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The Verdict | Creativity Workshop Goals, Week 3

24 May

As you might imagine, on the morning after the Lost series finale, my head feels like popcorn popping in a microwave.  (I won’t spoil anything, promise.)  Ben Linus.  Smoke Monster.  Time.  Death.  Life.  Jack, Kate, Sawyer.  Locke.  Flocke.  Lemon-raspberry tart, jungle plates, apple crisp.  Guacamole, cabernet.  Vacuum.  Dishes.  Seating arrangement for nine in a tiny apartment living room.

Now that all the planning is over, the processing of what just happened? has begun.  Thus, I’ve already succumbed to the distractions of message boards,, and a let’s-discuss-this! phone call with my mom.  Finally, I tore myself away for productivity’s sake.  For now.

You might have guessed it already, but I, um, didn’t quite meet my Creativity Workshop goals this week.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I blasted off with a full tank of fuel back on Tuesday, when I posted about the flamin’ ladybug story — trouble was, much as I REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted (and still want) to spend time on it, it was an altogether strange week.  Admittedly, the most I did on my story this week was to plan it and get way excited about it.

Though party-planning and general I’m-so-excited-yet-sorta-sad-that-I-get-to-find-out-how-Lost-ends bubbly feelings dominated the weekend, that’s not the only reason I was unproductive.  A few of the weekdays were just plain difficult, in terms of some personal stuff going on, and my willpower lacked its usual oomph.  On the days where the oomph was alive and kicking, I made some great progress on my novel edits and at the gym.  I was thisclose to completing a section of the novel, so when it came time to work, I gravitated toward that.

The good thing?

I’m not discouraged.  Still excited, actually, and encouraged that I made progress with the novel and the gym.  It’s really tempting to write the ladybug story this week instead of doing the third story in the set, but: no.  That would put a bad habit into motion, I think.  As excited as I am about it, I shall shelf it for now, knowing I have a great idea to come back to in the future.  Instead, it’s time to press on.

It’s especially tempting to write the ladybugs when I look ahead to this week’s project: Little Bo Peep and severed tails.  What in sideways world am I going to do with that?

No.  Clue.


Okay, dudes.  I’m feeling that good old oomph right now, so I should strike while it’s hot.  The first goal of the rest of this week: get writing stuff done before I allow myself any more Lost message-board perusal.  Then, I’ll tackle the rest of the week.

PS: That picture of Benjamin Linus and his #8 bunny is a limited edition screenprint made by Todd Slater.  I want this.

[tweetmeme source= “olsonkayla” only_single=false]

10 Things You Never Knew You Always Wanted To Know

30 Apr

When I first started this blog, I wasn’t sure what it would become.  Rants about parking lot villains?  Sure, why not!  Recounting my horrible customer service experiences?  Yes, sir.

Naturally, I decided to go anonymous.

Soon after I began the blog, though, it became less of a place to rant, and more of a how-’bout-I-chronicle-my-novel-writing-project? sort of place.  Now that I’ve built a community of amazing, supportive writer friends — and because I don’t rant much anymore¹ — I decided to attach my name to it.  And a picture.  See the sidebar.

Let me just pause here to say a HUGE part of why I went ahead and did this was to impress my software-engineer husband with taking the initiative to learn a little HTML to make it happen.  That was just the thing that pushed me over the edge, though.  Most of you already know my name, I just hadn’t officially added it to the blog yet.

Okay.  So, in honor of that, I thought I’d do a little personal post today.  What the heck, right?  It’s Friday.  I’m editing.  It’s a good little break from revising, so here we go!

(Side note: for a less-crammed version of the stuff that follows, make sure you’ve clicked on the actual post and are not just on the home page.  It’s more spread out that way.)

10 Things You Never Knew You Always Wanted To Know

(Or, Maybe Not. But Whatever.)

