11.12.2010

Sorry I won't be around as much

My time is becoming very limited! So much is happening right now. We are at < 6 weeks before the book releases, which means lots of edits and work on peripheral material, and I'm also trying to write 50,000+ words of the sequel for NaNoWriMo. And, you know, teach Taekwondo every day and stuff.

If you would like to stay up-to-date with my writing and related activities, Sam and I have launched our official writing blog, which you can follow here: http://mechlingstubbs.wordpress.com

If you just want updates on ME...good luck. :-p Twitter is perhaps your best option!

Much love!

10.19.2010

Phew

Our novel has been resubmitted to our editor. Phew! Now it's time for a well-deserved breather.

I'm not exactly sure what will happen now. Our editor plans to go through and make another round of suggestions. How in depth they will be, remains to be seen. Our editor says he still believes a December release is possible, so we'll see what happens!

Sam and I have been working on getting a new blog up, in lieu of a full website, which we will have eventually. I'm hoping to see our new blog go up in the next couple of weeks. It's time to start developing our real web-presence as authors. WEIRD to think about. It's a new level of exposure and professionalism that we are just now approaching.

In the meantime, I'm busy teaching, and brainstorming for NaNoWriMo. I'm looking forward to a super-busy November! =)

10.11.2010

Burned. Out.

Hi.

Haven't seen you for awhile.

I don't really understand why, but blogging has sort of fallen by the wayside over the past few months. It doesn't really take that much time to write a blog, yet it keeps feeling like more time than I have.

In life news, as you've probably heard, the book that Sam and I have written is being published, by a small independent publisher called Inquisitive Books. It's exciting! And a LOT more work than I anticipated.

I'm burned out.

You have to understand, I've been working on the same story for over a year. I was looking through my notebook yesterday, and we started writing this book last July. That's not even counting all the brainstorming and worldbuilding and everything that came before. Granted, we've taken breaks from it. But there have been no other books in the meantime. I've been working on the same characters, the same plot, in the same world, for 16+ months.

For me, that's an eternity.

I'm tired. I'm tired about thinking and rethinking the same plotlines, the same characters. The revisions that we've done are good, they have improved the story. But I'm tired. I'm three-quarters the way through revisions, and I'm done. I've had it. I'm ready to hand it over to our editor and call it quits. I'm going to tell him so, and see what he says!

Originally I'd planned to write Book 2 for NaNoWriMo this year. But there's no way. I need a break. First of all, I'd do a really sloppy job with it, and probably end up scrapping most of it anyway. We're not prepared for it in the least. And I'm just tired of the whole thing. I need a break, I need to work on something light and fun so I can refresh before coming back to this story.

This book is supposed to be released late this year. All along I've thought that was optimistic, and it seems further away every day. I'm losing my grip. I really do believe that some space, a break, would help rejuvenate me so I could finish the revisions strong. But I don't know if I have that luxury!

Urg.

7.07.2010

Dear Reader, a hurried update

I had a couple of people ask me why I don't blog anymore. It's not that I'm choosing not to blog. It's that blogging seems to require deliberate thought and cohesiveness that I don't possess in great measure at the moment. So my dear reader, I offer you a somewhat scatterbrained update on my life.

A majority of my time is consumed by Taekwondo, which, I might add, is the best job on the face of the planet. We've had a couple weeks off for "summer break", which means the kids don't come but the staff works even more than usual. I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things--I've missed my students! Of course, half our staff is going away for 2 weeks, which mean me and one other instructor are covering nearly all of the classes at the studio for the next two weeks. It's going to be a major ADVENTURE.

I'm actually really pleased with my work right now. I feel like I'm really coming into my own as an instructor and staff member at the studio. My students are thriving, I feel like I'm connecting and really starting to make a difference in these young lives. Some of my advanced students are now entering their Black Belt Testing cycle. I will have a direct hand in their progression toward Black Belt. This is significant. But it's not just the advanced ranks--every student of mine is precious, and I find myself brimming over with the desire to help them succeed. It is this investment in my students and in this place that makes every long day, every hour worth it.

In other news, Sam and I are going to start submitting our novel to agents. Technically, we're submitting a query letter. This is a one-page document, which is all we have to hook their interest. One paragraph introduces the book, the theme. The second paragraph is a brief synopsis of the story. The third paragraph is a brief author bio, where we talk about our qualifications. That's it. That's all we have to interest an agent enough that they request more. I've really been struggling with it. I mean, our book is good. It's the best I've ever written. It will stand on its own merits. But brevity has never been a strong point of mine (ie this was supposed to be a "brief" update on my life!) I don't write poetry...I write EPIC NOVELS. So writing a single page, making it concise but mysterious, brief but engaging...well, it's a challenge for me. Sam and his family have helped greatly, and I'm not sure I'll ever be satisfied. But in the next couple of days we're going to start submitting our queries and wait for some of the rejection letters that are guaranteed to follow.

That's pretty much it. I spend a vast majority of my time at the studio, either teaching or in the office. Sometimes I get to hang out with my awesome friends. On Sundays I direct the ward choir, which is challenging but fun. Occasionally I get to go to ward activities, though not as often as I would like. And every now and then I get to chill with my family--though not as often as my mother OR I would like. But that's pretty much how it goes!

