and winter sports and the “busy season” at work.

So, seeing things in a new light, I will be nicer to myself. I look ahead to a very busy May (albeit hopefully with only good stress this year) and an unusually busy July…and I will adjust my expectations accordingly. After all, the “busy” things are also wonderful milestones that I want to savor and celebrate!

Before I turn fifty I will celebrate my 30th high school reunion, see my nephew and his fiancé graduate from college, go on a 26th wedding anniversary trip (would have been 25th, but some things just don’t fall neatly into a schedule), see my older daughter graduate from high school, see my niece graduate from medical school, celebrate the marriage of my nephew, see my daughter off to college, celebrate my 25th graduate school reunion, plus all of the birthdays, Christmases, Easters, Thanksgivings, and other annual celebrations.

Find the Joy in the Journey! There is so much to celebrate, I am very blessed.

Objectives: February Review

Oh no, it can’t really be the end of February already, can it? I don’t think I’ve made any progress at all this month! A quick review of my objectives seems to support this. Maybe I should take a pass…or buy a vowel, or something. Anyone I can phone for advice? No, I guess not.

Maybe I’m going about this all wrong…after all, the really important stuff is getting done…along with a lot of mundane stuff that eats up my time like laundry and dishes. So, what’s up with that? I seem to be able to juggle my work responsibilities and meet or even exceed my objectives. And when it comes to the homefront, I do spend time with my children…as a matter of fact it’s almost a slumber party every night around here. It’s not exactly worded that way in my objectives, which are action-based, but spending time with my girls is a major part of my life right now and I guess some of my objectives might have to take a backseat for now.

I could catalogue my omissions right here: I’ve not done one Spanish lesson, I’ve not written a short story, I haven’t written a chapter for my book, my paper clutter seems to be growing rather than receding, I’ve not made any inroads on planning our big (already belated) anniversary trip. I’ve not been training for a 5k, and on and on. I guess this was just a soft month…I think I deserve one now and then.

Looking back, I actually have met some of my objectives. I have kept my blog up by posting every other day (this is my 139th post!) and I did read a book (yes, just one), Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal  by Conor Grennan. Well, and I had lunches with two girlfriends.  Oh, and today is my annual physical (that’s on my objectives somewhere, I’m sure.) I’ve been going to church and even took my younger daughter to services on Ash Wednesday. So, there is a foundational part of my life that is moving forward. That’s good! The rest is more of a struggle.

I will be starting March off by going out of the country for 8 days…the good news is I will write about it and those are the fun blogs! The bad news is I won’t be home to spend time with my family or work on my home-based objectives. Possibly, I could work on that short story on the plane…I could go to the hotel fitness center every day, too. We’ll see! The superbad part of me traveling is that it means that the one week a month my husband is typically home will, by default, be the one week I am gone. At least, before I go, I can schedule some girlfriend lunches for later in the month.

Girlfriend lunches are great. They are always different. Sometimes I’m the griper and sometimes I am the listener. I don’t have lunch with the same friends every time; usually it’s someone different every time. These are primarily the women I’ve worked with over the years (and we’re talking 23 years now!). They are the women who saw me through two or three years of my life or maybe 23…the women with whom I bonded on a job or because they sat nearby. Women older than me, younger than me, of every race, ethnicity, and persuasion…I love the diversity of people at my job! These are the people that, before the dawn of social media WERE my social media…the ones I went to with a problem and who provided me with informed leads on how to find a solution.

So, I find myself at the end of the month trying to gauge my success against my objectives…and instead I find myself getting all touchy-feely and finding that I’m doing pretty damn good! Those objectives? They are important to me…more than I even express in my blog, but my daily life, living amongst family and friends is a deal breaker…I just need to find a better balance.

Find the Joy in the Journey and the right balance for your own life.

Related Posts:

Objectives: January Review

A Look Forward to 2012

Time to Get Stretchy!

