Renegade Reflections, ROW80

More Gratitude and ROW80

Siesta Key Elizabeth Anne Mitchell December White ChristmasI’ve included a very cute video of a puppy playing with his favorite toy below this post on gratitude, above  my ROW80 check-in.  I hope you enjoy!

After writing about some of my family in the last post, I wanted to express my gratitude to some other family members: my aunt, my brother, and my sister. I am very grateful that my aunt found time to spend with her niece, and that my brother and sister have endeavored to stay connected with me despite the centrifugal force that characterizes my family. My mother’s sister was nine years older than my mother, with no intervening children; my mother always looked upon her as a mother, and I saw her more as a grandmother.  A big believer in idle hands leading to devil’s work, my aunt taught me how to knit, crochet, embroider, and tat when I was very young.  She was teaching my oldest sister, but I hung around like a pest and learned as well. She came to see us every month or so; we were always glad to see her, because she knew all sorts of stories and could bake the best pies and cookies I’d ever had.Even though she always made me keep my hands busy with knitting or tatting while we talked, I looked forward to her visits.  I felt as though she could see me, when very few other grownups could.  She despaired when I became a perpetual student, often shaking her head at my explanations of why I studied all these things.  When I finally got married and settled down with my instant family, you would have thought she had been the matchmaker, she was so proud.  And when we added more children, she was ecstatic that I had given her more children to love.Two days before my youngest son was born, Aunt Ellene felt ill, describing it somewhat like indigestion, but worse.  The hospital gave her heartburn medication and sent her home.  Three hours later, she passed away from a massive heart attack.  My mother debated delaying her planned trip to help me with the new baby, but she came the day he came home from the hospital, missing her sister’s funeral, because that was what my aunt would have wanted. My son is nineteen now, and I still miss talking with Aunt Ellene over our knitting or embroidery.
My brother didn’t become a human being until I was 11 and he went to college.  He actually corresponded with me; when he was home on vacation, he still acted like a jerk sometimes, but that behavior diminished through the years.  He married into one of those huge families that gets together for birthdays and holidays and weddings; I have never asked him directly, but I suspect he felt the same kind of attraction/curiosity at the concept that I did when I first saw this unaccustomed behavior.  No matter, he threw himself into it wholeheartedly, leaving my father to shake his head in consternation at how he and his wife travel cross country to see their kids and grandkids.  I stand back in admiration.Last year, my brother was diagnosed with lung cancer, and had one lung removed.  I had not realized until that point how much I thought my siblings were immortal, nor how hard it would hit me.  He is still fighting, but it is a long path through the woods.  He cannot fly anymore, but he and his wife pack up the car and still travel hundreds of miles to see their families. I am so grateful that he has tried valiantly to establish the sort of relationship with me that his wife has with her siblings. I am thankful to them both for showing me that it could work when I was still young enough to do the same for my own family.

One of my sisters is four years older than I am; reportedly she told my father that I was not the fun kind of baby doll, and would he please take me back.  No luck, sorry!  After this bumpy start, my sister and I started to bond her senior year in high school.  I stopped being the “faery child” who did not seem connected to the world, and started being able to see her.  During her college years, we shared hopes and dreams, despite long periods where one or the other of us would pull away to nurse our wounds in private–she, an abusive marriage; me, an early failed marriage, the abyss of graduate school.  Even now, she calls me regularly; I promise to call her, and forget (I am a very bad sister).  She and I are so different in so many of our world views, but we get each other, especially given our shared history.  I am grateful that she continues to knock on my door and pull me out of my little world now and again.

ROW80 Check-in:
While there is still a lot going on behind the curtain, I haven’t much to offer.  I am uploading hundreds of photographs from the past several years, creating a pool to use in my blog from those and others that are not copyrighted or restricted.  I am slowly shoehorning three blogs into one, and endeavoring to find my voice and my niche.  The hardest part so far is to find what might be most interesting about my odd pockets of knowledge or interests.
The day job is heading into high gear, the rush before the holidays. I’m facing longer and longer days, but enjoy most of the work.  I feel the tidal pull to get back to writing, which is only slightly sated by doing the day job writing.  Soon!
If you can take a break from NaNo or your other projects, please go encourage some of the ROW80 folks here.

Waiting for Stacy

Although I am back on track with check-ins, I can’t shake the feeling that I am spinning my wheels.  It’s one of those dreaded periods of self-doubt.  It will pass. If I am objective, I’m doing better than I had been.  

I am eating better, avoiding the foods that waft their siren song toward me, then stab me in the back by making me feel ill. I see their true appearance now! My wonky shoulder is slowing me down a bit, but I am seeing a doctor on Thursday, so I give myself kudos for self-care. I will discuss what exercise won’t hurt the shoulder, so hey, a two-fer.

As for tv marathons, between the World Series and NFL football, I have graciously ceded the tv to the men in the house.  Aren’t I just the nicest?  I have also put a timer on the computer games–15 minutes twice a day.  I still twitch when the timer goes off, but so far, I comply with it.