6.10.2010

It's all about Attitude

I've been feeling a little overwhelmed this week. We changed the schedule at the studio, so Mondays and Tuesdays have become pretty crazy (Tuesday I was at the studio for 13 hours). I spent Wednesday making up for everything I missed the first two days. Today I spent the entire morning at Sam's house wrapping up our final revisions and polishes to the manuscript. It went out this afternoon to our first round of beta readers.

Needless to say, when I arrived at the studio this afternoon, I was pretty overloaded. I did not eat well, so I was feeling a bit off anyway. I started considering skipping Black Belt class. I began to create excuses.

Something happened, though. I can't really pinpoint where it occurred, whether it was a comment someone made, whether it was one of my students, or if it was just me. But somewhere in this hectic afternoon, I realized that it's all about attitude.

I taught three classes this afternoon, and all three of them went great. I had a parent tell me that I am the best teacher she's ever seen. I nailed a difficult kick in Black Belt class. But it really came home during sparring class at the end of the night.

We're prepping for a tournament next week, so we had the full scoring system out and we were doing competitive matches. I was one of the last to fight, and I got to pick my opponent. I looked around the room. I could have picked a lot of different people. But when it came down to it, I knew that I needed to push myself. I picked a black belt of my same rank, a younger guy who weighs probably 50 pounds less than me. He's fast, and he's powerful. Of everyone there, he pushes me the most. He was also on fire tonight.

I got my butt handed to me. He nailed me left and right. Oh, sure, I got some good kicks in, and I worked on my spinning kicks the way I've been training. He's so fast, these don't really work on him. I ended up on the ground at least four times. But each time I popped up, ready to go again. The fight ended when he accidentally kicked me in the small of the back and knocked the wind out of me. But once I got my breath back, I popped right back up, ready to cheer for him for a really great fight.

I was on fire tonight. It didn't display physically--my game was definitely not on tonight. But tonight I had indomitable spirit. I pressed on through hard things, and I was happy about it. It wasn't fake or forced. Each time I fell, each time it was hard, I smiled and pressed on. By the end of the night, I was brimming with triumph. Not because of a fight won or lost, but because I had triumphed a mental game.

Taekwondo is only one part of my life. We all have things that are challenging that we have to work through. We all have things that get us down. But friends, it's all about attitude. That is how we triumph.

I'm going to kick butt next week. ;)

5.28.2010

Quitting my job, writing, and life: an update

My blogs have been neglected, I'm afraid. I'm not sure I can quite express to you the insanity that has been my life over the past couple of months. Suffice it to say, I have been a busy girl.

The biggest news that I wish to share with you is that today is my official last day at my morning job. No longer shall I be the friendly customer service rep. No longer do I have to rise early to answer phones and talk to grumpy people. No longer will I claw my eyes out over silly projects handed to me last-minute by my boss. Freedom is mine.

This decision was a long one in coming. I have been dissatisfied with this position for quite some time, but felt stuck by circumstance and finances. However, change is finally in motion. This fall I will be going back to school. I am not certain where yet--I am registered at UVU to get started on a second bachelor's degree. However, I am on the alternate list for the MSW program at the University of Utah. Obviously it would be my preference to skip two extra years of school and go straight into my chosen grad program. So here's to hoping that someone else decides to drop out of the program, so I get to go. They have until August to let me know...so we'll see what happens.

Needless to say, this intent to go back to school put a hard deadline on my time at this job. However, more and more I was getting the feeling that I should quit sooner.

My writing has been going very well. Sam and I finished our manuscript at the beginning of May. Before that time, we set some goals for ourselves and this book. The first was completion by the end of April, which we almost made. The next goal was to finish a full revision of our own by the end of May. This is still in the works, we'll see how much progress I can make this weekend. Our ms will spend the next few weeks in the hands of our first round of beta readers, then undergo a second full revision. Then in July we'll hand it off to our larger second group of beta readers, followed by a third full revision. The goal is to have the ms ready by the end of summer to begin the submission process to agents and editors.

I'm quitting my job for the summer to write. I just feel that this is what I'm supposed to be doing right now. These few months are precious time for me--in the fall, I'll be back in school and working, so my time to write will be very limited. I feel strongly that I am supposed to finish and pursue this book, so I'm taking this time right now to do so. It was hard to justify to myself--I mean, I may never make a dime off this book. It may never go anywhere. So it was hard to justify a REAL job and the bulk of my income for what may essentially just be a hobby. But after some earnest prayer and counsel from family and friends, I decided that for this summer, it was the right thing to do.

Incidentally...I'm really excited about the book. Co-writing with Sam has had it's challenges here and there, but overall it's been a great experience that we are eager to repeat. Together we've created something really strong, and I think that with the right timing, we have the potential to get published with it. I am very hopeful.

Other updates--Taekwondo is also going really well. I am picking up even more classes this summer, which is exciting. This coming month I will be competing at the Utah Summer Games. I'll be sparring, performing my form, and performing on our school's demo team, which is the shiz. I'm in the middle of a "diet" (not really, it's just eating better and being off sugar) trying to drop a weight class for the tournament. I'm super excited about this competition and everything else going on at the studio.

Life continues. I doubt it will get any less busy for these changes. But hopefully it will be a lot more fulfilling and enjoyable. =)

4.17.2010

Beware: I am mean.

A little something you have to know about me.

