Category Archives: Overachiever

The power of a deadline

I work well under pressure, always have. But I still prefer to steadily work backward from a set deadline – no matter what I’m working on. Big projects at work, short stories, group endeavors, and of course my novels. It is why the slow and steady approach to NaNoWriMo works so well for me and so easily translated to an all-year writing habit. The reality of my life is I’ve usually got about ten different irons in the fire. As long as I juggle all of them effectively I am able to do everything. Hence the overachiever aspect of my life. Focus too much on one thing and others start slipping, so to speak.

I’ve recently put a new iron in the fire with my writing group that requires a lot of coordinated effort from each of us. Something we’ve been cooking up for several years and finally have the resources and know-how to do really well. (Sorry, I can’t share details yet but when I can you know you’ll be the first to know – and it is so exciting!) In working on this project I observed that my way of handling a deadline is not the only effective way. Which got me thinking.

One of my partners called the other side of this coin hyper-focus. Which can be described from my observations as abandoning every other aspect of life to zero in on only the one project with the most pressing or imminent deadline, working tirelessly through to completion. I’ve been chipping away at my to-do list for the overall project for several months while it seemed no one else was worried about theirs. At all. Yet we managed to pull it all together with a big push the past couple of weeks which resulted in meeting our deadline. I’m in awe of those who can do this. Because I cannot. Interestingly, the majority of our group can and do work this way. Minority or not, I much prefer my slow and steady approach. What’s your preference?

Regardless of how you deal with a deadline, procrastination is never your friend. One sign for me that I might have too many irons I’m juggling is when things start slipping. I have a submission deadline next week – mid week. I realized on Monday our family reunion is this weekend, not next like I thought which still gave me plenty of time to prepare. So instead of hanging out at home for a marathon writing weekend to finish up my revisions, I’ll need to be in crisis mode next week to make it happen in time. *sigh* Bring on the coffee and the sleep deprivation! And perhaps I’ll pack that laptop for the weekend trip after all since a little multitasking never hurt anyone. No one will notice, right?

What have you done with your life?

Someone once asked me “what haven’t you done?” It was right after I mentioned one of the things I used to do but don’t anymore. It got me thinking about all the stuff I’ve done over the course of my life. Recently I read a very witty bio for a fellow author that listed a few very diverse things she’s done in her life that showed an impressive and broad spectrum of achievements. Which of course prompted me to write my own list so I could feel good about myself instead of feeling dull by comparison. It was such an interesting exercise that I figured why not share it? So here’s the list for your viewing pleasure. In chronological order of course, because my OCD demanded it. Those in italics indicate things I still do actively. Now you can really believe me when I say I’m an overachiever…

Electronics geek (circuit boards and soldering)
VICA State Officer – High School
Debator / Orator
Fast food slave
VICA President – SLCC
Retail clerk
VICA State Officer – College
College student – Communications major
College student – Flight Technology major
Flight school coordinator
Tennis player
Biker (of the motorcycle variety)
Guitarist – Dreem Raage (garage band)
Dirt biker 
Accounts Receivable Clerk
Voice of an interactive phone system
Aloette Sales Rep
Customer Support Rep
Coffee drinker
Mainframe Operator
System Administrator – Tandem/NonStop
Operations Manager
Technical writer
General Ledger Accountant
Mary Kay Independent Distributor
Wedding planner / consultant
Reiki Practitioner Level 1
Home owner
Web developer
Office Manager 
ATM Network System Manager
Dance Mom
Book club member
Project Manager
Writing Group founder/member – Once Upon A Keyboard
Systems Analyst
doTerra Wellness Advocate
Survivor – Kidney disease and pulmonary embolism insanity
Website designer / collaborator
Yoga instructor

So, what have you done with your life? I hope your list is full of accomplishments and growth as you age like mine is. Lots of things I don’t do anymore helped point me to the things I do now that I love. And I don’t regret any of them – well, maybe I regret smoking a little bit since it was so hard to quit.

Bottom line, there’s no excuse. Ever. Tomorrow isn’t promised so don’t wait for that elusive ‘someday’ before you do what you’ve always wanted to do. Nothing is guaranteed beyond today so whatever you do make it count.

Someone please invent a machine to give me more time?

Ramping up the overachiever work-load. That’s how you could sum up my life last month. I tackled an extremely difficult certification class at work because why not, they would pay and it pads my resume quite nicely. As a result, many things didn’t happen the last couple of months because there simply wasn’t enough time. Unfortunately, one of those things was my writing because studying took up my writing time and there just isn’t any way to squeeze more hours out of the day.

