Tuesday, October 31, 2006

More Halloween (Ms.) Pac-Man Humor

Hilarious. Just hilarious. Brilliant, too.

Stuffed!

Every now and then I decide to prepare a fattening meal.

Nearly everything I cook is "healthy," coming from Cooking Light or some other healthy-foods cookbook. I steam a lot of stuff. The Lean Mean Fat-Grilling Machine is my most-used appliance. Products like half-and-half, heavy cream, bacon grease, and egg yolk generally make up about 0.00000001 percent of the ingredients I use per year. If a recipe does call for such things, I generally make substitutions.

So tonight I decided to make a yummy-looking dish from The Seasonal Palette, a cookbook that my birthmom Sherry gave me a while back. The name of the dish was "Cider Chicken Over Apple Potato Cakes." Yum. And the picture of the crispy golden-brown potato cakes, with a creamy cider-chicken sauce being lovingly poured next to them ... I had to make it. And I decided I wouldn't make healthy recipe substitutions, particularly since Dodger, our housesitter from last week, had left a bunch of fattening ingredients in our fridge.

The recipe was going to be a lot of work, but I had all the ingredients and plenty of time. Plus I'm not usually one to shirk when it comes to cooking for the Hubster. Not even when I have a million other things to do.

So much was involved in this recipe: peeling, coring, and grating two apples; peeling and grating four potatoes; dicing an onion, a leek, and some celery; making a roux, poaching and then chopping the chicken breasts; frying bacon to make bacon crumblies for the creamy cider-chicken sauce; sauteeing the celery, leek, onion, and apple in the bacon grease; etc. I must have dirtied at least seven pots and pans. But I actually enjoy all of that work. I like recipes that have a hundred different steps. It forces me to slow down and be "in the moment." And that's therapeutic.

The cider-chicken cream sauce came out wonderful. (Of course, anything that contains half a stick of butter automatically comes out wonderful. Funny how that happens.) The recipe called for just a touch of nutmeg in it--mmm. It had half-and-half in it, but Hubster likes fattening things, so I was very excited about seeing how happy it made him. (Do I sound like a little wifey or what?)

The potato cakes, on the other hand, were more like potato mush. The potatoes I used were really watery. I probably should have used russet potatoes, but I used yukon gold because that's what I had on hand. No cakes were going to come of my leaky potato-celery-leek-onion-egg-salt-pepper-flour-another half-stick of butter concoction, so I just cooked the concoction up and mixed it all in with the creamy cider-chicken sauce. So it was more like a Goop Melange than the beautiful, crisp, golden-brown potato cakes with the creamy cider-chicken sauce topping.

It tasted good, though. It was very rich--I couldn't eat a lot in one sitting. Even after just a little bit, I am stuffed. Hubster is really stuffed. He gave the dish an 8 out of 10. He said the taste was a 10, but that he prefers crisp, golden-brown potato-cake texture to that of Goop Melange.

Next time: russet potatoes.

Next time: Make this dish for company. Hubster and I are really, really stuffed!

P.S. This is a wonderful cookbook. Thanks, Sherry, for sending it back to me when you did!

Yes, I've Been Practicing

Yes, I've been practicing. I just haven't been posting. So here's a quick post, then I need to get to work on my novel critiques for class.

Lately I've been focusing on the Bach Prelude in C#-major. This is the "deceptively easy" piece. This is the piece that is "ridiculously easy" compared to its companion, the C#-major fugue.

Thing is, a lot of things are "ridiculously easy" compared to the C#-major fugue.

The Prelude is tricky. It's complex in places. It's miraculous. It's moving. It's Bach. 'Nuff said.

I can play it through, at a relatively slow tempo. I know this piece very well--I've marveled at the simplicity of the chords and progressions, I've memorized the fingering as well as I've ever memorized anything, and I've played individual measures and sections a million times.

If it were simply a matter of playing the notes, I would be 80% there, with "tempo" as my primary remaining goal.

Ah, but like the fugue, this piece requires ambidexterity (is that a word?). The hands keep switching roles, and they volley their louds and softs back and forth like two musicians trading solos in a jazz performance.

How hard can it be to switch dynamics from hand to hand? Not that hard ... if you're playing scales or something else that you've done so many times that it comes naturally.

So that's what I need to do with this piece. Keep playing it, emphasizing the dynamics, emphasizing the melody line, emphasizing what needs to be emphasized, so many times that the movements are natural. They have to be so natural that I don't have to think about them when playing the prelude at tempo, because there won't be time to think.

I've set a goal for myself to be able to play this piece (probably not at tempo, but with all of the dynamics in place) for the group piano class the Friday before Thanksgiving. So, if I can manage to start posting diligently to this blog again, I'll be doing quite a few updates on the prelude.

Other matters ... Arpeggios have started to sound good. I no longer feel like Luck is the reason I play them well. I'm starting to feel a sense of mastery. (Of course, that sense, as always, will vanish as soon as I move the metronome up a notch!)

Scales are sounding good, too. I'm enjoying them so much. I've been working really hard on using my arms, keeping my hands close to the keys, and not making my fingers do all the work.

