Driving to dinner to celebrate her birthday on Friday evening, my partner asked how my writing was going since returning from a six day trip to attend a family funeral.
Me: Slow, it’s been hard getting back in the grove.
Annie: That’s understandable.
Me: I’ve come to accept that I won’t write 50,000 words, and I’m okay with that.
She slowed to stop at a red light, then turned to look at me with disbelief.
Annie: Really?! You? I know you, and you won’t settle for anything less.
Okay, she has a point. I’m known to be a wee bit of an overachiever. After this weekend, I’m up to 17K words, but I’m still way behind the 8 ball.
As if being behind wasn’t hard enough, this year I’m trying my hand at writing fiction instead of memoir. As a pantser, these characters seem to have minds of their own. I’m often surprised and unsure about where to go next.
Even more reason to press on to see what happens, right?!
This isn’t the blog post I had planned to write for this NaNoWriMo month. I wanted to get a jump on my writing early in the month, instead I received a late night call about the unexpected death of a family member, earily similar to the call I received three years earlier about the brother of the deceased.
Life is like that. We have plans, then life makes other plans for us.
Our family has experienced a lot of loss in the past three years, and dealing with death is never easy especially when it seems random and unexpected. In death as in writing, we search for meaning. We mine our memories and remember the good times, the earlier years, the days of innocence.
The truth is, none of us are getting out of this life alive. That doesn’t make anyone’s passing any easier for those of us left behind. Death sucks.
Needless to say, I’m way behind in my writing goals this month, but that’s okay. I was where I needed to be ~ with my family, mourning an unexpected loss. But I refuse to concede NaNoWriMo defeat so I’ll keep plodding along, stringing one word after another and I’ll be happy with however many I end writing, because it will be more than what I started the month with.
I started this blog on November 3rd, 2018 which was Day 3 of National Novel Writing Month. Held every November for the past 20 years, NaNoWriMo started when founder Chris Baty challenged a few of his Bay Area friends to write 50,000 words in a month. It’s become an annual tradition with writers around the world.
According to Wikipedia, 600 NaNoWriMo novels have been published through traditional and smaller publishers, or through self publishing. One of the most notable was Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen.
I had no idea if I could actually write that many words in a month, but I had been wanting to write the memoir I wanted to read when I came out at 56. As a NaNo Rebel (meaning I was not writing fiction), I wrote a hot mess of a rough draft weighing in a 51,473 words. I’ve worked on my rough draft over the course of the year with the help of teachers and workshop participants. It’s still a work in progress.
For this year’s NaNoWriMo, I’m writing fiction. I’ve only written one short fictional vignette as an online assignment 20 years ago, and I was surprised by the character that showed up and what they said. I’m hoping for the same experience because during this NaNo prep month, I have neither outline nor character development, and I’ve changed my story four times. I’ll totally be flying by the seat of my pants, or in NaNoSpeak, “pantsing.”
Good luck to all the Wrimos out there, and Write. On!
I had driven my Subaru Outback to DC for marathon weekend, but after covering nearly 32 miles on race day, I was in no shape to drive home. We had planned for that by throwing a mattress in the back of the Outback, just in case. After an Epsom salt bath and a hearty breakfast the next morning, we packed up and headed for home.
While Annie drove, I looked through the photos she had taken during the weekend and read Facebook congratulations from family and friends. I reflected on how her dreams of an arctic adventure had inspired me to reignite my dream of running the Marine Corps Marathon. I thought about all the miles Annie had covered on her bike during my long early morning training runs. While passing through Pennsylvania, I wrote this post on Facebook.
Yeah, I’m that person who proposed to her girl on social media. Then I read her the post. While she was driving.
Before she said yes, she asked whether I was still oxygen deprived or had low blood sugar. I assured her I had my wits about me and was quite serious…and a little over seven months later, we tied the knot.
A lot has happened in the four years since that epic marathon day: we got married, sold a house, bought a house, added another fur kid to the family, I received a promotion in my day job, learned to play the cello, and became a published author.
To the runners of the 44th Marine Corps Marathon being held tomorrow in Washington, DC, good luck and in the words of marathoner Bart Yasso, “Never limit where running can take you.”
Four years ago today, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon to celebrate my 60th birthday. I wasn’t sure I had it in me, but never underestimate the power of putting one foot in front of the other, listening to your instincts and trusting that regardless of the outcome, you’re better for having made the effort.
The night before race day, I laid out my marathon gear and debated whether I’d be able beat the bridge to actually cross the finish line. After all, I had bronchitis the month before which limited my training time, and I was still recovering from a huge blister on my heel. But I had made it to Washington, DC so I made up my mind to do my best.
From meeting walk-run coach Jeff Galloway, listening to the inspiring Team Semper Fi warriors during the pasta pre-race dinner, seeing my Arctic Annie on the course in her official-looking bike gear, to savoring the serendipity of sharing 23 miles of the course with a runner named the same as my marathon guardian angel, the day was one I’ll never forget.
I’d like to think I have another half or full marathon in me, but if not, I’ll always have MCM15.
Eight years ago, after an amicable divorce, I came out quietly to a few close friends and family members. I was starting over and like Groundhog Day, had returned to my secretarial roots. I wasn’t sure what my life would look like, but the words stenciled above my bed in the basement bedroom of my daughter’s house reminded me every day I had made the right choice and finally faced a truth that I’d buried my entire life.
My daughter tucked me under her wing until I felt financially ready to get my own place. In the meantime, a therapist helped me navigate the changes in my life. During therapy one day, we talked a lot about coming out and she said because it’s a big deal, why shouldn’t people should have a party to celebrate, like a bat mitzvah or a quinceañera. So with my daughter and a few friends, I threw myself a coming out party on October 11, 2011. I wasn’t ready to announce it to the world, but it felt good to be seen for who I was.
A lot has changed in eight years. I’m fortunate to have been able to come out at a time when it’s socially acceptable and safe for me, unlike the Stonewall equality warriors of 50 years ago that generated a movement. With marriage equality, I now have the 1,138 rights and protections I enjoyed when I was married to a man. But we can’t take those rights for granted. We must remain vigilant and continue the fight for equality that began at that New York inn.
In the words of Barack Obama, “When all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.”
My heart is in North Dakota today as they lay my Uncle Lester to rest at the Veteran’s Cemetary.
My mom’s youngest brother, his handsome military photo and those of his brothers in uniform graced a wall of honor at the home of my grandparents. It was that wall and their service that inspired me to join the military.
Rest in Peace Uncle Lester, and give Mom a hug from me. ❤️