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2013: The Brave New Year

January 8, 2013

Happy New YearAnyone who knows me at all knows that I love New Year Resolutions. Generally, I make a detailed road map, split into categories, specific goals and their substeps, ranging up to three pages of bullet points and enthusiasm. And most years, I get about a third of those goals met. Which hasn’t bothered me until this last year. I met hardly any of my goals. Especially the writing goals.

2012 was a rough year. I moved three times in a five month period. I’ve had to make new friends and come to terms with old friendships that actually died long ago only no one told me. I got a new job and two new roommates. I wrote less than I ever have in a single year since taking writing seriously. Not all of these things are inherently awful but it was just a long, tiresome year and I found myself snacking and watching various series on Netflix from beginning to end rather than working on anything worthwhile.

This bothered me. A lot. I learned long ago that the road to happiness is hard work. So this year, rather than make a huge list I will never live up to, I am going to make a very few simple goals that I will reevaluate, modify or recharge at the beginning of each month. Right now, I have four goals: read the entire Book of Mormon, write 750 words daily, figure out my sleep problems, and wake up at 6:30 every morning.

As of now, I have yet to ever get up at 6:30 or read The Book of Mormon. I began my sleep quest yesterday. And I have written on six out of eight days so far (which is not bad for me).

As far as the writing is concerned, I have a new favorite website: www.750words.com I can’t remember where I first heard about this website but I liked it because it gives you points and bird-related badges depending on how much you write. Basically, the more days you write consecutively, the more points you get, the more badges you get. If you write for 500 days in a row (I can’t even imagine doing this) you get the Space Bird Badge!

Being the nerd that I am, points and badges remind me of video games and I find it very encouraging, much like Jerry Seinfeld’s Don’t-Break-The-Chain idea. Also, it keeps statistics for you of how long it took you to write, how many minutes of that time you were actually writing, how many words you wrote, etc. It even saves a .txt file of your words (which means yet another place to get your work back from when your computer crashes) and saves what you’ve written every ten seconds or so. Well worth a try as it’s free.

I also have a theme this year. I didn’t intend to have one but quite a few things stuck out to me all at once:

  • I recieved a copy of Pixar’s Brave for Christmas
  • I listened to Josh Groban’s new song, Brave
  • Neil Gaiman’s New Year’s Eve wish “… in the new world to come, let us be brave”
  • “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” A.A. Milne   among other numerous quotes about being brave that seemed to pop up out of nowhere (i.e. Pinterest)

Do you see the theme? Apparently the universe and my heart are telling me I need to be brave this year. Which makes me want to whimper under my bed because if I need to be brave this year, not last year, what on earth is going to happen this year?

Perhaps nothing at all extraordinary will occur. But a girl can hope. Bring it on world.

Meeting Shannon Hale Makes You Feel Like A Princess

August 22, 2012

It really does. She is the most funny, charming, personable author. She really wants to get to know you. And she cries in public, just like I do! I’ve been lucky enough to meet her on multiple occasions since we live in the same state. In fact, she was the first author I ever met in person. She came to my local library when she was first starting out and had just published The Goose Girl. I remember being completely charmed, inspired and encouraged by this red-headed woman with her one book. And now she has so many more.

Yesterday was my most recent encounter. Princess Academy: Palace of Stone was released yesterday and I was so excited as Princess Academy was one of my favorites. And Shannon brought her longtime editor Victoria Wells Arms with her. I had never met such a big editor before (at least not in real conversation) so I was determined to make this night happen for me.
And it did.

 

 

 

Shannon remembered me, to my complete shock, from a signing of hers I attended a few months ago. I assumed there must have been hundreds, no, thousands(!) who came to that signing. Apparently not. We chatted and smiled and laughed and I got my book signed. I nearly squeaked with happiness when I read the inscription:

For Heather, who is so lovely
& genuine
Shannon Hale

!!!

It only took me until about 1 am to fall asleep. No big deal. But I also got to speak with her editor for a few precious minutes, who was completely approachable and charming. I even got her business card. Maybe one day we will work together once I get my act together and finish writing my freaking novel. But that’s another story.

I’ve only read the first two chapters of Princess Academy: Palace of Stone but I’m already excited for what’s going to happen. I’m back on Mount Eskel. Don’t bother me. I’m reading.