Being Busy and Getting Things Done are Not the Same Thing

I was off of work for the last two weeks. Leading into those weeks, I had lots of great ideas about projects to do and places to go. I did none of them. Why is that? There is that old saying that if you want to get something done, give it to a busy person. I’m a pretty busy person, yet, I didn’t get much done over the holidays. Why is that?

Leading up to my vacation, I was a whirlwind of activity at work. I closed deals and finished off tasks at a rapid pace…then I stuffed a bunch of papers in a cabinet before locking up and leaving.  (I still need to work on my paper-clutter at work as well as home, apparently!) Then I got home and lost my momentum. Now, if I’d had relaxing days spent with friends and family and went to half of the events I’d thought about, I would call that a great vacation. But that’s now how it happened.

That first weekend, I did all the normal weekend stuff…I caught up on laundry, paid bills, wrote my blog, and I even wrote my Christmas letter although I never sent it out. When Monday came, my younger daughter was in a basketball tournament and I had signed up for 4 hours of volunteering. After the volunteering it was almost time for her game.

By then, time was running tight for Christmas shopping, baking cookies, and putting up the tree. Meanwhile, my husband had a last-minute trip by car a few hours away. He came down with the flu and couldn’t get back for three days. I was worried about him and that sapped some of my ability to get things done. One thing I did do, though, was meet up with some girlfriends for dinner.

Once Christmas day came, I was happy and relaxed. With my family around me, the tree up, and evidence that Santa had enjoyed my cookies. Ahh…I thought, now I will accomplish some of my tasks!  This was not to be. I did get to see my daughter’s remaining games and cheer as her team won the championship. I also did quite a lot of thinking about my goals for 2012. But as I started back to work after two weeks, I had a mental list of all the things I hadn’t accomplished on my break, even though I hadn’t been busy.

One thing I kept thinking that first week, was that because I’d saved that time for vacation I let myself put off Christmas-related tasks until then. I decided that I would plan out Christmas 2012 far in advance and get things done over time so that when those few days before the holiday arrive, I can enjoy them more.

The second thing I’ve realized is that the only things I got done when they really needed to be done were things that I had on my calendar. I made every one of my daughter’s basketball games because I’d committed to it and put it down in my calendar. I did my volunteer time because I’d committed to it and written it down in my calendar. I had my dinner with friends because I’d committed to it and written it down in my calendar.  I never got to see the lights at the light festival, nor did I see the amazing exhibit at the museum. Why not? Because I didn’t put them on my calendar…I didn’t buy tickets in advance.

So, as I go forward in 2012, I am going to start getting things scheduled. For example, I have an objective to go out to lunch with a girlfriend at least once a month. I will start making those plans and getting them on my calendar each month. I have an objective to go on a vacation with my husband, so I will sit down with him and pick the dates and then get those dates on both of our calendars. As for my fitness and writing objectives, I’ll fit them into my calendar too.

I have come to the conclusion that it is not that busy people get things done, it’s that people who get things done schedule them instead of adding them to a list. They don’t say to a friend, “let’s get together soon”, they say, “Can you meet for lunch on Monday? Or does Tuesday work better for you?”

Find the Joy in the Journey…and if you’d like to meet me for lunch let me know what day works for you!

Time to Get Stretchy!

You may have noticed that my new years’ objectives are pretty low-key. Now it’s time to pick out some stretch objectives. The main objectives are ones that I can reasonably expect to complete and that are the bread and butter of improving my life this year. Stretch objectives are something else entirely. At work I have one, maybe two each year. These are the things that let me really challenge myself and prove to my management that I’m really giving back to the organization in a meaningful way beyond the every-day stuff.

