Monday, May 25, 2009

From the Archive - A few more

I've collected most of my old blog posts all together here, now, except for the Health at Every Size ones that are sitting over on "Noelle is Fat and Happy." I'm planning to keep that blog up for the time being, since a bunch of my comments over the last few months include a link there.

Also, those posts have a different tenor than the one I think I want to cultivate here. The writing that I discovered I enjoyed the most was the positive-toned stuff I was doing about writing. That's what I want to do more of and be able to refer to here, so I am just leaving the link above if I want to get back over to look at the stuff on the other site.

Now I need to actually *write* a writing post. LOL. I'll go gear myself up to do that, then. (I hear Terence Stamp's voice in my head with that last sentence. I just watched "The Hit" with him in it; it was cool but odd - much like Terence.)

~N.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

From the Archive - No more weight loss woes

Warning: LONG POST. Following are my last four entries to "How NOT to Lose Weight on a Diet" - a joint project with Colette. Being so into Fat Acceptance and HAES, I am uncomfortable with some of these writings now, but want to keep them all together on this blog, so I am going to create this one, last weight loss blog post and move on.

It's DASH, but it's not quick 08/17/08

As I end my first day on the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet for people (me) with high blood pressure, I am reminded why so many of these diets are flops so quickly. They are too much work. I have to make a meal plan with the special guidelines. I have to go to the grocery story and buy the foods for the plan. And, since I have not been eating all this healthy, multi-grain, low-fat, good for me stuff, it takes over an hour in the damn store to find everything. Then I have to come home and put it all away. That’s exhausting.

Then, a couple hours later, I have to prepare dinner to include sensible protein, a starch, vegetables (frozen is easiest) and a salad. I didn’t plan very well, because after I got everything cleaned up and put away, I realized I had to pull it all back out to prep my lunch for tomorrow. Don’t think the Kraft mac and cheese wasn’t calling me, with its fifteen minute preparation time from putting the water on to boil to eating the artificial orange food yumminess.

I have to present the counterpoint, of course – Optifast, which can be done with zero food preparation time, has been a diet failure for me, too, but for different reasons, although missing real food was one of them. Where is the diet with the right balance of food preparation, which can definitely be an enjoyable experience and usually leads to healthier eating, and convenience, which every tired, stressed one of us needs?

Just stop eating! 08/24/08

There are a variety of starvation diets. I remember one from my childhood in the 70's where people would have their jaws wired shut so that they could only drink liquids. People were highlighted having their meals made into shakes - a Caesar salad frappe, anyone?

What a horrible idea - it reminds me of Inquisition-type tactics. Why not just manacle yourself into your bedroom for a week? You'll definitely lose weight - until you start eating again, which is where these programs always seem to fall down.

Of course, for me the prospect of not be able to TALK for months actually seemed like the hardship, but any sort of voluntary medical intervention seems like a really extreme measure to take, although I have to admit I've considered bariatic surgery more than once.

I got to do a mini-version of this diet last week when I cracked a tooth over the weekend. I couldn't chew anything hard at all and only soft things on the right side or I experienced excrutiating pain. It felt like I was chewing tinfoil. I couldn't drink anything, at any temperature, without wimpering or even yelling.

By the time the dentist got me fixed up Monday afternoon, I'd lost at least two pounds. Sorry, this is one diet plan I'm not willing to recreate for anything.

Starve a cold? 08/31/08

Sometimes, the only redeeming part of being sick is that you get to lose weight with no extra effort. It's something we brag about, "Yeah, I was so sick that I couldn't even get out of bed. I lost like five pounds!" This is not a good plan.

I have been dealing with a bad tooth (root canal coming next week, I'll probably lose a couple pounds not eating for a few days - lol) and some sort of stomach bug that my boss was nice enough to pass around last week. Consequently, I feel like crap and I don't want to eat, because there are bad consequences every time I do. So, I try not to eat, but then I get starving and eat whatever is around. Or I feel crummy and try to go for the comfort food and very few things on my comfort food list are good for me.

Fortunately for me, I had packed all healthy lunches last week (still doing the DASH diet, down about 5 pounds in about 2 weeks), so when I went to grab the nearest thing because I had to eat *something*, it always turned out to be my stupid health lunch and snacks. And, this long weekend I am home with my husband, who is actively dieting and exercising to avoid going on insulin, so I am not willing to make really bad food choices in front of him because I don't want to mess him up.

Turns out there could be something to the ideas of "plan ahead" and "get support."

Free food fandango 10/16/08

Why, as adults, can we still be bribed with food?

Our insurance agent came by today to check in, see how we are doing, answer any questions, just basically remind us that his company loves ours. He brought muffins. And not some skinny little muffins like your mom used to make in the 12-cup muffin tins, but huge, gooey, multi-thousand calorie muffins that are really small cakes. People were lining up in the breakroom to get some. Luckily, the things were so damn big we had to cut them in half, so there was plenty for everyone.

Why are we like that? None of us are starving. All of us could afford to go buy a similar treat for ourselves (or something healthier or more appropriate), but we all go crazy for free food brought in by a vendor. And we think well of them for bringing us this stuff that is really not good for any of us. Granted, we also like it when they bring us calendars and pens and other desk accessories, but nothing turns us into cavemen like food.

This is something I've had to make a deliberate effort to stay away from, so I think I'm a little resentful, too. I have an eating plan and big muffins aren't on it. I have to be one of those people who declines the original offer PLUS has to stiff-arm all the office people who want to encourage me to partake in the bounty. There is no polite way to say, "No, thanks, I'd rather those calories were on your thighs, not mine." The winter holidays are coming and this free food phenomenon is only going to get worse.

