Things I learned this week

I learned this week…

…that inversion poses are where it’s at in yoga, and the handstand is king.  A notch down from the handstand is a head stand.  I can do neither.  However, this week in “yoga for a grade” I learned a pose that serves as a stepping stone toward a true head stand.   Tripod balance pose.   It’s not the most comfortable pose, certainly not the most elegant, and I wasn’t able to hold it for very long, but I did it.  And that’s all that matters to me.

…that sometime when I wasn’t looking, my daughter discovered that she likes my t-shirts.  I’m not sure which I’m more upset about, the fact that she is borrowing my clothes or that they actually fit her.

…that traffic will invariably flow contradictory to my immediate needs.

…that my daughter has been asked to the Spring dance at her middle school – and she’s going to go!  Last time she was asked, she declined because she was going to have to – EGADS – wear a dress.  This time around there is a more relaxed dress code.  Good thing, too.  My daughter’s idea of dressing up is a white button up shirt and low top Converse sneakers.

…that as I age, the fit of a good tennis shoe trumps aesthetic.   Recently, I spent two days scouring athletic shoe stores looking for replacement sneakers.  It was a trying process – it always is.  I can’t just walk into a store and buy the first shoe that strikes my fancy.  There are important factors that must be considered.   Do my prescription orthotics fit?  Are they made from natural material or synthetic?  Are they lightweight?  Breathable?  Cross trainer or walker?  Is the tongue thick?  Does it ride too high?  Too low?  Are they narrow across the bridge?  Do my bunions cry out in agony with every step I take?  These are all valid questions that must be asked before committing to such an important purchase.  After torturing a half a dozen salespeople, I finally settled on a pair of Nikes.  I usually steer clear of that particular brand because of their tendency toward a narrow bridge and a thick tongue, but I found a pair that fits all my requirements.  Of course, they are neon pink, likely glow in the dark, and are perhaps the ugliest things I’ve ever put on my feet, but who gives a shit.  They adequately serve their purpose.

…that I didn’t win the Mega Millions Jackpot.  Bummer.

…that five little words of criticism – “not as complete as usual” – written on an in-class discussion assignment will cause me a great amount of internal suffering – indeed, eat at my very soul.  I will obsess over this negative review until it encapsulates my every thought and I’m left with no alternative but to email the professor in an effort to explain my shortcomings as a student.   Of course, the realization that he likely never gave the note a second thought just adds to my level of frustration and humiliation.  I need to learn to let these things go.

Yeah, right.  Who am I trying to kid?

…that I am becoming a photography junkie.  I want to take pictures of everything.  Here’s one I took a couple of days ago of the Knock Out roses in my backyard.

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…and last, but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by this little miniature schnauzer named Bear.  I had the pleasure of spending my Monday with him.  He was rescued from a puppy mill and is up for adoption through a local schnauzer rescue group.  Photograph is courtesy of Efrain Sain, a local photographer, attorney, and musician, who office shares with our law firm.

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Taciturn Thursday

I don’t have much to say today, but I thought I would share a couple more of my photos from this weekend’s romp through the Bluebonnet field.  I’m still trying to figure out the new camera and all that goes with taking a decent photograph.  I think these came out pretty good.  Enjoy.

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I love finding a splash of red in a sea of blue.  This one reminds me of some of my favorite Impressionist paintings.

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What if?

I am outlining my novel, Retribution.

And when I say outlining, I mean outlining, outlining.

The real deal.

I’ll give you a minute to digest that bit of news.  I don’t want to be responsible for causing anyone to go into shock-induced cardiac arrest.  I’m pretty sure my homeowner’s policy has no coverage stipulation for that.

I am no great proponent of the outline.  I think it’s a big old waste of time, and have successfully avoided squandering precious minutes of my life doing it.  I like to go with the flow, see where the ideas take me.  To do this, I employ a simple shell method.  I think of it as something that perhaps contains an aura of an outline without actually being an outline.