  1. I get my hair from both of my parents: curls from my dad, color from my mom.  The picture I posted makes it look darker than it actually is.  For a decade, I had fear of phobic proportions of getting my hair cut.  Finally, I found something that works.  Want to read more about my hair trauma?  Here you go.
  2. I LOVE artichokes.  Load up the plate, please, with as many as you can give me.  Please do not forget, especially if we’ve ordered take-out, because my poor husband has to see me get all dejected over it.
  3. I can say “You smell like cheese,” in five languages.  They include Japanese, Norwegian, English, Spanish, and sign language.  I can also say my fair share of “I love you” to much of the world, though that phrase doesn’t work too well with the first one.  I can sing “Jesus loves the little children” in Norwegian, and also recite a random Bible verse in the same language.  Perhaps you can tell that I had a Norwegian roommate in college?
  4. I love rain.  Hate lightning, but love rain.  I think this is because some of my favorite memories happened in rain storms — I remember watching storms with my dad from our front porch when I was little; also, I rode a bicycle for a couple miles in the rain, alone, in Shanghai one night, a memory that brings back feelings of independence, confidence, and complete surreality.  Rain inspires, rather than depresses, me.
  5. I only went to two weeks of first grade, then skipped to second.  I often wonder what my life would be like if things had been different.  When I wonder these things, I’m thankful things happened the way they did.
  6. I learned how to sing on a steady diet of Mariah Carey and show tunes.  My mom is a music teacher, so I grew up around it.  I play the piano and the guitar, and played the bassoon for seven years all through school.
  7. I’m a Bible-believing Christian.  Some of you believe the same way I do, some of you believe the exact opposite.  Some of you are in-between, or don’t believe in anything.  I love you all.  Oh yeah, and I collect Bibles in all sorts of languages: some of the more unusual ones include Icelandic, Dutch, Russian, and Chinese.
  8. One of my favorite cookbooks is huge and yellow, and it’s from Gourmet magazine.  I love to try recipes from it — it has the best instructions, and backstory, of any other cookbook I own.  Everything I’ve tried from it has come out perfect, with the exception of the gingerbread pancakes, which I’ve attempted — and failed at — no less than four times.
  9. I want to live near the ocean, or the mountains.  Probably would choose oceans over mountains, if given the choice.  I live near neither.  Even the lakes aren’t exactly inspiring around here.
  10. Once upon a time, my idea of working out was defined as such: walk a single lap around the trail at the park, twice per year.  These days, I actually enjoy running, weight training, yoga, and even doing planks and side planks and all those other things that hurt.  I continue to learn discipline, daily, whether it’s at the gym, or writing from my computer, or being wise with finances.
  11. BONUS!  My favorite movie is Waiting for Guffman, and it’s one of the only movies I can remember quotes from.

And so it ends.  Time for me to kick Mr. Cat out of my chair and get back to revisions.

¹And, because when I have in the past, I tried my best to take a make-the-best-out-of-it approach, rather than a please-hate-me-once-you-read-this approach.

Iron Sharpens Iron

3 Nov

Looks like I’m going for the less-traveled road, like I told you yesterday I thought I might.  In one of the comments on yesterday’s post, Jennifer Neri wrote:

Just write, stop thinking about it.  What will come will be your novel, and I am certain it will be great whatever way it goes.

(She also mentions her recent post about writing from intuition, which is excellent, and you should check it out here.)

Jennifer’s advice is so true, and so very helpful.  I shouldn’t lock myself into must-write-this mode – I should listen to the story, listen to the characters, and not just force them to squeeze into my little idea box I’ve molded for them.  Though it’s looking like my story is headed toward the direction I initially planned, the shape of its characters and story details are coming together in a totally unexpected way.  I didn’t expect to like these characters so much, honestly.

On a different-yet-related note, my NaNo friends are kicking butt and taking names.  They’re rocking so hard on this challenge it makes me feel inspired to do so much more than I already have.  I’ve met the Day 1 and Day 2 minimum word counts, and I’ve got a few hundred more to go before I meet Day 3’s expectation.  Though I’m blowing my personal levels of recent productivity out of the water, I’m so inspired to keep going because of all the committed people around me.  Shout-outs to my NaNo buddies:  J.C. Hart (6,262), Melissa (4,614), Joy of Dawn (3,230), Katherine (5,052), Brigid (6,842), and Nicole (6,444)!   