From the Archive - Jenny Craig, Part I (1990)

This was part of my contribution to "How NOT to Lose Weight on a Diet" - a joint project with Colette. It's also an interesting (to me) look into my mindset before HAES.

The first time I tried Jenny Craig, I liked it. I tried it on the suggestion of a new acquaintance at work who could not say enough good things about it. At the time, I had been married for about 15 months and had gained about 40 pounds since the wedding. I was approaching 200 pounds, which seemed like an impossibly large number (ah, youth!). Looking back, I wonder about the circumstances that caused a 20 year old to gain that much weight that quickly, but I put it down to eating out with the new hubby, getting through the last year of college, taking on the responsibilities of an apartment and almost full time job, etc.

Things went well for about six months. At the time, I think they gave you a 1200-calorie eating plan with 90% their food and a few things you bought – fruit, lettuce for salad, some veggies, milk. It cost about $75 a week for the food. You had to meet with a counselor once a week to weigh in, talk a little and get next week’s food. You were also supposed to attend a small group session – usually a video and discussion led by a counselor – preferably on a different day. The idea was that you were in the center at least twice a week for encouragement and reinforcement.

It worked while everything in my life was going well. I had graduated college and was in a job I enjoyed. I had friends at work that I liked and a gym in the office building that was convenient and fun. My husband was supportive – he was preparing his own meals and we were not going out to eat.

At some point though, things started to fall apart personally and the diet fell apart with them. I switched departments at work for more money and began working for a guy that I discovered I truly could not stand. Even all the other great friends I made in the department could not mitigate the awfulness of the man. The husband got tired of taking care of himself and wanted me to cook and/or for us to eat out more. We had a higher income – a move I made to help get us out of debt – but it was getting burned up on dinners out and buying extra crap for the new, bigger apartment we took on.

I started eating an entire fast food meal in the car on the way home at night, stopping at a gas station to toss the trash, then coming home and making dinner or going out to eat. Of course I stopped losing weight. When I wasn’t visibly making progress at weight loss, the husband announced that we were wasting money at J.C. (not knowing what else was going on since I wouldn’t tell him and risk getting criticized for being a fuck-up). I agreed, embarrassed to talk to the counselor about my inability to lose weight and unable or unwilling to talk to my husband about my unhappiness. So, I cancelled a few weekly meetings and just stopped going.

~Noelle 08/13/08

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

From the Archive - The sword swallower and me

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - www.keepwriting.org - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

I just reread my last post and I'm feeling a bit like Rip Van Winkle. It's only been a week since I posted, but it feels a lot longer. And I wish I could have told you that I went ahead and took the week off work to sleep, but instead it feels like I just slept-walked through the past seven days.

Actually it wasn’t all bad, although early in the week I got into my tired-everything-sucks-and-I-suck-with-it death spiral of despair because 1) I was tired (see most of my posts re: lack of sleep) and 2) I have children who are smart, annoying, messy, annoying, clueless, annoying and exhausting. But I pulled out of the dive, got everyone to their respective camps and home again with no real incidents. Work didn’t suck and I got a lot done. Then all of a sudden it was the weekend and the kids were gone off to their dad’s house for two weeks and I had a long weekend to spend with my honey – which was great and ended much too quickly and BAM, it’s Monday again.

This ramble reminds me of the sword swallower we saw at the Renaissance Festival in June. We had seen him the previous year, so his shtick was familiar. He stands up front and makes a few jokes. He comments on people coming in late, asks how they are doing, etc. He talks a little about how he got started in clown school. He reminds the kids, “Do not try this at home.” Basically, he does a lot of what seems like warm-up patter. However, and this is the part I forgot until now, right before he gets started on the main event, he says, “I try to see how long I can go into the show before I actually have to swallow a sword.” He is good at what he does, but it’s physically difficult and he doesn’t mind delaying it for some banter with the audience. He said his best stall ever was 22 minutes, but we’d gotten him to 18 this time, so he was okay with that.

So far my stall has been about 350 words. I really didn’t have a topic to write on, or an insight into writing, but I’d like to get 500 words on the page, so if I have to stall and talk about taking my kids to see funny may who swallows knives, swords and balloons, I don’t have any false pride about just rambling on until I hit my goal. I’m no Ray Bradbury, writing 1000 words a day when he was twelve, but I believe that if I can just keep producing coherent sentences every day, eventually I will have something really great to show the audience and they will want to hand me five dollar bills at the back of the auditorium – or buy my books for $24.95 hardcover, $14.95 trade paperback at Barnes & Noble.

I’ve only got to compose another sentence or two and then I can escape to bed and try to rest up for another fun-filled day.

Whew, made it.

~Noelle 07/21/08

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

From the Archive - Cream Cheese

This was part of my contribution to "How NOT to Lose Weight on a Diet" - a joint project with Colette. It's also an interesting (to me) look into my mindset before HAES.

Sometimes weight loss gets couched in other terms so it sounds more holistic and healthy. I once tried a system "cleanse" that involved basically fasting for three days by eating only 5 ounces of either cream cheese or ripe olives. Not both – one or the other. I think the idea was that your body would get some minimum amount of calories and fat to barely exist on for three days and it would "jump start," a favorite diet phrase, your body for the stringent plan that would follow. And you'd probably actually be looking forward to even a tightly regimented plan after eating practically nothing for the three days before. I don't remember a lot of the details of the eating plan, because I didn't make it there.

On the morning of day one of the fast, I opened up a sixteen-ounce package of cream cheese and carefully weighed out five ounces of the white gold. I cut it up into five pieces so I could spread my intake out over the day. I wrapped the rest up and put it back in the refrigerator for the next two days. It was hard eating the first piece of cream cheese. It was thick and stuck to the roof of my mouth. I actually thought that I might not be able to eat the rest of it across that day, that I'd rather just skip eating instead. Three hours later, I did have to force myself to each the next piece. I was a little hungry, but still not looking forward to eating a chunk of bagel spread. Three hours more though, and I was counting down the minutes to the next piece. This was repeated twice more the first day, including in the evening when I served dinner to the family but didn't eat any myself. Whew, it was hard, but I made it through.