Then I started looking around and seeing other things that I have unconsciously trimmed out of my life. My garden tops the list. Sure I planted a couple of rows of peas but I don’t even know if they produced anything. I had shallots and onions come back from last year but I never harvested any of them after the very first one I pulled out in early May. I bought seeds to grow corn and then never got around to planting them. I noticed this giant weed the other day and figured out it is the couple of carrots I failed to pull out last year because they were tiny and not worth the trouble. Now they’ve gone to seed and probably rotted under the dirt. Buying vegetables is much more effective for us since we don’t have the space to grow a big variety and we all get really bored with the same two or three things after the first month anyway. Or that’s what I’m telling myself so it’s okay I have no time to garden.

I’ve also watched very few movies and very little television the last few months. Not a lot of TV isn’t a new thing but Hubby and I watch tons of movies together – it’s been our thing since our first date. So it really sucks that I haven’t made time to watch many of them this summer. Then I realized that’s also because we are out riding our motorcycle together during some of the time that we would have been watching movies before and it doesn’t make me so sad. I’m still sharing an activity we both love with him so it’s okay.

Let’s not mention how sporadic my blogging has been lately… and how I thought I was still posting at least weekly. 

I’m morphing even more into a person I don’t recognize with the introduction of tennis lessons for Baby Sister that happen every morning – before work. Remember when I was so in shock that I was capable of doing yoga in the morning once a week? I not only did an hour of yoga this morning, I also did an hour of tennis lessons and a dentist appointment for a cleaning – all before 9:30am. Inconceivable! But it still happened.

I’ve got two major writing deadlines looming in the next couple of weeks. Not including the new commitment I made to my writing group last week to get one of my manuscripts ready so I can get it out on submission for publication by next May. An important step so they can keep me on the hook to do what I say I’ll do. Good thing I’m really fabulous at juggling life and have uber perfected the art of overachieving or I might be a little more stressed. Still, if someone could possibly come up with a way to squeeze more hours out of the days I would really appreciate it!

The Art of Reading Multiple Books

It’s no secret I love data. And I’m OCD. So I especially love data that I can track for historical trends. Which are just a couple of the reasons I love the site GoodReads. It lets me track what books I’ve read, what I thought about them, which ones I want to read, plus all that info about what my friends are reading, too. (If you are a reader and you aren’t a member, you should be…) This week I noticed something that seems insane even for me: my “currently reading” list contains FIVE – yes, five – books. And yes, I’m actively reading all of them. Which certainly begs the question: How do you read five books at the same time?

I’m a gadget geek so I have an iPad, an iPad mini (that I grudgingly share with the family), and an iPhone. Well, two of them actually since I also have one for work… but I digress. And I’ve got books on all of them. (Don’t judge, I know I’m addicted and that’s the first step. Or so I hear!) Here’s my secrets to reading multiple books at a time:

First, I’m always reading a book on my iPad via my Kindle app. I’ve got at least one of my iPads with me at all times and, if I’ve got a minute of downtime, I’m reading. Sitting in waiting rooms at doctors offices or my monthly lab visit, eating lunch at my desk, wherever I find myself sitting still for more than a minute, I’m reading. I also end my weeknights with a chapter (sometimes more) in bed right before I turn off the light to go to sleep. Plus my favorite; over morning coffee on the weekends.

Next, I’ve always got a book I’m listening to on the Audible app on my iPhone. At minimum I listen when I’m commuting to and from work or any time I’m alone in the car. If it is one I am super involved in, I’ve got my headphones on listening while I’m doing mindless things like vacuuming, dishes or laundry. Sometimes I love the current Audible book so much that I get caught up on all my laundry and find myself wishing I bought clothes that required ironing so I’d have something else mindless I could be doing. I also listen to my audio book whenever I’m walking/running unless I’m with a friend.

I’m usually working on the monthly book club selection in conjunction with my own leisure reading. Which means that the week or two before book club I’ve either got two audibles or two ebooks I’m splitting my time between. 

Lastly, I’ve usually got at least one book I’m reading in print, lying somewhere in the vicinity of my desk at home, that I’m not reading as quickly. Currently, that book is a grammar book. Yes, I’m a geek who reads books on grammar. But, I’m a writer so it’s okay. Don’t judge. This is usually a book that I’ve either picked up in print because that’s the most affordable way to acquire it or someone has lent it to me. Or, it’s the book we are reading in my book club at work. We read a chapter or two at a time and discuss weekly. Because of this slower pace of discussion, it can also be a slower-paced read which works out well.

Typically, these four situations are the norm. My ‘currently reading’ list always fluctuates between three and four books. Guaranteed. Right now, my life is beyond the normal level of hectic since I’m working on a new certification at work. This means I’m also trying to read a textbook cover to cover in a matter of weeks in preparation for testing. Five is not a normal load of reading but that’s how it is right now.

