Category “Game Plan”

Unextraordinary Measures (Day #99)

I meant to write about Five for Ten on Friday, so that by the time today arrived, you would know all about the Momalom duo and their quest to foster connection and conversation.  I wanted to tell you how important I think these things are and how cool I think it is that that Jen and Sarah have made it so simple.  Give five minutes.  Get five minutes.  Connect.  Converse.  I wanted to do these things last week so that I could encourage some of you (all of you?) to participate.

Best laid plans.

So here I am today, forced to rely on the old “click HERE and HERE to find out what Five for Ten is all about.”  I could blame my book (it being Day #99 and all), but I won’t, because it’s not the reason I didn’t post on Friday.  I didn’t post on Friday because I didn’t write on Friday.  Not a word.  It was Day #96 and I took the day off.  And then I took the next day off.  And the next one, too.

Does that mean you’ve already finished the book? you ask excitedly.  Expectantly.

I just smile mysteriously.

On first glance, you might think this is the smile of a pleased, confident person.  A person who has finished ahead of schedule.  But if you look closer, you’ll notice that this smile of mine has an edge.

Because it’s forced.

I am wearing the tight, oh-crap-what-have-I-done smile of a person who lives in a world where time is limited and moments are fleeting.  A place where opportunities are easily missed.  A universe where once-in-a-lifetime means exactly that.

No, I did not finish ahead of schedule.  I wanted – needed! – days 96, 97 and 98.  But I wanted something else more.

I wanted to spend Friday morning having a talking-really-talking conversation with Husband.

I wanted to spend Friday afternoon on the couch with Mom and Lil Mil.

I wanted to spend Friday evening at happy hour with my family, drinking white wine and munching on sweet potato fries.

I wanted to spend Saturday (yes, all of it) cleaning out my closet with Mom, laughing at the bubblegum pink mini dress I wore on New Years’ Eve the year I met Husband and the scores of lingerie I got at my bachelorette party and have never worn.

I wanted to spend Saturday evening talking to Dad about the post-Day #100 future of this blog.

And I wanted to spend Sunday celebrating my daughter’s baptism, exactly one year after she came into my life.

I wanted to do these things.  I also wanted to spend the weekend finishing my book.  But I wanted to do these things more.

So here it is Monday morning, Day #99, the day before my big deadline, and I am forcing a smile.  Telling myself that I made the right choice, that those things I did mattered more than game plans and word counts.  Reminding myself that the smile I wore yesterday wasn’t forced at all.  Because it wasn’t.  And if I had it to do over again, I would choose to spend my weekend exactly the way I spent it.  Not pursuing my big dream.  Not chasing my passion.  But cleaning my closet.  Eating with my family.  Sitting on my couch.  Watching days 96, 97, and 98 pass by.

This is hard for me to admit.

Setting big goals, pursuing big dreams, taking big risks – we don’t hesitate to call those acts courageous.  They look courageous.  They feel courageous.  Deciding to spend a Saturday afternoon cleaning your closet, that doesn’t look or feel anything like courageous.  It looks and feels… sorta lame.  Very average.  Painfully ordinary.

And you know what?  It is.  Average.  Ordinary.  There is nothing extraordinary about the existence of messy closet or the desire to clean it.  Just like there is nothing extraordinary about a meal with family.  Or an afternoon on the couch.  There is, however, something quite extraordinary about finishing a novel.  And yet, I chose to do the ordinary things instead.

Because I wanted to.

Which makes me look and feel … sorta lame.  Very average.  Painfully ordinary.

Because I am.

Not always.  But sometimes.

I am ordinary.  An ordinary person who enjoys doing ordinary things.

These words, they scare me.  I don’t want to be ordinary.  And I certainly don’t want to be perceived as ordinary.  By you.  By Husband.  By Lil Mil.

It takes courage to be extraordinary.  But it takes courage to be ordinary, too.

It takes courage to be real.

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(Do you struggle with feeling ordinary?  To you make an effort to to be extraordinary?  Is it hard for you to acknowledge the parts of yourself that you think make you less desirable?  Do you agree that it takes courage to be real?  Are you participating in Five for Ten?  If not, you should!  Hop on over to Momalom and sign up!  For those of you who aren’t into clicking, here’s the deal:  if you will commit to spend five minutes at Embrace the Detour for ten days in a row (and leave a comment!), then I will do the same on your blog.  What if you don’t have a blog?  It doesn’t matter!  Leave me a comment and I will spend at least five minutes emailing you back.  The whole point is to make connections and start conversations.  We all need both!)