Apparently, I'm mean. But, I don't mean to be mean. :P

So, Olympic Taekwondo is all about kicking. That's how you score points. They're now incorporating rules that award points for punches...but nobody actually scores them yet. Like, we're supposed to, but we're all hard-wired for just kicks, so that's still the name of the game. Kicks to the head get more points than kicks to the body. Naturally, the more advanced your rank, the more people tend to kick to the head. In the Black Belt ranks, you hear of people called "head hunters" who do nothing BUT head kicking. But that's another story.

I tend to get underestimated a lot. You see, I am not quite 5'3" tall. I'm stocky. Sparring matches are assigned by rank, age and weight. So a girl who's a lot taller than me will be a lot skinnier than me and weigh the same. So I tend to fight a LOT of people who are taller than me. This gives them a huge advantage--my head is a lot easier to reach. And I don't look like a fighter--I'm stocky and...well-endowed in certain areas. This all plays into the underestimation.

As I proved yet again today, I can hold my own in a fight. The first girl I fought today was at least 7 or 8 inches taller than me. Granted she was older than me. But still, she should have walked all over me with head kicks. But you see, I'm scrappy. I do a lot of what we call "jamming"--I stay in really close to her, where I can still nail her but she can't get to me because I"m too close. And I play mind games, which is really where these matches are won. I'm loud, I'm confident, I smile--rather wickedly sometimes--and then I beat the tar out of them. Ya, I get tired. My endurance isn't what it should be, and I'm not as fast as I need to be. But I win.

I was still coming off the high from my first fight when I went into the second--an exhibition match, which means that the opponents aren't people who would normally be put into a bracket together because of differences in either age, rank or weight. In this case, it was age--she was 48, I think. I, um...kind of wiped the floor with her. I didn't mean to. But I've been well trained and I was in tournament mode, and it was really hard for me to back off. Fortunately, she was still cheerful and upbeat later. It's never my intention to really discourage anybody--and when you lose 27 to 3, that has a strange tendency to occur. :-/

Nobody looking at me would think I'm an athlete. Nobody looking at me would think "ninja" or "fighter." Nobody looking at me would think that I know more ways to hurt or kill someone than I care to count. Nobody looking at me would think "martial artist." But that is how I think of myself. I am a martial artist. And on days like today, it's nice to know inside that I am good. At least, I can hold my own. I might not look like much, but I warn you--don't underestimate me. Because apparently, I'm mean.

4.10.2010

A horse in my parking lot

I'm sitting on my front porch. The sun is setting. It's absolutely beautiful.

I have to acknowledge that I live in a small town. This was brought home to me when I came outside this evening to check the mail, and found a girl trotting a horse around the parking lot of my apartment complex. Now, granted, this doesn't happen every day, but it has happened before. You'll find random patches of rural land throughout my town, with cows or horses or chickens. And then it's back to Wal-Mart and the new shopping complex. It can be a strange dichotomy.

But it is beautiful. Birds are chirping in the trees that are finally starting to bloom. The air is peaceful. Just a distant hum of traffic. It's the perfect temperature right now, though I imagine it will get chilly soon.

I've been sick for a couple of days, and I didn't feel like doing much today. But the inside of my house was starting to feel like a prison, so I came out to check the mail and decided to stay. I brought my laptop, and now I'm hoping to crank out another chapter in my novel. Regardless, it's nice to breathe some fresh air that doesn't smell like my kitchen or the Scentsy in my bedroom. Don't get me wrong, I love my Scentsy. But it's not the same as the air outside.

I hope that you can enjoy some fresh air too. It does wonders.

4.05.2010

The Muse has Descended once again

Easter weekend was fun--I spent most of it at a friend's house watching LDS General Conference. We ate yummy food and dyed Easter eggs, which is something I have not done nearly enough in my life. I also went to my birth grandparents house for Easter dinner and the Easter egg hunt. Everyone has a certain number of eggs with their name on, and the eggs are hidden according to the age of the finder. So, the little kids' are just lying around in the grass. It gets progressively harder as you get older. My aunts are somewhat diabolical in the egg-hiding. Everyone has a good time with it.

In other news, I've been writing some pretty awesome stuff lately. Forgive me if I pontificate too verbosely. ;)

My best friend Sam and I have been working on this novel since last summer, though its roots are based in a story we worked on in the summer of 2007. At any rate, we pushed through and wrote 3/4 of this book last year. But in December as you may recall, I hit a terrible awful loathsome case of writer's block. Now, normally I don't give credence to writer's block. I have a quote from a writer named Peter Carey that I really love that basically says you have to keep writing no matter what, no matter if "you're sick or sad or dull. Nothing must stop you." Sam though it would be wise for us to take a break from the story, maybe work on other things, but come back to it when the inspiration was there. I didn't much care for this idea. I know myself. I'm a Discovery-style writer (term courtesy of writer Brandon Sanderson). I write and write and write, push through to the end. Any story I've stopped in the middle of, I've never finished. It's just not how I work. So, reluctantly, I agreed to take a "break" from this novel.

Three months passed. I didn't write a thing. It was awful. This is the longest I've EVER gone without writing. Like...EVER, as in, since the age of 7 when I started writing. I am always writing SOMEthing. Three months with no words was seriously traumatic.

There came a day when I told Sam we needed to brainstorm a new story because I couldn't stand it anymore. We brainstormed...and then his wife Ashley and I had an idea. Poor Sam got left in the cold that day, as Ashley and I took this idea and ran with it. In the space of two days, I had the entire plot of a novel planned out and I was ready to write.