Today we are hunkering down for Hurricane Stacy.  We are on the edge of the worst winds and storm surge, but are still under a wind and flood watch.  My neighborhood was built in the early 1930’s, and the trees were planted at the same time.  While I usually love looking out the windows at the huge trees only feet away, I must admit I am a bit nervous.

I have spent a lot of time on the blogging class, but I know it will pay huge dividends down the line.  The logline class is more focussed, less of a time commitment, but still takes a lot of brain power.  I’m tweaking my resume for the day job, as well as writing an article.  Both are outside the normal 9-5 time commitment, so I feel like I do nothing but write these days.

Rather than feel overwhelmed by all the writing, I am energized by it. I have a chance to attend classes at the New York Writer’s Institute, since it is housed at the university where I have my day job.  I need to get some of my other commitments out of the way, but I am going to attend some of the talks and workshops when I can.

So that‘s all the news in my neck of the woods. I hope everyone in the path of the storm stays safe; here’s hoping we all keep our power!

The ROWers would love to get a comment and an encouraging word from you. The blog hop is here.



I missed the last two check-ins, which is never a good sign for me. I’ve had some personal angst going on, which has added to the stress level.  I’m not that good at handling stress, sigh.

It’s time for a reboot–not so much a change in goals, as a refocus and refinement.  I do three things when I am stressed, none of which are good things:  I eat comfort food, I do marathon tv watching; and I play computer games.

My husband is rebooting his diet to control his diabetes, so I’m going to tag along with that and his exercise. I am swearing off the tv watching for a bit, saving it as a reward.  Finally, I am paring back on the computer games, by giving myself seven minutes a day. I now write in a notebook at break and lunch at work, so the computer is not as big a temptation.

Also, not all the news is bad.  The blogging class is going well, although it is an amazing amount of work. I’m still struggling with describing myself; unfortunately, the timing is the same as my having to come up with a detailed resume at work, so the whole thing is making me run around in denial.

I’m also taking a loglines class, which should help me stay focussed on the plot line of the novel. Everyone is commenting on everyone else’s work, so it is proving very helpful.

Last Saturday night, I went to a pre-season NBA game at the local arena, with both sons and hubby. It counted as somewhat of a date night, since we had to wait for an hour to get out of the parking garage after the game.

I’m also keeping up with my sponsor duties, so that’s one in the plus column as well.  I hope everyone has a wonderful rest of the week.  If you  have a chance, go encourage someone here.


Musings on music and comfort zones

This check-in is more ruminative than anything else.  I find it interesting what things stretch my comfort zone.  Saturday night, I went to a performance of Bach’s Magnificat with Eden.   There was a piece by Hayden beginning the evening and then a piece written in 1959.  I hate to admit it, but I immediately sighed to myself, thinking, “I don’t like modern music.”  I know *hangs my head in shame* how awful that sounds.  

Once the music started, I was drawn in, feeling the gooseflesh that usually only the “greats” can elicit from me. It was a challenging piece, more than willing to dip me into atonal depths that I have sworn never to revisit, but it deposited me whole and safe, shaken in good ways, at the end.

Earlier on Saturday, I was endeavoring to work on an exercise for the blogging class that makes my teeth hurt and my eyes water–to describe myself.  I would rather scrub toilets, grade freshman English composition papers, swim a mile. . . well, you get the picture.  It seems like such a small thing to my husband and sons, none of whom pat my hand when I whine to them.  

Obviously not done with locking myself out of my comfort zone, I did an online writing exercise at noon today. It made me write and think in ways I don’t often (or ever) do, and it was among the hardest writing I’ve ever done!  After I got over my surprise at the difficulty (my perfectionist never likes to be shown up!), I realized how much I had learned from it.

Both the music and the writing exercises are opportunities to leave my comfort zone, and to grow.  I’d forgotten how much growing hurts, but I’d also gotten terribly complacent, and I am glad to ache in good ways this evening.

I haven’t hit all my goals, but I’m happy with the progress I’ve had in the last week.  I stayed at work late Thursday night, revelling in the quiet and lack of interruptions, and got some writing done.

I hope everyone is motoring along well and finding their stride.  If you have a chance, go encourage someone whose link you find here.  It helps to hear from other writers!


Lessons Learned and Au revoir, New York

Today I leave New York City and return to my now-familiar haunts in upstate New York.  I enjoy the dip into the big city, drawing energy from the crowds on the sidewalks, the taxis blaring by, horns in counterpoint, the aromatic steam rising from the food trucks, all waking me early and filling the well.

I’ve been doing back flips into the research pool, and must admit climbing out to go back to my day job reminds me of being summoned from the neighborhood pool on hot summer days when I was a child. I also had to deal with the magpie this week, as I kept finding interesting side paths while working on my article.  I am proud to say I just kept putting notes in an idea file for future research trips.

My husband came to the city yesterday morning, so I managed to meet my date night goal.  We didn’t do anything much, but wandered around the city and talked.