I Heart Cheerleaders (Day #81)

In high school I was proud of it.  In college, I hid it.  In law school, I laughed about it.  Now, I sometimes forget about it all together.

See that girl on the far right of the second row?  That’s me.

I was a cheerleader.  (No, I don’t know who let me out of the house with a headband and that forehead.  Mom?)

Back then, I used to wonder if our presence on the court mattered to the players for whom we were cheering.  Did our Rah Rahs and You Can Do It and Go Teams! really make a difference?  I never knew, because I was always the cheerleader, never the player (if you’ve ever seen me try to dribble a basketball or hit a tennis ball, you understand why).

But these days, there are moments when I feel like the star player.  I’m not sure how good my team is (we’ll know in 20 days), but right now, that doesn’t seem to matter so much.  People are cheering for me anyway.  With your comments and your Facebook messages and your tweets.  Does it make a difference?

Absolutely.

And I don’t mean in some vague, intangible sense.  I mean practically.  Concretely.  When I get an encouraging comment/message, it makes me work harder, right then.

Which is why, as of yesterday, I’m now obsessed with Twitter.

First, a caveat:  I am still Twitter illiterate.  I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be tweeting or what all the different symbols people use mean (#?  Anyone?).  But the tweets I’m getting? Coolest things ever.

I know what you’re thinking.  Why are you on Twitter if you’re supposed to be in the midst of crunch time? (And why, pray tell, are you writing a post about Twitter when you’re supposed to be pounding out pages of your novel?)

I have answers to both.

I’m on Twitter because I’ve decided that it’s the least time-intensive social media outlet.  You don’t have to click around and there aren’t scores of photos to distract you.  Tweet and be tweeted.  That’s all there is to it.  So, while I try to power through the last six pages of this novel, I’ve decided to skip Facebook and limit my email activity.  I just keep Tweetdeck open on my desktop and go about my merry way.  And then, as has happened several times already, when I’m struggling through a difficult scene or trying to calm a difficult baby, wondering how the heck I’m actually going to finish this thing, I’ll hear a DING! and there it’ll be.  Some encouragement.  A dose of You Can Do It! And suddenly, I remember that I can.

It’s like having my own little cheering section.

I’m writing about Twitter because I realized yesterday that I am a Twitter nerd.  I don’t think I’ve yet encountered someone with fewer Twitter followers than I currently have.  And yet, 50+ followers feels like a lot to me!  Or, it did, before I realized that 50+ followers pretty much puts me at the loser table.  How the heck normal people end up with 1000+ followers??   Is it crazy for me to aspire to that?  Do I lack the je ne sais quoi that makes someone follow-worthy?  (If the answer is yes, please don’t tell me that today.  Wait til Day #101).

This is not a plea for you to follow me on Twitter.

(Okay, that’s a lie.)

But it’s not only a plea for you to follow me on Twitter.  It’s also a recognition of the fact that your comments/tweets/messages/texts/emails/phone calls matter.  They make a difference.  They have kept me from throwing in the towel on more than one occasion.  So, thank you.  To those of you who have reached out.  To my cheerleaders.

I heart you.

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(Okay, let me hear it – your thoughts on Twitter!  Love/hate/don’t get it?  What do you use it for?  Do you follow more people than follow you or vice versa?  What makes for a good tweet?  Were you a cheerleader?  Do you sorta wish you could wear a cheerleading uniform everyday like the Cheerios on Glee?)

OH!  I promised you a word count.  As of right now: 62, 162.  I think the novel will be about 100,000 total.  So… a little less than 40,000 to go.  That’s 2000 words a day.  I wrote 1500 yesterday.  Aiming for 2500 today.

Crunch Time (Day #79)

It’s Day #79.  I have 21 days to go.

Three weeks.

My heart does a little flip-flop when I read those words.  And not in a good way.

I am behind.  So behind.

But hopeful.

I have six chapters to go.  Six chapters in three weeks.

It’s a lot.  And if I try to write a new blog post every day, it’ll most certainly be too much.  (Yes, if it weren’t for this blog, I probably (okay, definitely) would have finished the book already.  But if it weren’t for this blog, I wouldn’t be enjoying the book or my sweet baby as much as I am.)

So, starting today, my posts will read more like updates.  I’ll tell you where I am and how I’m doing.  I might vent about the writing process, or I might be too wrapped up in the writing process to vent about it.  I might do one daily update or several.  I dunno.  The point is to limit the time I spend blogging so I can maximize the time I spend booking and babying.  As for boy, he can wait.  (Just kidding.)  (Kind of.)

Six chapters.  Three weeks.