In my personal life, I went really stretchy when I started my 50 by 50! Now it’s time to plan some of these ideas out for 2012. I don’t expect to get all of these stretch goals accomplished this year, but if I don’t stretch myself, I’m not likely to achieve any of them. I’d prefer to make progress on some or all of them than to just have them be an idea that I never got around to. Rather than make just one or two stretch goals, I’m going to make quite a few. One thing about time and getting things done is that I always overestimate what I can get done in a single day, but I underestimate what I can accomplish over time if I really put my mind to it. I was able to get a masters degree while working full time even after I got pregnant and had my son. I had a goal in front of me and I was motivated to complete it rather than quit. I knew if I quit, I’d never finish, so I just kept on going. It helped that I had a clear plan in the curriculum and a clear schedule with my night classes, so I will plan out my stretch goals and put them in my calendar to try to get some of that clarity going forward.

Stretch goals should still be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound), they are just a bit grander. Here are my personal stretch goals for 2012:

Run a 5K in April

I entered and finished my first 5K in November, but I walked at least half of it. My new goal is to run the entire 5k. I am starting from scratch because, for various reasons, I have only been on my treadmill twice since that race. As a matter of fact, just before writing my new years’ objectives I sprained my ankle…so I’m already a week or two behind in my goal to get 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 days a week. The sprain is minor and I still have plenty of time to train for the race. I picked this particular race because it is right by my house and I used the route of the race to train for the last 5k. I’m hoping that the weather is warmed up by then too, but you never know…it has been known to snow here in April!

Write a short story and submit it to a publication by the end of September

I have never had any interest in writing short stories. I accidentally read a book of short stories lately and after the first “chapter” when I realized I’d picked up a book of short stories rather than the novel I thought it was, I put it down in disgust. Later I picked it up and read another story, then another. I finished the book and started to remember that I used to read short stories, as a matter of fact the whole science fiction genre really got its start with short stories and I read many Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov stories in my youth and thoroughly enjoyed them. Then I remembered that I also used to love to read Erma Bombeck’s stories and remember the exact moment when I’d re-read one of her books only to realize that the series of stories, funny in isolation, actually told a broader story if you read them in order.

Get my paper clutter under control by the end of July                                          

This goal is important to me in many ways. The clutter makes me anxious which is not good for my health. It also wastes my time and creates stress for me when I need something and cannot find it because I’m too disorganized and useless papers are mixed with important papers. It costs me money at times because I lose discount coupons only to find them after they’ve expired, or I lose a bill and forget to pay it on time. Paper clutter is a perennial problem for me, one I’ve tried to conquer before with some success at times. I have a fairly good underlying filing and organizing system, but I don’t use it regularly and find myself sifting through what I think is one month’s worth of paper only to realize it is 3 or 4 month’s worth. So, I will set aside time on a weekly basis to tackle the paper! I will also take some steps to cut back on the papers coming into my home.

Plan and take an anniversary trip with my husband by the end of the year

I’m already about 15 months into this project with only one clear outcome so far…the destination. It was supposed to be our 25th anniversary trip, but likely we’ll pass 26 years before we finally get our trip. There are many obstacles to overcome, but I think we can do it. The first thing is to pick the dates and clear our calendars.

Learn “tourist” Spanish by the end of July

I’m not fooling myself that I can become fluent in Spanish in 7 months, but I did have a couple of semester-long courses through work years ago so I have a small foundation to build on. What I want to be able to do is travel (see goal above) to a Spanish-speaking country and be able to hail a taxi, order in a restaurant, ask for and follow directions, and other simple “tourist” tasks. If you’ve read my earliest blogs, you’ll recall that I was going to learn French by my 50th birthday. I’ve reluctantly set that goal aside for now and replaced French with Spanish, finally convinced that it will be more useful in the long run.

And stretchiest of all:

Complete the first draft of my novel by the end of the year

If I can keep up the pace of a chapter a month from my new years’ objectives, I should be able to get the first draft done. This is more than just finishing the story, the rough draft, it’s also spending considerable time going over the book and making sure it makes sense, that nothing’s missing, that there’s not material that’s extraneous, and that it hangs together as a whole. Once I get that far, I will ask a few (very few!) trusted friends to do the first review to make sure I did that initial editing well. Then, it’ll be time for the second draft!  I am developing quite a lot of respect for novelists…the process is excruciating!