On the morning of day two, I pulled the opened cream cheese package out of the fridge and considered it. There were eleven ounces left. Wouldn't it just be easier to split the remainder in half? How different were five ounces from five and a half, really? I eyeballed it, cut about half off – it might have been a bit more than half, but who was counting – divided it up into the five servings for the day and put the rest back. Serving one was immediately, no problem. Servings two and three, okay. Serving four was supposed to occur about four o'clock as I was getting ready to leave the office. I am usually in a hurry to go because I am on a deadline to pick up my kids after school, so I decided to just have that serving as I was driving home. Somehow, my car ended up in the drive-through lane at the first fast food restaurant in my path. Not for a whole meal, though, just for some chicken nuggets and a Diet Coke. As I was driving home, I told myself that it was a slip-up, they happen, but that I would get back on plan and have cream cheese number five instead of dinner. That idea lasted until I got home and started cooking. I rationalized myself into just having a salad while the family was eating - the dressing could be the fat substitute for the cream cheese and I even threw some ripe olives on there. I don't know if I even bother tried rationalizing this next part, but I know I offered to clean the table so I could eat the leftovers off everyone's plates as I was washing the dishes.

On the morning of day three, some autonomic part of my brain, the part that wants to make me happy and/or keep me from starving, took over. I got dressed, got the kids out the door to school, got in the car and drove right to Burger King for my usual breakfast. God as my witness, I did not even remember about the cream cheese diet until I was on my second croissanwich. As soon as I got to work, I looked up information on starvation diets so I could reassure myself that it was a dangerous plan and the effects on my metabolism could be very destructive. Clearly, I had dodged a bullet with that plan and was much safer on my two-fast-food-meals, one-big-home-cooked-meal plan, which I went right back to with relief.

A final note: I did not waste the remaining cream cheese. It did end up on a big, toasted, "everything" bagel the next weekend.

~N. 07/16/08

From the Archive - Noelle's intro

This was part of my contribution to "How NOT to Lose Weight on a Diet" - a joint project with Colette. It's also an interesting (to me) look into my mindset before HAES.

Here's where the idea for this project came from: I have been dieting for 19 years, since two months before my first wedding at age 20, and I have doubled in size across about two decades. How is this possible? How can a person attempt to lose weight, a lot of times and in a lot of different ways, and yet manage to turn into the equivalent of two of herself? Let me be mostly truthful here: I weigh (about) 300 pounds. Since I am 5'5'' this means that I am at least twice what the height-weight charts and the BMI charts say I should be.

I don't have a graph for you – I'll make one if you really want – but the trend is my weight stair-stepping up across the years. The first year I was married, I gained about 40 pounds. Then I went on a high cost, we-feed-you plan and lost 50 pounds in a year. Then I got into a lousy job situation and gained back 60 in the next year. Then I stayed the same for a long time, probably six years, even while working in a restaurant. Then I got pregnant, gained 60 pounds, had the kid, lost 25 pounds, got pregnant again, gained another 60, had the second kid and never really lost any more. I stayed at the new higher weight for about eight years, went on a low carb diet, lost 35 pounds in 6 months and gained it back in 3 months, all while doing the hardest workouts of my life in the martial arts. I got divorced, gained 65 pounds due to: lack of exercise, getting a full time job for the first time since having kids, going out to eat with the new boyfriend, and acquiring sleep apnea. Last year, I tried a liquid diet, lost 30 pounds, stressed out and ate real food, and gained the 30 back.

I only hit the highlights, but in the midst of the big weight loss attempts, probably once every other month, I try a new plan and generally fizzle out. And every time I think, "Okay, my body has to stop here, this is really the most I can be," but I often manage to add some more weight. Holy cow!

And feel free to laugh, because I do. We've got to laugh at the crazy things we do to lost weight and the seeming futility of most of the plans we all have tried. Colette and I – and you if you'll share – would like to tell our stories of trying to fight the weight loss battle and (usually) losing. We'd like to commiserate about what doesn't work, so maybe we can all laugh a little and try not to worry so much about our slip-ups as we keep trying to get to our magic number, be it pounds or pants size.

I know there are people who have actually succeeded at losing weight and maintaining it. I'm sure you have advice for us. The advice probably has to do with portion control and overcoming emotional eating, right? Okay, share that advice. Let's have a discussion about what's worked for you and what hasn't, because the first diet is not the one that works. Nor is the second, third, or fourth, if I had to speculate, but maybe you finally got to your magic number and can stay there. Let us hear from you, too, because with weight loss, hope springs eternal.

~N. 07/15/08

Thursday, May 14, 2009

From the Archive - Sleep, benefits of

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - www.keepwriting.org - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.


I have discovered another crucial ingredient to the excellent writing surge - plenty of rest and mental space to think.

When I was doing my happy dance in print last night, it really did not occur to me that yesterday was Sunday and I was at my most rested of the week, having Friday and Saturday nights to get the full eight hours (more like ten), plus the little naps during the day on Saturday and Sunday and a very light work load (just laundry, really). Tonight, I feel like I've been beaten with a tired and stupid stick and that's because: only seven hours sleep, a long commute, a loooong work day, a long commute back, dinner for children, visit to car repair shop, various house responsibilities and some pretty but pointless television watching. I'm surprised I'm still upright and typing - well, I am kind of slouching.