There’s my heart again.  Flipping and flopping all over the place.

Okay, so here we go.  It’s crunch time.

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(Please follow my progress on Twitter!  Click here or follow @followmydetour.  If you’re not on Twitter, you can still read my tweets on the sidebar of the ETD homepage (under “Latest Tweets”).  If you’re already following me, I’d love to hear from you!  It gets lonely over here.  Please say hi!)

Detour Ahead (Day #61)

I’m not gonna finish on time I’m not gonna finish on time

It started around Day #31, when I’d been stalled on Chapter Four for seventeen days. I was behind, so far behind, and I was afraid I wouldn’t catch up.

I tried to ignore the voice.  It was my voice, after all.  The voice of doubt, of almost-panic, of fear.  Because really, what did I know?  It wasn’t impossible that I wouldn’t finish.  It was just becoming increasingly unlikely.  And what good would doubt and almost-panic and fear do?  Did I become more productive once the I-can’t-do-this mantra kicked in?  Not in the least.

So I trudged on.  Keep writing.  Tried not to think about the fact that my clever little Game Plan was like Lil Mil’s sleep schedule.  A joke. A great idea in theory.  No basis in reality.

Around Day #46, the voice got quiet for a few days.  I was making good progress and had realized that the early chapters of my book would always be the hardest to write because that’s where I deal with the “rules” (PARALLEL is the story of a girl whose life starts changing when a parallel version of her begins rewriting her past.  It strikes me that perhaps I should’ve picked an easier story for this project of mine).  Now that I was past Chapter Five, I was feeling better about my prospects of finishing on time (never mind the fact that I was only 1/3 through my fifteen chapter outline).

And then, Day #51 arrived.  The day that turned into a week.  As I read those stories – your stories – I heard another voice.  A different one.

There’s a detour ahead.

I hear from this voice sometimes.  Less than I would like, but that’s only because I rarely slow down to listen.

There’s a detour ahead.

As is always the case with this particular voice, this Voice with a capital V, the words came with a certainty of their truth.

There is a detour ahead.

I feel it coming.  Right around the bend.  This, quite frankly, is more than a little disconcerting.  Expecting the unexpected is like waiting for the monster at a haunted house.  You know he’s there, waiting until the moment when you’ll least expect him.  Waiting to catch you off guard.

And he usually does.

So, here I am, still trudging along, still trying to finish this book when I said I would, still doing my best to embrace this detour.  And yet, I have a feeling my plans are about to be thwarted.  That something is about to come up.  That things are about to change.  That something will happen, and life will be different.  Maybe not dramatically, but perceptibly.

I’ve been carrying this notion around for the last seven days, toying with it, letting its truth sink in.  Trying to accept the possibility of change without overthinking it.  Trying to expect the unexpected without micromanaging its arrival.

By yesterday, Day #57, I’d succeeded.  In fact, I’d thought about this potential new detour so little that I’d nearly forgotten to expect it at all.  Husband and I were on our way to lunch.  We parked at an open meter right across the street from the restaurant.  I got out, then opened the backseat door to retrieve Lil Mil.  As I was stepping off the curb to get closer to her, I glanced down.  The picture above is what I saw.

Detour ahead.

Written on a random curve.  No road work nearby.  No detours in sight.

There’s that Voice again.

There’s a detour ahead.

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(Do you feel like there’s a detour ahead in your life?  Is ‘expecting the unexpected’ an oxymoron?  How do you prepare for potential detours?  When was the last time you heard the Voice with a capital V? )

March Forth

It’s 4:17 a.m.

I’m sitting on the coziest of couches in the coziest of rooms, drinking a steaming mug of coffee as I snuggle under a furry blanket.  Lil Mil is on the couch next to me, eyes aflutter, lost in baby dreamland.  Outside it’s a blanket of white.  Snow on the porch, snow on the trees, snow on the mountains I can just make out in the not-quite-dark.  I can’t see the sun, but I know it’s coming.

Morning is on its way.

But for now, I’m enjoying the not-yet-morning.  Those few moments when the day ahead holds every ounce of promise, when it feels like there may actually be enough hours to get it all done.  There is so much to do.  Too much.  But here, in the not-yet-morning, there is no hurry, because the day has not yet begun.  There is still time.

These moments, they end so quickly.  So suddenly.   At some point in the very near future, Lil Mil will wake up. She’ll be hungry, and I’ll feed her.  And while I’m kissing her tiny toes and nuzzling her sweaty little neck, my screen will go dark and my coffee will get cold.   Husband will emerge from the bedroom, and before long, the sun will be up and the day will have begun.  The clock will start ticking.  And before I know it, the day will be gone.