  • Topic
  • key points, usually 3 but sometimes more depending on the document (one word each)
  • Conclusion

That’s it.   I write these three little bullet points on a blank page and then proceed to fill in the paragraphs.  I’ve done it this way for…well…ever.  It has never failed me.

Until I started writing Retribution.

It turns out that it is impossible – for me, anyway – to write a well constructed novel by implementing this tried and true method of leaping before I look to see what lurks at the bottom of the canyon.  I hate it when I’m wrong.

It took a year for me to accept that I was going to have to suck this one up.  It was a year filled with several crying fits, a lot of self-loathing, and a couple of toddler worthy temper tantrums.  In the end, I seceded.  I am stubborn, but I’m not stupid.  I can admit when I’m beat.

As we speak, I am working on that outline.  I’ve received a lot of good advice from my fellow writers.  Some have recommended a few of their own methods, others have suggested certain reference books.  All great ideas which I’ve taken to heart – purchased a book or two.   Somewhere along the way, I came across someone or something – a blog, a writer’s manual, a professor (I can’t remember!  Ugh!) – who used the “what if?” method to dig deeper into their story.

What if Anna did this?

What if Anna did that?

What if Anna’s father said this?

What if Anna’s father injected her with this? And then told her that?  And then died in a fiery ball of twisted metal when a mysterious motorcyclist attached a bomb to the bottom of his moving car?

This intrigued me because “what if?” is a game I love to play while people watching at the gym.  I’ve used it as a prompt, but never considered doing it in this context.  So, I thought to myself:  Self, what if I used this method to write my first quick pass through in preparation for a more thorough outline?

My self agreed that it might be a decent idea.  I tried it out.  I wouldn’t say that I would recommend it for a hard-core outline, but it does get the creative juices flowing.  I’ve breezed my way through to the mid-point of the novel, in just two days.  I even sketched out the climax scene because, in the midst of all of this, I had a stroke of brilliance that could not be contained.  If nothing else, the “what if” exercise was rejuvenating – creatively speaking – and reconnected me with my story.  Just a few months ago, I thought that was an impossibility.

Should I dare to hope?

Could it be possible?

What if…what if I actually make all the way to…

…the end?

Springtime in Texas

This weekend was gorgeous – warm, sunny, and windless.  Springtime perfection.  So perfect, in fact, that for the first time in my life I had the desire to be one of those people who plops their kids down in the middle of a field of Texas Bluebonnets and snaps lots and lots of pictures.

Here are some of the results:

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Just Write: Self-shaming Sunday update

I established three key things in my last couple of Just Write blog entries:  my main character, Anna, is relentless in her quest to have her story told, my novel (as it stands) is a big pile of dog poo, and that it is necessary to start all over if I hope to produce something even remotely interesting.

In the last day or two, I’ve set about trying to figure out where I went wrong.  I am embarrassed – and relieved – to say that it wasn’t all that hard.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that I have a foundation problem.  The core inciting incident which is pivotal to this plot driven novel occurs fifteen years too soon.  I arranged the timeline is such a fashion because I felt that it gave my character depth.  This single traumatic incident created the woman she grew to be and dictated her path in life.

Sounds good, right?

Well, at least it sounded good in my head.  On paper – not so much.

Turns out, the time gap destroys the credibility of Anna’s motivation.  If your character has no motivation, you have no story – at least, not one that anyone would waste their time reading.

I have worked pretty consistently this week on a fresh outline.  I am going back to the bare bones with a single sentence tagline, rewritten character profiles, and a basic question and answer sequence in order to sketch out the motivations and obstacles of all involved.

I’ve just started outlining the setup.  I’ve got some good ideas percolating.  So many so that I am fighting the urge to just start writing.  Okay.  I will admit to handwriting one scene, but I promise not to type it until my outline is finished.

IMG_1996This week’s goal = Identify problems; fix problems.

Goal = Met; Problems identified.  Entire story scraped.  New outline started.

Next week’s goal = finish a solid first draft of the setup outline.