The fugue is going well, I guess. I've spent the past week getting it back "up to snuff"--I can play the entire first 2/3 of the piece at a decent pace, but it doesn't sound polished. So I'm working on polishing (just a bit) before I take on the final third.

Liszt is sounding great. I love Liszt. This week I'm listening to recordings and thinking about how the pros manage to play it without sounding bored at the quasi Violoncello section.

Shostakovich and Haydn are on deck. They'll be there a while longer, but that's OK. I'm having too much fun with Bach and Liszt anyway.

Random Running Post

I've been reading a few runner blogs here and there, and one I read regularly is Not Born to Run. Jeanne ran the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday and wrote a very detailed report of her race experience. Very inspiring--right now a half-marathon is the only major race on my running horizon, but now I'm wondering if I could someday try for The Big One. (My heart does go out to Patty, though.)

Yesterday's run was 7.5 miles, including intervals where I ran faster (but not, like, FAST) for periods of 2:00, 3:00, and 4:00. Most of my runs have been pretty leisurely; I haven't thought one bit about actually trying to go fast. But it was heartening to learn that I could run at an accelerated speed for four minutes, recover within a minute, then run faster again for another four minutes. Who knew I could do that?

I kind of keep forgetting that I'm training for a half-marathon. I just love running--just love being out there, particularly when the weather is cold, and hearing my feet hit the ground. I was a little wary about running yesterday because of my 12.6-mile long run on Saturday (would I be recovered enough?), but everything was fine, except for my poor blistered toe, which looked a whole lot worse than it felt.

Running is so much like long-distance hiking. And piano. And writing a novel. I'm definitely in an "in-for-the-long-haul" zone in so many areas of my life, and I love it. I am a long-haul person. I love giving myself a seemingly impossible goal, and then whittling away at it until I reach it, enjoying the journey along the way.

Because it really is the journey I love. The destination is just an excuse for me to make the journey.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Pumpkin Art

Stacey and Drew's pumpkins made me ... well, they made me LOL. Check them out for yourself.

Stuff I Gotta Remember Not to Forget

Work on Chapter 3 (3 hours)

Practice piano (2 hours)

Complete and submit critiques for novel class (2-3 hours)

Give the kitchen a good cleaning

Wash clothes (all day)

Vacuum (20 minutes)

Swiffer the kitchen floor (5 minutes)

Run 6 miles (1 hour, give or take)

Call my friend Tree tonight (30 minutes? 45? More? As long as necessary.)

Write letters to Tina, Eb and Dwinda, Steve, and Tree (1.5 hours or more)

Make groceries (1 hour)

Sheesh. I have a lot to do today. Better get started. I might skip the grocery-shopping and convince Hubster to take his lovely wife out to dinner tonight instead. :)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Long Run Today

This is probably really pathetic, but I've been looking forward to this long run for two weeks now. Wondering if today would ever get here. Hoping that the weather would be nice.

It's supposed to be very windy today, but the rain is gone. If all goes as planned, this 12-mile run will be my last long run that is less than half-marathon distance. Yee-ha! And the Thunder Road Half is still over a month away!

Update: I actually ran 12.6 miles, by accident. I was enjoying my run so much that I forgot to stop. That makes 31.3 miles for the week! Since I read that long runs are supposed to be slow, I planned to go at a very slow pace. I ended up averaging 10:58 per mile (I ran for 2 hours, 18 minutes, 15 seconds). 10:58 isn't much slower than my regular, not-so-speedy 10-minute-per-mile pace. But I guess the stopwatch doesn't lie.

I think I love running almost as much as I love hiking. In fact, this afternoon, just before my run, I thought, "It's a perfect day for running." Usually on days like this (clear skies, 52*F), I think, "It's a perfect day for hiking."

Running and hiking have a lot in common, though. Just as with hiking, on the last mile of my run, I fantasized about hamburgers and pizza.

And now I have a nasty half-callus/half-popped blister on my middle right toe, and it's bleeding. Hiking has never given me a blister like this. Though I shouldn't complain ... a blister is nothing compared to, say, a torn ligament or a bone spur. So life is indeed good.

If you're interested, you can find my running log (with comments for each day) here.

I promise. I'll catch up on e-mails tomorrow.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Short Version

Piano: Practicing again. My teacher loves me, la la la.

Novel Class: Submitted Chapter 2 for critique. My teacher thinks I'm talented, la la la.

(I love being a Good Student, if you can't tell by now.)

Novel: Working on Chapter 3. Not making much headway, yet.

Running: 5.2 miles today. Tomorrow is my long run: 12 mile-a-roonies.

E-mail: I'm behind, as always. Hoping to catch up tomorrow.

Bookstore Life: I love it. I love it. I love it. When things are slow, I get to read stuff. Oprah might come visit us. I'm not a big Oprah fan, but it would still be cool.

Family: Beau, Hideaway, and Hubster are all injury-free, for once.

Freelance Life: I made enough this week to buy new tires for the car. I feel rich. Even though I don't have any money left.