I look back a few years, when I was lamenting about how I could barely manage to read a book a month to keep up with my book club, and chuckle. In true overachiever fashion I figured out what ways I could multitask those things I have to do in life with the things that I want to do. Reading is essential to my happiness so I found the means. What things do you make time for regardless of how crazy your life gets?

Obsessions, confessions and creativity

What a week I just had… or was it ten days? I sort of lost track. It started with this book release that I’ve been waiting for from this one author – you might have heard of him – Brandon Sanderson. Yeah, I just listened to a FORTY EIGHT HOUR audiobook in just under twelve days. With my life, that is crazy talk. And definitely explains why I have been MIA on my blog. Sorry! But, Words of Radiance is one of those books that reminds me why I love to read so much. Luckily it takes a while for him to write a tome of this magnitude so, while I swore I would never start or commit to another series that wasn’t completed after Robert Jordan died – DIED – before finishing my last fantasy obsession, I have a while between books so my life can get back to normal.

Here’s another confession – I might have been obsessing about reading because I was hiding from my novel. Creativity is such a bitch some times and this writing thing is HARD work. Sigh. I’m knee-deep in revisions on my novel from November and realized that I started the story halfway through. No biggie, I just need to go back and write the beginning. Problem is, my main character came to me after she’d gotten herself into a predicament and I hadn’t given much more than cursory thought about HOW she had gotten there. And every idea I came up with was totally cliche or worse, boring. I rationalized all week that I was “refilling the well” by reading instead of writing. That thinking about my story was the same as writing. After all, I was still thinking about my story. When I wasn’t immersed in the world Sanderson built instead of my own that is. Truth is, I barely wrote anything all week.

Sunday I woke up early to a quiet house. Should have gone for a run but instead I brewed a pot of coffee and proceeded to drink the WHOLE thing while sitting on the couch with my headphones plugged into the last hours of my book. Nobody’s perfect, right? When it was over, I had nowhere left to hide from my creative road bump I’d been grappling with all week. I dove into a project I’ve got going with my writer’s group (hiding again) and shouted out to Facebook for inspiration. At the end of the day, kids all tucked into bed and Hubby watching his latest installment of Walking Dead, I finally took my own advice and put my butt in the seat and just started writing. I knew it would probably suck. It was first draft territory after all. And, I was probably writing the equivalent of clearing my throat by faking it till I figured it all out. But it wasn’t going to write itself. Big girl panties… check.

An hour later, I had exhausted all my coffee reserves and had to force myself to stop. Yes, force. Because a few minutes into it, I found one tiny nugget of inspiration and realized I knew all along what had happened. I just had to get over myself and the irrationality about how I didn’t really know (your subconscious isn’t really you, right?) Hurdle cleared. Now on to the next one!

Someone this week reminded me that there is a huge difference between talking about writing and actually writing. My life is always an exercise in balance – on steroids most of the time. And while I’m good at juggling everything I’m not always so great at recognizing when I’m telling myself lies about what is really happening. Here’s to it getting easier to recognize next time and not wasting any more of my writing time unnecessarily.

Being a Writer – a new perspective

I just attended Life, the Universe & Everything (LTUE) – a science fiction and fantasy symposium geared mostly toward writers. It was my second writers conference and the first I’ve attended in its entirety. I went with my amazing writing group so it was also one of the funnest girls weekend trips I’ve ever taken. I came away energized and excited about writing in a way I never have been. I attribute this to two reasons.

First, because I got to be the nerdy geek girl I really am at heart. And I mean got to be her FULL OUT. For an entire three days. From sunrise to sunset. I’ve read science fiction since I picked up “Battlefield Earth” by L. Ron Hubbard when I was in sixth grade and it changed me forever. I found fantasy and horror not long after that and never went back. I loved being able to gush about being literally feet away from my favorite fantasy author (Brandon Sanderson of course). Got to hold in my hand a copy of his latest book that no one anywhere can purchase yet like the holy grail it is. And no one thought I was weird for doing any of it. I was surrounded by my people. And it was heaven. I even ventured into fan-girl insanity by dressing up as a character from one of my favorite novels at the banquet. Which paid off when Brandon Sanderson himself stopped in the middle of his toastmaster address to say “I’m sorry, are you wearing mist cloaks?” and proceeded to complement and make inside jokes about not ‘dropping coins’ or ‘licking the dinnerware’ while my writer’s group stood for all to see how cool we were. (Sorry if you aren’t a nerd and don’t get the references. If you want to, read Mist Born!)