Well, the day is hardly over – it’s only 11 AM here – but today is looking to be another busy one, even without the writing.  I’ve got cleaning, cooking, and shopping to do, since we’re having friends over for dinner – we’re hanging out for the series premier of V, a new show starring Lost‘s Elizabeth Mitchell.  I should probably get to the gym, too, if I want to keep fitting into all the cute skirts I bought last week.

Thanks for being iron to me, you guys.  I’m sharper because of all of you.

NaNoMeter:  4,457 down | 45,543 to go

Good Day, Sunshine

24 Oct

What a week, you guys.

This is the first time in a very long time that I know exactly how I spent my days for an entire week.  It was one of those make-the-most-of-every-moment weeks, one of those wow…I-feel-like-I-did-something-great weeks.

So, this morning, I did what everyone should do when they’ve worked hard: I rested hard.  Well, except my definition of rest is sleeping until 9:00am, putting on my super-cute apron, and whipping up a fluffy batch of lemon-ricotta-buttermilk pancakes for breakfast.  That’s restful, right?  As is enjoying them with my husband over a French press and the last of my cherry-pistachio biscotti.  Okay, I’d better stop, because I’m starting to get hungry again…

Official Update #5 of the Oktoberzest Project is another pleasant one to deliver:  1333 words for yesterday.  That brings my five-day total to 6,183 words added to the manuscript.  I’d say this has been a fruitful project, and it’s definitely helped that you guys have been so encouraging along the way.  A huge thank you to everyone who’s commented and left such kind words for me to find on my writing breaks!!

I know it’s Saturday, but well, I will have a chunk of time this evening to work, so I’m going to extend the Project for (at least) one more day.

On an unrelated note, I leave you to ponder the awesomeness of this little anecdote:

Riding out my you-can-do-it momentum, I tried something new last night: a cycling class at the gym.  I tried to sneak in unnoticed, but unfortunately, that didn’t work out so well.  The instructor, middle-aged Gary who sounds like the Saturday Night Live announcer, said “You must be neeeeew!” and proceeded to single me out for the rest of the class.  Oy.  The awesomeness came in mid-workout, when the newest (ridiculous) Shakira song¹ started to blast through the speakers, and Gary says, “Let me hear all you she-wolves out there hooooooooowl!”  

Some people did howl.  Some of these people were he-wolves.

That is all.  Oh yeah, and I am extremely sore today, due to the pressure I felt to stick out the entire class and actually do well, since Gary kept correcting me and telling me to “Puuuush harderrrrr!” from the front of the room.

¹”There’s a she-wolf in your closet / Open up and set her free / [insert a limp ow-oooooo here!]”…um, you can hear it here if you’ve never heard it.

Remy Strikes Back!

15 Sep

Remy in the DrawerCat Scratch Fever:  Does that not sound like the stupidest name for an ailment in existence?  

Yeah.  That’s what I thought, too, when my doctor told me I had it.  

A few weeks ago, I noticed some knottiness near my right elbow, and it felt like a bruise.  Naturally, I freaked out and thought it was cancer.  I scheduled an appointment, shelled out $40, and next thing I knew, I was told I most likely had the weirdest-named condition on the planet¹.

Turns out, Cat Scratch Fever is also a song, but having never heard of it before that very moment, I looked at Dr. Burke² like she was crazy.  She assured me she was not crazy, and that it was indeed a real disease.

What is it, you ask?  Apparently, there’s a bacteria on kitty claws that isn’t so friendly to human lymph nodes.  If you get scratched, and the kitty has this bacteria, it infects the nearest lymph node and causes it to swell.  Hence the knot near my elbow, and later in the week, the pain in my armpit that made it impossible to sleep on my side³.

I had to go back in for some blood work and a sonogram two weeks later, just to make sure it was Cat Scratch, like she thought, and not something else.  By the way?  The sonogram people should really inform you before they start doing their thing that it is okay to interrupt them if you need to use the bathroom.  I learned this the hard way.

Dr. Burke left me a message today, while I waited for three hours at jury duty¨ – the blood tests came back, and it is definitely Cat Scratch.  