Life in General: I was about to write "life is good," but I feel bad writing that because I know so many people whose lives are really crappy right now. And I've been a sucky friend because I am terrible about calling people when their lives are crappy. So life really isn't that good, even though things are going well in our little corner of the world. I'm writing notes and calling people tomorrow. Then I'll catch up on e-mails.

I'll blog more later. Right now I'm going to bed 'cause I'm tarred as can be.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Chapter Three is Sketched

I've been sketching Chapter 3 for a couple of days now, and it's about time to start actually writing it. That's the hard part.

Charles, the novel-workshop leader, says he doesn't write outlines. I can't help but write outlines. For me, the outline is the actual creative work; actually writing the first draft is more a matter of just filling things in. Then there is the revising and polishing, which is where more real creative work comes in. I like the outlining and revising phases. I've always liked first-draft writing the least; it seems like so much busy work to write down what I already have in my head. And the draft never comes out as magical and golden as what I've imagined. But then I can revise and polish ... and it starts to shine again. Eventually.

That's been my experience, at least, whether I'm writing fiction or nonfiction.

I've already worked for an hour and a half this morning. The sketch of Chapter Three is two pages long, which means that I have a long chapter ahead of me. And I'm introducing three new characters, which means I'll probably need to do additional character sketches while I'm writing. Then, once the long chapter is written, I'll tighten it and it'll eventually be a much slimmer and fitter chapter.

For now, I need to slim down Chapter 2. I'm submitting it to my novel workshop tomorrow night, so I want it to be in decent shape.

I love writing. I really hope I can do this for a living someday.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Today's Run

Today's run was sooo good. It was about 45*F, windy as all get-out, grey-cloudy, and COLD. I usually see several runners out at Lake J, but not today. Today I was the only one for the first four miles. Woot! I am woman!

After that, a runner named Bob turned a corner and ran and chatted with me for about a mile. So I made my first runner-friend today!

Then I ran two and a half more miles.

Felt great. Seven and a half miles, and I didn't even feel tired.

Saturday is my long run. Twelve miles. That's almost a half-marathon, y'all.

Speaking of half-marathons ... the Thunder Road Half is in 46 days!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Bach is Beautiful! Liszt is Lovely!

I've been playing Bach for the last hour and a half. The prelude sounds good, and the first three and a half pages of the fugue sound really good. The first eleven measures (those hard-earned eleven measures) sound wonderful. That's what I worked on tonight.

One amazing thing about Bach's music: no matter how slowly you play it (or how fast), it's still transcendent. When I practice the fugue at a snail's pace, it sounds heart-wrenchingly touching. When I play it faster, it sounds chattering and joyful. When I play the prelude slowly, it sounds divine and worshipful. When I play it fast, it's absolutely ebullient.

I have worked so hard to get this far. Blood, sweat, and tears (lots of tears), yes. But it's coming along.

And the lovely Liszt ... it's more than "coming along." It's here. Most of my practice time over vacation was devoted to Liszt. (In other words, if I practiced for 150 minutes, I probably spent 90 or 100 or those minutes on Liszt.) Oh, my. All of the blood, sweat, and tears (so many tears!) that went into this one ... you can feel it. I can feel it. It's in the music. Yearning, longing ... so much feeling, but it's not melodramatic ... I've practiced this piece so strictly, and played every little measure so many times, that I'm playing with a sense of control. I'm gaining (dare I say it?) technical mastery.

Technical mastery + blood-sweat-and-tears emotion = some pretty good piano music. Particularly when it's Liszt.

Good night, all!

Blogging from the Library

Can you stand yet another random-thoughts post, dear readers?

I promise ... soon I'll post pictures of Hubster's big event from last week, and I'm also planning to take pictures on my walk today. It sure is purty here in western North Carolina. The leaves, they are a-changin'.

Piano: My, but Liszt is sounding good. I still have a few sections to "straighten out," but ... whew. I never dreamed I could make such pretty sounds with my stubby little fingers. I want to make a recording so that you, dear readers, can download and listen. I'm not sure how to do that, but I'll figure it out eventually.

Running: No Hawg Run 5K today. I'm simply too pooped to make the 2.5-hour trip to Lexington, and too cranky to be a very good BBQ-festival-companion for my birthfam.

I did real speed-work last Wednesday and have had a bit of an ache in my calf (the back-left side of my left calf) ever since. I think it might be the Achilles tendon, but I'm not sure. I'm not in pain ... it's just a slight ache. I ran about three miles yesterday and the calf said something like, "Hey, if you keep pushing me, I'm going to rebel." So I stopped after three miles. I was going to run five miles today (in lieu of the Hawg Run), but I think I'm going to make it a five-mile walk instead, and not try to run again until Monday--provided my slight ache goes away.

Writing: As I wrote earlier, Mrs. Gwen likes my Chapter 2. I want make a few minor revisions (typos and such) before submitting copies to the novel-writing class, but it's more or less ready to go. This morning, I sat down to outline Chapter 3 and ended up with a rough outline (emphasis on rough) of Chapters 3 through 24. The plan is to think more about Chapter 3 on my walk today, and then to start drafting it either tonight or tomorrow after I get home from work.

