Sunday, July 22, 2012

I'm a Weenie

A year ago, I wrote a novel.  I used No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty, which is an awesome book designed to help weenies like me get out of their own way and write 50,000 words in 30 days.  The idea is that when you're writing that many words that quickly, there isn't time to second guess yourself. You can't agonize over every word for so long that you completely psych yourself out and decide that you should go clean your car, paint your toenails, or watch Sleepless in Seattle for the 100th time instead.
Somehow Baty understood my problem--that even though writing a novel was the thing that I wanted to do most in the world, I could never get myself to actually sit down and do it.  The task just seemed too overwhelming to start on--and that is coming from a girl who has run three marathons.  I needed a plan and an end point.  Just as I could't run 26.2 miles when I started training, I couldn't sit down and write a novel in one shot.  I needed small, attainable goals.  I needed baby steps.  I couldn't write a novel, but I could write 2,000 words a day.

The process was fun.  Most of the time, I could write without even thinking.  It was almost like magic.  The words would fly out of my fingers and for an hour or two a day, I lived in the world of my book.  I didn't have to worry about where it was all going, it all just came together on its own.  Sometimes the plot twists even surprised me.
When the month was over I had 65,000 words, including a beginning, a middle, and an end.  I felt inspired.  I felt like I had finally taken the steps to go after what I really wanted.  I wanted to go out and try new things, because nothing seemed as scary.
Since then, my novel has sat in a manilla envelope on the desk in our office gathering dust.  I've made a couple of half-hearted attempts to edit it, but I've never really gotten anywhere.  I've never pitched it to any literary agents.  I've never let anyone read it.  It's almost like it never even existed.
Why is it that going after the thing that you want most--whether it is a relationship, or a job, or finishing a triathlon, or owning your own home--is the most terrifying thing?  It's like if you get rejected from something that you don't care that much about it's not that big a deal, because you can tell yourself that you never really wanted it anyway, but if you fail at the thing you really want, then you're just a failure.  You are nothing.
Maybe I need a Baty book on how to edit your novel in 30 days.  Maybe I need to just get over myself and start pitching it.  At least if I fail, I can say I tried because I'd rather be a failure than a weenie.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My Little Red Neck Vacation

I spent the last week in Maine with Mike, my mom, my Aunt, my cousin Suzy, and her adorable daughter Abby.  We also had a few visits from my brother, my sister-in-law, and my niece Sophie (one of the two cutest flower girls ever).

I have visited Maine every year of my life but one, when I took a trip with two of my sorority sisters to L.A. instead (and we spent 80% of the time looking at different locations featured on the original Beverly Hills 90210).

The trip was a little bit of an adventure because there were two contractors there tearing out and rebuilding a hallway and the one and only bathroom in our house.  They arrived before 8:30 a.m. every day and worked away to country music in the morning and classic rock in the afternoon.  Our toilet was sitting out in the yard, along with a trailer full of tools, and their big, silver pick up truck.  We had to use an outhouse, and there was no shower, so we had to bathe in the lake.  The TV only gets three channels, and oh, and did I mention the bugs?  Mosquitos, deer flies, horse flies, oh my!

I understand that for the majority of people who do not live in third-world countries this sounds more like hell than a relaxing vacation.  The truth is, I loved every minute of it.  The weather was beautiful (80s and sunny every single day) and we spent the majority of our time swimming in the lake, relaxing on the dock, reading, taking naps, eating yummy food, and playing cards.  My brother and sister-in-law got stand up paddle boards, so I got to paddle around a lot, which was such a cool (and quiet) way to explore.  We saw loons, hawks, a rooster, fish, and frogs.  Mike ate his bodyweight in lobster and I loaded up on all of the Hood Red Sox ice cream flavors... Fenway Fudge, Green Monster Mint, and Peanut Butter Nation.

We spent a day walking around Portland, poking in and out of shops and bakeries and eating lunch at a cool outdoor restaurant.  The breeze coming off the ocean was a perfect complement to the warm, sunny weather and it was so nice to be able to explore a new city without a deadline or agenda.