The Great Garden Saturation: Days 10-22

June 27, 2012

Ugh. Double ugh. Triple ugh!

I may not be killing this garden but it is killing me. You’d think there would be no drama involved, what with the yard being nothing more than a few plants and rabbits. Think again!

A flower that wasn’t there before

Drama #1: The Dead Bunny Fiasco

We have two rabbits. The Big Bun and Nike. We let them out to run on a rotating schedule as they fight when they are out together. It was Nike’s turn to be put back in his cage. Only I couldn’t find him. I hadn’t seen him for two days. It had been in the high 90’s and his water had not been drunk.

I knew he was dead.

The problem with this is that they are my brother Spencer’s rabbits and he is coming home from his mission in two weeks. TWO WEEKS! And the rabbit died on my watch. I was completely distraught.

Per the advice of my parents, I let the Big Bun out to see if he could find the body for me. Low and behold! Nike was out on the lawn, happy as can be. I still have no idea where he was hiding. And they weren’t fighting at all so I decided to let them have a day out together. After all, we haven’t let them out together in years. Maybe they’re too old to fight.

I was right. They are too old to fight. When I got home that night, they were having boy bunny sex. Which is super awkward to watch. And I kept trying to pick up whichever one was on top and they would hop a few feet away and keep going! I was so embarrassed. Finally, I had to poke Big Bun with a stick so he hopped away. Nike was too exhausted from the day’s activities to fight and let me put him back in his cage.

Also, the Big Bun isn’t drinking from the water dish either now that he’s outside. Where are they getting water?? I doubt I’ll ever know.

Drama #2: The Carrot Conundrum

 

Carrots BEFORE murder

 

The carrots were growing and it was time to thin them out. I called my sister to ask for advice as I had no idea what to do. Basically, you want to cut off the stems rather than pull out the roots as this distrubs the few carrots you leave in the ground. You want to have one carrot every three inches.

So I murdered about two hundred carrot babies.

It was so sad! I pulled a few of the

stragglers out by the roots, just to look at them. They have a long white root that looks more like a bean sprout than a carrot. They weren’t even orange yet. And then I had to face that fact that this baby carrot will never reach it’s

 

potential. Who am I to decide which carrots live or die? How do you know which white carrot root has the most potential to be the best carrot? You can’t! That’s how!

Carrots AFTER Murder

 

Note: I’ve been told I’m being too dramatic about this but I can’t help likening it to judging a book by it’s cover or possibly how my tiny brain thinks the slush pile at a publishing house works. The horror! I don’t want to be judged the way I judged these carrots! How do you know a lovely, lush green top will yield a delicious carrot? Ugh!

So I just have to blindly pick and choose one carrot for every three inches of space and pray for forgiveness from the carrot guardians. The rabbits loved the murder though. They ate all the carrot tops in two minutes flat. Greedy buggers.

Drama #3: The Problem with Heat

So far out of the twenty-two days I’ve been watering said yard it has been in the mid 90’s. This meant that I had to reset the sprinkler system. Should be easy enough. My mom even left me a sheet of her water schedule for reference. So I go outside to the panel and read the handy and helpful instruction sheet next to the box.

I can’t find the very first button it references.

I begin to panic. Why doesn’t the START TIME button exist? It can’t have changed. This thing is ancient. Then I realize I don’t even need that button so I thankfully skip to the next step. Push the SET switch down to PROG. Turn on the days that were turned off (TUE, THUR, SAT). Woo hoo! I did it! I’m fairly sure I walked away with a confident swagger in my step.

And then the lawn starts to die. What did I do? It finally hit 100 degrees for the first time this summer so maybe I need to increase how long the sprinklers water every night? What? WHAT?

And then I remembered. I forgot to put the PROG switch back to SET. So the sprinklers weren’t ever set to go again. This is where I hit my forehead repeatedly.

 

 

Drama #4: The Flighty Bird Ejection

Home of the evil Bird

There is a bird. It lives in this bird house. Isn’t it cute?

This bird is evil.

When I’m watering the yard, I can’t heard much since water droplets hitting leaves makes a lot of noise. Inevitably, this bird will decide to “get spooked” by me watering and fly out of the birdhouse when I am least expecting it, thereby giving me a heart attack. He also shrieks very loudly when he does this.