Find the Joy in the Journey…But first you need to take the first step!

Related Posts:

A Look Back at 2011

A Look Forward to 2012

And That’s All She Wrote

Writing a novel is a life-long dream of mine. Some of my earliest books were Little Women, with Jo March as a writer loosely based on author Louisa May Alcott, and Little House on the Prairie, with Laura Ingalls as both author and subject. These authors inspired me to be a writer myself. I knew you should write about what you know, and for years I thought I hadn’t experienced anything interesting enough to write about. Too bad I didn’t know that everyone, even young writers, have a unique story to tell. Too bad I didn’t have a teacher that encouraged me to write.

My mother did encourage me and thanks to her I now have a few examples of my childhood writing. She mailed me a big envelope of memorabilia the other day and it included this little fable that I wrote in fourth grade:

The Hen and its Chicks

Once there was a hen who had many chicks, but she could only lay one egg each day.

One day she decided she wanted to lay more eggs a day (the more chicks she got the more she wanted). So, finally she decided that if she ate more each day the more eggs she’d lay. So she ate more and more each day and got fatter and fatter. Soon she was enormous but she still layed only one egg a day.

One day her chicks all died because she hadn’t left any feed for them. So she didn’t have any chicks at all because she was so heavy that when she sat on her eggs they broke.

Moral: Don’t be greedy

I don’t know where I got the idea for this story, although I’m sure the assignment was to pick a moral and write a fable about it. This one is a bit macabre…with the hen letting her beloved chicks die trying to have more. What a twisted little mind I had! Maybe I should try my hand at horror…

When I was a teen, my mom told me not to despair, that Margaret Mitchell was 37 when she wrote Gone with the Wind. That provided me with a lot of comfort, not to mention a built-in excuse, until the day I turned 38. By then I had three small children and a full-time job; I sure had a lot of experience to draw on, but no time!

A little over a year ago, I had an idea for a novel and I decided to try NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. I started my novel but only got about 3000 words down. This year, I decided to try again with the same novel. In October, I pulled out my novel and even added on to it a bit. When NaNoWriMo started in earnest in November, I got about 9 days behind before I even started. I worked on it for a few days, getting over 4,000 more words down. And that’s about it. When push came to shove, I focused on my blog (and painting trim, de-cluttering, and generally procrastinating) and not my novel.

So, although I wrote in Physical and Mental Challenges for November, that I was going to get the whole novel down on paper, I didn’t make it across the finish line. Yes, there are three more days left, but I’m gearing up for a busy week and it’s going to have to wait. I won’t let it wait too long, however. Margaret Mitchell died at the (very young!) age of 48, struck by a drunk driver. I take two lessons from this…one is to spend as much time with my family while I’m on this earth, and the other is to get that novel done sooner rather than later.

Find the Joy in the Journey and keep sight of your dreams along the way.

Procrastination–My Nemesis

I can be bad when it comes to procrastination. When it’s really bad, I actually accomplish a lot, but just not what needed to be done at that time. I can remember times in graduate school when I needed to study or write a paper and instead, I would bake bread. It was something I needed to do because my husband and I lived 2 miles from the nearest grocery store and we didn’t have a car. Every month we’d walk to school for class, and then afterward walk to the grocery store. We’d fill up two shopping carts and take a cab to our apartment. Since bread doesn’t last too long, I’d make my own on a regular basis. Well, I’d make bread when I didn’t want to study!