I wrote a little. The first chapter or so, though it took me far longer than that quantity of words normally takes me. I felt rusty. I scrapped the first chapter and re-wrote it. Still wasn't quite satisfied...I found myself thinking about other characters, of a plot that I had left unfinished three months prior... Characters wouldn't leave me alone. I found that instead of wanting to write my new novel, I more desired to finally return to the unfinished manuscript.

Setting aside my new novel, I decided to do a re-read. Now, you have to understand a little how I work as a writer. Revision is one of my weakest points. As a Discovery-style writer, it is my instinct to push through, write a story, and then move forward. This has strong points and weak points. The strong points are that I finish stories that I write, and I finish them fast. I've cranked out an entire novel in a month before. The weak points are that I often have plot holes or weak plot lines, because I rarely plan things out in depth, I just push through and write to the end. And revisions are minimal. I rarely have the patience or the desire to do an in-depth revision. More often, I'll just abandon the manuscript and move on to write what I hope will be an even better story.

Thus coming back to this manuscript was a big step for me. It really marked a change in my process as a writer. Because it wasn't just a re-read (and Sam and Ashley were reading thru at the same time). As I went, I made revisions or marked them to do later. Sam and I were able to make a MAJOR plot change--we have five protagonists, and we decided to completely change one character's thread. So we ripped out a fifth of the novel and re-wrote that character's plot line. I added chapters, I re-arranged the order of several chapters. I added flavor and culture to many sections. I can't tell you how many small but detailed changes I made through this re-read. I've never done anything like it before.

As it turns out, I needed the time and space from the manuscript. When I came back to it after a three-month break, my eye was fresh and ready to see the things I wouldn't have cared about, ensconced in the writing as I had been before. In December, I was getting tired of the story. Most likely, if I had pressed through and finished, the end would have been rushed and the writing would not have been engaging...and then, I would have abandoned the manuscript and never returned to it. Now, I am excited about the story. After a month's worth of re-reading, revising, and re-writing, we are ready to push forward. Sam and I spent Friday night plotting out the climactic fight scene where we left off in December. I am finally ready to finish this story.

You know what the best part is? This story is awesome. I am so excited to finish it...and share it.

4.01.2010

RE: Welcome Spring

Today it snowed.

Ironically, today is April Fool's Day. I and many I know have long considered Utah weather to be inconsistent and unpredictable. Today, Utah played a big practical joke on us all.

3.30.2010

Welcome Spring!

I do love spring. Sometimes I give spring a hard time, and sometimes I don't appreciate spring nearly enough. I have such a deep affection for autumn and winter that sometimes spring just gets a hard break in my book. But I really do love spring.

This year, I am planting flowers (which I received here). I planted several last weekend, but the rest have to wait another 6 weeks or so. I had a blast raking up the leaves and gunk from our planter boxes in the front of my apartment. There is something about gardening that has always been somewhat mysterious to me. I've never really serious gardened before--not that I expect to this year. I'll be lucky if ANY of my flowers grow...I can't even keep potted plants alive! But I found the fresh air and the dirt and the leaves immensely satisfying.

I have an annual tradition which dates four years ago now. In the spring of 2006 I was living in the Bell Apartments down in Cedar City. I lived on the second floor, I had a big window in my bedroom that looked out over Cedar. Every night for almost a month, I threw open that window and listened to the soundtrack of Rent. Something about that music...it has incredible nostalgic powers. It gives me a feeling of freedom (end-of-semester, perhaps?) and of endless possibilities.

I think that's really what spring comes down to for me. It's a restart, a refresh. Everything is coming to a close, and to a beginning. There is limitless potential, for the world and for my own life. Spring is when I take a step back, re-evaluate where I'm at and where I'm going. I make exciting plans for the future. I relax and unwind from the stress of winter. I am free.

I really do love spring. I hope to make the most of it this year!

3.29.2010

Domestic Dork

The good news:

  • After a depressing two weeks of weight gain (we'll say it was due to muscle growth) I am now back on track for weight loss.
  • I just finished planning my next month's worth of lessons (Taekwondo). I feel great about what I have planned, I think it's going to address the needs of my students a lot better than the last cycle.
  • I was SO productive this weekend! My house is clean, my oil is changed, my taxes are filed, some of my flowers are planted, movies are watched, and words are written...
  • Writing is going so well! I am so happy. Major revisions were accomplished this weekend, with many more to come!

The bad news:

  • We had Color Belt Testing this past week at the studio, and a number of my students did not perform well. Thus the need to step it up during this next testing cycle.
  • My trip to California has been thrown into chaos, and I still need to resolve when/if I can go. It makes me unhappy.
  • I feel very stymied in the dating department. I need to find new ways to meet guys, or something.
  • I miss my best friend, who is on a mission, who I desperately want to talk to.

3.23.2010

Adventures from Washington DC

What a whirlwind trip! Two blinks, and DC had come and gone. Read on for a summary of our adventures:

My parents and I flew out to Baltimore on Wednesday night (the money we saved by flying in to Baltimore paid for my ticket...well worth the hour drive down to VA!) It was well past 1am by the time we arrived at our hotel in Fairfax, Virginia, and past 2 before we got to bed. We were up bright and early the next morning after about 4 hours of sleep, and headed off to my brother's final transfer meeting. The reunion was very sweet--he was happy to see us, and my mother was ecstatic. I will not lie...there was plenty of pleasant eye-candy among my brother's fellow missionaries, but after listening to their mission-speak for a while, I decided it's well worth waiting until they've been home for awhile and "normalized."