When I told my husband, he said, “Remy strikes back!”  If I had bonked his head on the doorknob before I got infected, I’d definitely think he was on to something there.  I’d want revenge on me, too.  Poor kitty.  

Oh, by the way:  my life and well-being aren’t really jeopardized by Cat Scratch Fever.  It hurt for a while, but now it’s just the knot, which should go away in time, with the help of antibiotics.  I’m amazed my doctor was familiar with this ridiculous ailment, and even more amazed that someone I picked based on her same-name-status with a character from my favorite TV show has turned out – so far – to be the best doctor I’ve ever had.

Biggest Loser starts tonight – anybody planning to follow this season?  I spent an hour sweating at the gym in preparation, so I wouldn’t feel guilty watching it.  


¹To my knowledge.  I’d love, love, love to hear about any medical condition with a name that could steal the award from Cat Scratch in the Who-Named-That-Disease-And-Why? category.  

²Who I chose not only for her fine reputation as a doctor, but based on her name, since it reminds me of Lost‘s amazing Dr. Juliet Burke, played by Elizabeth Mitchell (and rumored to have made it through The Incident of the Season 5 finale, and thus is rumored to be remaining on the show…).

³Though, to my amazement, it didn’t hurt to do push-ups or planks with it.  The body is a weird thing.

¨Got selected for a panel for a custody case.  Apparently the woman involved in the case was a nut who showed up two hours late every time she was called to court, and went missing for two hours while dismissed for a brief bathroom break.  The judge got fed up, pushed the trial to today (from yesterday), and then, what happens?  She was two hours late again.  When she finally showed up, they all decided for some reason that a jury was no longer needed.  I waited for three hours this morning, just to get told to leave again.  Unlike everyone else, I was a little disappointed, because I thought it would be an interesting experience.  Maybe next time.

So Many Posts Start With S.

9 Sep

Just something I noticed.  I even told myself last night, when I wrote my latest post, that I could not start the title with an S.  

And look what I did: I wrote about sincerity.  Now, even in my writing about starting titles with the letter S, I’ve gone and done it again.  

It would be a little silly, I think, to tease you into a post and just stop right there.  Who wants to visit someone’s blog only to read about rogue S’s that sneak their way into everything?  Here’s some other stuff to make this worth your time.  

Writing is going well today!  Though my time is not abundant, I’m making the most of it and I really like what I got accomplished so far on the novel this morning.  This is a feat in and of itself, since it’s the first I’ve written on it since last Thursday, due to our weekend trip.  Fortunately, I left off in a good spot, a place where it was easy to slip back into the scene and pick it back up.  I love when that happens.

Plus, I woke up sore – in a good way – because I spent some much-needed time at the gym yesterday.  Long weekends are fun, for sure, but for some reason I always crave a treadmill at the end of them.  I’m thinking the barbecue and the sweet-roll-stocked breakfasts had a little something to do with that craving, as did my tendency to feel sluggish after eight-hour car rides.

This week is looking like a busy one, but if the writing and the workouts go anything like the past two days, it will be a good one.  Plus, Glee starts tonight, so (unless my DVR refuses to cooperate) I’ll be watching that, and probably singing “Don’t Stop Believin'” at the top of my lungs along with Lea Michele for the next few days.  My DVR had better cooperate, and that is all I’m going to say about that.


PS: Remy the Cat is doing just fine, thankfully, after suffering last week’s Incident.  Thanks to everyone who felt sorry for him and hoped he’d get better (for both his sake and the sake of my guilty conscience).

Return from Unproductivity Land

20 Aug

Oh, blog world, it’s nice to have good news to report today.  I’m back from my brief trip to Unproductivity Land, though I think I may have retained a little bit of my inner drama queen.  

Last night, when my friend Allison asked me The Question*, I gave an answer I hadn’t given before.  

“Well,” I said, “If I have more weeks like last week?  Six weeks.  But if I have a lot more weeks like this one, it might take forever.”

Über-Productive Friday, only six days ago, must have gotten my ego up or something, because this week?  Has been LAME.  (Okay, not utterly lame – I had a great day on Tuesday.)  Before today, I only managed a meager 300ish words this week!  Yes, friends, you read that right.  Three days and only three hundred words.  Sheesh.  The worst part is that I got up early, completely ready to make magic, with good blocks of time committed to this project.  Then, life happened, as it so often does.  

