Friday, March 26, 2010

Monteverdi Vespers

Last Saturday evening I went to a wonderful performance of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 performed by the Grand Rapids Symphony and Chorus. Mom and I were scheduled as volunteers to hand out programs, but mom got sick. I invited my friend Rose to fill in for her and we headed to St. Andrews Cathedral in downtown Grand Rapids. Last summer, Mom, Rose and I worked at the Picnic Pops Concerts, but this was our first experience volunteering at an indoor symphony event.

I spend a lot of time thanking the Lord for all the beautiful things in my life. High on the list is music. One of my favorite quotes is “Music is the prayer the heart sings.” Monteverdi’s eloquent prayer spoke for everyone in the cathedral. Through an hour and a half of uninterrupted music, the audience was spellbound as the music soared. It was the perfect setting for this work.

My parents were huge supporters of the Grand Rapids Symphony. They were always volunteering at events, working in the kitchen at the Picnic Pops Concerts, ushering or passing out programs at other performances. When Dad died last April, the symphony was named as a requested recipient of memorial funds, and hundreds of dollars were raised for the organization. I was so proud to see their names printed in the program as donors. If I hadn’t promised mom that I would help her continue to volunteer, I wouldn’t have been at that concert, enjoying the wonderful music.

I hadn’t realized the extent of my parents’ love for the arts. They were always at the concerts when my brothers and I were growing up. I took that for granted. But long after their children no longer performed, they continued to feed that love by supporting the arts on a bigger scale.

I couldn’t be more proud of them.


Health: still stuck at the same weight. Two weeks of no progress is very discouraging! I tried the zig-zagging my calorie input – the higher calorie days are no problem, but the lower calorie days are not. I’ll have to try some other strategies. Life seems to get in the way of my visits to the gym, so I go for walks around the neighborhood.

Creativity: Made lots of hats with my sewing group.

Writing: met with my critique group, which as usual made wonderful suggestions. I’m re-writing now.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hitting a Plateau

I’m excited to have lost twenty pounds. My clothes are fitting better and I’m feeling better about myself. The blood test I took yesterday will determine if the effort will pay off as far as my liver function, whatever that is. But I want to lose more. I want to look good this summer. I want to wear clothing styles I haven’t been able to wear in about twenty years or more. But the dang scale seems to be stuck on the same number. Apparently I’m at what the diet books refer to as “a plateau”.

It seems my writing is at a plateau as well. I’ve been working on this novel for almost six years. It started as a writing challenge, and I started out just putting things down, not researching, not plotting, just writing. Now I have about 53,000 words. I’ve been stuck at 50,000 for about a year now. I’ve added subplots, and defined the conflicts the characters have within themselves and between each other. But the word count doesn’t seem to rise. Apparently I’m deleting as much as I’m adding.

I did some research to find out how to break my weight loss plateau. Most of the web articles I read mentioned these tips:

1. Zig-zag calorie intake: Eat more one day, less the next, but maintain the same weekly caloric intake as before.

2. Strength training: strengthen bone tissue, increase lean muscle mass, and boost metabolic rate.

3. Change exercise routine.

4. Change eating habits: don’t stick to the same foods all the time.

5. Eat less, more often: eat smaller meals and snack in between them.

I guess I can try some of these. We’ll see. In the meantime, I wondered if I could adjust these techniques and apply then toward getting me off the writer’s plateau. Here’s what I came up with:

1. Zig-zag writing output. Write more one day, less the next, but maintain the same weekly word count.

2. Strength training: Go to seminars, workshops, and conferences to learn all I can to “beef up” my writing.

3. Change writing routine. Since I don’t really have a routine other than write when I can, I guess this means I need to establish a writing routine!

4. Change writing habits: don’t stick to the same process each time. Instead of writing historical fiction, maybe I should try a contemporary story, or a short story, or maybe a mystery.

5. Write less, more often: I could try to get up early and write a little in the morning, a little in the afternoon while eating lunch, and a little more at night. Maybe if I don't always write at night I won’t be so tired and draw a blank.

I’m not sure these would work, but since I’m at a stalemate, I guess it can’t hurt!


Writing: I’m getting great feedback from my critique group, so I’ve been editing and revising this week. But one of the editing suggestions led to filling out a single action into an entire scene, so that’s good!

Dieting: Stuck at the same weight for over a week. I’m about ready to consume a fudge brownie!