That afternoon we drove up to the Washington DC Temple. It was so beautiful--the sun was out, it was warm, and definitely the feeling of spring in the air. The weather was phenomenal all weekend long. At the temple, my family and the other missionaries went through a session. I'd been hoping to do baptisms for the dead, but the baptistry was closed. So I wandered the grounds and took pictures for awhile, then went to the Visitor's Center. It's huge! I talked to one of the sister missionaries for awhile--Sister Zhao, from Shanghai China--and then went to watch the Joseph Smith movie. They have a giant IMAX theater there...and I had it to myself. After the movie I rejoined the group, took a few more pictures, then we headed back down to VA. We had dinner at the mission president's home, then attended a fireside for the departing missionaries. I'll admit that I dozed through a good part of it. Between the jet lag and 4 hours of sleep, I was very ready for bed.

Early Friday morning, Kyle was officially handed over to us. We went first to Mt. Vernon, the home of George Washington. Of all the places we visited, this was the only one I'd never been to before. It was fascinating! I learned a great deal about George Washington, his family, his lifestyle, and that period in our history. The artifacts they have at the house are pretty interesting--including his dentures! Too funny. Anyway, after Mt. Vernon we drove up to Arlington National Cemetary. This place has a very special place in my heart--I first visited there as a high school student, and it was a very powerful experience. I was glad when I had a chance to walk with my father through the graves...my mom and my brother were too busy catching up to really appreciate the spirit of the place. We visited the Tomb of the Unknowns, the Kennedy graves, and just took in the powerful sight--I read that 300,000 servicemen of various walks are buried there. It's something else.

That night, Kyle watched his first real movie in 2 years. Can you guess which one he picked? That's right--STAR TREK. A brother after my own heart. =)

Saturday was our whirlwind tour of DC. We started at the Smithsonian National History Museum. My brother is obsessed with flags--his room is covered in them--so it was a treat for him to see the Star Spangled Banner. Stuff like that kind of creeps me out, how people have torn off pieces of it for keepsakes, it's all ratty and falling apart now. But it was interesting. From there, we visited the White House Visitor's Center, which was brief and not all that exciting. After that we decided to take a bus tour of the city, which considering the amount of time we had, was an excellent choice. So we drove around and saw the sights of DC, including Union Station, the memorial for Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, the Vietnam Wall, the White House, and everything in between. We briefly visited the Smithsonian Castle, which was exceptionally eclectic and not all that interesting. It's bizarre to me how little pieces of history end up scattered through the plethora of museums out there. Bits of so-and-so here, pieces of such-and-such over here. We cling to the rag-tag ends of history like magpies collecting trash. The people of those past eras would probably be horrified to see the tidbits we cling to. I doubt very much that George Washington appreciates his dentures being gawked at as they are, as the man was well-known to be disatisfied with his teeth and smile anyhow. But we are nevertheless fascinated by the things they touched, used, wrote, wore and otherwise left some lasting impression upon. We are curious creatures.

That was pretty much it. On Sunday we attended Stake Conference in Virginia. It actually was a regional conference, broadcast from Salt Lake City. It's strangely comforting that the church is the same everywhere. Although, I have to say, there were an inordinate amount of pregnant women at this meeting. I swear to you, every woman I saw that appeared between the age of 20-40 was pregnant. It was bizarre. After the conference, we went to visit some families that my brother had lived with during his mission. We had lunch, we bought some girl scout cookies, and then we were off to Baltimore and on our way home.

As I always say, there is a profound difference between a trip and a vacation. A vacation implies relaxation. So I'll just say...this was a fast, furious and exceptionally fun TRIP.

3.22.2010

Domestic Dork

The good news:

  • I broke 5 boards at the ward talent show tonight.
  • I balanced my checkbook and have money to spare. Yay!
  • It's Color Belt Testing at the studio this week, which is both very easy and very fun (to me, I'm sure some of the other instructors don't enjoy it quite so much).
  • My brother is home from his mission!
  • Washington DC was awesome (post to come)
  • We wrapped up the Open Adoption Bloggers Interview Project, and it was awesome. Check it out at my other blog.

The bad news:

  • I think I may have scared off all the guys in my ward with the aforementioned board breaking.
  • Life is still SO crazy busy. I hardly have time to think, and I have SO much to do...
  • One of my characters decided to act up. Her entire plotline is up in smoke, but I don't know what direction to take her now. Brainstorming continues.
  • I am still exhausted from the trip. I did NOT want to go to work today! Or tomorrow, for that matter.

Fortunately, life seems to consist of more good than bad at the moment! =)

3.15.2010

Tripping to Washington D.C.

On Wednesday the parentals and I depart for the land of our fathers...that is, Washington D.C. I've been to D.C. once before, when I was a senior in high school. It was a life-changing experience, and was probably the inspiration for my love of travel and cities. Oh, I'd been to Seattle and Vegas and Anaheim before then. But D.C. really changed my perspective on cities and the East Coast. I fell in love. It's a love that has persisted, that mutated into a love of NYC, a love of The West Wing, and so many other aspects of cities and travel.

Our trip this week will be exceptionally brief. We're leaving late Wednesday afternoon and returning Sunday. We're going to pick up my brother from his LDS mission there--he's been serving for 2 years, and I can hardly believe it's been that long. So a large portion of our trip will be consumed by this reunion and by his mission-related tasks before our brief spurt of tourism. We have a long list of things we want to see, and I have no doubt that we'll get to see hardly any of them. Nevertheless, it's sure to be an excellent time.