Second reason is the perspective I took away from the panels I attended. I realized I’ve been envisioning this whole ‘being a writer’ thing in an entirely wrong fashion. Being a writer always looked like: me at a desk in my house, by myself, working hard, and then someday selling books and “making it big”. What a bunch of vague and empty terms with no specifics! What I learned is that being a writer – at least the kind where you get paid to do it and make your living solely by writing – can be summed up on a very basic level. IT IS A JOB. Which means you have to build your skill set, start at the bottom, get a ton of experience to put on your resume so you can get the best job. [LIGHT BULB] Just like trying to get a corporate job. Which I already know how to do!

After I appeased my OCD by transcribing (and color coding and organizing for action items) all my handwritten notes from the weekend, I sat down with Hubby and made sure he was on board with me taking on a part time job. Because that’s what I’m going to do from here on out. I already proved as recently as this past November that I can have a life and still write fifty thousand words in a month. So, I’ll continue to do that every single month from here on out. I’ll further tune and hone my skills then build my resume until I land a position with an agent willing to sell my work to publishers. Because those are the nitty-gritty specifics of what it really takes to be the kind of writer I want to be. Finally a project plan for my writing!

Wouldn’t it be super cool if one day I was on one of those panels at LTUE? Look out world, the ultimate overachiever has taken things to a new level. If you need me, I’ll be somewhere with my hair on fire I’m quite certain!

Big Joy in a Small Package

It’s no secret I’m obsessed with yoga. And as is my standard operating procedure when it comes to addictions, I have jumped full in. Teaching yoga once a week at work was not enough – just like running wasn’t enough and I had to run a half marathon six months after I started running. I’ve added a second class every week now. For Christmas, Hubby asked me what I wanted. Sheepishly I told him that I really only wanted one thing – to selfishly spend more than my fair share of our extra money to get certified as a yoga instructor. Because he is an amazing man, he agreed.

So, January first I embarked on the next big adventure and started an online course. I had insane expectations that just because it was an affordable and self-paced option that it would be easy. I was wrong. I thought it would take me a few days – weeks at most – to read through the course material and then easily pass a test. Guess what, it is hard core with Sanskrit names instead of the “common” English names I am used to using for all the poses. On top of that, because you can use this certification to get hired to teach yoga in a gym environment, it also comes with lots of things like how to calculate fitness stuff – some of which I had never even heard of more than in passing and certainly never used. Arterio-venous oxygen difference? Calculating heart rate ranges? I’m studying muscles and bones and parts of the body I never considered important to my yoga practice that are hugely important as an instructor when you’re responsible for other people’s yoga practice. The part of me that wanted to skip ahead through the fitness stuff and the muscle stuff to “the good yoga stuff” was getting frustrated… until yesterday.

First some background…

Most of the people who attend my classes at work regularly are new to yoga and have only taken my class. But there are a couple of exceptions. One of which is a cute lady who does Bikram yoga. Bikram yoga is an entirely crazy (to me anyway) form of yoga. They do the exact same sequence of twenty six poses in a room heated to one hundred nine degrees and it lasts an hour and a half. It is like hot yoga at my gym on steroids. My Bikram Girl (as I thought of her in my head until I cemented her name in my brain) was doing her form of yoga multiple times a week for years. Of course I felt intimidated because she knew what she was doing and would definitely know how unprofessional and not like a “real” yoga instructor I was merely by comparison. After a few weeks I got over that and we are friends now who chat about yoga all the time. She is a prime example of my favorite yoga saying that “everyone does yoga with the body they brought, not the body they want”. Everyone has their own things they are good at. Some people (like me) have super stretchy hamstrings and have no problem touching their toes. Others have super stretchy backs and shoulders, others hips, others have great cores and others have great upper body. The point being that there is never a pose that someone doesn’t either love or hate when we do it based on what things come easy to everyone. My Bikram Girl is tiny and lean but struggles with her hips that are not flexible and thus can’t touch her toes.

Fast forward to yesterday in class. I had thrown together kind of an intense class full of hamstring opening and stretching and lots of leg work. We were cooling down and stretching and suddenly she exclaims from the back of the room “I can touch my toes!” You could feel the excitement in her voice and I looked up to see her looking wildly from one neighbor to the next showing them that she could touch her toes and saying it had been years since she could do that. The joy radiated from her like a ray of sunshine. It was so awesome that I almost started crying and had to drop my head back down to my knee to compose myself.

I did that – not her Bikram yoga, me. You could argue that it might have been a combination but really, if she was going to make a breakthrough like that with Bikram alone it would have happened a year ago when she was practicing three to five times a week. The difference now is that she only occasionally gets to Bikram and is *also* taking my class doing poses they don’t do in Bikram. See, me!