Creativity: More quilt tops sewn, more dish cloths crocheted, and several scrapbook pages completed. Worked on some centerpieces for mom’s club using cone thread spools. I’ll try to remember to post a picture next time!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Shopping Blues

I hate to shop. I’m not sure if my “shopping genes” are defective or missing, but I shop only when I need something specific. And now that I can shop online for most things I shop even less than I used to. But seven times a year, shopping is a great learning experience for me. Rather than shop for the grandkids’ birthday gifts, I take the birthday child out for lunch or dinner and then we shop together for their gift. It’s worked out well for the past dozen or so years. I love the tradition because I know they’re getting something they want, and they seem to enjoy the individual attention.

Yesterday I went shopping with Gabe. He’s the third eldest grandchild, and he is now fourteen years old. We’re facebook friends, so I sent him a message telling him the days I would be free this week and asking him which day he preferred to go. He sent me a text message letting me know which day and time he preferred. (Isn’t technology wonderful?)

When I picked Gabe up at his house, I was really tired. I had worked a late shift the night before and an early morning shift that day. I wasn’t looking forward to fighting the crowds at the mall, but at least it was a weekday, and mid-March is not a super busy holiday season. Gabe and his sisters greeted me with a sunny smile and my fatigue lifted.

I’m lucky that most of my grandkids are quick shoppers. Gabe knew exactly what he wanted and had a good idea where to find it. The first store had sold out of the X-box accessory he wanted, but the second store had it – on sale! Way to go, Gabe. Then he chose the restaurant, and we had a great dinner there. It was great because he enjoyed his burger, and I was able to order something that fit my diet requirements. Score two for Gabe!

I especially enjoy the conversations with my grandkids. The teenage years are difficult, and so many find themselves making poor choices with disastrous consequences. I have to be careful about what I ask and say – after all, I’m only the step-grandma and I don’t want to step on any toes – but I listen as they tell me about their school lives, their friends and activities, their hopes and their disappointments. I was happy to learn all is well with Gabe. He’s a great kid with a good head on his shoulders.

In two more weeks, Scottie (grandchild #4) turns 13. I get to go shopping again. Can’t wait!

* * * * * * * * * *

Writing: I’m doing a lot of editing this week, but I managed to crank out another chapter for my first historical novel. And I remembered to write this blog post!

Dieting: Other than a mini-meltdown last night, Week Three of The Diet has gone well. Unfortunately, The Scale is not impressed.

Creativity: I made another pair of pajama pants and a quilt top, and crocheted a couple of washcloths this week. At our sewing group, the five of us made 200 hats in six hours!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Carrying the Torch

Like many people, my television was tuned to the Olympic Games for the last few weeks. I missed my usual shows, but I can live without them once in a while, and this is definitely worth the interruption to my routine. I love to watch figure skating of any kind, and I guess I like speed skating. The rest of it I can take or leave.

What I enjoy about the Olympics is seeing the dedication on each athlete’s face as he or she gets ready for the event of a lifetime. The single focus is on the goal – the perfect jump, the fastest run, the most twists and turns. Years of training and sacrifice have boiled down to a single chance to prove oneself to the world. Only one person or group wins - the rest are disappointed. That’s the way it works.

I thought about how I could apply some of the athletes’ strategies to my writing. Maybe I won’t make it to a world stage, with television cameras following my every move, but I think if I apply some of their qualities to my writing life, I could get some results. Let’s take a look at them.

Focus: I need to keep my mind on the goal – finish the story. Don’t worry about the fact that it’s not set in a traditional time period, with characters unfamiliar to most readers. I need to write it as well as I can, and then look for someone (a publisher) who thinks it’s worth a shot.

Perseverance: I need to write every day. I need to write, even when I don’t think I have anything to write about. Sometimes it’s only a few hundred words, but that adds up. In a month that’s over six thousand words! I wrote forty thousand in thirty-five days, so I know I can do it. I just have to make time to do it. Besides, I have to keep my hands away from food!

Dedication and drive: I need to believe in myself and in my ability to write something worth reading. I need to push myself out of my comfort zone and put myself out there. Somebody might like my writing, and some (okay, maybe many) will not like it. I have to be willing to face that. Because if I don’t risk it, I don’t gain anything but a bunch of regrets.

So I’ve got to get into training mode and start “working out” at the keyboard. There’s a story or two waiting to be told!

Goals updates:

Diet – going much better! Lost almost twenty pounds so far.

Writing – still plugging along. Lost some of the momentum from NaNoWriMo, but life gets in the way. But I manage to put in at least an hour a day on my laptop, adding a little more each day to my story.

Creativity – this was a good week! I found some time to sew three pairs of jammie pants for myself. I even made my own pattern by tracing around a pair that fit me pretty well. Next week is spring break, so I’m hoping to get a few more projects done!