Thursday, March 31, 2016

Happiness Project Update - Q1 2016 Status Check

It’s March and that means the end of Q1 2016.

I’m more than halfway through my second semester of #1Lhell. Which means I have another attempt at law school exams lurking in the not-to-distant future.

It also means I’ve learned a ton. I really have. It’s easy to minimalize how much you’re learning in law school because it’s all very details oriented. In the end, though, I’ve learned a lot about Torts, Contracts, Legal Writing (my least favorite class, surprisingly), Legal Research, and Property (one of my favorite classes – except for present estates and future interests because what evil demon thought that crap up!?!).

Anyway, in addition to school work I’ve had nearly three months to work on my happiness project.
Here are some of my results so far:

January’s goal – Declutter
· I tackled the kitchen! I decluttered the cabinets and pantry. I even decluttered the fridge. I felt really good about accomplishing this task because I’ve been cooking more and more and needed my kitchen to be orderly. Of course, it’s now March and my kitchen is almost always in a state or clutter: dishes piled in the sink or drying on the counter, fruit bowl on the counter, etc. However, everything does have a place to go – I just fail at putting stuff away. It’s very peaceful when I get around to putting everything away.

· For example, I’ve been meal prepping. This means on Sunday I cook all the food for the entire week, package it up in serving size containers, and store it in the fridge. As you can imagine, I have a literal boat-load of tupperwear. Before the January deculttering I could never find enough lids. Now, however, I have all my meal prep containers in one area, stacked with their lids. All other containers are in another, separate, area and those lids are in a drawer. It’s so much easier to put away the meal prep containers when they are clean and to find clean containers when I need them. It’s fabulous.

· Now if I could just get back on top of keeping the dishes out of the sink and finishing meal prep on Sunday that would be great.

· I also failed at decluttering other spaces – didn’t get to my linen closets, the master bedroom, or the living room. I did declutter my closet but it exploded almost immediately into a huge, unwieldy mess. So I’m not counting that.

February’s goal – Be more present
· I pretty much failed at this goal. At least I failed at it during the month of February.

· I ambitiously sought to create no-phone-zones so I could be more present with my hubby. But every time I wanted to implement a no-phone-zone it seemed impossible. The first no-phone-zone I picked was the car. Seems easy, right? But then I needed directions or I needed to google the hours to some place. And when while I was doing that I would get a text from a friend at school or my sister. Then I would be texting and googling while my hubby drives….so it because pretty clear that the car was not a realistic no-phone-zone.

· Why not make the bedroom a no-phone-zone? My parents do. They charge their phones in the kitchen so they never have their phones in the bedroom. Seems easy enough. But my hubby and I use our phones more than our laptops. We are constantly searching things on our phones or checking the status of our amazon orders or browsing Pinterest (in my case). We do all of these things in bed before we turn off the light so the bedroom didn’t seem like a realistic no-phone-zone either. Moreover, I read my e-reader in bed a lot. And it didn’t seem fair that I should be able to read my books but Handsome Jack not be able to research the latest bike mod he likes one his phone. All things considered, the bedroom was not going to be a no-phone-zone.

· Jump ahead to March. My friends and I start a Fitbit step challenge that requires me to hit 10k steps a day. This led me to take walks with Handsome Jack after work or school. Our walks became the perfect no-phone-zones! We walk, enjoying the weather and each other. We talk and joke and are perfectly present. Sure, it’s a month late (March, not February) but better late than never.

March’s goal – Make time for friends
· Finally, I accomplished the vast majority of a goal on time! I coordinated with my gal pals to have a ‘girls weekend’ later this year. I’m really looking forward to it. We’ve been friends forever but seeing people face to face is always better than merely liking their status updates on Facebook.

· I also coordinated with both sides of my family to have family vacations later this summer!! This is a tradition that started a few years ago and has been one of my all-time favorites. Handsome Jack’s family get together will be at the beach (have I mentioned how much I love the ocean!?) and my family get together will be at the lake (are you sensing a theme here?).

· March hasn’t been all fun and games, however. Earlier this month I learned about the tragic and sudden passing of a dear friend. His death really threw me into a spiral. I started questioning everything. Why him and not me? Why him at all? Did he know how much he was loved? And even though I hadn’t seen him in years I knew he was out in the world, shining his brilliant light into someone else’s life. Now that he has passed the world seems a little less special. But I’m better for having known his kind heart. I’m better for having learned from his determined spirit. The more I focused on all we had together the more I realized the tragedy of his death is overshadowed, at least for me, in the miracle of having known him at all. Of all the people in all the world I was his friend and he was mine. We were close for years and he left an indelible mark on my heart. Isn’t that what this whole happiness project is about? Being present and grateful for all we have while we have it?

· I’ve been helping, in a small way, to plan my friends memorial. As a result I feel connected with friends from my past and I’m looking forward to celebrating my friends life (because he was awesome and loved). If I can help celebrate his awesomeness in any small way I knew I had to contribute. Although it’s sad, this memorial is another way I’m making time for friends.