Is it any wonder that as I left work yesterday I found myself thinking that the vision of my perfect life was not a nine to five job but rather teaching yoga and writing full time? Someday maybe that will be my reality. But first I have to drag myself through my yoga certification. If you need me, I’ll be studying, because that one little moment of joy, which I might have missed if I hadn’t been paying attention, was worth all the anatomy, fitness jargon and Sanskrit I never thought I was going to have to learn.

A Day in the NaNo Life

It struck me this week how life throws so many curve balls especially in November. I appreciate the challenge that this seemingly insane deadline offers in and of itself and how it is designed to take my “someday I’ll be a writer” dream one step closer to reality with solid work habits when it comes to writing. Because that’s really what doing NaNoWriMo is about for me. But what if your life is completely insane already and then you try to add something like writing an entire novel in a single month onto your plate? You get a day like what I had yesterday which I will now recap for your reading pleasure…

12:30 am – hit the sack for some shut eye after falling asleep over my keyboard and throwing in the towel for the night.

12:30 – 5:30 am – slept like a baby. (Don’t hate me that I fall asleep the second before my head hits the pillow every time.)

5:30 – 5:45 am – claw myself awake, chat with hubby while snoozing my alarm clock

5:45 – 6:00 am – scramble out of bed in a panic, throw on clothes, brush teeth and head for yoga

6:00 – 7:15 am – yoga

7:15 – 9:30 am – get kids up and moving, shower, herd cats kids toward morning routine completion, get both off to school/dropped off at daycare

9:30 am – 2:15 pm – work the day job from my home office. Grabbed lunch on the go between phone calls and ate at my desk.

2:15 – 3:10 pm – parent/teacher conference with Big Sister with a side of book fair to suck more time I don’t have from my day. But she wants to read so how can I not?

3:10 – 3:30 pm – more cat herding to get Big Sister ready for dance and dropped off while Hubby picks up Little Sister from daycare

3:30 – 5:30 pm – work the day job

5:30 – 8:00 pm – family dinner to celebrate my Mom’s birthday. Tried to enjoy family togetherness without stressing about how far behind in my word count I already am and how I can’t afford to be there having fun.

8:00 – 9:00 pm – bedtime cat herding routine and kids tucked into bed

9:00 – 9:30 pm – coffee brewing and Facebook and chasing Little Sister back to bed

9:30 pm – 12:00 am – dedicated writing time which I also filled with unnecessary Facebook browsing because the writing isn’t flowing and hey, look, someone commented on my post! (Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?) An hour in I cut off my connection to the internet and tried not to obsessively need to update my word count online after every paragraph…

12:00 – 12:30 am – compose blog because it is all fresh on my mind, I don’t want to try and capture this later plus the two cups of coffee I consumed during my writing block just kicked in and I’m not tired now. In fact, I’m kind of giddy and I need to do something or I’ll post ridiculous (and giddy) Facebook status posts that no one else will think are as funny as I do because I am beyond looney at this point of the night and wired on caffeine and sugar. WHEE!

12:30 – 12:45 am – hit the sack, because even though I probably could stay awake and catch up the fifteen hundred words I’m behind, if I don’t get some sleep there’s no way I can function tomorrow at work.

There you have it – a day in the life of my November this year. Part of me wonders if I really have it more crazy than other people or if I just like to think of myself as different than most. I also found myself thinking about how if this “someday I’ll be a writer” dream were to come true, there will certainly be a time where I could be a published author but not making enough money to quit my day job. In which case, this is what my life every single day would look like – only hopefully less addicted to Facebook. In moments of weakness, part of me wonders if I really have it in me for more than a month… but I keep writing anyway!

Vegetarianism and immunosuppression – oh my!

Lots has happened and I’m kind of torn about how to share it with everyone. Thus the sporadic nature of my blogging lately. If you’re reading solely to follow my journey with kidney disease you might be disappointed. I had an epiphany last week. I’ve always been a believer in positive thinking and that whatever you focus on will happen. It occurred to me that in my focusing on having kidney disease that I was defining myself in the negative light of being sick. That is over. From now on I’ll be focusing on things that I have to be grateful for and things that make me lucky.

With that being said, there are lots of changes lately in my health so here’s a list of bullet point facts that are true:

  1. My proteinuria got worse over the last three months.
  2. I got a second opinion and I didn’t like much about what the other doctor said.
  3. I became a vegetarian a little over a month ago – doctor’s orders.
  4. I started immuno-suppresant drugs a couple of weeks ago.