Two days ago, my procrastination took the form of an over-the-top new “Big” idea which I wrote about in My Next Big Thing. Woo Hoo! It really is a great idea and I really will continue down the path of learning as much as I can about water, water policy, water reclamation technologies, and the like. It’s a great “big” idea, don’t you think? Kind of along the lines of solving world hunger…but I mean well and I’ll be happy if my contribution is small, but meaningful. So, I dove into the topic and ordered a recently published book on the subject. One minute later I got an e-mail that the book was scheduled to ship! 24 hours later, I got an e-mail apologizing because the shipment was delayed. I see this as a sign! Someone up there wants me to accomplish my November challenges instead of procrastinating by reading a book about water…as important as that may be to future challenges I give to myself.

So, I have decided to set up some carrots and sticks to guide me along the way. I’ve also come up with a training plan for my running challenge…I should do the same with the book writing, but frankly I only have so much time in my days and as long as I’m making progress, I won’t beat myself up for not writing a certain number of words over the month.

For my running challenge, I pushed myself along by registering for a 5k. Next I went out at lunch the next day and picked up my race packet. I shared a photo of my jersey on Facebook, letting my friends know I’m planning on running and making it really hard to back out! I’ve come up with a training plan that seems to be working. On Thanksgiving, come hell or high water, I will be in a 5k and I will finish. If possible, I will run the entire way and come in under 27 minutes. I know that is slow, but I’m being kind to myself and looking at this as a long-term commitment to getting into better shape…better a slow race than to overdo it and end up giving up on the whole idea (another procrastinator’s trick). I’m also hoping to keep pace with my almost-16-year-old daughter…who could run circles around me if she trained…but given that she’ll just go out and run a 5k with no training, I think we may be averaging a similar pace.

As for the book, the carrot is having the whole story down on “paper”. The more I can get done this month the better. If I can actually write 50,000 words this month I’ll be over the moon…but at my current average of 500 words a day, I’m running at 30% of the pace set by NaNoWriMo. The cool thing is that I am dreaming about the story! I am coming up with new ideas and figuring out how to solve the problems that are arising as I flesh out the story. It’s fun!

And procrastination, my nemesis…at least I get things done when dealing with it. The other day I cleaned out my utility closet…and I can see a few more de-cluttering projects getting done while I’m not writing my novel nor working the rest of my plan!

Find the Joy in the Journey…even in the Detours!

Writing Is A Novel Challenge For Me

I am already behind in my latest novel-writing challenge…500 words a day for 6 months. I’m pretty close to that in blog-writing, but this is an incremental challenge to help me get a novel out of my head and onto paper.  This is day 8 of the challenge and so I am officially 4000 words behind. I did manage to find the novel I started last November during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but was disappointed to see I’d only written 2500 words!  I have two full chapters on a thumb drive, but I’m pretty sure I wrote more, at least one more chapter and maybe two.

I looked through a bunch of composition books to see if I’d hand-written the chapters. I found the start of another novel and many old journals, but no more chapters of my current book. That just goes to show that I never should have set it aside! Meanwhile, I’ll have to work with the fragment that I found. I won’t count those 2500 words in either this new challenge or the 2011 NaNoWriMo, but I will continue to work on the same novel rather than start something new.

My memory of this endeavor is that I found my work tortuous, with an unbelievable story and stilted dialogue. I even bought a book a few weeks ago on writing dialogue to help me do better. What I found when I read the two chapters is that I really like it! That surprised me. It also means that I spent too much time polishing and not enough pure writing. The result was good, but the process bogged me down and caused me to fail in the main objective…to get the story written down in its entirety. This time around, I’ll try to leave the polishing and editing to its proper place…that is, after the novel is all on paper (or in my computer) and out of my head.

The other thing I worried about is that I made the main character too much like myself. I set it in my industry with the main character basically having the job I have now. She has children similar to my own, and co-workers like I might run into at work. I’m not going to worry about that this time around. I’m writing about what I know about, so it will have some verisimilitude! I can always change the industry, and edit other details later. Meanwhile, it’s about getting the story down on paper.