That’s where I am in my happiness project. Progress, happiness, and some sadness (c’est la vie). I’m not always on schedule with my goals but if you’ve learned anything from my previous posts on goals (here and here) then you know that a little slippage is okay – to be expected even. So far I’m staying the course. I don’t believe I need to make any changes to my goals so far. And I’m really enjoying the 12 smaller goals. It seems more manageable than one or two overarching, yearlong goals. My only yearlong goal is my 5k goal (one race every month). Check out my race recaps for January, February, and March.

How are your goals coming along? How are you working to find your happiness?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Race Recap: Three Down, Nine To Go #12in12

Another month, another race in the books. And this race was the fastest yet!!

I signed up for a 1am, “Chasing the Moonlight” 5k on the day we set our clocks forward. I stupidly confused Spring-forward with Fall-back and thought that this 5k would be an ‘impossible’ race. I know there is a race called the “impossible 5k” which happens on the day we set our clocks back for Fall and the end result is that you have a negative time (impossible, right?).

But this wasn’t Fall-back, it was Spring-forward. So my hubby and I got up at 11:30 pm and drove over to the mall to get ready for the 1am start. As you might imagine, we were very tired.

The race had a tropical theme with tiki torches, potted palm trees, and steel drum music. Lots of people were dressed up for the event. Many people wore grass skirts or flowers around their neck. There was a long line to get your picture taken with the palm trees and tiki tourches so we headed over to the more important line - the line for the port-a-potties.

We also saw an adult running in a Pickachu costume and this terrifying raptor.

This beast stalked us while we waited in line for the bathroom.

Now, the race itself was a lot of fun. We ran a relatively flat loop of road that circled the mall. It was well lit in most sections by the parking lights. And periodically, around the loop, there was music (one DJ station and one steel drum station). The lighting and music kept the early morning run fun.

Now, my hubby and I are still not at our peek fitness levels. We are cross training like crazy but his busted ACL prevents him from putting a lot of miles on his legs. The elliptical bothers both of us because we tend to hyper extend our knees on that machine. So we’ve been training with our personal trainer at least twice a week, walking 2 -3 miles every day, and doing 20-30 mins of cardio on the stair master once or twice a week.

When it came time to run we were ready. He always goes out too fast, and this race was no different. We broke away and held a good pace for the first half mile. However, after that, I needed a walk break. Yes, we took walk breaks. But when we ran we ran pretty fast (for us).

We finished this 5k in 38.50.

That’s five minutes faster than the January race and two minutes faster than February’s race. Woot woot!

My hope is that I will be back to my top running form in the next several months. In 2008, when I was 6 miles a day (injury free!!) my goal was to get my 5k time under 30 mins. I would be lying if I said my goal this year is anything other than a sub 30 5k. I want it. But I’m older and heavier and injured. So I know it’s silly to shoot for something so hard. But I’m doing it anyway.

What’s that old saying? Shoot for the moon because if you miss you’ll land amongst the stars.

Have you run any races lately? Share your running stories here:

Thursday, March 17, 2016

TBT: How to Maximize Your Crit

In the writing world nothing happens without a crit. Well, nothing should happen without a crit. But not all crit's are created equal. How you manage your critique can impact the value it has. Whether you're about to start the crit process or you're an old-pro looking to shake things up - this post on how to maximize your crit is for you.



Shakespeare said it best, “get thee to a crit partner.” No? Well, then the internet said it best: “get thee to a crit partner.” Whether you are writing your first or fiftieth novel you need to crit partner (CP). Preferably a team of them – because the more eyes on your book baby, the better. But simply having a CP isn’t good enough, usually. To get the most of your crits you might want to take some of these steps:

1. Define the aim of the crit: Are you looking for a big picture crit that examines potential plot holes, character inconsistencies, opportunities for improvement, etc. or more of a

A line by line (LBL) crit that digs deeeeep into each line looking to correct punctuation, grammar, and language usage. Or what about a Structure crit and evaluates the story structure as a device (beginning, middle, end) and the structure of each chapter. Or some combo of all of those.... It’s best to know what you’re looking for early on. Establish what you need from the crit so your using your CP’s time effectively. Have 3 CP’s? Maybe have each CP read with a different goal. Remember, your CP’s may have different strengths than you – use their strengths to compliment your own. And always, always, be respectful of their time.

2. Break your crit up into manageable pieces: One CP I've worked with had a great system for this. She broke her MS into chunks of 3-5 chapters and sent them to her CP's with deadline 'goals' for having them returned. That way, she could work on revisions her CP’s suggested in chunks while her CP’s were busy reading the next few chapters. Also, it’s way less overwhelming to work on changes/suggestions to 3 chapters than 30.

3. Don’t forget your query letter and synopsis: If you plan to start down the long, and winding road of querying be sure your CP’s have had a pass at your letter and synopsis. The query letter is so critical because it’s the only thing the Agent is guaranteed to read. If you can’t hook them with the query then they may never read your sample pages or synopsis.

Defining your strategy and goals can help ensure your crits are laser focused and productive. Need more on getting the most out of your CP relationships? Try these posts – list posts.

How do you approach a crit?

Want more about CP's:

SC Write - Handling A Tough Crit

Secret Life of Writers - The Secrets of and Awesome CP Relationship

Ladies Who Critique - CP 101

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