This day.  My birthday.

March fourth.

A date.

A sentence.

March forth.

A motto.  My motto.

It hasn’t always been.  Sure, if you’d asked me, I would’ve claimed it.  At 18, 21, 25.  But it didn’t fit.  Not really.

March \märch\ (v.): to move in a direct purposeful manner; to make steady progress.

Forth \ˈfȯrth\ (adv.): onward in time, place, or order.

I think it does now.

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The day I found out I was pregnant, I bought a blank notebook and wrote a letter to Lil Mil.  It was the first of 253 letters, one for each day of my pregnancy.  I wrote the last one exactly 36 weeks later, on her birthday.  I mention this because I am proud of this.  I am proud of this because I did what I set out to do.  I didn’t miss a day.  Not a single one.

If you’d asked me on Day #1 whether I’d really do it – whether I’d really write a letter every single day of my pregnancy – I would have said yes.  Absolutely.  Bobbed my head enthusiastically.  I would have done this despite the fact that, given my history with such do-this-every-day commitments (and there have been many), the odds that I’d actually stick to this one were slim.  And by slim, I mean none.

I’m not exactly sure where I got this daily-letter-to-baby idea, but I embraced it with gusto. I immediately went out and bought a new leather moleskine (despite the fact that I had no less than five empty journals in my closet). I searched and searched for just the right pen. I drafted my first letter, in which I promised the poppyseed-sized embryo inside me that I would write to him/her every day until he/she was born.

This is what I do when I latch on to an idea I like.  I run with it.   No hesitation, full-speed ahead.   No matter what the context – a night out, a workout plan, the much-needed reorganization of my bedroom closet – I always start big, with flourish and gusto, full of ideas and grand plans.  And enthusiasm!  So much enthusiasm!

Which, in the past, would typically last for roughly the first third of the activity.

Sudden fervor followed by an equally sudden loss of interest.  That was my m.o.  I’d love an idea, then I wouldn’t anymore.  I’d craft a plan, then abandon it.   Race forward, then abruptly change course.  Always on to the next thing, the next idea, the next grand plan.

But then, something changed.  One sunny May morning, I found out that I was no longer alone in my body.   There was a tiny little person inside me, a poppyseed-sized person who deserved more than just my good intentions. A person who, even at poppyseed stage, deserved to have a mom who sticks to her promises.

I wanted to be that mom. I wanted to be that woman, not just for her, but for me.

That desire, more than anything else, was the impetus for this blog.  I’ve talked a lot about the why behind this project – why a book, why now.  I didn’t want to lose my identity in motherhood.  I didn’t want to lose momentum with my writing career.  I didn’t want this detour to take me off track.  I wanted to prove that the journey through Life With A Newborn can be a creative and productive one.

But none of those reasons explain how I got from the why to the what.  Why a daily (okay, not quite daily) blog?  Why the detailed game plan, the rules, the weekly list of tasks?  Why the need for an audience?

Because I wanted to succeed.  I wanted to make the first 12 weeks 100 days of my daughter’s life the best 12 weeks 100 days of mine.  And I was afraid that I would fail.

Not by falling short of my goal, but by abandoning it.  By giving up.  By giving in to the unceasing demands of Life With A Newborn.  By convincing myself that it was too much, too soon.  By letting my fear that I can’t actually do this (a fear I work very hard not to acknowledge) keep me from trying.

In other words, I was afraid that I’d do what I do:  make a grand plan (I’ll finish my novel in the first 12 weeks of my baby’s life!), complete with sweeping promises (I’ll write daily!), and not follow through.

A reasonable concern, considering my history of well-laid but abruptly abandoned plans.

So I launched this blog.  It’s harder to quit with people watching.

But I know now that I shouldn’t have been worried.  Because that poppyseed-sized person who became a seven-pound fifteen-ounce little girl had already changed the game.  She had made this project about something else.  Something more.  And she made me into someone else.  Someone more.

Someone who sees things through.  Who sticks to her promises.  Who finishes what she starts, no matter how long it takes or bumpy the road gets.  No matter where this detour leads.

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It’s 6:28 a.m.  The sky is lighter now.   Lil Mil is awake, snuggled up on a furry blanket, just watching her mama work.  The day has begun.  This day.  My birthday.

March fourth.

March forth.

And so I will.

(If you’re new to Embrace the Detour, click HERE and HERE to read about my crazy plan.  If you have ideas or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you!  Feel free to leave a comment, send me an email at lauren at embracingthedetour dot com, or use the comment form on the right-hand sidebar).