I just can't wait to be there. Travel rejuvenates me, even while it exhausts. Cities are full of life and busyness and hubbub and glorious cityness. I hope to come back inspired. Mainly, I'm excited to come back with my brother, stranger that he is for the time being.

3.09.2010

Domestic Dork

The good news:

  • We went tubing at Soldier Hollow last night and it was AWESOME!
  • I'm really really really loving "This is War" by 30 Seconds to Mars. It inspires me.
  • This week we're going to start the planning meetings for the FSA National Conference again, and I am definitely in need of a good project to keep me busy--which this conference certainly will do.
  • We're leaving a week from tomorrow for Washington D.C. to pick up my brother from his mission!

The bad news:

  • The internet's not working at my house, so I wasn't able to work on my novel at home. Grr.
  • I found out I'm not elligible for Pell Grants because I already have a degree. So frustrating.
  • There's a date night this Saturday, but I don't have anybody to go with.
  • I want to go on vacation!!!

3.05.2010

Figuring out what to do with my life!

I still haven't heard anything on grad school, but I'm having the feeling that it's not going to happen. Pending that, I've been looking into going back to school for a second bachelor's degree, in Social Work. A lot of thought is going into this decision. But in order to progress into a career that I will enjoy and in which I can actually find fulfillment, I have to get a degree in this field. Additionally, it will be easier to get into the Master's program with a Bachelor's degree in the field. I applied anyway, but it was a long shot. I can get work with a Bachelor's degree, but if I do decide I want a Master's, it will be easier to get into the program this way.

I've been looking into financial aid to start at UVU this fall. I found out today that since I have a bachelor's degree, they will WAIVE all the general education classes. This is a HUGE relief! As long as everything falls together properly, I would be able to graduate (again) in 2 years. Not too bad, eh?

I haven't made a final decision. A lot depends on whether I can get enough financial aid to get through school. But I have realized that I can continue on as I have been, in a job that I merely tolerate, or I can put in the time to get into a career that I will truly enjoy. Bear with me, dear friends, as I get everything figured out over the coming months. But I think I will be the better for it.

2.23.2010

Times of Healing

In case you're behind the times...Grady and I broke up last week. It didn't come as a total surprise, but no breakup is easy, especially from a relationship as serious as ours had grown.

I think that times like this encourage self-evaluation. Life is heading in one direction, and then you are forced to stop, look around, and figure out where you're going next.

Once again I find myself questioning. Should I go back to school? Where? In what? Should I instead look for a different job? I'm certainly growing less satisfied with my present employment--less so by the day, it feels like. A change is needed, and has been for a long time.

I find myself trying, after a 2 1/2 month hiatus, to force myself to write. I fell out of those necessary habits that encourage writing. Slowly, I am trying to regain them.

My friends have stood up to the challenge. I am grateful to all my friends who have been there for me this week. They can't completely erase the sense of loss that I'm still experiencing. But they fill the hours that so abruptly became empty. They give me words of encouragement when I need them most. I am very, very blessed in my friends.

So, I move forward as best I can, trying to figure out where to go, what to do, who I want to become. All those things are necessary anyway. But in times of healing, they just become a little more prominent. So don't worry about me--I'll get things figured out sooner or later. And I'll be sure to keep you updated along the way. ;)

2.08.2010

Superbowl Sunday

I've never actually been to a football game. I mean, I guess you could count half of my senior Homecoming game, but I don't. I wasn't really watching the game, anyway. :P

However, despite my lack of football-game-attendance, I have for the last four years enjoyed watching the Superbowl. In 2007 I watched it at my bishop's house with a bunch of kids from my single's ward. '08 was in Chicago with Nick, and the power went out in the last minute of the game. The Steelers were the name of the game at my birthdad's house in 2009. And this year I enjoyed an entire Superbowl DAY with the Lee's.

I have learned, these past few years, that the Superbowl is associated with food. I'm not sure I can ever eat again. Yesterday we had corndogs, chips and veggies with dip, little smokies, pizza rolls, hot wings, fruit pizza, sodas, and who knows what else. So. Much. Food.

The game was enjoyable to watch. The commercials were somewhat disappointing--there were a few funny ones, but for the most part they were nothing exciting. I was secretly rooting for the Saints in the midst of these Colts fans. I was careful not to be overly excited when the Saints pulled through. ;)

Afterward, I felt disgusting so I made Grady go on a walk with me. To him, Superbowl Sunday is all about the food and staying parked in front of the TV all day. Oh well.

Nevertheless, I enjoy these traditions. Superbowl Sunday will probably be part of my life for a long time to come.

1.25.2010

Black Belt Testing!

The morning of Black Belt Testing I slept in. That was my promise to myself. If it had been a movie, the heroine would have risen before the dawn to meditate as the sun dramatically rose behind her and she would have resolutely moved into this auspicious day. However, it was just me, and I slept in. And then I got a massage, which was lovely.

I made it to the studio around 1, and got to work on the music for the whole test. Technology was not cooperating much that day, though, so music was late, and then the slideshow took forever during the actual test, too. What can you do? At least they both worked, eventually.