Although the main character is written from my own experiences, what happens to her is purely out of my imagination and has no resemblance to my real life. She faces an exciting challenge that comes up unexpectedly and she deals with it and ultimately resolves it. My main character is swept into a case of industrial espionage, adding great excitement and action into her otherwise hectic but ho hum life. She has to look at all of her co-workers in a completely different way and learns more about them than she’d really care to know. Meanwhile, she’s got a job to do and a family to raise.

Probably my biggest impediment is a combination of procrastination and perfectionism, two vices that go with each other…a sort of fear of failure while simultaneously setting the bar unrealistically high. I have to push that all aside and just write for the sake of writing. And I’d better hurry because the sequels are already starting to crowd into my head!

Find the Joy in the Journey and dare to challenge yourself!

Journeys In Life

Although I didn’t relish the 11-hour round-trip drive to pick my younger daughter up from camp, I was happy that I could split the trip up by staying with my sister in the city. My sister has preceded me down this 50 by 50 path (although she didn’t call it that) and has emerged out the other side as her own best self. She is an inspiration and I was reminded of this during my stay.

Her apartment is Zen-like in its beauty and simplicity…evidence of much “letting go” of un-needed and un-beautiful objects. And she has conquered the fitness “thing”, being fitter than ever before in her life and far more fit than I (although, that’s not hard these days!). She recommended a book that really got her going and I immediately ordered it and read ahead as far as I could in her copy while I was there. It’s called, Younger Next Year for Women: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy – Until You’re 80 and Beyond  by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge M.D.

Her de-cluttering was both more difficult than mine and easier. More difficult because there were times when she was forced to go through all of her belongings. She moved overseas for a few years and sold her house in the US. That was definitely a time of getting rid of old things. When she returned, she had a horrible flood in her garage where her stored belongings had just been delivered, and lost some things of little import and some things of tremendous sentimental and historical import. Those were the difficult times. Moving several times since then, she winnowed things out as she went, with the ultimate result of controlling her stuff instead of it controlling her.

Me, I’ve just never let go of anything and now I have 30 years of physical and emotional baggage to deal with. That is tough. And some things were destroyed by burst pipes, three times, during our renovation. That’s when decisions were made for me…and I don’t like to be so out of control. We did move out and back in again, but I’m afraid I didn’t get rid of a thing back then! I was clinging to my things as if to my life and each of those moves was sudden.

It was Christmas-time when we moved out. We had time off from work and were finally able to find a place to live…but we had all of 3 days to pack up and move. I anticipated having more time to move back in and get rid of some things in the process, but that was not to be. Before our home renovation was complete, our contractor sold the rental we were living in. We had to move back in as suddenly as we moved out! Additionally, while putting a new roof on our house, the builder moved all of our items stored in the attic first to one end of the attic, then to the other…hopelessly mixing things up and damaging some things in the process.

As I drove home, I didn’t feel very fit or younger. But that’s why I’m on this journey. It took us longer than usual to get out of the city and then things just seemed to poke along and my daughter dozed off and on. About four and a half hours after setting off, we stopped at a nice restaurant I knew about and had a real sit-down dinner instead of zipping through a fast food place. We both enjoyed our meals and I caught her up on all the twists and turns of a TV show that my daughters and I like to watch together.

Dinner was detour number one, and it turned out we had another ahead. It was about an hour and a half drive home, now in the dark. I don’t like driving in the dark because I have poor night vision. I can still see, but I see a lot of glare and it gives me a headache. I got off at the usual exit, but I must have missed the signs, due to focusing on the road, that the north-bound ramp was closed and we got dumped onto the state route going the wrong way. I could see a two mile back-up going north, so decided not to turn around and instead to go around…long way home, but I’d rather be driving than sitting in traffic!

And that is life. There are disappointments, unexpected losses, and many detours. Just like a home renovation project, you cannot predict how long things will take our how much they will cost. You have to use a rule-of-thumb, such as, everything will take twice as long and cost 20% more than expected.

If you keep that in front of you, you will be just fine and you will Enjoy the Journey.