Its definitely been a month of adjusting but I’m still positive and I still feel great on a day to day basis which makes me super fortunate. Plus, I didn’t die which completely defines how I view my life these days. You only live once and when you almost die you start to live much more for the moment and appreciate what you have rather than what you don’t or what you wish for.

Vegetarianism as been both harder and easier than I thought it would be. Easier because I don’t miss meat at all. I miss fish a tiny bit but I haven’t felt deprived or unhappy at all. Harder because it takes a whole lot more planning and strategy just to make regular meals happen. When you’ve always cooked, your habits of what you shop for and what you stock in the cupboard are pretty set and without much planning you know how to throw a meal together. When all your go-to habits include meat – and you have kids and a husband who don’t want to be vegetarian – it isn’t as easy. I found after the first week of cooking what I thought sounded good from recipes online and the kids wouldn’t eat any of it that if I include at least Big Sister in the process of recipe searching that there is a higher probability that she will eat it. And if Big Sister will eat it, Little Sister will likely follow. Another thing that is harder than I thought it would be is that if you are both vegetarian AND have to watch your sodium there are lots of recipes you can’t make. The best part of being vegetarian is how much better I feel. I’m still eating eggs and dairy and most of my protein has been from my favorite green veggies like broccoli and spinach, eggs, and my new favorite portabello mushrooms.

After six months of trying the least-invasive treatment options for my disease, it was clear it wasn’t being effective. It worked for a bit but then it didn’t. I’m super lucky in so many ways. First, that I am smart and live in the computer driven information super age. I Googled the SHIT out of treatment options knowing that a change was imminent after my second opinion. Second, that my doctor is willing to let me be a partner in my treatment decisions. The “recommended” treatment for what I have is a chemotherapy drug and a high dosage of steroids. I’m unsure why this is the recommended treatment when it comes with only a fifty percent success rate and gives you a fifty percent chance of getting bladder cancer or leukemia. Perhaps those odds are acceptable for “normal” kidney patients who are in their golden years but when I am only forty one, ‘later’ still has me in the prime of my life with my kids not even fully grown. No thanks. Together, we decided on a different plan that starts with an immunosuppressant drug with no cancer side-effects and no steroids. Plan B is in the wings as well and is a drug that works super well but is expensive so the insurance companies won’t approve it until you’ve tried something else. I’m not even going to start down that road since it’s an entirely different commentary on our healthcare system and will only piss me off if I get started.

So, there you have it. I’m also seeing positive changes in my body now that I’m doing yoga three to four times a week on a regular basis. The scale doesn’t show much difference by I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the proof is in the pants and mine are fitting better every week. I’ve got a very strong core – something I can honestly say I have NEVER had in my life before yoga. I’m loving the fall weather with cooler temperatures and am looking forward to starting my “Couch to 5K” training program so I can be a runner again. I miss feeling in cardiovascular shape and it is definitely time to get back to it. It’s been a full year since I’ve done any running and I know it will be like starting over rather than being a runner who took a few weeks off. I’ve lowered my expectations on how easy it is going to be. The best part is that I already know I’ve started from an even worse place than here with my fitness before and did a half marathon within six months. I’ve totally got this!

I’m also busy plotting my next novel. November approaches at breakneck speed after all.

In short, I didn’t die a year ago and now I’m busy living life to the fullest in the only way I know how – overachiever fashion where I do everything. Go big or go home, baby!

If you want something done, do it yourself

I’m not sure if my overachiever tendencies stem from my OCD or if it’s the other way around (what came first, the chicken or the egg?) Regardless of how I came to be the way I am, I’ve always agreed with the statement that if you want something done right you should do it yourself.

I work for a healthcare organization and this year they have launched multiple programs to get us, the employees, to live healthier. They gave us all pedometers as part of our yearly employee gift. They have multiple contests and incentives to track your fitness activities. And they haven’t let up even though the year is more than half over which tells me they are really serious about getting us all healthier. We have a fitness center on site that hundreds of us pay monthly fees to use. I’ve heard other facilities within the organization have gotten permission to use part of those funds to pay for regular yoga instruction as a benefit to the fitness center users. And we all know how addicted I’ve become to yoga since I had to take a hiatus from running. So I started pushing for that to happen here. Months later I’m still getting the run around about how there’s no budget for that and blah blah blah.

Meanwhile, I do yoga in my cubicle every time my back hurts and sometimes that spills over into the aisle. A couple of weeks ago two of my co workers started talking about how they want to do yoga at work and how come we can’t have classes, etc. while I did a warrior series in the aisle and they marveled at how I could just do yoga wherever. The conversation came full circle to end with “Terra, why don’t you teach us?”