I'm worried, too, because Monday is usually a pretty good day for me (see note above re: being well rested) and from there the week kind of slides into apathy. I'm surprised I get out of bed on Friday mornings, being so far behind on rest and underwater on caring about almost anything; I have a long list of worries to buoy me that includes work, household maintenance, my children's social skills, global warming and China's lousy human rights policies. The way I feel now, I may have to quit my job on Wednesday to stay home and nap (and yes, I'm kidding, but I don't want to be).

I am off to bed now to try to get to seven and a half hours at least before starting on day two of the weekday cycle. I feel like there should be a Wagner joke in here, something about cycles and multiple days, but I'm too tired to think of it. Maybe tomorrow.

~Noelle 07/14/08

From the Archive - The New Project

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - www.keepwriting.org - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

I am about to toot my own horn, so cover your ears if it’s too much.

Colette and I have been talking about working on a new project, the one I alluded to in an earlier post. Well, it's up and going and called "How NOT to Lose Weight on a Diet" and its link is here: http://hownottoloseweight.blogspot.com/.

Here is the horn tooting part: as my contribution, I have just sent in an intro and a short piece on one of my MANY dieting attempts and failures, to the tune of 1300 words combined. It is quite possible that I actually wrote too much and Colette may have to edit for space and readability, but the part where I sat down for an hour and a half and cranked the words out really has really got me feeling good. Compared to other evenings when it has felt like I was low crawling through machine gun fire to get any words on the page, tonight feels like I am rolling over the writing terrain in a Sherman tank.

What a great feeling, to get a hit off that writing high. Of course, now I’m just going to get the munchies… Ooh, maybe I can use that for the new blog, too. Ha! This is very exciting for me and I can only hope that some of my enthusiasm can come through on the page to you. It is incredible to be a writer, to really feel like that writing is a part of who you are, who you have to be. That’s the place that I feel like I’m in tonight and I hope that you get to come hang out in the club, too, because the doorman is in a good mood and feeling like anyone with two good words to rub together gets to come in and boogie.

Write on.

~Noelle 07/13/08

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

From the Archive - In under the wire

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - www.keepwriting.org - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.


I took last night off from blogging, mainly to sleep. I was checking my email at 9:45 and falling asleep at the screen, so I decided it would be best if I just went to bed. (If you got a blank email from me, it's because I was nodding off and clicking the mouse as I went out - very funny.) I had already been at work all day, then home to get my daughter, off to dinner with the husband and brother-in-law and it had been a long day.

Today, I was up again early to get daughter gone to her dad's house then running an errand into town – Scott needed new sneakers and I needed two pairs of new work shoes – and picking up the son from a week away at camp, then lunch, another errand, back to the house to hand son off to father, over to get brother-in-law to go see Hancock (great movie, btw, more later if I think of it), dinner, then home to veg and watch Cloverfield with the hubby (an okay movie, it was what it advertised it was). All I'm saying is, it's been a crowded day of supposedly chilling for a day because it's the weekend.

What does this have to do with writing and being a writer? Well, I’d like to think my devotion to this project, by coming upstairs tonight at eleven p.m. to get it done, shows some resolve. I hope it means I gaining some self-awareness of myself and how/when/if I really want to be a writer as an avocation. I knew I took last night off. I did it deliberately as I was putting myself to bed. I wasn’t pretending that I forgot or that I would get up later and do it. I also decided that one night off was all I was going to allow.

There was a discussion here about taking weekends off from writing. Based on what I’ve read of the authors I admire, I don’t think that’s a plan that can work. As far as I can tell, and I welcome differing opinions to get a discussion going, writers write every day. Okay, or think about writing, or talk about writing, or try to sell their writing, every day.

I think being a writer needs to fall into the category of behaviors that include addictions. Possibly this is because I have the addictive personality type and would love to be able to use the power for good instead of evil. But possibly because writing, as an advanced civilization form of storytelling, can get right down to the lower brain part of us that drives compulsion and addiction and crazy-got-to-do-it behavior. And how great to be able to tap into that part of our psyche that spurs an all-consuming drive to act.

Yes, I am sounding a little maniacal. If I do an Agatha Christie – lose my memory, check into a fancy spa – use this material to confirm that I am a complete nut job, get my Social Security disability, and leave me at home with a day nurse, a spiral notebook and a pencil. Wait, maybe that was my plan all along…

Got to go. The midnight deadline approaches.

~Noelle 07/12/08

Monday, May 11, 2009

From the Archive - My evening's plot

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - www.keepwriting.org - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

I’ve been reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. I started it a few weeks ago, then picked it up tonight as part of my campaign to do more of what I like – reading, reading, reading, writing, cross stitch and napping. The book was recommended to me by a person who I otherwise think of as pretty flaky, but who seems to have the same taste in books as me, as she also got me started on Neil Gaiman, who is part of my personal pantheon of best writers ever.

Chabon does an amazing thing with description and well-paced action that pulls you along through the story. I’m still close to the beginning, so we are meeting the various characters, the main ones to root for, the bad ones to despise and the supporting cast to walk along with, and getting to like the protagonists. Soon, though, there is going to be a reversal in fortunes for one or the other of them and I am going to be upset on their behalf.

Sometimes I stop reading when I get to that point, because so many authors are so heavy handed with the stumbling blocks that plot requires be put in front of their characters for conflict and resolution. In writing classes Tony Grooms used to say, and he was not the first, that conflict made a story. No conflict, no story. So my protagonists, who I am getting attached to, cannot just be born into a comfortable situation, live carefree lives and stroll off into the sunset being naturally healthy, wealthy and wise. I know the two main characters live to be successful, so they personally will be okay, but I am not looking forward to what Chabon does to the people around them.