Tomorrow, I’m starting the blogging class taught by Kristen Lamb at wana.intl, and am looking forward to learning and improving.

Speaking of learning, I want to share something I learned from the academic writing group in which I participate. This quote is from Dame Eleanor Hull’s post where she attributes the quotation to Dr. Isis’ post here.

“A friend just gave me a new framework for ways of comparing things: normative, ipsative and aspirational. So think about reaching a goal, say training for a marathon.  Normative – how do I compare to others around me with whom I train: are they getting better faster than me? Ipsative – how do I compare to where I was: am I running at a consistently faster pace than a month ago? Aspirational – how do I compare to where I want to be – can I run 20 miles without puking?”

It made me think about how we can make these comparisons negative or positive, depending on our psyche, or our mood of the moment. For example, I could take the normative comparison to beat myself up–”this acquaintance easily wins NaNo every year, so I’m a failure since I haven’t ever won.” Or the aspirational comparison could be so far out of reach as to be ridiculous–”I’ll have a book contract and three novels under my belt by this time next year.”

However, I can make positive normative and aspirational goals, which are the kind that work best in ROW80.  I have to admit, though, that I am intrigued by ipsative goals, where I compare myself to me, and I can celebrate progress, or even give myself little rewards. 🙂

Also, Kait gave a wonderful explanation and rationale for visiting each other and strengthening this great community in her check-in post.  You can find everyone here.

Let me know what you think about these comparison techniques for goals, and how you might use the different techniques in your own goals.  I love to hear from you.


ROW80 Round 4 2012 Goals

 With this post I announce my goals for the fourth round in 2012 of A Round of Words in 80 Days, which is a writing challenge that “knows you have a life.”  Click here to read more about it from the creator of the challenge, Kait Nolan.

Round 3 was a tough one for a lot of people, including me.  I’m not sure why it was difficult for me, because not that much changed from Round 2 to Round 3. *shrugs shoulders* However, excelsior!

I am going to retain  the breakout of goals I did last round, which were writing, community, exercise, and family/friends.  This round I am going to include the writing I need to do for the day job, because it impacts my writing in both positive and negative ways.



  • I will create an outline of the entire novel, spending at least 7 hours a week in whatever configuration works for that week.


  • I’m starting a blogging course on October 8th, and will keep up with the assignments.
  • I will be doing research the week of October 1-5, which I will turn into a first draft of an article, spending at least 4 hours a week from October 8th on, in whatever configuration.


  • As a sponsor, I will visit my assigned blogs twice a week.
  • I will reply to all comments on my blogs.
  • I will spend no more than 5 hours a week on social media.  I will assess which platforms work for me, and which ones do not.


  • I got stress fractures in two metatarsals by walking, so I will walk for only twenty minutes an evening.
  • I will continue to use the stairs.
  • Starting October 8th, I will investigate low impact exercise, choosing one by week’s end.


  • I will set aside a half-hour every evening to read.
  • I will spend at least one hour a week contacting a friend by whatever means work best.
  • I will have a “date night” with my husband at least twice a month.
  • I will spend at least one hour a week with at least one of my kids.

Mrs. Sparkly’s Ten Commandment Award

At the end of June (yes, I know, I am so very far behind in thanking you, Jenny) the lovely J Keller Ford  at J Keller Ford–YA Fantasy Author   gave me  Mrs. Sparkly’s Ten Commandment Award.  Isn’t it just gorgeous!?!?

To accept the award, I have to answer seven questions about myself, tell you something about the person who gave me the award, and nominate 15 other bloggers.

1. Describe yourself in 7 words: sensitive, creative, loyal, funny, nerdy, steel magnolia.

2. What keeps you up at night? My husband’s snoring does it most of the time.

3. Whom would you like to be? I’d love to combine my twenty-five year-old body with my middle-aged mind and a book contract.

4. What am I wearing right now? It’s 5am!  I’m in flannel jammies, a fleece bathrobe, and fuzzy slippers.

5. What scares you?  If we’re talking creepy-crawlies, then snakes and mice; if the more insidious, invisible fears, then failure and success.

6. What are the best and worst things about blogging? I love having a conversation with people all over the globe.  The interaction with people, their ideas and views is energizing for me.  I hate feeling that I’m interested in things no one else cares about, or I am just as boring as my sons teasingly say I am.

7. If I could change one thing about myself, what would it be? I would be more confident of my skills.

8. Slankets, yes or no? No slankets; I do have throws and afghans in all the public rooms in the winter.  I wear fleece bathrobes in the private rooms.

Wasn’t that supposed to be 7 questions?  No matter!

9. Tell us something about the person who nominated you. Jenny is a lovely person who writes young adult fantasy.  She often posts excerpts of what she is working on, and reviews a wide range of YA literature.  She also includes helpful resources and links for writers.  Go check her out, here’s her link again.

I’m not going to nominate 15 bloggers at this time.  I’m thinking through that one, but I didn’t want to wait any longer to thank Jenny.