Every time I come out in the yard now, I make sure to walk past the birdhouse a couple of times, very loudly, before I start watering. Does the bird get spooked and leave then? NO. He waits until I have decided that he must not be home before giving a cry of attack and shooting out of his home into the sky.

I’m about ready to buy a bebe gun and shoot the thing.

If there’s anything I learned from this experience, it is that a few silent plants can be more drama than high school girls* ever were.

*Your experience of high school girls may differ
from this blogger, making this statement either
ludicrous or naive. The writer of this blog is not
responsible for your experiences with high school
girls and states for the record that she hated high
school just as much as you did. Probably more.
Don't argue. She really won't listen.

The Great Garden Saturation: Days 4-9

June 14, 2012

So a few things have started to die. You will notice a lack of pictures.

There are two spots of daisies in the backyard. I’ve watered them the same amount yet one patch has beautiful daisies that taunt you to make daisy chains while the others are scraggly and without petals. What gives? I’m not convinced a certain purple flower in it’s own pot was ever alive. It is perpetually shriveled.

Half the roses seem to be dead or dying. All the blooms are yellow and brown around the edges and a lot have no petals left at all. I accidentally sprayed one of the more dead-looking blooms with the blast of water and all the petals fell off. I hope I didn’t break the circle of life. They’re supposed to fall off anyway. Maybe it’s just time for the roses to say goodbye to summer (que The Last Rose of Summer as sung by Celtic Women). And I forgot to water the indoor plants on day 7 and instead watered them on day 9 so they are rather yellow. :S

There are a few pots which are full of dirt that my mom told me had seeds in them. I’m beginning to wonder. Do seeds need time to incubate, like a caterpillar in a cocoon? How long does it take for a few sprouts to show? I don’t even know what’s in them. Maybe I washed away the seeds. I’m not very good at watering gently. I seem to move a good amount of top soil (vocab word from middle school finally came in handy) when I water.

And another thing. I feel so wasteful every time I water. I live in a desert. While I am grateful we have water, this seems like such a waste. Can’t we just fill the yard with tough, indigenous plants that don’t need so much water and attention? Or am I being selfish rather than green? The hobbit gene must have been given to my sister and passed me by entirely.

Day 4: Mowing Day. Picked up sticks from the windstorm in the back and mowed the front. Not as hard as I thought but why didn’t anyone warn me to wear gloves? I could hardly knit because my hands were so sore! I was so tired after mowing the front lawn that I decided to do the back later. Which I forgot to do.

Days 5-8: I think I only watered the yard twice. It’s really hard to motivate myself to do it when I get home late. I mean, isn’t a goodbye party with your writing group more important than some green stuff? And the yard isn’t crispy. Oh and on day 8 I mowed the back lawn for the first time. Much trickier since I have to mow around the trampoline and the tree house/swing set/slide thing. When I moved the trampoline I realized the grass underneath must not have been mowed in a long time as it was so, well, long.

Day 9: Watered the indoor plants. Somehow the shamrocks are doing marvelously well. Maybe they don’t like to be overwatered? And the slug bait has finally disappeared so I let out Nike (the little rabbit). He did the happy hoppy dance as soon as he touched the ground then promptly hopped into the myrtle and out of site.

I’ve picked strawberries twice. The beans are shooting up by inches. I’m beginning to get nervous about thinning the carrots. I just don’t know when to do it. How do I know without pulling them up? What if I’m too early? This is why I support professional farmers by buying my fruits and veggies at the farmer’s market. They know the secrets and I don’t. And I’m fine keeping it that way.

As the British and pop-culture savvy would say, keep calm and carry on.

The Great Garden Saturation: Days 1-3

June 8, 2012

Nothing is dead!

20120608-224236.jpg

Day 1: Watered at 10pm because that’s when I got home from the worst movie ever i.e. Snow White and the Huntsman. Blog post to follow.

Day 2: Got home at 10:30 pm and was too tired to water. Oops. I’m beginning to see a pattern here …

20120608-224319.jpgDay 3: I picked strawberries in the morning. It reminded me of when I was a kid and would put on a dress to pick the strawberries so I was like Sleeping Beauty. The ladies at work were very appreciative of the tiny berries. I’ve always had strawberries growing in the back yard so I think I take it for granted.

Watered at 8:30 pm. A normal time! The wind was blowing so hard that the water kept spraying back at me so I was nearly as wet as the plants when I finished.