I hated having to tear myself away from the book, but I made a deal with myself for 45 minutes of reading, then 30 minutes of writing. I actually read for closer to 55 minutes, but I had to end at a chapter or at least a logical break in the story flow. The writing is actually happening quite a bit later, because I was balancing my checkbook online, then I had a date to watch Penn & Teller Bullshit, then I got distracted by miscellaneous stuff on the television. (I told Scott that when he and his BFF Eric are off on vacation next year, I am turning off the cable – and I might really mean it.)

Distractions notwithstanding, I am back here writing, which is the key part of this story. I was going along good with the reading of actual literature and good intentions of writing, got sidetracked and almost waylaid by the demons of the computer and television, but then was able get myself off the couch and back up here to get the words down on paper. No one died, there were no explosions, and no hot guys showed us their abs, biceps or pecs, but still a successful story for me when it’s all done – which is now so I can go to bed and start over tomorrow.

~Noelle 07/10/08

From the Archive - An office decluttering post

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - www.keepwriting.org - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

Whoops, I almost went to bed without posting. The main reason is that it is Wednesday night and I had to clear space for the cleaning people. Please, save your jokes about cleaning for the cleaning people. The issue is that they clean surfaces - sinks, toilets, floors, etc. - and if they cannot reach a surface, they don't clean it. They do a certain amount of stacking things up and making them neat, but I want them to do the real scrubbing that I don't want to do. Plus, I own too much stuff and leave it around too much anyway, so getting rid of trash, emptying and loading the dishwasher and putting away the clean laundry is something I should be doing on a regular basis. It's just that Wednesday nights give me the kick in the ass I need to get it done.

I have been thinking since my rant the other night about my DWP (designated writing place) and I think I’ve got a game plan for clearing some mental space to write by clearing some physical space. My goal is to take one box (the kind copier paper comes in) of stuff out of my office every day. Tonight, I threw away a bunch of miscellaneous junk that was piled on my reading chair – a comfy Queen Anne chair and ottoman from my previous life - including a power cord to a printer that is long gone, a pair of jeans that have seen better days, and an old kid Halloween costume. There is no good reason for the last two items to even be in here, but there they were, keeping the chair from its primary mission of giving me a place to hang and read, or do cross stitch, or just close my eyes for ten minutes.

I also jettisoned office organizers that just encourage piling stuff up on the desk – a little one for envelopes (because I have so many letters going out every day) and a big vertical stacking one. In fact, I took the same kind off my desk at work today, too, because it was just encouraging me to keep stuff “just in case” on my desk, when what I want to do is just look at one project at a time. Back in the home office, I cleared off a shelf of loose pictures and memory stuff from trips and piled it up in a box in my closet on a shelving unit I put in there a few months ago to hold all this stuff I don’t want to look at. Eventually, I will get those pictures in albums, or not, but I needed that shelf to put some of the many journals (see earlier post, below, concerning the many, many journals) that were hanging around on my desk.

Just now, I moved the speakers down off the top of the desk, too, and put up just the beehive ginger jar Scott got me for my birthday. Wow, it’s like having a whole new piece of furniture, the kind I wanted when I saw the display at the store.

Sorry, I know this wasn’t really a writing post, but sometimes the process is about getting to the place where one can write. Now I need to see about getting a new chair. This one is killing my butt.

~Noelle 07/09/08

Friday, May 08, 2009

From the Archive - The desk as a stumbling block

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - www.keepwriting.org - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

I’m thinking that my designated writing place (DWP) is not really the best place to write. My DWP is my office, which is my sole domain – people and children are only allowed in with permission – but it occurs to me that once I get in here, I don’t get a lot of writing done.

For one thing, the chair I’m using is my son’s old desk chair. I set it at its highest setting, but within 15 minutes it has lowered itself way down, so that I am looking up at my computer screen instead of facing it directly. And screws keep coming out of the bottom, so I’m not sure what is even holding the seat onto the frame. Every once in a while I flip the chair over and replace the screws, but they just pop out again – about one per week. And it’s not that comfortable a chair anyway. I’m using it because my desk chair died about a year and a half ago and I haven’t gotten around to getting a new one.

My desk, which I bought specially at Wal-Mart and put together, is a cute little cherry number. However, the graceful lines and subdued styling are obscured by the junk I have piled all over it – kid photographs, bills to be paid, miscellaneous pieces of paper I think I need to act on but need to read again, program CD’s, two old cell phones I need to get the pictures off of, etc. My desk is a standing to-do list that distracts and stresses me.

I’ve been working on clearing the desk off, but it’s slow going. In order to clean it off, I have to find a place for everything, and the room has other clutter issues, like a bookcase that is overfull of graduate school writings, books I got from my mom that I haven’t weeded out yet and a whole shelf of photos to go into albums; four boxes of junk from my daughter’s room when we cleared her some space, plus her writing table and doll house; and two filing cabinets, one in daily use, the other just hanging around. I have been telling myself that this room needs to be cleaned up, but putting all this down on (electronic) paper just fires me up to get it all gone and out of sight. I did get rid of the collectable dolls that had been stored in a moving box for the last ten years, so that is progress. Now I need to clear some more space and get all the non-writing stuff out of sight.

The other non-writing issue I have is that I like to sit down at this, the writing computer, and surf the ‘Net, download my checking account info and generally goof off. So far my bedtime deadline has kept me writing the blog, but I’m going to need a longer-term solution for the personal writing. I think the proposed solutions for that are going to have to wait for another blog. One thing at a time so my brain doesn’t explode.

Look, 500 words. Excellent. Talk to you tomorrow.

~Noelle 07/08/08

From the Archive - Tired, not rested

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - www.keepwriting.org - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

This is a rant. Prepare yourself.