I think Clyde had the most fun of all.  Free of his electric fence, he spent his time exploring the woods and learning to swim in the lake.  By the end of the week he was charging right in and chasing fish.  He also (unfortunately) found our compost pit and feasted on Mike's leftover lobster.  That meant that the entire 8 1/2 hour car ride home, Mike and I had to deal with Clyde's lobster breath.

I can't exactly explain why Maine means so much to me.  For one thing, I like being able to spend time with family without the distractions of work, errands, or cable TV.  There isn't a whole lot to do but relax and spend time with each other.  We play Pictionary and my mom cheats.  We sit on the screen porch with glasses of wine or coffee and listen to the breeze slip through the trees.  We laugh at the antics of the little ones.  There is no need to rush, no need to go out and spend lots of money, no reason to eat fancy dinners, no push to go out to bars every night.

I also love the small-town lifestyle there.  People take the time to stop and talk to each other.  They look you in the eye instead of rushing off to do something else.  They don't drive luxury cars or shop at trendy organic grocery stores.  I feel totally free to walk around without make up, just wearing shorts and a t-shirt and sunblock.

When we left, I cried.  Yes, I am a 30-year-old woman and I cried.  I want to go back.  I want to feel my shoulders relax again.  I want to smile for no reason.  I want to feel that blanket of contentment come over me and pull it up to my chin.  But I'm no dummy.  I know that I can't live my life on vacation.  Instead, I have to find a way to make my life at home in Pennsylvania feel more like my life at home in Maine.  I'm not sure quite how to make that happen, but I'm working on it.

Monday, July 2, 2012

From Miss To Mrs.

Sometimes the biggest decisions in your lives are actually the easiest.  One year ago today I made the best decision of my life and said, "I do" (actually, it was "I will" but that's another story for another time) to my wonderful husband.  I feel so blessed to have gotten to spend the last 10 years with him, and look forward to many more anniversaries to come.  Thank you for giving me an excuse to go back through some of our photos and relive the day!

Sunday, July 1, 2012


At least once a day, I worry about all the things that I should be doing.  I should volunteer more often.  I should spend more time with my family.  I should visit my friends in other states.  I should cook for my husband and only buy organic produce.  I should clean more often.  I should write more often.  I should visit my elderly neighbors, sit down and take a hard look at my finances, go through the untouched pile of mail on the table in the hallway, and finally use the ice cream maker that we got as a wedding gift.
Instead, in the little free time that I have, I end up lying in bed watching a Sister Wives marathon and playing games of Scramble on my phone.  Does that make me a terrible person?  I hope not.  I figure I work long hours, make time to workout, talk to my family daily, do nice things for other people when I can, and clean enough that no one has applied for me to be on Hoarding: Buried Alive, so hopefully I'm doing OK.
It all feels so overwhelming, but I know that's no excuse.  There are plenty of people who are far busier than I am... people with multiple children and multiple jobs just trying to get through each day, and they still find ways to make a difference, serve others, and better themselves.  Even President Obama finds time to exercise regularly.  Jennifer Weiner wrote her first novel, Good in Bed while working full-time as a reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer.  Plenty of single moms work long days and still manage to cook a healthy meal for their children.  Every one of the Real Housewives seems to have at least 6 different "business ventures" in the works.  I have no real excuses, and frankly having all of the best intentions means nothing if you have absolutely now follow through.
I'm going to try to do better.  I'm going to try to do more.  I know even little efforts make a difference, but when is it enough?  Is there some invisible level of effort that qualifies us as a "good citizen," a "good friend," or a "good human being"?  Is there ever a time when you can stop and take a nice break from it all, guilt free?  Can you ever retire from doing the dishes, or quit working on becoming a better person?
Knowing that realistically, life will only get busier from here on out doesn't exactly help.
For the moment I am going to go tackle the mail pile, and then maybe a nap.  With Sister Wives on in the background.  Don't judge me!