Hello, Spring.

I’m not much of a photographer, though I am trying to improve my skills.  A few weeks ago, my husband was kind enough to gift me with my first DSLR – a Canon EOS T2i with a kickin’ telephoto lens.

I’ve been playing around and here are a few of my latest efforts:

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I have lots of room for improvement, but I think I’ve made a good start.

Things I learned this week

“There is no monopoly on common sense, on either side of the political fence.”

– Russians.  Sting, 1985.

I learned this week…

…that the gender of certain species of tortoise is determined by incubation temperature.  Who knew?  Becomingcliche did, that’s who.  Check out her blog for some more fun facts from the reptile house.

…on this day in history, Ronald Reagan said:

“Americans are brothers not because we share the same past and the same ancestry, but because we share the same ideals and the same hopes for the future.”

I think in recent years, we have lost sight of this unifying concept of American brotherhood.  If the current political climate is any indication, I don’t think we are destined to rediscover it any time soon, either.

…that procrastination is an art form that must be nurtured and practiced if one is to become sufficiently proficient.  This weekend I was supposed to write a paper on the socialization process of Palestinian children growing up in the war-torn region of Gaza, specifically Rafah.  Instead, I decided to do a little cleaning – or clearing, if you will.  I completely cleared off my DVR.  Wasted an entire day doing it, too.

…that the film Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy is a brilliant and spellbinding Cold War era political thriller.  If you like this sort of thing, which I do, I recommend that carve out a little time to see this one.  You will not be sorry.  It is based on the 1974 novel of the same name by John le Carre.  I will admit that I have not read the novel, and I understand that doing so will give clarity to certain aspects of the movie, however, I didn’t feel that this hindered my overall understanding of the plot.  Check it out.  Or don’t.  Whatever.

Check out bookfilmblog’s review for a better understanding of the film.

…that there was an entire season (to present) of Once Upon a Time episodes piled up in my DVR queue.   I don’t like clutter, therefore, it was necessary (from a mental health standpoint) for me to rectify this situation.  I spent all of this past Sunday watching nothing but episode upon episode of this ABC show.  I initially set the timer for my daughter.  No, really.  I had no intention of giving this show that time of day.  It was about fairy tales and princesses and crap.  I don’t do princesses.  I do murder and intrigue.  My preconceived notions are rarely wrong (stop laughing), but I’ve got to say that this show sucked me in.  Sure, it has a sort of odd dual storyline that takes a bit of getting used to, but it is surprisingly well written and totally unexpected.   I love a show that leaves me gaping at the television in stunned silence.  Example:  Red Riding Hood (in the fairy tale world) is not a victim of the big bad wolf, she IS the wolf – who just ate her own lover.

Whoa.

…that one goes through stages similar to those of grief when coming to terms with failure.  I have moved into the acceptance phase.

I’ve accepted that my novel is crap.

Stay tuned for my Sunday updates (yes, I promise to be better about posting them) as I start the writing process all over again.  I think this time will be better.  It has to be better, right?  Right?  Hello?

***Warning – Pet Peeve of the Week***

…that I am a stickler for personal space.   Johnny Castle once said:

“This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don’t go into yours, you don’t go into mine.”

That Johnny Castle was a smart guy.  Cute, too.

I digress.

I was patiently waiting for the cute little girl at Target to ring up my purchases the other day.   Beep, beep, beep.  As I waited, a woman, not much older than me, pushed her buggy into line behind me, unloaded her groceries, and then came to stand next to me.  Right next to me.  I mean, so close that our elbows brushed.  It was all I could to keep myself from having one of those impulsive ticks.  You know, the one where your fist balls up all by itself and clocks the person standing next to you.

…and finally, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by this little…um…rodent.  Hamster?  Kangaroo mouse?  I don’t really know what it is, but it sure is cute.  I also do not have the original source, and I sort of think it may have been manipulated, but I don’t care about all that nonsense.  It’s cute.  It made me smile.  That’s all that matters.