Hmmm.  Why don’t I?

Other than that very obvious reason that I’m not a certified yoga instructor aside, why couldn’t I? I practice yoga twice a week minimum and on occasion have even led my group practice when there are newer yogis in attendance.

So, in very overachiever fashion, I booked an auditorium that would hold us all and taught my first class yesterday. Everyone loved it so much that they begged and pleaded for it to be a weekly happening. My boss said okay and now I’m looking online at ways to get certified to teach yoga.

What an amazing journey life is when you open yourself up to wherever your whims take you without limiting your possibilities. If I hadn’t taken matters into my own hands we’d still be waiting around for other people to make regular yoga classes happen for us. Instead I’ve gotten a whole new group of people excited about yoga who talked all day about how sore they are and who can’t wait for next week. I love life and am still so glad I didn’t die!

Did I say rock bottom? Just kidding!!

Remember when I said I’d hit rock bottom and then in jest said something about how I hoped it was the bottom because that would be a sick joke if it wasn’t? Well, I’ve learned the truth of ‘never say never’ and to never assume you’ve seen the worst it could be… because man did it get worse last week. Here’s what happened – in chronological order because I’m OCD like that of course.

First a confession… I already knew what I had on my last blog post – probably why I was already at the anger stage. My insurance company has an online medical record and if you are smart like me you know that those tests your doctor orders are usually online long before you meet with that doctor to see what they showed. So, Tuesday I saw the pathology report with my diagnosis: Membranous Nephropathy. And of course I googled the shit out of it.

Bottom line: there is no cure. The membranes in my kidneys are enlarged and therefor don’t work as well so I lose all my protein in my urine. But two thirds of the people diagnosed end up in remission so my chances are good. I met with my specialist on Thursday still a little sore and weak from the biopsy but having spent the better part of the week on my couch helped. She started me on several new meds and ordered additional tests including standing orders for them to be repeated every two weeks to monitor how well the new meds are working. So much for seeing the doctor and the lab less often, eh? Both meds are designed to treat the symptom of losing protein so I don’t also end up with my kidney function declining. I left the doctor with the knowledge that I really had the answers I’ve been searching for (ROOT CAUSE!) and a plan of attack. I felt hopeful and happy.

And then Friday afternoon I started feeling crappy. At first I chalked it up to having taken a higher dose of my diuretic which my doc said I could try to see if the water retention would go down faster (I’m not a patient woman, remember!). I also read on the information sheet of one of the new meds that I had started that it was common to feel run down and yucky when first taking the med. (Am I the only person who actually reads that whole paper they send you home with from the pharmacy?) I logged off work for a nap to try and feel better about two o’clock that afternoon. My kidneys ached and I couldn’t get comfortable and generally felt awful. Got very little sleep on Friday night and woke up Saturday morning no better.

Saturday morning an hour before I was supposed to leave for Big Sister’s dance competition where I was looking at nine hours on the high school bleachers, I couldn’t take a breath without excruciating pain in the abdomen which radiated up my back, through my chest and out my shoulder. The deeper the breath the worse the pain. I was faced with the hardest thing ever as an overachiever – the knowledge that no matter how much I wanted to power through whatever I had in my way I wasn’t going to be able to do it all. I still hate to think about it! Here’s something else you might not know about me: I hate asking for help. Of course it goes along with my overachiever tendencies because if I have to ask for help then I’ve made an irrefutable statement that I cannot do everything. So not okay with me and after all of these years of doing it all I am very, very set in my ways.

Luckily I have amazing friends who are also close neighbors. I called Mommy of Big Sister’s BFF who is also one of my BFF’s and a fellow dance mom since her older daughter is also on our competition team. She is like a force to be reckoned with in a crisis. As in I think that FEMA would be a great place for her in the event of a major disaster. Within minutes she had called Mommy of Baby Sister’s BFF next door who came and took her away – in her pajamas – to spend the day with them. And she rushed over to grab Big Sister and all her gear for the competition whisking her away to do hair and makeup and be her surrogate mamma for the entire 9 house so Hubby could take me to the Emergency Room at our nearest hospital.

Five hours I spent in the ER. Five. Hours.

Basically I was one of the few lucky people who’s kidney bleeds after the biopsy. The blood pooled under my diaphragm and created irritation both on the kidney and the diaphragm so every breath resulted in intense pain. Of course they ran a total blood work up to make sure there wasn’t anything else going on plus a urinalysis which confirmed there was blood in my urine and therefor my kidney. Then my blood pressure was super duper low and wouldn’t stablize so I had to stay a while longer – turns out I was a bit dehydrated. Gee, isn’t that what one would expect when I’m on a powerful diuretic and have liquid restrictions? Sheesh. I got some great narcotics to knock me out and curb the pain while my body reabsorbed the blood my kidney leaked out because there was nothing else they could do. Most of Mother’s Day weekend was a narcotic blur full of pain and suffering. Plus the emotional pain of having missed watching my daughter dance for the first time ever. Having to let go and accept that it doesn’t make me a bad parent was difficult but her surrogate mom for the day brought me video and score sheets so in the end I didn’t have to feel like I missed a thing.