At 3 we (the candidates) did a run through of testing so we'd all be on the same page and look like we knew what we were doing (which we did...most of the time...). We got kicked out so they could let the masses in to get seated. There were quite a number of people who came to watch. My fan crowd (bless them) consisted of my parents, my Grady, my roommates, my birthdad & co, and my friend Sam. And all the studio peeps who were there anyway, of course. I am grateful to have so many loving supporters!

We (the candidates) came in at a run. We bowed in, then we did dive rolls and kick combos across the mats, which was fun. Then it was the dead space while we tried to get the slide show to work (grr...Microsoft...) and then it was the slideshow and the introduction of the candidates, and then the introduction of all the masters, of whom there were quite a number.

Forms came first, individual and then group forms. I started with my bo staff form, which we kinda screwed up but not too bad. Bo staff is fun. I am loving the Weapons class, and I can't wait to learn more and start competing. Next was individual forms, and I was a little upset. They had me do Po Eun with the 3rd degree candidates, and the way the other school does this form is very different than the way I was taught, and so I was more focused on staying together than on performing my form. Dumb. But whatever. Lastly were the group forms. Now, we'd never done group forms before, but after seeing Shiba's, our Master Sorenson decided we should do them to. So Cory, Cole, Parker and I put together this version of Pahl Jang:

video

The Shiba group form was pretty awesome too. They did Oh Jang, but they turned out all the lights and did it in the dark--with glowsticks on their necks, arms and legs. They had an incredible cohesiveness, staying together a lot better than we did. I hope I can find a good video of theirs, I really enjoyed it.

After group forms, we launched into BREAKING. This is always an engaging part of testings. Each of the 1st degree candidates were required to break 10 boards. They had to have 1 speed break, which is a board held with only one hand, and a power break, which is multiple boards at once. The rest of their boards they got to pick the techniques for, but they had to use both kicks and hand techniques. Each candidate had 5 minutes to set up and break all their boards. Some had a harder time than others, and some were more engaging to watch than others. Parker's was particularly cool--he chose challenging techniques, including kicking an apple off a sword and doing a flying side kick over 10 people. Pretty cool stuff.

My breaking series was a little different. At our school, when you test for your 2nd degree, the breaking series is a surprise. So where the other candidates were able to pick their techniques and set them up, mine were set up and picked for me. I was taken from the room, it was set up, and then I came out and was told what to do, on the spot. The only thing I knew for sure was coming was the brick-break with my palm. It was fun! I made mistakes, and the last kick was particularly annoying, but here it is:



Last but not least were the self defense demos. These demonstrations were supposed to display our collective knowledge of self defense techniques. In particular, I was asked to display throws, 2-on-1 defense, as well as gun and knife disarments. Cole, Parker and I worked for about three months to put this together, and we rocked the house. Again, we made mistakes which you will see, but overall it was a good performance:




Following the demos, we all shook hands with all the masters and were welcomed to the black belt ranks. Then there were lots of hugs to dispense. That evening we reconvened at Magleby's for a banquet. At the banquet, the candidates all gave thank you speeches and gave out cards and roses and such. Then we were awarded our belts and gifts. The Shiba students all got new black belt uniforms. At our school, the 1st degrees get a graduation ring, which I already have. As a second degree, I received a sword--a beautiful red katana that I'd had my eye on for two days. Then came the awards.

There were 6 awards. The awards were Outstanding Kicks, Outstanding Forms, Outstanding Breaking, Outstanding Self Defense Demo, Outstanding Overall, and the Martial Arts Spirit Award, which the candidates themselves vote for in advance. Each award comes with a sword! Outstanding Kicks went to Laura Guymon, this little blonde girl from my school who has BEAUTIFUL technique. Flawless. Then came Outstanding Forms...which was me. I was surprised, because there are a LOT of good forms in this group. But honored. Outstanding Breaking went to Sydney Shiba, who made no mistakes, broke all her boards on the first try, and did it the fastest of everybody. Outstanding Self Defense Demo went to...Cole, Parker and I. We were thrilled...but to be honest, not very surprised. :P Parker received the Outstanding Overall, which was a new award that they created simply because he was so awesome and they had to celebrate it! From Shiba, Brigette DiVito received the Martial Arts Spirit award, and from Beyond Sports, it went to Cole, which pleased me greatly and surprised me little. It kind of makes me laugh now that I think about it--Cole, Parker and I each received 2 awards. Obviously we swept the house, we compadres.

Testing was an incredible experience, and I am so grateful to all the people who supported me these past months and years as I have worked toward this achievement. Now, it's back to the studio--a little less crazy, but no less fun now that I've earned my 2nd degree!

1.18.2010

It doesn't seem like there's a whole lot going on in my life, but then I look around and realize my life is insane. Hard to reconcile.

Today I went skiing with my dad. We went to the Canyons, which is one of our favorites. There's just a lot more to ski at the Canyons. There's a lot more terrain that's within my skill level. It snowed lightly pretty much all day, but it wasn't terribly cold. It was kind of foggy, which actually was cool. The snow was icy in places and pretty thin all over, but overall it was still a fun day skiing. I love to go with my dad. It's one of the few things that he and I do together. I mean, my brother usually goes too, but he's on a mission, so his loss. ;) But we just talk and ski and chill and it's good times!