Work: I've started reading Lisey's Story by Stephen King. It's not out yet. One of the benefits of working part-time at an independent bookstore is that I get to read advance copies from the publishers. :) Also, The Ordinary Adventurer (the book I'm editing) is scheduled to be published in January 2007. I'll give everyone more information on the book and how to order it when the time comes.

Prayer Requests: Our friend Steve, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer several weeks ago, is not doing so well. My friend Theresa is trying to deal with the loss of her husband, who was killed in a car crash October 11. Yesterday we learned that another friend of ours has liver cancer. I'm grateful to be in good health on this beautiful fall day. If you pray, please remember these folks in your prayers.

Food: Tonight's meal is Buttercup-Hominy Stew with cornbread. This is one of my all-time favorite recipes from Cooking Light. Before I made it, I didn't think I liked buttercup squash or hominy ... but the stew is mm, mm good. Highly recommended.

That's all for now. Signing off, and heading for home, where George awaits.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Draft of Chapter 2

Welp, I finished my draft of Chapter 2 today. It took me forever. I started it before our big road trip, but I haven't been able to focus on more than a couple of pages at a time for the past week. So it seems like the chapter has dragged on and on.

I didn't really feel like working on it this morning. I just knew I'd re-read what I had of the draft, and then gag with disgust at what trite situations, what stilted dialogue, what flat characters I had penned word-processed.

But I didn't gag. I laughed. In a good way. Some of Chapter 2 is pretty funny. Chapter 1 is slow-paced and a little brooding, deep rather than broad, and Chapter 2 is more fast-paced, with transitions to and from several different scenes. The reader is also introduced to several characters that play significant roles in the story.

I just sent the fresh draft to Mrs. Gwen. Mrs. Gwen is my fresh-draft reader. Once I hear back from her, I'll work on a revision, which I'll submit to my novel-writing workshop next week.

I love writing. It's a lot of hard work, but that's part of what I love about it.

Update: Mrs. Gwen approves of Chapter 2! (Granted, Mrs. Gwen is my biggest fan, but I also trust her judgement. She'll tell me if it's bad, or if I sound more cynical, sarcastic, or uncouth than I mean to sound.)

Hubster Quote of the Day, a Brief Update, & a Birthday

"I'm not taking six months out of life. I'm putting six months in." --Hubster, when asked why and how he could take six months out of life to hike the Appalachian Trail.

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I'm home, and I'm ready to be home. I start my job today, and I'm ready to start. Apologies for not responding to comments ... I only had limited computer time while I was travelling and mostly used that time to check e-mails and respond to the ones that were pressing.

Had a nice reunion with the cats and George last night before I conked out for an 11-hour nap.

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Today is Kris's birthday. Happy birthday, Kris!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ideal Day

Ideal today. Here's what I did:

1. Went to breakfast with Hub, Frank, and Regis, and had the best breakfast ever: OJ, oatmeal with brown sugar and cinnamon, and a bottomless cup of coffee.

2. Worked on my novel and some of the critiques for my novel class.

3. Practiced piano on four different grand pianos for about two and a half hours. (Liszt is sounding oh-so-good!)

4. Bought a book of Haydn sonatas.

5. Ran six miles. My "speed intervals" were 50 and 100m "races" with first graders from Buchanan Elementary School in Wintersville, OH. Fun to play with the kids.

6. Watched my darling Hubster be honored by his hometown tonight. Also watched him give an amazing motivational speech. Also watched people line up by the dozen to have him sign his book.

7. Had a glass of merlot with Hubster before heading home.

8. Ate pumpkin pie and chocolate-covered raisins today (among other, more healthy foods).

See? An ideal day in the life of Waterfall. Any day that includes writing, piano, running, red wine, and chocolate is a good day, as far as I'm concerned.

I'm not even upset about missing my novel class tonight.

Life is good.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fantasies of Quitting

I want to quit my fiction-writing workshop at least once a week. I love the workshop. I've met some talented writers, and everyone in there is passionate about their work. But each week, I want to quit going.

Two weeks ago, I wanted to quit because I hadn't written my chapter yet. I wrote the chapter and everything went fine. But only after I went through all of the uncertainty of wanting to quit.

Tonight, I want to quit because I just wrote my critiques of several other students' chapters. I did just over a page for each person, then got on e-mail to send it to everyone. After I sent it, I read everyone else's critiques ... and they were generally brief and mostly positive. I definitely had postive comments in the critiques I wrote, but I also pointed out anything I thought was an issue or a distraction. And, as I said, I wrote about a page per person.

No, I don't regret writing what I did. It would be dishonest for me to write, "Brilliantly written! Don't change a word!" if that's not what I'm thinking. At the same time, I wonder if I'm being a bit harsh. When I was grading papers last year, I was being paid to be harsh. I'm not now, but ... I guess I'm just feeling a bit of what my students felt last year when I put them into peer-editing pairs.

No, I'm not going to quit the workshop, even though I have to miss tomorrow night's class because I'm in Ohio.