My daughter will not shut up. She will not be quiet watching a movie. She will not be quiet when she’s getting ready for bed. She will not be quiet after she is in a darkened room and supposedly falling asleep. She is 45 minutes past her bedtime and has just appeared with a story about blood coming up out of her throat into her nose. Since I completely refused to give this story any credence, she gave up and went back to bed. Holy crap.

I was letting her sleep in my bed because we had thunderstorms going on and I know they upset her. My plan was to goof around on the computer in the office next door and wait for her to go to bed to start writing. Except she never SHUT UP. “Mom, can I turn the fan on?” “Mom, can I get a drink of water?” “Mom, what does punctual mean?” This last one is apparently a reference to a line in the Disney movie Aladdin. The girl cannot remember to turn the light off after she leaves the bathroom but she can remember movie lines for days. I finally had to kick her out of my room and back to hers, then make her turn off the High School Musical soundtrack she wanted to play for ambiance.

So now I am feeling beaten up and tired. I probably would have felt tired anyway since it’s almost my bedtime, but after dealing with the girl I just want to flop on the bed on my back with my mouth open and fall asleep snoring. Forget writing, or reading, or brushing my teeth, or anything. And to think I was a little miffed when she decided to stay at her dad’s last night.

That’s all I’ve got tonight. Some whining and moaning about being tired and being a parent. I’m going to go lie down in a cool, dark room and think quiet, non-Disney thoughts.

Talk to you tomorrow.

~Noelle 07/07/08

Thursday, May 07, 2009

From the Archive - Day six - Is tomorrow a day of rest?

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - www.keepwriting.org - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

I was riding a wave yesterday, feeling good about blogging and writing and just on top of the world. I don’t have a good surfing metaphor here, but I guess you could say I wiped out today.

I don’t know if it was the restless sleep last night, or having to get up early to send one child away to overnight camp or the melancholy of being without my kids tonight (the other one is staying with her dad), but I am really not feeling it tonight. However, I do have the Tony Crisafulli genes, so that means that if I come up with an extreme, prescriptive behavior that I am the sole enforcer for, I am going to do it. So here I am, on the sixth night of July, writing my sixth blog of this series, damn it.

****

Okay, you couldn’t tell, but I went off to read some inspirational blogs to help myself get motivated to write. It didn’t really help, but I’ve killed thirty minutes doing it and now I have about fifteen more until I want to go to bed, so I have a deadline, which is motivating in its own way.

This is the kind of evening that worries me when I fantasize about being a professional writer and living off my writing. I worry that the writing will dry up and I’ll be penniless and homeless. Granted, I probably wouldn’t run out of money right away – I’ve got an okay balance in the checking account and some socked away in the savings account, plus the little retirement account – but what if I tap all that and still the writing doesn’t come? Note to self: go find this section in The Courage to Write. I’m sure he’s got a chapter on this.

And I’ve been self-employed before, so I know the drill. Have a plan. Write it down. Follow it. Have back up plans. Keep going. Remember the country music quote, “If you’re going through hell, keep on going.” Consider other sources of income. Reduce expenses. Marry a millionaire. Marry a multi-millionaire because with your crappy writing habits, you are going to blow through all his money pretty fast. Okay, I feel a little better now. Nothing like some hyperbole and exaggeration to take the edge off.

And it’s not like I don’t have skills to fall back on. Bookkeeping and payroll gigs are going to be around until we flick the IRS off our shoulders like the unwanted governmental dandruff it is, so I have that. Plus, the two decades of business and life experience, etc., etc., etc. I believe that what I fear is the lack of a steady paycheck. What a wimp. What a chance for me to break out of the constraints I’m in and find something that really gives me – and I hesitate to say it because it sounds so New Age and silly – joy.

I thought I wasn’t feeling it, but sometimes I just have to push through the requirement and, lo, I think I can come back and fight on. I put the 500 words down here, as required by me and now I’m feeling pretty good about me. *Pats self on back.*

Okay, one more day down. Let’s go again tomorrow.

~Noelle 07/06/08

From the Archive - Here I am, again

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - www.keepwriting.org - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

I would like to make a confession here: I almost forgot to blog tonight. I got home from a holiday cookout about six o’clock and just did not feel like writing, so I wandered downstairs and helped my son pack for a camping trip, made some dinner, and watched Resident Evil: Extinction. Blogspot just completely disappeared from short-term memory once I got to the lower level.

What is extra bad about this is I watched it on a high-def channel and used the DVR’s pause feature to catch the whole thing while I was in the kitchen cooking macaroni and cheese, all the while recording another movie for Scott and the kids to watch next weekend – this from someone who keeps campaigning to get rid of the DVR and the cable service and to stop stocking the pantry with complete junk food. Yeah, I fell way out of my ivory tower.

Then, I got caught up watching another movie, one I’d already seen. If Scott hadn’t gotten home in a timely manner from his visit with the Alabama contingent, I’d still be down there watching Bruce Willis save America from Timothy Olyphant and his evil computers. And that would be okay, if that was my intention for the evening. But my intention really is to write every single day, apparently about eleven o’clock at night, and post here.

Now that we are at five consecutive writing days, I am starting to feel some momentum. I still don’t really have anything coherent to write about – I just start to ramble as I sit here – but I’m feeling like I could do this again tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that. So far I’ve been able to write on three nights after work and two days after using up the whole day doing activities out of the house. What is going to be possible when I start opening up chunks of time my simplifying my personal commitments and house maintenance – as I plan to do as I work through the Zen Habits principles?