This week has been much better. *knock on wood* My pain was gone by Tuesday and the novelty of taking a deep breath has returned. Each day on my treatment has me feeling better. I’m also using essential oils to treat the nausea side-effect of whichever med it is that causes that and to generally improve my mood. Hubby calls them my magic oils which might be accurate since they make me happy. I say “what does it hurt”, right? I even spent twelve hours at Big Sister’s dance competition yesterday like I hadn’t been in the hospital a week ago. Go me!

I guess the visit to the hospital showed that overall I’ve been super lucky in this whole journey. I’ve never been hospitalized even when both my lungs were half blocked with blood clots. I can still work and play and care for my children even if my house is less than pristine most days because I don’t have the energy for housecleaning on top of it all. And if I had to chose my kidney disease, I got the one I would have picked. The treatment is relatively benign, it is a slowly progressing disease where it would be decades before I need dialysis/transplant and my chances are higher of going into remission than progressively getting worse.

So yeah, I have kidney disease. But I’ll be fine because I can’t change it and I’m not going to sit around and wallow about why it happened or play the victim about why it happened to me. In truth, this specific thing happens to two in every ten thousand people which makes me just one of thousands going through the same thing right now. And I’m a master overachiever so I’ve got this in the bag. Even if it means going to bed a little earlier so I have the energy to kick ass as needed the next day…

The Lost Art of Organization

One of the keys to being an overachiever is being able to juggle a million responsibilities and commitments. After not having the energy or the drive to keep up with my life for a couple of months while I was recovering, I’ll never take this skill for granted. This week I’ve attempted – again – to instill this skill in Big Sister.

At eleven, she is failing miserably to keep up and meet commitments. She dances three nights a week and fifth grade homework is far more brutal than any year prior. She – again – is missing so many assignments that with two weeks looming before the end of the semester she’s in danger of failing fifth grade. Even with the looming threat motivation of knowing if she can’t keep her grades up she doesn’t get to keep dancing competitively, she struggles.

This must be one of those parenting lesson things because I’m at a loss. How can my kid – MY kid – not get it? She has a planner provided by the school and part of her grade this year is based on how much she uses it. Yet days go by that it doesn’t even make it home, let alone have notes in it to remind her of what she needs to do. Worse, I’d been lulled into happily believing everything was under control. After all we nipped this in the bud last semester and she’s been getting her math finished at school so there’s much less to do at night. Imagine my distress when I checked her online grade book – just to be sure – to find nineteen missing assignments. NINETEEN. Half of them math.

In true analytical style, I took a step back from the yelling mommy ledge and wondered if there was something bigger at play. Using a planner effectively assumes there is a foundation of organization already in place. And as much as it pains me to admit it, my kid is not organized. Her room looks like a tornado unless I’ve been mean mom and locked her in it for days and told her she can’t play with BFF until it’s clean. And then it only lasts for a couple of hours. Partly I blame myself and my OCD where until I got pregnant with Baby Sister I cleaned up after her and when the mess in her room got too big for me to handle I helped her by telling her where everything went. It was very hard for me to admit that I have anything to do with this issue but there it is. The queen of organization never taught it to her kid. *sigh*

So, we had a great talk – she cried a lot and I yelled less – and I explained the nuances of being organized. Where you have to find your own system of keeping track of things and your own little tricks to remind yourself to use your system until it gets ingrained. Reinforced by the knowledge that homework never goes away and as much as she cries and says ‘I wish there wasn’t such a thing as homework’ now is the best time to figure out how you’re going to manage it. Six words I fear I don’t say enough really hit home to her: ‘I know you can do it.’ I’m sure there’s a whole series of posts I could do on how I’m motivated to action by the exact opposite of my kid but that’s for another day.

Amazingly, I think at least part of it sunk in. I just looked up and saw her checking off a missing assignment on the list in the front of her binder after she filed it in the folder she’s decided is where completed work goes. Of course she’s been at the homework for two and a half hours with only two assignments completed because I have to keep reminding her that she’s supposed to be doing homework and not daydreaming/complaining/chatting/eating. But I’ll celebrate the baby steps and try to overlook the rest. This parenthood thing is hard!