Two Hours at the Center for Art and Music

The Center for Art and Music is a huge music store in Wintersville, Ohio (the Hubster's hometown, and my location for the next few days). On the main floor are an art studio, musical instruments for sale, gobs of sheet music and instructional materials, cheesy music-themed gifts that piano teachers get showered with every Christmas, and several "studio rooms" with baby grand piano, where lessons are taught in the afternoon.

On the bottom floor is the "Piano Showcase," a room with six or eight clavinovas, a dozen or so consoles and/or studios, and about eight baby grands. Yesterday the Hubster and I stopped by to ask if I could possibly "borrow" one of their pianos for practicing.

The woman seemed a little uncertain discouraging bemused at our request and said "Maybe, but you need to talk to our piano guy." Okay. So Piano Guy came out and was very nice and said, "Of course you can practice here. No one uses our teaching studios in the morning, so come early and you can play for as long as you want."

Yay!

So I went to the Center today and practiced my little heart out on a Baldwin grand for two and a quarter hours.

Bach: The fugue sounded good, particularly considering I haven't worked seriously on it for weeks. But I honestly think this was a fallow period. Why? Because I've only sat down to practice it a few times in the last few weeks, and I play it (almost) perfectly every time. With no practicing, I can still play those sections that I've learned HT. So I moved on to two more measures, worked on them, and ... all I can say is this: HT doesn't seem nearly as difficult as it did a month ago. It's coming along a lot more quickly. Instead of having to play a fourth of a measure twenty-five times before I get it, I'm only having to play a full measure a few times before I get it (by "get it," I mean being able to play it through without mistakes ... this step comes before the incessant drilling of passages).

I played through the Prelude, very slowly. I can play it note-perfect if I play it slowly. I think my future practices, as least for the next week or so, will include just one or two slow play-throughs of this piece. I think it'll be kind of like watering already-planted seeds in my brain.

Liszt: Oh, baby. Liszt is sounding good. I have all the notes, and now I'm working on movement and expression. It didn't sound so good on the Baldwin grand today because the bass was too muddy. For tomorrow's practice, I'll use another piano.

Shostakovich: Haven't started it yet. Maybe in a couple more weeks, now that Liszt is in the "polishing" phase.

More later ... I'm hoping to have time to write another practice update tomorrow.

Another Intermittent Blog Post

Waterfall here, reporting from the road (again).

Starting five days ago, I traveled from Asheville (North Carolina) to Tennessee to Virginia to West Virginia (Athens) to Virginia (Staunton) back to West Virginia (Athens) and then to eastern Ohio. I've spent the past five nights as follows:

Thursday night: In our new sleep-number bed at home in North Carolina

Friday night: In a cheap, cigarette-smelly motel room in Athens, WV

Saturday night: At my friend Tina's house in Churchville, VA

Sunday night: In the top bunk of a child's bunk bed in Fairfield, OH

Monday night: In a bed at Dan's friend Pepe's parents' house in Wintersville, OH

I was supposed to be at the ALDHA Gathering all weekend, but plans changed and I went to a funeral on Saturday--a good friend's husband, age 39, was killed in a car crash last week. It was unbelievably sad. They had just gotten married in 2004 and were very happy together. I wanted to stay in Virginia longer, but I needed to get back to West Virginia (to pick up Hub from the Gathering) so we could get to Ohio, where the Hubster was scheduled to do some presentations about his walk across America.

This morning I went with Hubster to watch him do a presentation at Indian Creek High School in Wintersville. Then I went to The Center for Music and Art, a very nice music/piano store in Wintersville, and they let me practice for two hours on a Baldwin baby grand in one of their teaching studios. Now I'm at the library, blogging away. I'm supposed to be working on Chapter 2 of my novel. I'll do that in a minute.

Ran yesterday--5.75 miles. Good run, though not long enough.

I'm ready for life to slow down. I start my new bookstore job on Friday and was hoping to do a 5K in Lexington Saturday morning and spend the rest of Saturday at the BBQ Festival with my birthmom, (half-)sister, (half-)brother, and future (half-)sister-in-law. We'll see if I have any energy left for running by then. It'll be toss-up.

Signing off for now. The novel calleth!

Friday, October 13, 2006

10 Miles. Cool.

When I was thru-hiking the AT, I'd wake up the morning of a 20-mile day and feel this wonderful since of anticipation combined with calm confidence. "I'm going to hike 20 miles today. Cool." By the time I hiked my first 20-miler, I'd already hiked through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and most of New Jersey. My first 20-miler was into "Backpack Site #2 south of Sunfish Pond, NJ.

When I hiked through Shenandoah, I averaged 20 miles per day for four or five days. And I regularly hiked 20+ mile days through southwestern Virginia. My biggest-mile day of the whole hike was 26.2 miles along the NC/TN border. (Hmm ... interesting number, isn't it.)

Three months ago, I couldn't imagine running twenty miles. I still can't run that far (in the same running-session, at least), but I can imagine it. How cool is that?

I woke up this morning with that same awesome feeling I used to get before 20-mile days on the AT. Only this time it was, "I'm going to run 10 miles today. Cool." It's the longest long run I've ever run. I was excited, but there was no doubt in my mind about being able to do it. I knew I could do it because I'd been working up to it for three months.