This week is the final countdown to Phase II of black belt testing, which is this Saturday. There's still a lot to do in preparation. I'm actually really excited for this phase. The first portion went a lot better than I expected, and the most exciting parts are yet to come. We'll be doing a lot of PERFORMING--forms, dive rolls, our own kick combinations, group forms (which are new to me! kind of an adventure!!) and other presentation stuff. We'll also be performing our self defense demos, which have been the biggest portion of my preparation. And breaking, where I will break an as-yet-unknown number of boards and bricks in less than 2 minutes. Woot! At any rate, I'm looking forward to this final wrap-up event.

Tonight I am chilling at Grady's house eating swedish fish and blogging, because that's what I was in the mood to do. =) Tomorrow, it's back to the grind. So, good night friends.

1.08.2010

A Tribute to my Best Friend, the soon-to-be Missionary




Melissa and I met in Juniper Hall, our freshman dorm at Southern Utah University. We both lived in the Honors Hall. Very few of the people in the Honors Hall pursued Honors, but I'm grateful that they all lived there that first year...particularly the woman who would become my best friend.

We lived together (or close by) throughout the rest of college. We lived in one nice apartment the third year, but all the others were pretty ghetto. But Melissa made them homes. She decorated, she cleaned, she cooked, she sang, she lived. She was an incredible roommate and an even better friend. I am grateful that our friendship has stubbornly persisted post-college into these years where we have lived an hour or more away from each other. Melissa is the one person for whom I will sacrifice and talk for greater lengths than 5 minutes on the phone. I can't help it. Our conversations are a life-line.

I love Melissa for more reasons than I can count. The top of the list is her loving acceptance of people, of me. I have always been able to talk to Melissa about anything, and that's a quality I don't have with other people. Melissa is an incredible listener, and she enjoys helping other people sort through their personal trials. She is dedicated, she is loyal, she is spiritual, she is kind, she is generous, she is outgoing and friendly and wonderful.

Next Wednesday, Melissa will be leaving for 18 months to serve as a missionary-representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She will be serving in Ohio. I will be able to write her letters (as I have promised to do!), but I will not lie, dear reader, that I face the prospect of 18 months without her bearing nothing more cheerful than determination in my heart. I have to make it through this time because she is off doing a good thing that I support wholeheartedly. But I will sorely miss her presence.

God bless, my dear wonderful friend.

1.04.2010

Final countdown

We are on the final countdown to black belt testing. Even though I know I am prepared (as prepared as anyone CAN be for this) it is still a nervewracking thing to face.

This Saturday, the 9th, is Phase 1. We will be tested for 5 hours--which is as much a test of our endurance as anything. We will have an hour and a half of solid kicking. This is killer. A sparring match typically lasts 3-6 minutes, and by the end of that match, I promise that you'll be tired, if not exhausted. And we'll be kicking for an hour and half. There will be solitary kicks as well as combinations that have to be performed with fluidity as well as speed, accuracy and power.

We'll also be doing all the forms we know--these are set patterns of techniques, including blocks, strikes, kicks, etc. We have to remember the patterns precisely, and perform them with accuracy, sharpness, and power. The kids testing for their 1st degrees have 10 forms. I have 15. This is actually the portion I have the most confidence in.

The biggest clincher of the day are our self defense demos. These are 15 minute demonstrations of all the self defense we have learned during our journey to black belt. I am in a team of three, and we have been working for several months on this demo. It takes a LOT of energy to perform. We do blocks and strikes, joint manipulation, throws--Judo, Hapkido, Ju-Jitso--and since I'm testing for my second degree, I also have to show two-on-one defenses and knife and gun disarments. The demo is a lot of fun, but it is a TON of work.


In two weeks on the 23rd, we have Phase II. This portion is shorter, only 2 hours, and open to visitors to come watch. We will perform the best of our performances--kicking, forms, self defense--from Phase 1. I will add my staff fighting form (whacking people with a stick!). We will also add BREAKING. This is when I will break BRICKS with my HAND.

And at the end of it all? IF we survive and perform to par, we will be awarded our new degrees at the banquet that evening. That, my friends...that will be triumph. Just gotta get there!

1.01.2010

2009 in review

I guess I wrote these posts a little backwards, but it's okay. Here is a year in review at Descent of the Muse.

In January, I wrote a lot and put on a Roadshow with my singles ward. Also, I started volunteering with LDS Family Services.

In February, I entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest, started thinking about buying a house, and actually started looking at houses, which was weird.

In March, my novel made the quarterfinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest. And Melissa and I went on a road trip to SEATTLE, which was a blast.

In April, I bought a guitar...which I then did not learn to play. I started back at Taekwondo after a 2.5 year absence. Also, I started my adoption blog.

In May, I moved to my apartment in Lindon. My friend Dixy got married, and we went on our annual camping trip to Red Cliffs.

In June, I went to New York City with my parents, which was amazing.

In July, I was exceptionally busy preparing for the national conference of Families Supporting Adoption.

In August, I started teaching classes at Taekwondo, and it started really kicking my butt into gear. I also met and started dating Grady.

In September, I turned 23. I decided to apply to the MSW program at the University of Utah, and started working on applications.

In October, I fought in a tournament (first time since 2006). I went to Pennsylvania and was the keynote speaker at an adoption conference there.

In November, I broke boards for fun. I participated (and won!) in the National Novel Writing Month. And I gave thanks.

In December, I went to lots of parties. I was the keynote speaker at TEDxSUU in Cedar City. And I started my awesome new job at Taekwondo!


All told, it was a pretty good year. And we can only hope that 2010 will only be better!