One of the reasons I got finished with NaNoWriMo last year was that I was able to take off the entire Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend to write. I woke up about nine, confirmed that everyone had eaten some sort of breakfast, then sat down in front of my computer, in my cute jammies, and started to write. I probably took a lunch break, I don’t think I did dinner, but I definitely wrote until after dark and I put 10,000 words down on the screen. I don’t think I could do that all the time, but what an amazing feeling to have done it then and to know that, having done it once, I can do it again. I’ll use another of my favorite examples: after I broke a board the first time, I never doubted that I could do it again. Sometimes I would miss and hit it wrong and have to redo it, but I had done it before, I could do it again. And again. And again.

Here is to another good night. See you again tomorrow.

~Noelle 07/05/08

From the Archive - Tired and a little grumpy

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - www.keepwriting.org - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

I am wicked tired. I don't know why exactly, but I would guess that a day of eating, movie, more eating, another movie, yet more eating and finally surfing around on the 'Net is probably to blame. It is amazing how a whole day of nothing can just wear you out.

I shared about the tiredness so I could solicit some props for writing this entry. I really, really, really do not feel like writing. I actually have no problem with the physicality of typing, that's no problem, but the effort of stringing together words into coherent thoughts just feels like some Herculean sort of effort. If I could expand yesterday's running metaphor: today I feel like I am trying to run in sand, or through mud. Every word I push forward into my consciousness to replicate on the screen here is hard.

My wrist has decided to act up, too, giving my some little twinges. I have to say, my body is good about producing psychosomatic symptoms. If there is something I really feel like I don't want to do, I can find a pain or an ache to use to put it off. And this was true even before I got quite so fat and old and things actually started to mis-fire without some hypochondriatic prodding. When I was younger and in better shape, I was better about pushing through my aches and pains to accomplish things.

PSA: I have stopped my above rant/whine to produce what I feel is an important Public Service Announcement. Twice in two days (yesterday and today), I have lost my draft post off Blogspot. Yesterday it was because I was testing an internal link in the post and lost my draft when I came back. Today, in my tiredness I hit some wrong combination of keys and kicked myself off the Internet altogether. The lesson here is to compose in the word processing program of your choice and copy it into the blog. Luckily for me, I had been copying and pasting my blogs into Word so I could check the word count and therefore was able to retain almost all my text. (I lost the last 15 minutes of work yesterday. It was a good post, but I think it could have been better, but that little bit of inspiration had already gone by.)

Okay, message sent to any random person reading this. If I can save just one other person from the heartache of lost writing, my job is done. I was pretty upset last night about maybe losing my work. I had really enjoyed the whole running metaphor, plus the humorous bit about the blazer, and I feared that I was not going to be able to recreate it before midnight came and turned the blog into a pumpkin.

I wonder, if I had not been able to get the draft of that blog yesterday back, would I have given up on the daily blogging process, being defeated by a little bit of technology? This calls to mind The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear by Ralph Keyes, required reading the first semester of graduate writing school. There are so many things that could abort the writing process – being afraid of messing up, being afraid of notoriety, being afraid of looking fat on morning talk show while promoting your book (I actually considered this stumbling block to my writing career). So many of us feel compelled to write, but there seem to be an awful lot of factors that can derail us. It makes me mad at myself to think I would have let the inadvertent deletion of 500-some words stop me in my tracks. I am going to try to keep that righteous indignation in mind for later in the month when I feel like blogging is too much trouble, or I’m tired, or I just don’t feel like it.

So, more to come this month. Stay tuned.

~Noelle 07/04/08

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

From the Archive - Happy to be here

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - www.keepwriting.org - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

Today, I have been looking forward to sitting down and writing here. I don't really have a subject, other than eagerly anticipating writing, but I think that's a good place to start. As I mentioned in my first post, I have a consistent pattern of writing for a while, then stopping and not picking it up for a loooong time. I'd like to make this the month that writing every day, even if it's only 500 words, becomes a habit.

(It would also be great if I could develop the exercise habit, and the eating less habit, and the washing the dishes after every meal so the kitchen stays clean habit, but I just going to work on one thing at a time.)

I'd like to talk about one of my favorite events as an adult and that was NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I tried it in 2006 and didn't get too far, but I busted it wide open in 2007 and got all 50,000 words written, 45,000 of them in the last eleven days of the month. Being able to be that prolific with the words was an amazing feeling. I use that month as a touchstone to remind myself that I can do crazy, mentally and physically challenging feats. Before NaNoWriMo, I used to use getting my black belt as my reminder about taking on the big challenge, and sometimes I'd refer to graduate school. But the black belt took almost 2 years and the grad degree took six, so they didn't have the same urgency, until near the end, that writing the novel from scratch did.

A quick tangent: all of the above life accomplishments happened in my 30's. I just want to mention to my friend, Colette, who is promoting her manuscript for 30 Isn't Old at www.30-isnt-old.blogspot.com, that not only is 30 not old, it's really just the beginning of making one's mark as an adult. Sure, there are some people who make their mark young - prodigies who in their late teens get exposure for brilliance - but I think that people who make a splash in their 20's are just destined to either fade into obscurity, because they've still got six decades left to go, or have to reinvent their success in their 30's or 40's, because it's too soon.

As a separate point, I think the age of majority in this country should be 25, because you are stupid until then about almost everything, plus your personality is still developing. And I've thought this since my 20's, which I spent a lot of feeling like an immature doofus.

So, back to my point: I love the idea of NaNoWriMo and I'm still tickled that I got to participate and "win" by getting all 50,000 words written. I am already looking forward to this year. I plan to stay up to midnight on October 31st so that I can get started as fast as possible. I want to have that feeling again of being at the starting line in a huge field of marathoners, all of us doing that stretching, jogging in place thing while we wait for the event to start, then stopping and looking up as we hear the P.A. system kick on and, even though we cannot really hear what the elderly gentleman in the blazer is saying - and they always seem to wear blazers to officiate marathons, it must be in the marathon code whereas the Greeks all ran naked we will wear evening dress - we all get in start position, keeping our eyes on the man with the starting pistol, leaning forward and then, BANG, we're off. Some of us darting ahead to get some distance, some going immediately into their steady race pace to try to sustain for the whole race, and the people all the way in back, the unseeded runners, not even running yet but mentally pushing the field of runners ahead of them along so that everyone can get across the start line and really begin to race.