And I did it. I had a beautiful day for it--sunny and in the low 30s. The leaves around Lake Junaluska (today's route) are turning, and the views were simply breathtaking.

I've started keeping a running log at Buckeye Outdoors. If you ever feel compelled to check it (mom and Kris), just click this Buckeye Outdoors link and pick out "Waterfall" from the Public Logs listing.

No running tomorrow or Sunday ... I'll be on the road to West Virginia, then Virginia, then West Virginia, then Ohio. Have a good weekend, everyone.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Go Figure

When I'm working for an employer, I see blogging and net-surfing time as fun little diversions from work. I don't feel guilty about playing because I work hard and I get the job done well.

When I'm working for myself (i.e., writing this novel), those "fun little diversions" take up valuable time that would better be spent working. I'm a hard-driving boss, I am. Boss Waterfall is breathing down my neck right now, asking why I'm blogging and not working.

I'm blogging, of course, to let everyone know I'm still here, and to tell y'all all the good newses. (I know it's incorrect, but I love pluralizing collective nouns. A big ball of excitement, I am.)

1. I'm practicing piano again. Liszt is sounding really good. Bach is coming along more smoothly. I'm getting ready to start a Shostakovich. Music life is good.

2. Writing workshop was last night. My chapter from "GM" got critiqued. Positive comments all around. I received some very positive comments from the workshop leader, a respected literary novelist in western NC, and that had me walking a few inches above the ground after the class was over.

3. I'm going to be working for a local bookstore, and one of my "jobs" will be running writing workshops for teens. Woo hoo! That means teaching--only on my terms!

4. We have a new room in our house. It's an old room, a sunroom, but it seems new because I moved my grandparents' old poreclain-topped table into it after we got the new furniture. I also moved a bookshelf, a wicker dresser, and a few chairs, and voila ... it's my writing room. I'm calling it the Walker Percy Room because Walker Percy is my novel-writing hero and ... well, it just puts me when a mood to write when I know I'm sitting in a room called the Walker Percy Room.

So. I'm off to the Walker Percy Room. Have a good day, y'all.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

First Chapter of First Manuscript of First Fiction Workshop

I've kept journals ever since the age of 12. I'm now a few years older than twelve, and I now have about 300 college-ruled 100-sheet notebooks of journals. I've saved most of them, though I'm sure I lost a few here and there. I keep the journals in two stacks of three boxes each, hidden away in a closet we rarely use.

Well, I had to find some old journals the other day. I was working on Chapter 1 of "GM" and needed some notes I had taken from a particular time in my life--early 2001, to be precise. I didn't know which boxes they were in; when we moved to western North Carolina, I just dumped all of the journals into the boxes, and we never opened the boxes again. We just put them into the closet, behind some Christmas things and a few other boxes.

Dodger helped me get the boxes out of the closet the other day, and we both went through them all, looking for journals from early 2001. We finally found them--six altogether.

It was interesting, looking through some of those old notebooks from the 80s and 90s. I didn't actually sit and read them--or I'd still be sitting there now, three days later--but I did glance at the covers and flip through a few. I couldn't believe how many novels-in-progress I'd kept. How many character studies I'd written. How many scenes and settings I'd drawn with words. Just for fun.

I have entire notebooks full of something I called SSEs--Short Story Excerpts--from when I was fourteen and fifteen. SSEs are kind of like sketches, most of them two or three pages each, on which I imagined I'd build short stories (or maybe novels) someday.

I also have a 625-page (handwritten) novel and a 152-page (typed) novel. I wrote the 152-page novel by hand in the eighth grade, then in the summer before ninth grade, I typed two additional draft-revisions on an electric typewriter. If you wanted to find me on a Saturday morning in the summer of 1985, you'd have to go to my dad's office, where I would be sitting at the receptionist's typewriter, working away on my novel.

I also have a lot of bad poems, I mean, really bad poems in those notebooks. And numerous outlines--detailed outlines, some of them--for stories and novels. Of course, they're only outlines ... I never wrote the actual stories.

What does this little collection of creative writing tell me?

For one thing, I've been playing "Let's Pretend" on paper for a very long time. For another, my creative spirit has spent too many years in hiding.

Something BIG happened yesterday--not in the great scheme of things (that I'm aware of), but in my myopic little creative life. I submitted for critique the first chapter of my first manuscript for my first fiction-writing workshop ever. Never have I done anything like this before. Never have I had the nerve to even take a writing workshop. Never have I had the courage to face criticism of my writing--not necessarily because I feared the criticism would be scathingly bad or anything, but because I just feel very ... exposed ... whenever I let anyone else read my fiction. Which is why it's accumulated in a closet for the last twenty years.

So. I've sent Chapter 1 out to the folks in my workshop. I re-read it this morning and (of course) found several typos, but nothing too distracting. Workshop is Wednesday evening.

I'm trying not to think about it.

Friday's Run

Gorgeous weather (temps in the high 50s/low 60s). Leaves changing. Smoky Mountains in the distance. Harvest moon at dusk. Eight miles.