I also watered all the indoor plants. I’m wondering if my mom remembered to water them before she left because they look super droopy. Two of the indoor plants are shamrocks and they are hard to keep alive so keep your finger’s crossed for me.

And finally, the rabbits are sad. Every time I feed them they look up at me, begging to be let out. Maybe tomorrow after I mow the lawn. The snail bait is almost gone so they won’t poison themselves. And I gave them each a frozen two-liter bottle to snuggle against since today was so hot. So maybe they don’t totally hate me.

And tomorrow is Saturday. My first time mowing the lawn ever. I’ll let you know how it goes if I have the energy to write.

The Great Garden Saturation: A Beginning

June 4, 2012

It’s ten-thirty at night as I write this and I am terrified of the next twenty five days. My family is going to Europe and I get the house to myself. With a catch. I will be taking care of my mother’s other child, the one she keeps underneath her green thumb. Her garden and her lawn. Her herbs and her vegetables. The strawberries and the rabbits.

I don’t remember how long my last fish lived but isn’t that the point? My fish died. I’ve never kept a plant alive except for a lima bean in a wet paper towel in the second grade. Tonight my mom walked me around, showing me how to reset the sprinkler system should the power go out or the weather remain in the high 90’s for more than 2 days. Which plants don’t get enough water from the sprinklers. How to keep the rabbits out of her plants that have slug bait sprinkled around them. How to start the lawn mower. The terrifying lawn mower.

Yes, it’s true. I have never mowed a lawn in my life. I was hoping to never have to. Isn’t it one of those unnecessary skills like how to program your VCR? It’s nice to know but not necessary. You see, there were always my parents and then my three brothers to do that. I appreciated that they did it. I guess my appreciation wasn’t wished at them hard enough because now it’s my turn.

I told my mom that I’m going to kill all her plants and she’s going to hate me when she gets back. She says I’ll be fine and maybe I’ll even learn to like it. And isn’t it fun, puttering around the yard, relaxing, taking care of things in the cool evening? My mother wishes she was a hobbit and often does the watering barefoot. And I really am terrified.

Because I don’t really want to sacrifice thirty minutes a day, plus an extra forty-five on Saturdays to water plants in a desert. I barely have time to exercise and write in the same day, let alone take care of the green stuff.

But my mom loves her yard and I love her so I am going to do my best to keep it green for her. The carrots will need to be thinned, the strawberries picked, the green beans wound, the lawn mowed (the dreaded lawn mowed!). And who knows? Maybe I will learn to enjoy it. I never pictured myself taking care of a garden until I was done with everything else I wanted to do. So I really wasn’t planning on this until I was eighty or eighty five. Give or take.

Wednesday June 6th marks the beginning of The Great Garden Saturation. Wish me luck.

Hitting the Wall

April 10, 2012

Trying to climb out of my writing slump after hitting the wall. I didn’t want to admit it, but I hit the wall, just like I always do. On the first three novels I wrote, it was at 20-25K words. So since I had already passes 30K, had an outline and plenty of resources, I felt pretty confident that I simply wasn’t going to hit the wall.

I was very wrong.

But at the same time, sorta right. I did hit the wall as far as lack of motivation to write, questioning why I write at all when it is so hard and no one cares. I even ate tons of junk food. But the difference between the last three books and this one is that I have not lost faith in it. I am not finishing to finish; so I can ignore the bleeding draft without any nagging guilt. I still have confidence that this is the one. The one that I will submit and that will be accepted. Once I finish.

What really crippled me on this one was the research. My characters were leaving the camp and heading into the nearest village. My main character had never seen a village before and had no idea what to expect. The problem was, neither did I. I panicked and flew into research and quick re-outlining. I wrote a bit more and then fell into despair about the hard life of a writer.

I’ve now had the time to think things through and realize that the thing must be written. I can do the research later.

What I’ve discovered while writing this book is that I write very exploratory first drafts but that I also require an outline to know where I am going. I remember someone on Writing Excuses describing this process as lamp-posting. You can see the next lamppost through the fog but you’re not quite sure about all the stuff in between. It’s working very well except for the panic attacks about research.

Just yesterday, I realized I might have to research for days or weeks for a two page scene. And the scene is so simple no one would ever realize all the work that had gone into it. Maddening.