Right now, I think of this as practice for NaNoWriMo and "the project to be named later," that I'll be blogging about in the near future in another forum. My goal here is about 500 words a day, which is little less than a third of what I'll need every day in November, but the key thing is developing writing as a daily habit that will carry me forward for all the writing projects that I envision creating and completing.

Wow, what a great night.

~Noelle 07/03/08

From the Archive - The very next day

This was part of my contribution to our group web page - www.keepwriting.org - a July 2008 mostly daily blog.

Okay, I have to ask - where do daily bloggers get their material? Because the thought of sitting down here again to write is worrying me. Yesterday, I was full of good ideas - well, idea - and I somehow thought that was going to sustain me for the rest of the month. (And I had to pick a 31 day month, couldn't do February, noooo.) But here we are again, blank page ahead.

Where do writers get their ideas? I love science fiction and fantasy, but I have trouble conceiving of how those writers make up worlds out of whole cloth. Future technologies, distant planets, exotic aliens. That's a lot to have to create as concepts before even getting it out on paper. And don't get me started on Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett or Stephen King. Those are some guys with freakishly crazy and huge imaginations. I love their stuff, I eat it up, but I'm afraid that I would fail miserably if I tried to emulate them. Yes, yes, I know I am just starting and they have been writing for a long time, but it's hard to close one of their books and then take a look at my amateur efforts. (Yes, I would like some cheese with my whine, thank you.)

Thinking about it, I realize that my writing ideas tend to come from the every day experiences around me, which I'm sure is where almost all writers begin. My personal foibles get a lot of play. Crazy people around me, especially in traffic, seem to ask to have their stories told. My family - children, parents, grandparents, cousins near and far - all stoke my fire. My ex-husband is the source of a lot of the darker, meaner side of my storytelling. I am game for retelling a version of almost any story I'm told, as long as I can embellish it to make it funny.

I like funny, the kind of funny that is clever and surprising. I like crafting an anecdote to keep some suspense in, keep the ending from being too obvious. If I can get not just a laugh but a snort when I've finished, I feel really successful. This need to get the zingers in means that I have a harder time sustaining a long story, and I get distracted by my need to get the good punchlines in, to the detriment of the story that could be developing.

I think I may have just achieved a breakthrough here, on day two. (Do I have to keep going for days three to thirty-one? Yes, I guess so.) I've got to be willing to tell the story the whole way through, not just run ahead to the funny. Because I don't think a dearth of ideas is really the problem. I think the problem is taking the idea, any idea of the dozens careening around in my head at any one time, and fully developing it without trying to wrap it up too soon and without trying to force the funny or the over-emotive in general. Easier to edit things out than edit things in - one of the things they tried to get us to understand in grad school.

Tomorrow, I think a discussion on going off on tangents, not always in a good way.

~Noelle 07/02/08

From the Archive - July 1, 2008 (Clever title, eh?)

This started as my contribution to The Group, a July 2008 mostly daily blog, but I re-read some of it and think it's good stuff, so I'm going to write more.

I own a lot of journals. I own a lot of really nice, fabric covered journals. I own a lot of really nice, fabric covered, linen paged journals with notes on the first few pages and nothing after that. They are in various sizes from pocket-size to full letter size. I also own a whole bunch of spiral-bound notebooks, cute teenage girl ones in bright colors and some of the sensible single subject kind from college, and several faux-marble-covered composition books, too.

I love the potential of an empty journal. I like holding it, riffling the empty pages, imagining myself Ralph Waldo Emerson (I just read a blog post today about him at zenhabits.net) or some other brilliant person, stopping in the middle of my day to write a random, insightful thought, or sitting in Starbucks (one of the ones with the big comfy chairs), chai tea latte on the table next to me, scribbling away creating the genesis of my next novel.

I fantasize about a lot of things I'd like to have happen, or things I'd like to go back and change, but that vision of me writing - and I mean real writing with plot, theme, allusion, conflict, resolution, denouement, the whole shebang - in the journal is probably my strongest, most long lasting one.

I still have the journal from 1976 (I was 7, you do the math to figure out how old I am now) when I first got the bug to write in a diary. I got two pages in and stopped. The next journal I have is from the early '80s. Every few years, I start again. There have been years when I bought multiple journals, thinking I'd do several journals - a food journal, a fiction journal, a self-improvement journal. Ha. Just more pretty bound books for the shelf, those became.

My longest sustained journaling period was the 12 months or so before I got divorced, when I was in graduate writing school and trying to emulate The Writer's Way and write 30 minutes every morning. The multiple stresses of small children, failing marriage, self-employment and graduate school gave me plenty to emote about every morning. It wasn't the amazing production of genius writing I imagined, but I assumed that once I'd cleared the dead leaves away, fresh new growth would appear. Instead, it just sort of fizzled out, like the previous attempts.

This, of course, is another in the systematic attempts to get the engine started and keep it running. I know this can work. I've had long sustained writing bouts: the aforementioned morning writing; the thesis project for the writing degree; and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). And all those previous journaling forays have presumably led me to here, the way that my failed 16-year marriage, house in the suburbs and bickering pre-teenage children got me to the love of my life (hi, honey). So, let's just hope I've learned some kind of lesson, developed some kind of writing muscle memory, and see if this can be the consistent effort that leads to the real writing.

~N. 07/01/08