No. Not eight miles. I was supposed to run eight miles, but I measured wrong. (I really need to get one of those gadgety-wristwatch things.) I only went six and a half miles. And tonight, for the first time since I started running, I have shin splints.

After only six and a half stinkin' miles.

It could be that I ran my first 20+ mile week this week:

Sunday: 7.25 miles
Tuesday: 5.5 miles
Thursday: 3.25 miles
Friday: 6.5 miles

It could also be that today's run was a little hilly, and I don't know the correct form for running downhill. (Is there a correct form? There must be. I really need a coach.)

Rest day on Saturday. Rest day on Sunday, too, if my shins still hurt ... but hopefully they won't hurt!

Oh, and I found a December half within six hours of Asheville. Fredericksburg would have been more adventurous (thanks for the suggestion, Jeanne!), but I decided on Charlotte. It was the more sensible choice.

And you know I'm always all about making sensible choices (heh).

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Life Lately

This is going to be one of those brief blog posts that are primarily of interest to people like my mom and Kris, who actually care to hear about the tidbits of my exciting life.

Running: I ran 7.25 miles on Monday and 6 miles yesterday. Tomorrow I'm running 4 miles, and Saturday's "long run" will be 8 miles. Do you know what that means, people? A 20+ mile week! I've come close to 20+ mile weeks before, but I've never quite made it. This week will be different. I've started listening to Phedippidations, a running podcast, while I run, and it makes the miles more fun. I was so glad to discover this little find through Not Born to Run, one of my new favorite blogs.

Also, now that we're having perfect fall weather here in western North Carolina, I've been running outside a lot. Ahhh ... running outside is so much better than the treadmill!

I was disappointed to learn that the Kiawah Island Half-Marathon is SOLD OUT. I didn't know races could be sold out. Live and learn. That was my half-marathon goal, the Kiawah Island race, and now it's not gonna happen. So I need to find another December half that's within a six-hour drive of Asheville.

Piano: I've been going through some issues with piano, issues that I can't discuss here. I've been very discouraged lately. Having lots of frustrations and disappointments. I'm working through them (I think), so I hope to be posting more about piano, both here and on my practice blog, soon. Stay tuned.

Writing: I love my novel-writing workshop! I spend two hours yesterday working on notes for an actual novel! I've abandoned (for now) the novel I was working on last year. It's very personal and autobiographical even though it's fantasy-fiction, and even if I were to finish it, I can't imagine wanting to try to publish it. So I've started a new one. For now, I'm calling it "GM," not because it's about cars, but because that's the acronym for the working title.

Work: I may have a part-time job at a bookstore, starting next week!!

So, there are the updates. Hope everyone has a good Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Best. Low-Fat. Lasagna. Ever.

Dodger and I just made Dodgerfall Lasagna for the Hubster. Mmm. It was sooo good, and made with (almost) all fat-free, low-fat, and low-sodium ingredients. Here's the recipe. It takes a good couple of hours to prepare (including veggie chopping, sauce-making, and the hour for lasagna-baking), but it's well worth the effort. A great recipe for if you're having people over for dinner, I would think. I served it with garlic bread (we cut roast-garlic bread into slices, then put cheese on top and broiled it for a few minutes) and salad (romaine with fresh chopped oregano and parsley, with Paul Newman's light Italian dressing).

I call it Dodgerfall lasagna because it was a true team effort: Dodger browned the meat and chopped up the tomatoes while I chopped onions, minced garlic, and made the cheese mix. It's also Dodgerfall lasagna because I kept forgetting things and we had to be a little creative with the layers ... so we didn't exactly follow the recipe, though we tried.

Dodger chopped the oregano and parsley while I cut the lettuce for salad, and then we both tested the sauce, the cheese concoction, and the bread before Hubster got home. We hid the bread from Hubster, but I couldn't keep it hidden; when Hubster got home, I gave him a big ole slice of garlic bread with some of the sauce on it, and some shredded parm to top it. Hubster was so happy ... it made my little heart go pitter-patter.

Anyway ...

If you use this recipe (and I wholly encourage you to do so), remember:

- Cook the noodles before you do the layers. (I remembered to do this after one layer of dry noodles was beneath several layers of sauce and cheese. I cooked the remaining noodles, and we couldn't tell that the bottom layer hadn't been cooked.)

- Grease the casserole dish before you start layering. (We remembered to do this, but almost forgot.)

- Use twice as much spice as the recipe calls for. (I always do this. Automatically. Hubster likes his food spicy.)

- Don't use higher-fat ingredients just because you're not on a diet and think the higher-fat stuff will taste better. You really won't be able to tell that half the cheeses are fat-free.

I call this the Best Low-Fat Lasagna Ever because it's only 10.5 grams of fat and 380 calories per serving, and it is dee-lish. Of course, who can eat only one serving of lasagna per sitting? After you've added the second half-serving, the non-non-fat garlic bread, the green salad (even though you use light Italian dressing), and the red wine, you've downed a good many calories.

But who's counting? (If you are counting, then you in particular must try this recipe!)

It's from Cooking Light, of course. Enjoy!

I Will Practice. I Will Practice. I Will Practice.

I'm going to go practice right now. I really am. After I eat some lunch and before I go running.