Of course, I love conversations and this week has been full of them; also, I’ve been Yoga Queen this week and even tried a Pilates class.  It’s been productive, but not in terms of my writing.

Like I said at the beginning, I have good news to tell you:  my unproductive streak is over, and the skies are sunny again.  Somehow, the story just came easily today and my fingers were ablaze.  These were the most fruitful three hours of writing I’ve had yet on this draft, and it’s so energizing.  What’s more, not only did my word count climb, but I feel like the heart of my story is beating strong.  That’s a little cheesy-sounding, my apologies**.

But, yeah.  It feels good to sit down, get a clear idea of what’s going on, and put it clearly onto the page.  Now I can feel good about taking a break from it, and go play some music***.  


*You know, the “When do you think you’ll be finished?” question that I am now dealing with like a mature human being…

**Apparently I don’t feel apologetic enough to change it to something less cheesy.  

***We’re playing a little concert of music written by the same Allison who asked me The Question.  Here’s a link to her blog if you want to see what she’s all about.

Navy Shirts & Zebra Skirts

30 Jul

Confession:  In the past week, I’ve watched Coraline more times than I’ve done the 30 Day Shred.  My husband said the movie was great – I wouldn’t know, since I fell asleep a third of the way through.  I tend to do this (accidentally, of course).  Just goes to show you how great Lost is, since I never once fell asleep while watching it.

Anyway, back to my confession.  

The negative?  All those posts ago, I was gung-ho about making it through thirty straight days of pain.  Now, here I am, having to admit I abandoned the Shred after the delicious massage I got on our anniversary.  It would have just been wrong to put all those knots back in my neck after she worked so hard to dig them out!  Right?

The positive? After eight long months, the LA Fitness opened in my town.  Finally.  I repeat, finally.  I’ve been going there, instead of doing the Shred.

Everyone I know was beginning to wonder if the fabled gym would ever actually open its doors.  They promised a December opening back when I signed up last November, and, well, it’s almost August now.  For months, it loomed desolate on the corner, bricks in tact but with a jungle for a parking lot.  When I saw a sign that boasted “LA Fitness opens today at 4pm,” I texted my friend, Ha.  I’ll believe it when I see it.  

Lo and behold, the myth was true after all.  

I’ve been there every day since.  Seven minutes each way beats thirty, for sure.  Right off the bat, I noticed two distinct differences between the new gym and the old one.  

First: it’s so nice to see a variety of people working out.  At the old gym, it seemed like only the fast and the super-fit frequented it.  Not so, at this one.  Just as a church is not for the perfect, a gym is not (only) for the in-shape.  Everywhere around me, I see people learning how to lift weights or do crunches for the first time.  Not everyone has proper clothing to work out in, and it reminds me of the days when I’d walk the track in my jeans.  It’s kind of like watching The Biggest Loser in real life, and I hope we all stick around long enough to see some real transformations.

My second observation is not so heart-warming.  However, it is inspiring: it inspires me to talk some sense into one of the sales-people who works there.  Who on this planet works at a gym, and wears the company’s standard-issue navy t-shirt with a zebra print skirt and red heels?  Or, tucked in to a black skirt that goes higher than the belly-button and is paired with gold gladiator sandals?  I thought maybe it was a one-time offense, but no.  It is an everyday thing, apparently.

So, I abandoned my shredding goal.  Truthfully, I don’t feel that bad about it.  The shorter drive leaves plenty of time for a solid workout and time to get a lot done on my novel.  Now, the novel?  That is a goal I will accomplish.  

I’ll keep you posted on the novel (and perhaps on other outrageous outfits worn by the sales girl).  In the meantime, don’t spoil Coraline for me.  I plan to rent it one morning or afternoon, drink a lot of coffee, sit in an uncomfortable spot, and not fall asleep.