Piano. Priority. Piano. Priority. Practice. Practice. Practice.

A Carolina Post

Check out this week's edition of the Tar Heel Tavern at A Blog Around the Clock, if you haven't already, and see what North Carolina bloggers are writing about these days.

Also, if you're in western NC, be sure and pick up the October edition of Western North Carolina Woman. WNC Woman is one of my favorite local publications, and I submitted a little essay titled "New Place, Old Friends" for this month's issue, which I thought would fit their theme of "Spirit of Place." They thought so, too, and published it.

Here's a list of places where you can find this free magazine.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Love the People You Love

Hubster and I bought new furniture--real furniture, as in, furniture that didn't come from Wal-Mart or Office Depot. And it would be our furniture, as in, not furniture that relatives bought thirty years ago and handed down to us (not that we're not thankful for all of that ... we just got a really good deal on some real (and heavy) furniture at a going-out-of-business sale in Myrtle Beach a few weeks ago). Our friend, Pepe, a Myrtle Beachian, was going to deliver it Saturday evening.

Saturday, Hub and I scurried around the house, taking apart our old bed, taking the clothes out of the dressers, cleaning, and generally preparing for the new furniture to be delivered. I thought to myself, "I wish Mrs. Gwen [my mom] were here. It would be so much fun to have her help me decide where to put things, and how to decorate." (I have no skill at such home-y things; my mom does, plus she enjoys them. Home-y things are mind-numbingly boring for me, but if I do them with my mom, they're fun.)

Then I had a bittersweet thought: I could pick up the phone right then, if I wanted, call my mom, and tell her that I love her and wish she could be here to help re-arrange things. A good friend of mine, whose mom died of cancer a couple of months ago, can't do that with her mom. I felt so sad for my friend. I called my mom. Knowing I could lose her in an instant made me anxious to hear her voice right then. I felt so lucky to have my mom, and a little ... guilty? ... as well. Not guilty, but something like it ... because I can call her and hear her voice--what a blessing to have a mom who is healthy, fun, loves me, and even likes to be with me (and vice-versa).

Fast-forward to this morning. I really was planning to go to church--after we got the furniture moved in. We were up early, and everything was going smoothly. Then I saw Hubster leaning against a window next to the back door.

"Wifey, I need--"

"First aid?" I asked, half-jokingly. But then he nodded and said to bring him an ice pack and a rag.

Then I saw the cut. A huge-looking gash on his shin. He had been carrying in our heavy furniture with Pepe and had backed up into the lawn mower. He fell over, and the fancy-looking metal leg of the dresser fell on him and scraped into his leg. Luckily (or maybe his guardian angel was working overtime), he was able to get out from under the dresser before it fell all the way.

I was back in a flash with the ice pack and rag. By then, Pepe had him sitting outside on the steps. Hubster looked bad. His face was white, and his eyes were half-closed. He was shaking. Then he said the five words that any wife would be terrified to hear:

"I'm having a heart attack."

I ran inside to dial 911 while Pepe and Dodger (our other friend who is here) brought Hubster in and laid him down on the floor, propped up with some pillows. After I talked to 911, I sat by Hubster's head and rubbed his face with a cool washcloth. He was all sweaty and clammy. And the gash on his leg was bleeding all over the towel we held over it. But the good news is ...

He started to feel fine a few minutes later. He wasn't having a heart attack. He only thought he was because he knew the symptoms, and he was having most of the symptoms. Turns out he had only (only! ha!) briefly gone into shock, probably from the pain. (Of course, by the time the EMTs showed up and treated his leg, my eyes were red-rimmed from crying from the very possibility of losing the Hubster, and then from being so thankful and relieved that he was OK after all.) We went to the clinic later, where they cleaned out and further treated his wound and gave him a tetanus shot.

A very harrowing afternoon. We did get the furniture moved in, and the dresser fared much better than Hub did.

It was the most horrible feeling, hearing Hubster say he was having a heart attack. His father died of a heart attack at a relatively young age (and had his first heart attack when he was even younger than Hub is now), so I worry. I shouldn't worry, but I do. And faced with the prospect of losing Hubster ... I can't even begin to explain. I was calm, but I couldn't stop crying. And when he was okay, I cried even harder because I was so happy to have him alive and healthy.

I have another good friend whose husband is dying of cancer. I can't imagine what she is going through. What I felt today, when I thought Hub was having a heart attack, must be a tiny, insignificant little version of what she is experiencing now. And what I felt today, for just a few terrible minutes, was almost unbearable.

It has been a sad year because our family has lost (or will soon lose) several friends and one family member to cancer. Fortunately, everyone in my immediate family is healthy ... but I'm reminded once again that our time and our health is limited on this earth. It is a realization that cuts to the quick, even though I am a Christian, but it also helps me to remember what's important in this life, and what's not--and that we don't have forever to right wrongs, or hold grudges, or wait to tell people we love them.

I'm sounding mushy, I know. You probably hear this kind of stuff on talk TV every day. But humor me ... find someone you love, and tell them how much you love and treasure them.

Someone other than your pet, I mean. :)