15 Jul

It wasn’t until I started doing yoga that I realized breathing can take work.  The instructor would tell us inhale here and exhale there.  You’d think breathing would come naturally to someone who’d done it, oh, every single day of her entire life.  Not so: it took effort to do it the right way.  I could focus on the yoga moves, or I could focus on breathing right, but it was not easy to do both (let alone, do them well).  When I finally got the hang of it, it helped my entire yoga practice, and it’s becoming more natural to me.  

In my post on discipline a few days ago, I neglected to mention one of the more important aspects of discipline: rest.  Much like yoga breathing, you’d think it would come naturally to us, but this isn’t always the case.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in the goals we set and think the only way to accomplish them is to actively do something.  Sometimes, though, the best thing for our work is to take a break from it, and come back refreshed the next day.  I see this often in my writing, where ideas benefit from a day to deepen their roots without my interference.

Discipline is not just about knowing when to work hard.  It’s also about knowing when to rest, and letting yourself breathe.  It’s also about getting back to work after a wonderful day off.

Yesterday was a day of rest for me.  Except for a pounding headache that plagued me most of the day, it was relaxing and fun.  I spent the morning chatting over coffee with a good friend who recently returned from a three-week European trek.  I didn’t focus much on my novel, except for telling my friend about all I’ve been working on.  I didn’t do the Shred, but I actually wanted to do it!  After eight straight days of doing that video, I certainly didn’t want to skip a day…but my headache told me no. 

Yesterday was a good day for rest, because it was our two-year anniversary!  My husband brought me flowers and took me to dinner at one of our favorite Italian restaurants.  He also took me to a spa, where he’d made reservations for us to each have an hour-long massage.  Ahhhhh!  I have the best husband in the world.  He’s that wonderful every day.

Yvonne, my massage therapist, said she was glad I came in, since my neck and shoulders were extremely tight.  I can’t imagine why that would be – I’ve only been sitting at a desk every day, working on my novel, and for over a week now, pounding my muscles to pieces with good ol’ Jillian.  Yvonne even managed to massage away my throbbing headache.  She just won herself a return customer, ladies and gentlemen.

Needless to say, I feel great this morning.  I’m refreshed and motivated; ready to write, ready to edit, and ready (gulp) to do the workout video.  Deep breath; now, off to work!


PS – If you’ve seen the new Harry Potter, please don’t spoil anything for me.  We don’t get to see it until Friday.  Even though I’ve read all the books, I’m trying to avoid talk about the movie so I’ll still be somewhat surprised!

Forget the Screaming Cats and Social Missteps

13 Jul

It’s Monday, and back to the drawing board.  The weekend was full – complete with screaming cats (therefore, no new kitty at our house because of a very hissy King Remy), failed car radiators (okay, just one), and losing horribly to my love as he killed at Canasta (this time).  Now, it’s time to forget all that stuff and focus again.

Editing and re-writing is really an interesting animal.  It’s hard to know exactly how to approach it, but I’m making progress and enjoying the process.  My characters are coming to life, and as a result, so is the plot.  There is so much I want to change about my first draft, but some of it is worth keeping – the trick is knowing how to weave the new with the old.

I’m proud to say that I’ve done the Shred for seven days in a row.  Twenty-three to go! Today, one of my old co-workers is coming to shred with me.  Such a funny title, isn’t it?  Perhaps it comes from the way your muscles feel when it’s over (um, that would be ripped to pieces).

Today, I’ll leave you with two pieces of advice.  

First: Plants do not fare well when you forget to water them.  Especially if you live in Texas and it is over a hundred degrees outside.  Perhaps I learned this from experience.

Second: Never, I repeat, never start speaking Spanish when the guy taking drive-through orders at Taco Cabana tells you he doesn’t speak English very well and asks for your order again.  If he is from India, he may not understand when you say, Necesito un agua grande, por favor.  You might leave thirsty, and you will leave feeling like a schmuck.  Perhaps I learned this from experience, too.  Oops.

Alright.  Time to get to work.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on editing, re-writing, and what works well for you.  It will help motivate me when I inevitably get stuck and need some inspiration and encouragement.


PS – I also welcome your advice on cats (e.g., getting new ones when the current one is used to being a spoiled only child).  We may be destined to be a one-cat family forever, I fear.